J u d y
Some rhymes for 'dictionary' suggested by an online rhyming dictionary. Hmmm.
Almost anyone who writes in rhyme uses a rhyming dictionary—at least some of the time. However, the best rhymes usually come from the deep reaches of a poet’s memory and unconscious. Personally, I suspect that using a rhyming dictionary could keep me from discovering a great rhyme, like Dr. Seuss’s pairing of “Apartment 12-J” with “hidden away” in Horton Hears a Who. If I’d been using a rhyming dictionary when I began writing Antarctic Antics: A Book of Penguin Poems, I might have given up when I discovered that there is no rhyme for penguin.
Words that rhyme in English can have vastly different spellings, and words that have similar spellings can have different pronunciations. This makes using a rhyming dictionary difficult. My husband owned a copy of The Poet's Manual and Rhyming Dictionary when I met him, and I turned to it when I began writing poetry for children. The book uses phonetic spelling to distinguish between vowel sounds. Nothing breaks the spell of writing poetry more quickly than having to learn phonetic spelling.
My favorite rhyming dictionary (a print dictionary, though sadly out-of-print) is Sue Young’s Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary. It contains only words I would really use, and they are given in vertical lists with lots of white space around them (and some cartoon illustrations besides). There is an index, but no phonetic spelling is required.
Online rhyming dictionaries eliminate the need to consult an index or learn a phonetic spelling system. There are some great online rhyming dictionaries, and some not-so-great ones (some appear to have been written by robots). I’ve watched a couple change and get worse.
Online rhyming dictionaries are used mostly by songwriters, who count on singers to shape the sounds of their words in performance. Songs can contain “near rhymes” or “slant rhymes.” A poem on the page is held to a higher standard. Does bill rhyme with real? Does room rhyme with tune? Not in a children’s picture book.
My current favorite online rhyming dictionary is Rhymezone. On Rhymezone, the most commonly-used words are highlighted in dark blue. This helps me skip past unlikely and unlovely candidates. As a bonus. Rhymezone offers many examples of how a particular word has been rhymed in classic poems, and in popular songs, from Broadway musicals, to jazz, to country and western, to rap. I love this feature because it puts the rhymes in a creative context.
But even Rhymezone suggests far too many words that just don’t rhyme—see Rhymezone's partial list of rhymes above for the word “dictionary.”
I am a children's book author and folklorist based in Portland, Oregon.
The Great Dictionary Caper, illustrated by Eric Comstock (Paula Wiseman Books, Simon & Schuster, 2018)
**Starred reviews from Publishers' Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist.
Wild About Books, illustrated by Marc Brown. (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2004). New York Times Bestseller, ALA Notable Book, and winner of the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award.
Imagine That! How Dr. Seuss Wrote 'The Cat in the Hat"
(Random House, 2017). Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.
*Starred reviews from Publishers' Weekly and Kirkus.