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025_Some Phrases of Alliteration and Rime in Modern English and German


025_Some Phrases of Alliteration and Rime in Modern English and German


This is part of an article by Charles Keyes comparing alliteration and rime in the English and German languages from the Proceedings of the American Philology Association, v. xxxiii, 1902


Keyes, Charles Reuben




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202-Some Phrases of Alliteration and Rime

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Extracted from the Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. xxxiii, 1902

22. Some Phases of Alliteration and Rime in Modern English and German, by Charles R. Keyes, Esq., of the University of California.

This paper was in the nature of a preliminary report on a large and, as yet, not fully defined subject. It concerned itself principally with that considerable body of alliterative and riming expressions in both modern English and German, which have unconsciously passed into common use and become, as it were, part and parcel of the living, spoken language. These usually exist in word pairs, in which the parts are often so closely connected that one is seldom used without the other. Some classification seems possible.
(1) By far the largest class of alliterative expressions is that in which the words used are either identical in meaning, similar in meaning, or connected in the same line of thought. Such are in English "might and main," "hale and hearty," "warp and woof"; in German "ganz und gar," "Wert imd Wirde." "Land und Leute." Hundreds of examples could be given. (2) These expressions contain words which are in contrast or opposition, thus giving two distinct ideas, whereas the preceding, in many cases, give only one. In English we have "do or die,"
"weal or woe"; in German "Freund und Feind," "Wohl und Web." This class is not so large as the last, still examples are numerous. (3) Compound adjectives, in which the two components alliterate, constitute another and still less nuerous group. Examples are "weather-wise," "storm-staid," "purse-proud," "nagelneu."fehlerfrei." (4)English contains a large number of alliterative and ablauting pairs; that is, pairs which give the appearance of ablaut. Many examples could be given, such as 'knick-knack," sing-song," "dilly-dally." In German these seem to be less popular. Examples are "zickzack,' "wierwart," "gickgack." (5) Stock companies and, to some extent, proverbs are given to alliteration. We say "as blind as a bat," "busy as a bee," "good as gold,"
"give an inch, take an ell," "so grun wie Gras," "so rot wie ein Rubin," "vergeben ist leichter als vergessen."
(6) Aside from these there are a number of more or less set expressions which are not easy to classify, but which seem to be used in their present form because they alliterate. Such are, "the favored few," "wear the willow," "widow's weeds," and many others.
So far as riming expressions are concerned, they do not appear to differ in their inner essence from the alliterative ones, and they might almost have been treated together. English evidently does not contain many. Five examples only have been noted: "high and dry," "wear and tear," "name or fame," "hood or crook," "make or break." They seem to be much more numerous in
German. "Gut und Blut," "Not und Tod," "Saus und Braus," "Legen und pflegen," are a few examples out of many.
The question of the unconscious use of alliteration and rime is a much broader one than here indicated. It pertains to all of the Indo-Germanic languages, apparently, so that, for practical purposes, further investigation will have to seek some limited field. Further study will also naturally seek to explain modern phenomena by a constant reference to history.
This paper was discussed by Professor Matzke, Schilling, and others.