Mind rhyme

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Mind rhyme is the suggestion of a rhyme which is left unsaid and must be inferred by the listener. Mind rhyme may be achieved either by stopping short, or by replacing the expected word with another (which may have the same rhyme or not). Teasing rhyme is the use of mind rhyme as a form of innuendo, where the unsaid word is taboo or completes a sentence indelicately.

An example, in the context of cheerleading:

"Raa Raa REE! Kick 'em in the knee! / Raa Raa RASS! Kick 'em in the other knee!"

Mind rhyme is often a form of word play. The implied rhyme is inferable only from the context. This contrasts with rhyming slang from which the rhyming portion has been clipped, which is part of the lexicon. (An example is dogs, meaning "feet", a clipping of rhyming dog's meat.[1])


A traditional example:

There was a young farmer who took a young miss
to the back of the barn where he gave her a lecture

The expected word is kiss, which rhymes with miss; humour is derived from the unexpected occurrence of lecture, both spoiling the rhyme and changing the story.

Alan Bold described the 20th century anonymous bawdy poem about the "young man of Brighton Pier" as "perhaps the finest of the teasing-rhyme variety of bawdy poem".[2] An extract will illustrate the technique:

One very hot day in the summer last year
A young man was seen swimming round Brighton Pier;
He dived underneath it and swam to a rock
And amused all the ladies by shaking his
Fist at a copper who stood on the shore,
The very same copper who copped him before.
For the policeman to order him out was a farce,
For the cheeky young man simply showed him his
Graceful manoeuvres and wonderful pace...[3]

"Something You Can Do with Your Finger" from South Park uses enjambment to replace taboo words with non-taboo phrases with the same initial syllable. For example shit>shih-tzu and meat>meeting, in the following fragment, each start a new sentence instead of finishing the old one:

I don't want my breakfast, because it tastes like—
Shih Tzus make good housepets, they're cuddly and sweet,
Monkeys aren't good to have, because they like to beat their—
Meeting in the office, [...]

Similarly, the childhood rhyme Miss Suzie ends each section with what sounds like a taboo word, only to continue with a more innocent word.

Miss Suzie had a steamboat,
the steamboat had a bell,
Miss Suzie went to heaven,
the steamboat went to
Hello operator
please give me number nine [...]


Teasing rhymes have been popular since the 17th century. Though fairly rare in canonical literature, examples of mind rhyme can be found in the work of William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Marianne Moore and others.[4] In Lewis Carroll's 'Tis the Voice of the Lobster it is generally assumed that the last words of the interrupted poem could be supplied by the reader as "— eating the Owl".

See also[edit]


  • Abrams, M. H., A Glossary of Literary Terms, 2004.


  1. ^ Ayto John (2002) The Oxford Dictionary of Rhyming Slang, Oxford, Oxford UP, p. 36. ISBN 0-19-280122-8)
  2. ^ The Bawdy Beautiful, ed. Alan Bold, 1979 ISBN 0-7221-1732-9
  3. ^ Making Love, ed. Alan Bold, 1978 ISBN 0-330-25585-1
  4. ^ Holdefer Charles (2009) ’Shaving Cream’ and Other Mind Rhymes, The Antioch Review, Vol. 67, No. 1, Winter pp. 158-63.