Much Ado About Orange: Rhyming Ain’t Easy

By Beth Gerber

August 5, 2010

Everyone knows that nothing rhymes with orange. Product advertising has been inspired by the orange rhyming deficiency. So have books and t-shirts. Even band names perpetuate the cultural meme.

But did you know that there are over 70 words in the English dictionary that don’t have rhymes? Or more interestingly that there are two other colors that stymie the deftest poets and lyricists?

That’s right. Are you ready for the other two? Purple and Silver. (And no, “purple nurple” does not count as an official rhyme!)

So what’s the deal? Why does orange get all the fame and glory? Purple and silver aren’t exactly rare colors (like, say aubergine and pewter). Purple even shares a spot with orange in the standard eight-pack box of Crayola Crayons. It seems a tad bit unfair that orange should get all the credit for being so rhyme-resistant.

Perhaps one reason it stands out is that orange is also a fruit — a highly tangible thing. Orange’s realness lends itself to funny cartoons like the one above. Purple, on the other hand, is more of an abstract concept. It’s a characteristic but not an object in its own right. This makes purple more challenging to use as the punchline for clever non-rhyming jokes.

Silver shares some of the same difficulties as purple. True, it is a metal. But it’s often used to describe the quality of something else: Silver jewelry, silver lining, silver bullet, etc. Despite being a tangible thing, it’s also somewhat rare (more rare than oranges). And it’s hard to personify silver the way an orange can be caricatured. (The sad little silver necklace who can’t be rhymed? Not very funny‚Ķ)

Let me be clear: I have nothing against the color orange per se. (It is Catchword’s official color, after all.) But, the next time someone tells me that orange can’t be rhymed, I’ll promptly reply that orange isn’t all that special. Slowly but surely I will help purple and silver get the fame (or infamy) they deserve.

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