Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rhyming as a signal of verbal intelligence

GM likes to rhyme responses.    
wh5: Robert only had 40 friends on Facebook a couple of months ago. Now he’s got over 200.
GM: Friends? What means friends?  I saw George’s profile. He claims 500 PLUS “friends.”
wh5: Well, maybe such people just collect people. Like stamps. Or insects. Grab them. Pin them. Display them. Label them “friends.”
GM: So is all this connecting to “friends” becoming a competition?
wh5: Seems so. And what is a “friend”?
GM: Someone you spend time with, send messages to, lend things to.
wh5: And an acquaintance?
GM: Someone who you glance at, meet by chance, then exist in an expanse.
wh5: And is this “competition,” you allude to, coming from people competing, or companies wanting growth?
GM: It’s froth. It’s growth. Both.

In structure, this is a cooperative conversation of question and counter-question to reach consensus.

Stylists sometimes caution against peppering our prose with alliteration, puns or rhymes. But there can be fun in it. Some like Geoffrey Miller go so far as to say rhyming is difficult to do, that a speaker has to try harder to make a rhyme, and likens it to a peacock display, or in a human context, a signaling of verbal intelligence.

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