Alex Steer

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Not as funny as it used to be

157 words

1752 G. A. Stevens Distress upon Distress ii. i. 52 (note) His Interpretation is like the Foreigner's, who mistook the Words, under a Sign, Money for live Hair, to signify, Money for living here.

A wonderfully weak foreigner joke from the mid-18th century, made slightly interesting by the fact that 'hair' and 'here' are only a half-rhyme (if that) in modern English, but in 18th century London English rhymed much more closely (both sounding like modern English 'hair').

Compare what looks like the only half-rhymed (as opposed to full-rhymed) couplet in Blake's 'The Tyger' (in Songs of Innocence, 1794): 'What immortal hand or eye / Could frame thy fearful symmetry?' These two, like the rest of the poem, were probably full rhymes in Blake's late 18th-century English.

Links: Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience (1794), transcript and images.

# Alex Steer (29/02/2008)