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SKEPTOID BLOG:

Rap: Partial Reporting on Partial Rhymes

by Bruno Van de Casteele

November 22, 2015

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Donate I just don't "get" rap music. That is not a value judgment, just my personal opinion, and your own may vary. The bad lyrics, the (lack of) music, the bling... it's just not for me, I guess. However, one needs to keep an open mind, so I went and read an article about the rhyming qualities of rap at Scientific American

One of the redeeming qualities is that it rhymes. That is nice, but I prefer a good text and don't bother too much about the rhyme. Still, it's at least something.

There are different types of rhymes. The worst ones are just repeating the same word: "Silent Night, Holy Night" is not a good rhyme. Rhyming "tomorrow" with "on the morrow" isn't that good either. It is actually the same word (one being an older expression) that means the same. A better example is rhyming "tomorrow" with "I'll give you my (bone) marrow." One needs to be quite aware about language, especially the English language, where the spelling is only loosely related to the pronunciation. Well, to my non-native speaker ears anyway. Luckily the Internet is full of rhyming dictionaries where you can find inspiration.

The recent study mentioned at Scientific Americen investigated such rhymes in rap texts. It found that rappers often use "partial rhymes." For instance the "tomorrow" above could be rhymed with "follow." That is a bad rhyme ("-orrow"/"-ollow") because it differs on the middle consonant, and is used infrequently in rap texts. However other examples like "life" and "light" also differ, on the last consonant. They are used very frequently, according to the study. It seems that our brains interpret this differing consonant at the end as being similar.

Seems like an interesting study, right? For me, too, and when I read about the study at Scientific American's website, I wanted to know more (even when it was about rap). But although Scientific American is a reputable science popularizer (and part of the Nature Publishing Group), it made no reference to the original study. No link, no researchers, no institution, and several Google searches on the keywords only pointed back to this article. Basically, the sort of "studies show that the moon is made from cheese" and "scientists have found Nessie" articles one finds on less reputable sites. Shame on them.

And remember that last time I lauded Futurity for providing exactly that information? I think I know where I'll find my science news in the future.

by Bruno Van de Casteele

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