Sunday Nibble #2


Shorter bite-sized pieces with no particular destination meant to enjoy on what should be a day off, or at least a day of fun.

According to Freedictionary, there are 92 English words that end in -yme, although most of them are scientific words made up of “enzyme” with prefixes. One relates to botany (cyme) and the other to medicine (zyme).

This leaves three common words, two of which are probably familiar to everyone and one that is not: Rhyme, thyme, and chyme. The first, of course, refers to arranging words that end with similar sounds — a very common human trick, most needed for a limerick.

Thyme is, of course, an herb used for seasoning, and also well-known from the song Scarborough Fair, which is a traditional English ballad going back to at least the 17th century, famous for the refrain, “Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.”

The third word, chyme, is somewhat… gross. It refers to the glop your stomach turns food into before passing it on to your intestines.

Each one of these words has a homophone, which is a word pronounced the same but with a different meaning and, often, a different spelling. Those are rime, time, and chime.

Although “rime” is an alternate spelling of “rhyme” (q.v. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner), it generally refers to a relative of frost caused when super-cooled water droplets freeze on impact with a surface. I didn’t think it was appropriate to mention until now, but there is a fourth –yme word, berhyme, now archaic, which means to use as the subject of a rhyme, especially to lampoon. “In Poe’s The Raven, the author berhymes his lost love, Lenore.” And this word can go both ways, as either berhyme or berime. Yes, it sounds like to berime would be to coat something in rime, but that word doesn’t exist, and to rime is sufficient.

Time is money, time flies, time is fleeting. The times, they are a-changin’.

Time is simply the measure used to determine that something has happened. No time, nothing happens. It’s also very convenient for putting events in order — “The meeting is at 10 a.m., after which we will break for lunch at 1 p.m., then reconvene at 2:30.” Of course, to a physicist, time is what you measure with a clock.” Why? Because the way that scientists measure time is by observing change. It’s the phenomenon their clock follows, not the other way around.

You’ll know this firsthand if you’ve ever cooked something for the time mentioned in the recipe only to find out that it wasn’t quite done, so you had to keep it in longer. The “bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees” is only a suggestion. The reality is when the thing you’re baking hits the desired internal temperature, which could be 35 minutes or it could be an hour. And if you’re a scientist don’t even try to use time to put events in order, because the first question you have to ask is “Which reference frame am I ordering events in?”

Finally, we have chyme and chime. The latter is both the thing that a bell does and the word my computer keeps trying to auto-correct chyme to every time I type it. Since those bells chiming are usually connected to a big clock, chime relates back to time, and one of the more famous usages of the word is in a Shakespeare quote (Falstaff, Henry IV Part 2, III-ii: “We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master Shallow.”) This in turn became the title of an Orson Welles film, The Chimes at Midnight, which I haven’t seen, but which looks amazing.

And just to bring all three words together in one thought, Orson Welles basically pulled all the Falstaff bits from Shakespeare, put them back together to make Falstaff the hero in the Prince Hal saga (hint: he was not in the original), and came up with something that George Lucas would describe as “rhyming with the original.” In case you forgot, Lucas said that all of the films in the first two trilogies rhymed. Oddly enough, and haters be damned, I think that the final trilogy managed to do that too.

But, as our ComedySportz referees are fond of saying, “That’s time!”

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