“Hickory, dickory, dock, the mouse ran up the clock.” That might have been the first nursery rhyme you learned. There are powerful reasons why rhymes permeate early learning – and later in life, too, when the rhymes in popular songs are baked into our brains. Rhymes are pleasing, soothing, entertaining.
“Everyone likes rhymes,” says Dr. Steven Pinker, a Harvard professor, linguist and author of The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works. Chinese writings in the 10th century BC used rhymes. So did Aristophanes and other ancient Greeks. So do today’s gifted orators, trial lawyers and rap artists.
And so do savvy marketers, especially in the food sector, cooking up names such as Piggly Wiggly, Slim Jim and Reese’s Pieces.
What’s the reasoning behind rhymes? Here’s what the linguists and other social scientists have to say:
Rhymes create pleasant patterns. And our brains are wired to recognize and recall patterns.
Consider: Crunch ‘n Munch. Ronald McDonald. YooHoo.
Rhymes create a sense of symmetry and completion. Humans like anything that simplifies the buzzing confusion in the world, says Dr. Pinker.
Consider: FireWire. Lean Cuisine. StubHub.
Rhymes are potent mnemonic devices, enhancing memorization.
Consider: Shake ‘n Bake. Famous Amos. 7-Eleven.
Rhymes create a kind of music, and responses to music are located in the right brain, our emotional home.
Consider: Mellow Yellow. Ring Dings. Zany Brainy.
We’ll give the last word to English poet Alexander Pope, whose couplet in the 17th century is a sound goal for your next brand name: “Call if you must bad rhyming a disease. It gives men happiness, or leaves them at ease.”
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