One of my classes this semester is English 179, Literature And Linguistics.  Today we examined the work of Bob Dylan and the linguistic pattern choices he makes in his lyrics.

In “Blowin’ In The Wind”, his rhymes are often not perfect rhymes; he includes a [d] sound at the end of some lines and not others:

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, ‘n’ how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned?

“Man”, “sand”, and “banned” don’t really rhyme.  They have the same [ae] sound but the endings are quite different.  Dylan definitely knew this; why did he sometimes include the extra [d], sometimes emphasizing it (“banned”) and sometimes dropping it (“san(d)”)?

My professor seems to be suggesting that emphasizing or dropping the sounds makes certain words stand out more in Dylan’s message.  I could go into lots more detail, but do you think the theory is reasonable?  Or are we just reading too much into it?

Update: Wednesday 9/10: Professor Hanson dithered around a bit more about “The Times They Are A-Changin'”, but right when we were about to get to the really exciting point where she reveals what the heck the purpose behind imperfect rhymes are, she decided to tell us on Friday.  This is just like watching a TV drama where they keep luring you back with “Next week, on The Hills…”

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