Friday, 7 March 2008

Neither rhyme nor reason

A plan or action that does not make sense - originally meant 'neither good for entertainment nor instruction'. According to Brewer (1870) Thomas More (Henry VIII's chancellor 1529-32) received a book manuscript and suggested the author turn it into rhyme. On seeing the revised draft More noted the improvement saying 'tis rhyme now, but before it was neither rhyme nor reason'. I was advised additionally (ack Rev N Lanigan, Aug 2007): "...the Oxford Book of English Anecdotes relates that the expression came from a poet, possibly Edmund Spenser, who was promised a hundred pounds for writing a poem for Queen Elizabeth I. He wrote the poem which pleased the Queen, but her treasurer thought a hundred pounds excessive for a few lines of poetry and told the Queen so, whereupon she told the treasurer to pay the poet 'what is reason(able), but even so the treasurer didn't pay the poet. He then wrote another poem and sent it to the Queen with lines that went something like 'Once upon a season I was promised reason for my rhyme, from that time until this season I received no rhyme nor reason,' whereupon the Queen ordered that he be paid the full sum. Since Queen Elizabeth I came after Henry VIII and Sir Thomas More, the first version may be the more correct one, or the poet might have known the phrase from More's use of it..."


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