Variations on a Theme by Stravinsky

To appreciate the innumerable variations this technique provides, let's take the title of Stravinsky's famous ballet The Rite of Spring. Okay, the sound rite can be spelled in the following ways: rite, write, right, and wright. Each spelling, singular or plural, contributes to a variety of humor possibilities, such as these examples of newspaper photo headlines.

Over a photo of a high school commencement: The rite of spring.

Over a photo of a book on spring gardening: The writes of spring.

Over a photo of the Wrights' annual garden party: The Wrights of spring.

In addition, the word spring can now be replaced with one of the following nineteen words which rhyme:

bing

bring

ding

cling

fling

king

ling

Ming

ping

ring

sing

sling

sting

string

swing

Thus, a picture of Ted Williams instructing hitters at training camp could carry the headline: "The rites of swing."

By multiplying those nineteen words by the four variations on rite, we now have a total of seventy-six possible variations on one cliché. And we're not finished! Just as we did with spring, let's take the word rite and replace it with one of the twenty-seven words that are close in sound. Here your Webster's Rhyming Dictionary (Castle Books) will be of help.

bright

brite

cite

dike

dyke

fight

flight

height

hike

kike

knight

like

mike

might

pike

plight

sight

site

spike

strike

tight

trike

tyke

vike

white

yike

This changes the first rite combination from four to thirty-one, and with the nineteen spring variations, we now have (31x19) the possibility of 589 variations—from just one cliché! Of course, only a handful of these combinations could probably ever be used, but you never know when odd opportunities will turn up: a college president named Ping shows up at his children's birthday party, so now you can have a news photo caption that reads: "The Tykes of Ping."

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