Thursday 24 December 2009

Alphonse Allais and the Holorhyme

In 1883 Alphonse Allais exhibited a painting called First Communion of Anaemic Young Girls In The Snow, which was of course a white canvas. I was reminded by of this by the snowy view from my window, of which Persil would be proud. Allais' painting was the companion piece to his Apopleptic Cardinals Picking Tomatos Beside the Red Sea.

Allais also invented the holorhyme, which consists of an entirely homphonous couplet so the two lines sound identical, but mean different things. One of his ran:

Par les bois du djinn où s'entasse de l'effroi,
Parle et bois du gin ou cent tasses de lait froid.

Which means:

By the genie's forest where fear abounds
Talk, drink gin, or a hundred cups of cold milk.

The only example of a holorhyme in English that I know of is by Miles Kington and goes thuslyly:

In Ayrshire hill areas, a cruise, eh, lass?
Inertia, hilarious, accrues, hélas!

Perhaps they are easier in French. Here, off the top of my head, is one of my own composition on Napoleon's advance on Moscow.

War, snow, rushin' on.
Was no Russian? Non.

Which may prove my point about the language (I can't quite work out the Gaul/gall pun right now). Anybody with an effort of their own please feel free to post in the comments. It will give you something to do over Christmas other than charades.

Herewith another photograph I took yesterday:

Note the anaemic communicants on the left

Update: Another (two?) holorhymes on the advance on Moscow

There, hoarse as Marshall Ney,
Their horse's martial neigh

And almost:

The steppe galls
The gauls' step.


  1. I see Gloucester rain -
    icy, glossed terrain

  2. Turnips which, in two days, ease -
    Turn Ipswich into daisies.

  3. These are both brilliant. And a mere three years after the post.

  4. For I scream...
    for ice cream

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. (Corrected comment)
    A Hungarian example (from Karinthy):
    "Egy kis pesti vendéglőbe
    egy kispesti vendég lő be"
    (Lit . Into a small Budapest tavern
    shoots a guest from Kispest)