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I recently read the beautiful poem by Samuel Coleridge. Why did he call it a rime? I looked up rime on the dictionary, and it means a thin layer of ice; so was the name playing around with the rhyme of the words "rime" and "rhyme" at the same time, referring to the icy time when the Ancient Mariner killed the albatross (that was when the ship was somewhere near the Southern Pole)?

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Who voted for this to be off-topic? It's use of a word, history of the word change, not off-topic. –  Orbling May 9 '11 at 3:39
    
Thank-you very much.Orbling –  Thursagen May 9 '11 at 3:48
    
I'm feel obliged to point out that I have also seen rime used to describe salt rime, or the effect of something being repeatedly splashed with salt water, and then the water evaporating away, leaving a crust of salt. It seems pretty nautical, but I don't think it's related to Samuel Coleridge's original intension. –  Fake Name May 9 '11 at 9:21
    
@Fake Name: I wouldn't discount the possiblity that Coleridge opted for rime partly because of nautical connotations (including even alliteration with brine, perhaps). I think although rime is usually 'frost', it's not necessarily metaphorical to use it for any precipitate, including sea-salt. –  FumbleFingers May 9 '11 at 13:16
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3 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

It's simply an archaic, variant spelling. From Wikipedia:

The spelling rhyme (from original rime) was introduced at the beginning of the Modern English period, due to a learned (but etymologically incorrect) association with Greek ῥυθμός (rhythmos, rhythm).

The older spelling rime survives in Modern English as a rare alternative spelling. A distinction between the spellings is also sometimes made in the study of linguistics and phonology, where rime/rhyme is used to refer to the nucleus and coda of a syllable. In this context, some prefer to spell this rime to separate it from the poetic rhyme covered by this article (see syllable rime).

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See also the French rime and the Italian and Spanish rima. –  nico May 10 '11 at 5:56
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Look at the age of the book, 1798, pre-dictionary.

It was originally called The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere, some of the words have been corrected. Not all of them have. Rime can still be used for rhyme.

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Maybe not as we know them, but there were certainly dictionaries and other spelling aids available to Coleridge. Anyway, it's probably misleading to say that Coleridge 'corrected' spellings. He revised several aspects of the work - that doesn't need to imply that the earlier version was 'accidentally' incorrect. –  FumbleFingers May 9 '11 at 4:20
    
@FumbleFingers: I didn't mean that he revised them, only that the modern versions of the title were correct. As it goes, it wasn't pre-dictionary, as Johnson's was 1755 on reflection. But still many variant spellings were in use, took a long time to standardise things. –  Orbling May 9 '11 at 5:05
    
@Orbling: You're certainly right that spelling wasn't exactly standardised back then. I've heard that Shakespeare spelt his own name several different ways, but that may be an urban myth. Anyway, I just meant that Coleridge himself probably didn't use many incorrect / archaic spellings by mistake as such. –  FumbleFingers May 9 '11 at 5:29
    
@FumbleFingers: Oh no, the man picked his words quite carefully by the look of it. –  Orbling May 9 '11 at 10:29
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@Orbling: Having checked a bit, it's now clear to me Shakespeare really did spell his own name several different ways. Maybe we should take that as evidence that nobody of importance really cared about spelling until 'the dictionary' became a standard household item. –  FumbleFingers May 9 '11 at 13:09
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The poem was first published in 1798 - but even by the standards of the time, it had a lot of archaic words and spellings.

It was substantially revised by Coleridge before being republished some 20 years later, but he kept lots of archaic spellings, including rime.

I'd just say Coleridge did this for artistic effect, and leave it at that. But here's some more detail if you want to follow it up.

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