Browsing the web, I came across this image of the cast of the television show Community using a type of structure familiar to me, and I wondered if there's a name for it.

The most familiar instance is likely "See you later, alligator." And because it brings to memory the similar "In a while, crocodile," I found a phrase that loosely encapsulated these with the Wikipage for Parting Phrases.

Then I remembered other examples from the musical number Telephone Hour in the 1963 film Bye Bye Birdie, in which teenyboppers greet each other on the phone with phrases like

What's the story, morning glory?
What's [the] tale, nightingale?
What's the word, humming bird?

And I've found several pages of lesser-known but valid examples of what I wish to describe, some examples being "So long, King [Donkey?] Kong" and "Mañana, iguana." So I was tempted to label this question "Term for '[Salutation], [Rhyming Organism]'."

Now I wanted the term also to include the quotes from Community, most of which (an example being "You're on your own, Al Capone") are preceded by a phrase that is not a salutation. But growing up we had a book called "See You Later, Alligator"; it contained the alligator and crocodile phrases, but it also had ones that were something like "See you on the veranda, panda" and "See you in pajamas, llamas." Because these opening phrases are not idioms or figures-of-speech, my ideal term does not include them.

And even organism may not quite capture the terminal phrase, as shown in Jeebs' example using a title in 2002's Men in Black II: "Let's make it happen, cap'n." So I have generalized it to rhyme.

The idiom restriction aside, I suspect there may be a term like iambic pentameter or Oom-Pah-Pah to describe the rhythm these phrases make when spoken. I am open to suggestions like these but my preference lies with terms more like antimetabole, a word I recently learned from ELU which focuses more on the structure or composition of the phrase than on its sound.

Is there a word or phrase that precisely describes expressions of the form "[Idiom], [Rhyming Phrase]"?

  • 1
    Perhaps since 'See you later, alligator' is the lead example perhaps - a haleybill?
    – WS2
    Mar 4, 2014 at 7:52
  • @MarkRaishbrook: The parts in my post asking only for a word were mistakes. All along, what I've really been meaning to find is a description more concise (maybe even more technical) than "sayings like See you later, alligator". (I've edited the question to reflect this.) I am kind of "grasping at straws" with questions like these, but in the past I've gotten answers that "filled the bill" quite nicely.
    – user39720
    Mar 7, 2014 at 14:31
  • 1
    Something that all the phrases have in common is that they are addressed at someone specific. The rhyme tag is being used in place of the person's actual name or a more standard way of addressing them.
    – starwed
    Mar 8, 2014 at 19:57

5 Answers 5


I believe there isn't a well-established term for these phrases but there is a general term used that is based on the term catchphrase:

  • rhyming catchphrase / catch-phrase

I've found the relevant excerpt below and there are usages in Google Books as well.

If you’re a native English speaker you’ve probably heard a few popular rhyming catch-phrases like, ‘see you later, alligator‘ or ‘after a while crocodile‘. - happyhoursspanish.com

Also, we can call the latter part of the phrase a rhyme-tag:

a word or phrase used primarily to produce a rhyme. - britannica.com

Furthermore, the book Slang: The People's Poetry (by Michael Adams) describes these phrases in a variety of ways, as in rhyming {something}. Additionally, it talks about the differences between rhyming slang and these phrases.

Moreover, the author thinks that they are a verse and poetic; and describes them as rhyming couplets.

Of course, there are lots of rhyming salutations, farewells, and queries; some of them are generic and familiar, slang clichés. The most famous of these is See you later, alligator; the usual response is the equally all-purpose In a while, crocodile.

Along with all of these slangy things, rhymes like What's your story, morning glory? or How's it goin', protozoan? are poetry, or at least verse; they are, in some elements, poetic. Each of these rhymes is really a couplet or pair of couplets (or, I suppose, one could interpret each as an internally rhymed single line of verse):

How's it goin',

See you later,
Not too soon,
You big baboon.

Granted, if these are miniature poems, they aren't very sophisticated, not villanelles or complexly idiosyncratic free verse poems.

  • I like the syllabic generality of couplet. (A person could have a long idiom followed by its rhyme, as in my weird example of "I'll see you in heaven, 007.") In fact, I think the term I'm looking for would only require one thing more: that one half be auxiliary to the other. In the above examples, the second part is filler, while the first is usually somehow informational. This would allow some cases I ideally don't want (like the veranda/panda case) but it should also describe the above examples.
    – user39720
    Mar 4, 2014 at 23:01
  • And it's good research. I can say "rhyming couplets like 'See you later, alligator'" and people will know exactly what I mean. But the term rhyming couplet itself is broad, covering such examples like True wit is nature to advantage dress'd; What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd. -- Alexander Pope. I'll post bounty on this tomorrow, but I think what you've found could very well be the best we'll find.
    – user39720
    Mar 5, 2014 at 15:34

From Wikipedia, an internal rhyme or middle rhyme is a rhyme that occurs within a single line of a verse.

Although the article in Wikipedia is not brilliant, I think the connection with hip hop and swing era lyrics is important and missing in your question

I've found other links that give examples closer to the ones you've listed:

  • I like the Britannica reference. I'm not very familiar with hip-hop/swing, but I was thinking of mentioning "My, my, Miss American Pie." The part from the Wiki that I think may cause confusion is that an internal rhyme can also be used to mean "compound rhyme," or "rhyme-within-a-rhyme"; the phrases I'm thinking of can be pithy and simple. But from the definitions, especially those last two, I think it can be used to describe "[Idiom], [Rhyme]": +1.
    – user39720
    Mar 8, 2014 at 16:12

Many of these trite cute sayings are cliché. They would also qualify as jingles. But neither of these terms are specific.


How about the following neologisms:

humonymy (humorous partial homonymy) or echonymy (the last meaningful word being meaninglessly echoed) or a humorhyme (a humorous, nonsensical, rhyming couplet)

The phenomenon reminds me of Cockney rhyming slang, but Cockney for people who are not in the know, who are not insiders, the rhyming word being kept rather than dropped. "See you later, alligator!" is a partial "cockney-fication".

An example of Cockney speech given on Wikipedia is:

Go up the stairs. > Go up the apples and pears. (stairs replaced with a rhyming word or phrase) > Go up the apples. (the part of the word or phrase containing the rhyme is dropped)

Similarly, then, "See you later, alligator!" if it were properly "cockney-fied" should become:

See you later. > See you alligator. > See you alli.

Cockney worked for a small, tightly-knit community of quick-witted people with similar backgrounds.

"See you later, alligator!" works for… America!


I don't think there's an exact phrase for this, but a 'rhyming valediction' might be a good way to describe it. Ermanen's answer is an excellent one, but 'rhyming catch-phrase' doesn't quite capture the fact that it's a parting term: 'See you later, alligator' might work better described as a 'rhyming valediction'.

  • 1
    The actual question makes it clear that this is broader than valedictions.
    – starwed
    Mar 10, 2014 at 14:22

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