ripple, cripple

"Never look down on yourself, even a cripple can create a ripple."

I use two similar vocabulary words in spelling to make a sentence. Does it look like strange? Does it look like a quote?

Does "Creating a ripple" and "Cripple" imply antonym?

  • We can see you love to play creatively with English and crave the right audience. That could be a poetry circle, where others listen, laugh, and give you the feedback you deserve for your efforts and your results. Another idea is an open mike where people get up and sing or recite the spoken word - performers watch audience reaction carefully to judge what worked and what got lost. Jan 29, 2021 at 5:40
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    A ripple is a small surface wave such as that made when a pebble is dropped into smooth water. It doesn’t really imply enable and isn’t the opposite of cripple. Metaphorically, a ripple is a small, but noticeable disturbance in the status quo. Your sentence does look like a quote because it’s enclosed in quotation marks.
    – Jim
    Jan 29, 2021 at 8:13

2 Answers 2


I was about to vote to close but found food for thought.

The poetic or rhyming parallel between the two words attracts attention and suggests a connection between them. Your use then establishes the connection by using them to present two opposing ideas.

Despite the opposing ideas, the two words are not opposites, neither as verbs nor as nouns. Implication is not the opposite of meaning.

The thought may look like a quotation because of previous usage of the rhyming imagery of cripples and ripples. For example from 2016:

What goes around comes around is not a new insight. It is something most of us intuitively know but easily forget, as we attempt to hold on to most things which come to us. What we don’t realise is the ripple effect can easily become the cripple effect. Everything we think and do not only ripples out into the world, it also creates an impression on our own consciousness inside.

Thought for today

I leave you with the thought “Whiffle, if it’ll riffle your piffle.” But don’t expect everyone to follow your playful word dance easily


There's quite a lot more to this than these two words. Ripple and cripple are both English Simplex Words. Those include all the monosyllables, and also monosyllables with one of a list of extra "half-syllable" suffixes, of which syllabic /ḷ/ is one. Most simplex words -- more than half, by our count -- have sound-symbolic associations that go along with their pronunciation.

Phonosemantically, the important things are the initial Assonance or consonant cluster (respectively /r-/ and /kr-/ here), and the Rime /-ɪp/. The rime is extremely salient. The assonance /r-/ doesn't have much significance -- there are too many words beginning with it -- but the /kr-/ assonance is very salient, too.

Essentially, simplex words with the -ip rime refer (somehow) to something with a 3-dimensional part and a 2-dimensional part, which matches both a cripple and a ripple. Cripples are solid, but they were distinguished in English as people who can't walk; prototypically they must crawl (there's another kr-, btw), on a 2-D surface; and ripples are a 3-D feature on a 2-D surface.

The kr- assonance is also dimensional, and refers to 1-dimensional split or bent things, many of which are compressed or shrunken. It's easy to see why cripple and crutch and crouch go together.

So the assonance and the rime are coherent, which happens a lot. Like clump, as in a clump of trees; kl- means together, while -ump means a 3-dimensional solid, roughly the same in all dimensions. So what's a clump of something? It's a group of trees, or cells, or something else, shaped like an -ump.

Though the system handles contradictions nicely, too: st- refers to vertical rigid 1-dimensional things like sticks and storks and stacks, whereas -ump is round like bumps and lumps and humps. So what's a stump? It's something that used to be tall and 1-dimensional, but is now an -ump.

More information on phonosemantics (for those who can stand it) is available here.

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    +1 Some of the terminology seems off (assonance for acconsonance), some of the spelling confusing (we already use the spelling rime for an entirely different word), some of the characterisations like reading into an oracle what one wants to find (cripples are solid but bidimensional because they may crawl on a surface?), some groupings speculative; and, on the whole, it does not answer the question; nevertheless, I think this is a great answer, with excellent information on hidden semantic patterns in consonantal clusters and syllables. Mar 17, 2021 at 2:16
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    The terminology is from Bolinger (1950). Clearly the two words don't have "opposite meaning", but I wouldn't know what the OQ means by "opposite" or "meaning" anyway. I don't feel much constrained to answer the presenting question unless it's based on some kind of actual phenomenon. Mar 17, 2021 at 13:58
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    'I don't feel much constrained to answer the presenting question unless it's based on some kind of actual phenomenon.' Treating questionable questions as a springboard to launch into a proficient analysis of related fields comes dangerously close to matching ELU's mission statement: 'With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about English language and usage.' Mar 17, 2021 at 14:25
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    Guilty as charged. Although such a library would have no card catalog. It's impossible to find stuff here, as most questions demonstrate. Mar 17, 2021 at 14:40
  • Can you just add a single line what you think is the semantic relation, if any, between 'cripple' and 'ripple'?
    – Mitch
    Mar 17, 2021 at 15:23

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