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In Kipling's Bridge Guard in the Karoo, there is a verse

We stumble on refuse of rations,

The beef and the biscuit-tins;

We take our appointed stations,

And the endless night begins.

'Ration' and 'station' sounds to me like an eye-rhyme, as the 'a' in ration is short but the 'a' in station is long. Are there accents where those two words have the same 'a' sound?

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    When you say "English accent", could you please be a little more specific, England is infamous for having a hundreds of local or regional accents. For example, Estuary English and cockney English sound nothing like the English accent that you hear Hue Grant speaking with in most of his movies, and these sound nothing like a west Midland's accent. Feb 25, 2023 at 10:11
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    @AaarghZombies yes, but the question is asking whether any of these accents rhyme the two words, not about what a particular accent does. Feb 25, 2023 at 11:07
  • @Especially Lime, there are approximately 56 different English accents in England alone, and over 100 more when you count English the US\Canada\Australia\New Zealand and England's former colonies in the Caribbean, India, Africa and Asia. Many of these rhyme those two words. If I know a little more about what the OP has in mind I can provide them with a much better answer. Feb 25, 2023 at 15:02
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    @AaarghZombies The questioner is asking about a Rudyard Kipling poem. If the plethora of English accents is actually the thing limiting your ability to improve upon the three answers which existed when you made your original comment, I would recommend concentrating on those which Kipling would have been familiar with. (i.e. which accent might he have been speaking if he thought the two words rhymed.)
    – R.M.
    Feb 25, 2023 at 15:35
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    @R.M, Kipling was born and raised in India, but spent considerable portions of his life in South Africa, Southern England and South Western England. He is known to have associated with people from all over the former British Empire. It would help if we knew the perspective of the OP, hence my original question as to whether they were limiting this to "Queen's English", or if they wanted to include local or regional accents. Feb 25, 2023 at 19:24

5 Answers 5

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Ration pronunciation changed over time as suggested by the following extract from Etymonline. Kipling probably used the older more common pronunciation used in England at his time:

The military pronunciation (rhymes with fashion) took over in English from the preferred civilian pronunciation (rhymes with nation) during World War I. That war also gave the word a specific sense of "officially limited allowance for civilians in times of war or dearth" (by 1917).

The following comment from quora.com provides some more interesting points:

Both pronunciations are acceptable and have been heard in cultivated speech since the word entered English in the mid-19th century. OED 1 (1904 ed.) gave priority to RAY-shin, but by the 1930s RASH-in was the prevailing pronunciation in England. American dictionaries gave priority to RAY-shin until the 1940s, but since then RASH-in has been listed first (as it is in the four leading current American dictionaries).

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    Lewis Carroll rhymed rations with quotations in The Hunting of the Snark.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 24, 2023 at 21:59
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    @ColinFine — I wouldn't put it past good ol’ Lewis to pronounce it quo-tash-uns to rhyme with rash-uns. Feb 25, 2023 at 6:18
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    @TinfoilHat: He'd do that sort of thing on occasion, but only when he was making a point of the wordplay. He wouldn't drop it in there.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 25, 2023 at 11:55
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    @TinfoilHat, @ ColinFine: off-topic, but hard to resist quoting my favourite rhyme from Carroll: “The hues of life are dull and gray, // The sweets of life insipid, // When thou, my charmer, art away— // Old brick, or rather, let me say, // Old parallelepiped!” (from Phantasmagoria)
    – PLL
    Feb 26, 2023 at 10:46
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    I wonder if it's from French, like materiel. «Ration» is pronounced /ʁasjɔ̃ / in French, which some dialects might render as [ʁaʃjõ].
    – wjandrea
    Feb 26, 2023 at 17:51
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As Merriam-Webster notes, "ration" has two alternate pronunciations, one of which rhymes with "station." Dictionary.com lists the pronunciations in IPA as /'ræʃ.ən/ and /ˈreɪ.ʃən/, the latter of which rhymes with "station" (/'steɪ.ʃən/).

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    And the one that rhymes with station is the most common in the US, both as a noun and a verb. The one that rhymes with passion is less common. Of course, the concept and therefore the word are rare because old-fashioned. Feb 24, 2023 at 19:27
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    @JohnLawler Do you mean most common in the UK? I'm in the US and have only heard the version rhyming with passion.
    – alphabet
    Feb 24, 2023 at 19:30
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    @JohnLawler Huh. I'm in the Northeast US, in my 20s; I've never come across this pronunciation and didn't know about it until I looked it up. I've always heard it as rhyming with "passion." Rudyard Kipling (the author in question) was British, so clearly it isn't just in AmE.
    – alphabet
    Feb 24, 2023 at 19:36
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    @JohnLawler I'm in Ontario, and I've only ever heard it rhyming with "passion" as well.
    – joelw
    Feb 24, 2023 at 19:37
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    @JohnLawler: I think the pronunciation must be regional. I live in the Northeast, and while I've heard the pronunciation rhyming with nation, it usually rhymes with passion. Feb 24, 2023 at 20:07
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As the other answers have noted, ration is sometimes pronounced similarly to station, nation, and the like. This is a pronunciation that's noted in some dictionaries.


Edit:

So, I've looked through some of Kipling's other works and found the following line in The Masque of Plenty (13):

God bless the Squire
And all his rich relations
Who teach us poor people
We eat our proper rations --
We eat our proper rations,
In spite of inundations,
Malarial exhalations,
And casual starvations,
We have, we have, they say we have --
We have our proper rations!

It's even clearer here that Kipling felt that 'rations' rhymed with 'starvations,' 'exhalations,' 'inundations,' and 'relations.' He likely had a non-standard pronunciation of the word.

Bizarrely, though, we see this line in The New Knighthood:

"Who fastens his belt?
"I," said Short-Rations,
" I know all the fashions
"Of tightening a belt!"

So it seems that Kipling either stretched the pronunciation to fit the rhyme or that he pronounced it both ways- this isn't that uncommon; lots of people use both pronunciations when referring to caramel or Nevada, so why not rations?


Now, as for your question about whether any accent pronounces 'stations' and 'rations' with the same ending, one specific accent in which I've noticed this happen a lot is the Indian accent. In the Indian accent, both words are pronounced with a completely different sound- not /eɪ/ or /æ/, but an /eː/ sound. (The other two sounds appear in very few Indian languages)

I can't find any citations for this, but I've consistently observed Indians (both from the North, South, and surrounding subcontinent) pronouncing 'ration' as /ˈreːʃən/. (Some) North Indians also do the same with fashion, and passion, and I've heard it in inflected/derived forms of these words (/ˈfeːʃnəbəl/ , ˈ/ˈpeːʃənətliː/ , /ˈreːʃənd/).

Also, a Quora thread suggests that Singaporeans do this too. There's a fair amount of cultural exchange between Singapore and India, so that could be a possible connection. Kipling also spent a small part of his life in India.

While the Indian accent doesn't fall in the conventional classification of 'native' English (the Western trilogy of American, British, and Antipodean), this is one accent that pronounces the two as rhymes.


Also, see this clip from Gilligan's Island, which was supposedly famous for this pronunciation- perhaps that's where Kipling picked it up ;)

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    I think the OP was referring to native, rather than foreign, accents. I don't think any native speaker anywhere pronounces ration like /ˈreːʃən/. Feb 25, 2023 at 17:48
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    @HollisWilliams - You may be right about the OP's intention; I interpreted it as referring to any accent. But you're right that /ˈreːʃən/ is a nonstandard, nonnative pronunciation. Feb 25, 2023 at 19:14
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    Though often overlooked when counting native English accents, Indian English is one of the major native English-language families since it does have first-language speakers and is an official language of India with mandatory use in parts of government. Wikipedia cites the Indian census for ~250 million speakers, with "a few hundred thousand" first-language speakers. You're not wrong at all to count Indian English accents as native rather than foreign, no more than for e.g. Scottish English. Feb 25, 2023 at 19:16
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    I checked Wikipedia and Indian English (IE) is classed as a group of English dialects spoken in the Republic of India, whereas Scottish and American English are classed as sets of varieties of the English language, which is a different thing as far as I can tell. Feb 25, 2023 at 20:12
  • That's a very interesting find in The New Nighthood
    – joelw
    Mar 1, 2023 at 15:15
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Just one data point: The American dog food Ken-L-Ration pronounces it to rhyme with station in their ads.

(Or at least, that's how I remember it, and how I've always pronounced the brand name. Memory could be wrong, if course. But I have heard both in the Northeastern US. Then again, the northeast alone has accents/dialects running from Proper Bostonian to State Of Mainer to Brooklynese, so vowels don't just shift here, they rotate and multiply.)

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    How does this answer the question? Generation and adoration also rhyme with station, but what about ration?
    – livresque
    Feb 26, 2023 at 4:18
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    @livresque They just said that ration rhymes with station in those ads.
    – tchrist
    Feb 26, 2023 at 4:21
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    (In case it isn't obvious, the name is derived from "kennel ration.")
    – keshlam
    Feb 26, 2023 at 4:22
  • I haven't otherwise heard that in AmE. Could that example be influenced by generation, adulation, etc.?
    – Davislor
    Feb 27, 2023 at 1:45
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    The film "Demolition Man" has a scene where a "Ken-L-Ration" minitune (advert) is played on a car radio and that definitely rhymes with "passion"; since we all know "Demolition Man" is a serious academic study (virtually a documentary) I think that says it all...
    – Spratty
    Feb 27, 2023 at 9:37
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Are there accents in which they don't rhyme?

ˈra-shən
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ration

ˈstā-shən
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/station

If you're operating under the idea that a "rhyme" requires all vowel sounds to match, then I am baffled as to where this idea came from. Are you bothered by the fact that only the terminal vowels in "biscuit-tins" and "begins" match (although the e in "begins" can be reduced to match the ui in "biscuit")?

rhyme 1 of 2 noun ˈrīm variants or less commonly rime Synonyms of rhyme 1 a (1) : rhyming verse (2) : POETRY b : a composition in verse that rhymes 2 a : correspondence in terminal sounds of units of composition or utterance (such as two or more words or lines of verse) b : one of two or more words thus corresponding in sound c : correspondence of other than terminal word sounds: such as (1) : ALLITERATION (2) : INTERNAL RHYME

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rhyme

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    A common convention in English rhyme is that the vowels and consonants should match from the stressed vowel on. Since “ration” and “station” are stressed on the first syllable, this and not only the second syllable has to match for them to rhyme according to that rhyme system. “begins” is stressed on the second syllable and “biscuit-tins” has a secondary stress on the last syllable, which can be counted as stress for the sake of rhyme
    – herisson
    Feb 28, 2023 at 1:16

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