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"Pediatric Reflection" by Ogden Nash

Many an infant that screams like a calliope
Could be soothed by a little attention to its diope.

What does "diope" mean here?

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Ogden Nash was fond of the humorous effect created by employing a rhyme that only works if you distort the pronunciation of one of the words, an effect that he signalled by a deliberate mis-spelling. Here are three examples, with glosses for the mis-spelled words:

Better yet, if called by a panther,
Don't anther.†

Ogden Nash (1941). ‘The Panther’. In The Face is Familiar, p. 64. New York: Garden City.

† answer

A girl who is bespectacled,
She may not get her nectacled.†
But safety pins and bassinets
Await the girl who fascinets.‡

Lines Written to Console Those Ladies Distressed by the Lines “Men Seldom Make Passes, etc.”’ In Nash, p. 134.

† neck tickled ‡ fascinates.

A bit of talcum
Is always walcum.†

Reflection on Babies’. In Nash, p. 323.

† welcome

So in the couplet quoted in the question, “diope” is a mis-spelling of “diaper” that makes it rhyme with “calliope”.

A calliope is a steam-driven organ, named after the ancient Greek muse Calliope, and notorious for its volume: Wikipedia says, “some small calliopes are audible for miles”. The word should be pronounced /kəˈlaɪəpi/ with four syllables, not /ˈkæliˌoʊp/ with three, for Nash’s joke to work.

Ornate four-wheeled carriage drawn by two white horses and driven by man with red military-style jacket and blue trousers. The side of the carriage is cut away to reveal a woman seated at an organ keyboard connected to a semi-circular bank of whistles and a large cylindrical boiler.
1874 poster: “Calliope, the wonderful operonicon or steam car of the muses”. Library of Congress, digital ID pga.01335.

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    ... a rhyme that works only if you know that calliope is pronounced with four syllables, /kəˈlaɪ ə pi/
    – shoover
    May 1 at 5:42
  • Thanks a lot. I was pronouncing calliope as ca-li -ope where ope rhymes with pope. Now that I know that it is pronounced as /kəˈlaɪ ə pi/ , the rhyme does make much more sense.
    – Obinna
    May 1 at 5:54

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