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Don't say one synonym's a type of fish:
It's the same word, not the same meaning.

Don't say one synonym's a type of bird:
That's a different form of the word.

Don't say one synonym's a type of drink:
In fact the sound is the only real link.

"Replace an approximation by a constant to find badness"?
Not a good clue at all! This riddle is madness!

You should travel to find a rhyme:
Even here you've failed one time.

What's the answer?

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  • $\begingroup$ This riddle would have been a lot more accessible to non-native English speakers if you had chosen another synonym (preferably one that's not in the top percentiles of word rarity) as the final answer. $\endgroup$ – Bass Nov 20 at 21:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Bass I forgot to mention that my riddle was inspired by this one, specifically the "I sound like evil" part. My starting point in creating this was having the final answer and then building up a riddle around it. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Nov 20 at 21:09
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I am fairly sure your word is

CAVIL.

Don't say one synonym's a type of fish:
It's the same word, not the same meaning.

To cavil is to CARP, same word as CARP, a kind of fish.

Don't say one synonym's a type of bird:
That's a different form of the word.

To cavil is to GROUSE. So far as I know, grouse=complain and grouse=bird are no more related to one another than carp=complain and carp=fish, and while the former is a verb and the latter a noun the same is equally true for CARP, so I fear I'm missing something here.

Don't say one synonym's a type of drink:
In fact the sound is the only real link.

To cavil is to WHINE, which sounds like WINE, a type of drink.

"Replace an approximation by a constant to find badness"?
Not a good clue at all! This riddle is madness!

Take CAVIL and replace CA (circa = approximately) with E (e, mathematical constant) to get EVIL = badness. Though this seems like a perfectly reasonable clue to me.

You should travel to find a rhyme:
Even here you've failed one time.

CAVIL and TRAVEL are almost rhymes, though to my ear imperfect ones because that last vowel isn't quite right. (Perhaps this is why "you've failed one time".)

And of course (I didn't originally say this explicitly because I thought it was obvious enough not to be needed)

each stanza is itself something of a CAVIL, about the riddle itself. (And even-more-of-course the title describes this.)

I wondered whether

there might be one further level of subtlety that explains why these are all slightly wrong in ways not already covered above

but if I have correctly understood Rand's comments, that isn't the case. As Rand also suggests in comments

you may consider this a meta-cavil from me :-).

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  • $\begingroup$ Yep, nice job. You've got the correct answer and correct explanations for each verse. What you're missing (which should clear up your uncertainty) is the meta level of the puzzle, ifyouknowwhatimean. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Nov 20 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ If you just mean the fact that every stanza exemplifies the thing we're talking about, I thought that went without saying. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Nov 20 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ (If you don't mean that, then as yet idontknowwhatyoumean.) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Nov 20 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, exactly. It's a negative word, so the person doing it isn't actually caring too much about consistency - you're not missing anything in your 3rd spoilertagged bit. In fact, you've gone to a meta meta level by critiquing the critique :-) $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Nov 20 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ OK, answer adjusted a little in the light of that clarification. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Nov 20 at 16:24

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