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A little fun for the weekend

We are all plagued by the difference between how English is written and spoken. Once our professor told us about how fish could be spelled "ghoti" and attributed the anecdote to George Bernard Shaw. What? It can't be spelled that way? Try pronouncing the italicized letters in the following words and see for yourself: enough, women, nation.

Here is a poem called The Chaos written in 1920 by a Dutchman called Gerard Nolst Trenite who was thoroughly fed up by the vagaries of English pronunciation. You can turn on this video and read along with it.There are several versions of this poem on the net, no doubt it has been added to by other frustrated English language students! :-) This is the nearest version to the video that I could find on the net. You can also use this site if you want to find the correct pronunciation of the words all by yourself - Howjsay

The Chaos

Dearest creature in Creation,
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.

It will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
Tear in eye your dress you'll tear,
So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer,

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Just compare heart, beard and heard,
Dies and diet, Lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain,
(Mind the latter, how it's written);
Say - said, pay - paid, laid, but plaid.

Made has not the sound of bade;
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
But be careful how you speak,
Say break, steak, but bleak and streak,
Previous, precious, fuschia, via;
Pipe, snipe, recipe and choir,
Cloven, oven; how and low;
Script, receipt; shoe, poem, toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles;
Exiles, similes, reviles;
Wholly, holly; signal, signing;
Thames, examining, combining;
Scholar, vicar and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far.

From "desire" desirable - admirable from "admire";
Lumber, plumber; bier, but brier;
Chatham, brougham; renown, but known,
Knowledge, done, but gone and tone,
One, anernone; Balmoral;
Kitchen, lichen; laundry,. laurel,
Gertrude, German; wind and mind;
Scene, Melpomene; mankind;
Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.
This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.

Billet does not sound like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should or would.

Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which is said to rhyme with "khaki".
Viscous, viscount; load and broad;
Froward, to forward, to reward.

And your pronunciation's O.K.,
When you say correctly:: croquet;
Rounded, wounded; grieve and sieve;
Friend and fiend; alive and live;
Liberty, library; heave and heaven;
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed;
People, leopard; towed, but vowed.

Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover,
Leeches, breeches; wise, precise;
Chalice, but police and lice.'
Camel, constable, unstable;
Principle, disciple; label;
Portal, penal and canal;
Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal.
Suit, suite, ruin; circuit, conduit
Rime with "shirk it" and "beyond it".
But it is not hard to tell,
Why it's pall, mall, but Pall Mall.

Muscle, muscular; gaol; iron;
Timber, climber, bullion, lion;
Worm and storm; chaise, chaos, chair;
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Ivy, privy; famous. Clamour
And enamour rime with "hammer".

Pussy, hussy and possess,
Desert, but dessert, address.
Golf, wolf; countenance; lieutenants
Hoist, in lieu of flags, left pennants.

River, rival; tomb, bomb, comb;
Doll and roll and some and home,
Stranger does not rime with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.

Soul, but foul and gaunt, but aunt;
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and, grant.
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then say: singer, ginger, linger.

Roal, zoal, mauve, gauze and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age.
Query does not rime with "very",
Nor does fury sound like' bury'
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth,
Job, job, blossom, bosom, oath.
Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual,
Seat, sweat, chaste, caste, Leigh, eight, height;
Put, nut, granite and unite.
Reefer does not rime with "deafer",
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.

Dull, bull; Geoffrey, George; ate, late;
Hint, pint; senate, but sedate;
Scenic, Arabic, pacific;
Science, conscience, scientific.

Tour, but our and succour, four;
Gas, alas, and Arkansas!
Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria;
Couth, south, southern; cleanse and clean;
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion.

Sally with ally; yea,,ye,
Eye,I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay!
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.

Never guess - it is not safe:
We say calves, valves, half, but Ralf!
Heron, granary, canary,
Crevice and device, and eyrie.

Face, but preface, but efface,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass;
Large, but target, gin, give, verging;
Ought, out joust and scour, but scourging.
Far, but earn; and wear and bear
Do not rime with "here", but "ore".

Seven is right, but so is even;
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen;
Monkey, donkey; clerk and jerk;
Asp, grasp, wasp; and cork and work.

Pronunciation-think of Psyche!-
Is a paling, stout and spiky.
   Won't it make you lose your wits
   Writing groats and saying "grits"?

It's a dark abyss or tunnel
Strewn with stones like rowlock, gunwale,
   Islington, and Isle of Wight,
   Housewife, verdict and indict.

Don't you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?
   Finally, which rhymes with enough,
   Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough??

Hiccough has the sound of sup...
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!
 

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