Even worse verse

Here’s another poem showing the problems with English pronunciation.

It wasn’t until we started teaching English that CC and I realised just how difficult it is to help foreigners to speak  a language that is so thoroughly UNphonetic with so few rules to hang on to.



Poem ‘The Chaos’ : Pronunciation and spelling

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

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.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.

Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhymes with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.

Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, knob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.

Liberty , library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas .
Sea, idea, Korea , area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.

Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation — think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.

Finally, which rhymes with enough-
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give it up!!!

 And then there are so many strange pronuciations for place names as for example, in Norfolk:

Costessey (Cossey)

Tacolneston (Tackleston)

Wymondham (Windam)

Shotesham (Shotsam)

I’m sure you can add to this list . . . . . . .

13 Responses to “Even worse verse”

  1. zed Says:

    I have to agree – English is impossible.

  2. Pat Says:

    My old name Manwaring pronounced Mannering.
    One’s heart goes out to the poor dears trying to master the English language

    • sablonneuse Says:

      Yes, Pat, English certainly has some strange pronunciations for surnames. Two of my ‘favourites’ are Cholmondeley and Featherstonehaugh. It must be very difficult to learn how to write these names when you’re a child.

  3. zed Says:

    I’ve just had my daughters read that poem out loud to me – they got tired after the 3rd verse – but I was surprised – Coralie did better!

  4. guyana gyal Says:

    I try to make it fun for the students with games and so on, I will email you the sites this weekend.

    I tell students that English is a crazy language and they laugh.

    How do you explain the ‘f’ sound in laugh, fish and phone? 🙂

    • sablonneuse Says:

      That’s the big problem, G-G: usually there is no explanation. After complaining about French grammar rules at school I now find myself wishing English had more rules – and not so many exceptions – to help learners.

  5. tillylil Says:

    Happisburg (Hazeborough) comes to mind.
    Yes English does have so many homophones and homonyms. Must be a nightmare for foreign students o translate into the written word.
    Are you all ok medical wise this week?

  6. Almost American Says:

    Cholmondeley I know (Chumley), but Featherstonehaugh?

    Worcester. (Wooster) Wybunbury (Wymbry)

  7. Susie Vereker Says:

    Wow, Sandy. One forgets.

  8. Sara Says:

    This is making me rethink the notion of teaching English…
    Clever poem, Sandy!

  9. sablonneuse Says:

    Susie and Sara, yes it des make teaching English pretty difficult. I really sympathise with my students!

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