Maxmanseb   Friday, September 17, 2004, 20:45 GMT
English is Tough Stuff

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 you 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 and plaque and argue.
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 or 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 rhyme 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, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem very 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.

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
Does 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 loose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wright,
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 up!!

Author unknown
???   Friday, September 17, 2004, 21:20 GMT
Why does this poem keep coming up on this forum?
Doogle   Friday, September 17, 2004, 21:45 GMT
wow that really makes u realize how hard english actually is...
Mxsmanic   Saturday, September 18, 2004, 06:14 GMT
The author is Gerald Nolst Trenite, so he is quite known. The poem is longer than the part you cite.

It says nothing about English difficulty. There are over a million words in the English language, and all but a handful have regular spellings and pronunciations. This poem contains an insignificantly small sampling of the latter.
Mi5 Mick   Saturday, September 18, 2004, 07:35 GMT
A million words: but how many words do you expect the average person to use?
Mxsmanic   Saturday, September 18, 2004, 16:05 GMT
That's a good question, and I've never seen anything that looked like a definitive answer.

People have different vocabularies, depending on whether you count the words they regularly use, the words they _can_ use (but don't), the words they recognize but can't quite use, and so on. Most people probably have recognition vocabularies (the largest of the useful types of vocabulary) of less than 100,000 words. Many people can probably _spell_ far more words than that, however.

One way to estimate your vocabulary is to use a dictionary. Find out how many entries there are in the dictionary. Then pick 100 pages at random, pick one word at random from the middle of each page, and see if you know the word. At the end of that exercise, divide the number of words you recognized by 100, then multiply that by the number of entries in the dictionary to get an estimate of your vocabulary.
Miquel   Saturday, September 18, 2004, 17:11 GMT

To maxManseb,

"Dearest creature in creation...." is of Bernard Shaw.