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This’ll keep you busy for a couple of days

So this Dutch dude wrote a poem called The Chaos, about what an utter pain in the ass English is for the non-native speaker. It’s 270-something lines documenting 800 or so spelling/pronunciation anomalies. (You can learn more about the history of it here).

Aw, c’mon…it’s kind of fun. Dip in anywhere and sample a couple of verses. Works best read aloud. Remember — English spellings and pronunciations.

Great weekend and thanks for all the ghoti!

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse

Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.

I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
Tear in eye, your dress you’ll tear;

Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Just compare heart, hear and heard,

Dies and diet, lord and word.

Sword and sward, retain and Britain
(Mind the latter how it’s written).
Made has not the sound of bade,

Say – said, pay – paid, laid but plaid.

Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
But be careful how you speak,

Say: gush, bush, steak, streak, break, bleak,

Previous, precious, fuchsia, via
Recipe, pipe, studding-sail, choir;
Woven, oven, how and low,

Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.

Say, expecting fraud and trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Branch, ranch, measles, topsails, aisles,

Missiles, similes, reviles.

Wholly, holly, signal, signing,
Same, examining, but mining,
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,

Solar, mica, war and far.

From “desire”: desirable – admirable from “admire”,
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier,
Topsham, brougham, renown, but known,

Knowledge, done, lone, gone, none, tone,

One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel.
Gertrude, German, wind and wind,

Beau, kind, kindred, queue, mankind,

Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.
This phonetic labyrinth

Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.

Have you ever yet endeavoured
To pronounce revered and severed,
Demon, lemon, ghoul, foul, soul,

Peter, petrol and patrol?

Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,

Nor is mould like should and would.

Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which exactly rhymes with khaki.
Discount, viscount, load and broad,

Toward, to forward, to reward,

Ricocheted and crocheting, croquet?
Right! Your pronunciation’s OK.
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,

Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Is your R correct in higher?
Keats asserts it rhymes with Thalia.
Hugh, but hug, and hood, but hoot,

Buoyant, minute, but minute.

Say abscission with precision,
Now: position and transition;
Would it tally with my rhyme

If I mentioned paradigm?

Twopence, threepence, tease are easy,
But cease, crease, grease and greasy?
Cornice, nice, valise, revise,

Rabies, but lullabies.

Of such puzzling words as nauseous,
Rhyming well with cautious, tortious,
You’ll envelop lists, I hope,

In a linen envelope.

Would you like some more? You’ll have it!
Affidavit, David, davit.
To abjure, to perjure. Sheik

Does not sound like Czech but ache.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, loch, 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.
Petal, penal, and canal,

Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal,

Suit, suite, ruin. Circuit, conduit
Rhyme 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
Has the A of drachm and hammer.
Pussy, hussy and possess,

Desert, but desert, address.

Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants
Hoist in lieu of flags left pennants.
Courier, courtier, tomb, bomb, comb,

Cow, but Cowper, some and home.

Solder, soldier! Blood is thicker“,
Quoth he, “than liqueur or liquor“,
Making, it is sad but true,

In bravado, much ado.

Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Pilot, pivot, gaunt, but aunt,

Font, front, wont, want, grand and grant.

Arsenic, specific, scenic,
Relic, rhetoric, hygienic.
Gooseberry, goose, and close, but close,

Paradise, rise, rose, and dose.
Say inveigh, neigh, but inveigle,
Make the latter rhyme with eagle.

Mind! Meandering but mean,

Valentine and magazine.
And I bet you, dear, a penny,
You say mani-(fold) like many,

Which is wrong. Say rapier, pier,

Tier (one who ties), but tier.
Arch, archangel; pray, does erring
Rhyme with herring or with stirring?

Prison, bison, treasure trove,

Treason, hover, cover, cove,
Perseverance, severance. Ribald
Rhymes (but piebald doesn’t) with nibbled.

Phaeton, paean, gnat, ghat, gnaw,

Lien, psychic, shone, bone, pshaw.
Don’t be down, my own, but rough it,
And distinguish buffet, buffet;

Brood, stood, roof, rook, school, wool, boon,

Worcester, Boleyn, to impugn.
Say in sounds correct and sterling
Hearse, hear, hearken, year and yearling.

Evil, devil, mezzotint,

Mind the z! (A gentle hint.)

Now you need not pay attention
To such sounds as I don’t mention,
Sounds like pores, pause, pours and paws,

Rhyming with the pronoun yours;

Nor are proper names included,
Though I often heard, as you did,
Funny rhymes to unicorn,

Yes, you know them, Vaughan and Strachan.

No, my maiden, coy and comely,
I don’t want to speak of Cholmondeley.
No. Yet Froude compared with proud

Is no better than McLeod.

But mind trivial and vial,
Tripod, menial, denial,
Troll and trolley, realm and ream,

Schedule, mischief, schism, and scheme.

Argil, gill, Argyll, gill. Surely
May be made to rhyme with Raleigh,
But you’re not supposed to say

Piquet rhymes with sobriquet.

Had this invalid invalid
Worthless documents? How pallid,
How uncouth he, couchant, looked,

When for Portsmouth I had booked!

Zeus, Thebes, Thales, Aphrodite,
Paramour, enamoured, flighty,
Episodes, antipodes,

Acquiesce, and obsequies.

Please don’t monkey with the geyser,

Don’t peel ‘taters with my razor,
Rather say in accents pure:
Nature, stature and mature.

Pious, impious, limb, climb, glumly,

Worsted, worsted, crumbly, dumbly,
Conquer, conquest, vase, phase, fan,
Wan, sedan and artisan.

The TH will surely trouble you

More than R, CH or W.
Say then these phonetic gems:
Thomas, thyme, Theresa, Thames.

Thompson, Chatham, Waltham, Streatham,
There are more but I forget ’em
Wait! I’ve got it: Anthony,

Lighten your anxiety.

The archaic word albeit
Does not rhyme with eight – you see it;
With and forthwith, one has voice,

One has not, you make your choice.

Shoes, goes, does. Now first say: finger;
Then say: singer, ginger, linger.
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze and gauge,

Marriage, foliage, mirage, age,

Hero, heron, query, very,
Parry, tarry, fury, bury,
Dost, lost, post, and doth, cloth, loth,

Job, Job, blossom, bosom, oath.

Faugh, oppugnant, keen oppugners,
Bowing, bowing, banjo-tuners
Holm you know, but noes, canoes,

Puisne, truism, use, to use?

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 rhyme with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,

Hint, pint, senate, but sedate.

Gaelic, Arabic, pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific;
Tour, but our, dour, succour, four,

Gas, alas, and Arkansas.

Say manoeuvre, yacht and vomit,
Next omit, which differs from it
Bona fide, alibi

Gyrate, dowry and awry.

Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,

Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion,
Rally 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.

Starry, granary, canary,
Crevice, but device, and eyrie,
Face, but preface, then grimace,

Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.

Bass, large, target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, oust, joust, and scour, but scourging;
Ear, but earn; and ere and tear

Do not rhyme with here but heir.

Mind the O of off and often
Which may be pronounced as orphan,
With the sound of saw and sauce;

Also soft, lost, cloth and cross.

Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.
Respite, spite, consent, resent.

Liable, but Parliament.

Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk,

Asp, grasp, wasp, demesne, cork, work.

A of valour, vapid, vapour,
S of news (compare newspaper),
G of gibbet, gibbon, gist,

I of antichrist and grist,

Differ like diverse and divers,
Rivers, strivers, shivers, fivers.
Once, but nonce, toll, doll, but roll,

Polish, Polish, poll and poll.

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!


Comment from First!
Time: February 10, 2012, 11:18 pm


Comment from Scubafreak
Time: February 10, 2012, 11:33 pm

Stoatie, GAWKER online is reporting rumors that Kim Jong (or Wrong) Un has been assasinated. Possible dead pool win in progress.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 10, 2012, 11:40 pm

I know, Scoob. It came up on a previous thread. We’ll have to wait and see how long it takes to get confirmation either way.

Comment from Kilroy182
Time: February 11, 2012, 12:16 am

My head hurts.

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: February 11, 2012, 12:29 am

Ah. In that case, I’ll go back to playing with my belly button lint or something…. LOL

Comment from Oceania
Time: February 11, 2012, 12:30 am

Could by industrious valour climb,
To ruin the great work of time,
And cast the Kingdoms old,
Into another mould.

Comment from Nina
Time: February 11, 2012, 2:03 am

I’m very glad to be a native speaker. 🙂

Comment from Veeshir
Time: February 11, 2012, 2:27 am

Hey, don’t blame us, we just speak it.

We don’t even choose to speak it, they do.
You can get by in Holland quite well with just English.
They actually get kind of snotty when you ask, “Do you speak English?”
A snotty, “Of course” is the standard response.

Comment from jc
Time: February 11, 2012, 3:54 am

Though the tough cough and hiccough, plough him through.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: February 11, 2012, 7:01 am

Was reading a bit of Spenser some years back & got good and stuck for a while trying to puzzle out “ivrie”.

Fucking English.

Comment from Mike C.
Time: February 11, 2012, 11:38 am

Meh. Nowhere near as clever or humorous as Twain’s lecture on the German language, which (IIRC) is included in “A Tramp Abroad.”

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: February 11, 2012, 1:28 pm

From an exchange on USENET:

>>> I before e, except after c, or when sounded as a, as in
>>> neighbor and weigh,
>> except for eight exceptions: Weird, height, and foreign
>> leisure, Neither, seize nor forfeit, either.
>’Neither leisured foreigner seized the weird height’ is the
>mnemonic that I was taught back in the late 50s. ‘Neither’
>covers ‘either’, so only ‘forfeit’ is missed, and it could
>easily be added.
>> (Which isn’t all of them: it misses ‘deity’, for example.)
>No, because ‘deity’ is trisyllabic, with <e> and <i> in
>different syllables, so it’s covered by the normal rules.


>> English does not have rules so much as nets that catch 85%
>> of the usages.
>This one, however, catches almost everything.

>It tries.

* * *


Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: February 11, 2012, 1:58 pm

Once when in Helsinki, during my travels during my twenties, I bravely approached two beautiful blonde Finnish girls clad in furs and asked them, “Do you speak English?”.

They instantly replied “No!” in perfect unison, and walked away.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 11, 2012, 11:26 pm

I…I…I think I’ve finished Skyrim.

NOW what do I do?!?

Comment from Redd
Time: February 12, 2012, 12:14 am

Go back to your painting?

Comment from Redd
Time: February 12, 2012, 12:15 am

Or, join a calligraphy guild. I’ll live vicariously through you. Thanks!

Comment from Oceania
Time: February 12, 2012, 12:36 am

How many blacks are there in Londonstan?

Comment from Mrs Compton
Time: February 12, 2012, 1:37 am

Whitney Houston, anyone gonna get dick?

Comment from Mitchell
Time: February 12, 2012, 1:43 am

Nope. The Pool rolls on…

Comment from David Gillies
Time: February 12, 2012, 2:13 am

Well, she’s not Waiting to Exhale any more.

Too soon?

Comment from Redd
Time: February 12, 2012, 2:23 am

Wow. Whitney Houston. No surprise but she was suppose to be making a big comeback or something this summer.

Comment from rtw
Time: February 12, 2012, 2:27 am

This is the first site I checked after reading the news about Whitney…

Comment from Redd
Time: February 12, 2012, 2:28 am

How did Whitney get so fucked up? I know the drugs but what caused her to be such a loser addict? I remember an interview of her and the scumbag she was married to where they were both obviously high and their kid was right there. I seriously hope her kid does not follow in her parents footsteps but she already has 3 strikes against her: two druggie parents and a show business family.

Comment from sandman says nothing to see here
Time: February 12, 2012, 3:06 am

Whitney Houston…when will I know? Right about now. I should think.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: February 12, 2012, 9:11 am

rtw – me too.

I’m rather surprised no one picked her for the Dead Pool. Everyone knew she was a drug overdose just waiting to happen, and Stoaty’s minions have gotten damned good at calling the next departure.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: February 12, 2012, 9:17 am

Speaking of the English language, a friend of mine loves to disparage both the Church and English language professors by saying (at every opportunity):

“Of course the language is a ridiculous mess! After all, look who’s been in charge of it all these years!”

Comment from Laughing Buddha
Time: February 12, 2012, 4:32 pm

Lol. This is the first site I checked this morning after I heard that Whitney kicked it as well. I thought for sure someone had her.
I must admit, the Dead Pool is making me a little more morbid.

Comment from exiting enter sandman
Time: February 13, 2012, 2:36 am

Personally I was hoping her first dope dealer, ex husband and career scumbag Bobby Brown, would kick it first. He was a turd before he met and ruined her and he is still a turd now.

Comment from Oceania
Time: February 13, 2012, 12:57 pm

Pube came to early … but all the women say that about him.
Probably the Children too!


Comment from Oldcat
Time: February 13, 2012, 5:49 pm

This post brought to mind the classic short

“Meihem in ce klasrum”


Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: February 15, 2012, 6:01 am

1) He seems to be annoyed about similar spellings that don’t rhyme perfectly. BFD.

2) He seems to be annoyed that words borrowed from other languages aren’t pronounced by English rules. BFD.

I bet Dutch has many examples of both.

Here’s some taken from Radio Netherland’s website:

“Website”, “nationale”, “december”, “studio”, “baby’s”.

Comment from Gerade fuer Rollstuhlfahrer ist es wichtig gut zu sitzen.
Time: February 15, 2012, 10:34 am

Ich liebe die Texte

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