Peculiarly pronounced English

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Peter Why
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Post by Peter Why » February 8th, 2006, 3:57 am

I was doing a search to find out how to pronounce "ague" when I found this lovely poem:

Chaos
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 plague 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 can 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 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.


With respect to the author, I found this: ". . . Mr. C. J. de Jong of NSU-S and Mr. J. W. Matthijsen (retired) sent us the text of an English verse, written by a Dutch college professor (Charivarius). The Chaos may be considered a classic, at least among Dutchmen interested in the English language. Mr. De Jong came across the verse while in the U.K. during World War II. He served with the Netherlands merchant marine and for several years Liverpool was his home port."

LibraryLady
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Post by LibraryLady » February 8th, 2006, 7:20 am

What a charming poem Peter! English is a real mess isn't it? :D
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Peter Why
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Post by Peter Why » February 8th, 2006, 7:38 am

Call it pleasingly characterful.

I loved "Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant," It's quite hard to stop yourself from trying to say them quickly, and tripping over your tongue.

Peter

Guest

Post by Guest » February 8th, 2006, 8:18 am

Nice compilation of English language oddities.
And that is not even comprehensive, for instance the "th" sound in the following words is considered as three separate letters in other languages:
this, thick, bother

RobertG
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Post by RobertG » February 8th, 2006, 8:58 am

Peter Why wrote: It's quite hard to stop yourself from trying to say them quickly, and tripping over your tongue.
I think it is good practice to try those things quickly. I have always been fond of those sorts of hard combinations spoken quickly. I believe there is a term for that but I can't remember it off hand.

A few years back, I bought my mother a wicker rocker for her birthday. I told her that she couldn't have it unless she said "wicker rocker" five times in a row, very fast. She failed and so I had to do it myself.

We had loads of laughs from such a simple thing.

Thanks for sharing the poem, Peter.
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GordMackenzie
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Post by GordMackenzie » February 8th, 2006, 9:04 am

That's a great one!

In regards to spelling and pronunciation, my Dad used to torture me with weird word puzzles likes this:

Question: How would you pronounce "ghoti" in English... and why?

Answer: "fish"

You'll have to come up with the "why" part yourself... just like I did... grrr....

:x
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Gesine
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Post by Gesine » February 8th, 2006, 11:01 am

Gord - with my linguist hat on: well, phonetically there are only 4 possibilities... But where does the fish come in... :)

RobertG - I just said it. 5 times. Wicker rocker. Very quickly. Send it over. :)

Peter - yes, nice one. This is very popular in EFL (English as a Foreign Language) classes - and always causes much discussion. Other languages are more forgiving in terms of pronunciation - German, for instance, for all its faults, is pronounced almost exactly as you see it (give or take a few exceptions). - Some words I just cannot get into my head. Recent examples: growl - I had White Fang growl (to rhyme with bowl) all through my chapters. I just think it sounds better - it has that low, well... growling... sound... My other favourite is wrath. To rhyme with moth? Or with math? I kind of *know* it's moth (just as I know growl is howl), but sometimes it still throws me. Ah well. I can do about 98% of the poem correctly now, though :D - the last 2% (words with which I'm not familiar) I'd have to guess.
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kri
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Post by kri » February 8th, 2006, 11:10 am

Gesine wrote:I kind of *know* it's moth (just as I know growl is howl), but sometimes it still throws me. Ah well. I can do about 98% of the poem correctly now, though :D - the last 2% (words with which I'm not familiar) I'd have to guess.
Wrath rhymes with math :)

French is also one of those consistently pronounced languages. Once you learn what different letter combinations create as far as sound, it's relatively easy to read French without knowing what words you're speaking.

vee
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Post by vee » February 8th, 2006, 11:12 am

Gesine wrote:My other favourite is wrath. To rhyme with moth? Or with math? I kind of *know* it's moth (just as I know growl is howl),
Um I think it's actually math. hmmm... crap now I'm second guessing myself!

edit* doh kri beat me to it
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Gesine
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Post by Gesine » February 8th, 2006, 11:19 am

Oh *don't* say that. Are you sure? Could this be an British/American English thing? Peter, what do you rhyme with wrath?

*Goes away in utter despair*
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kri
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Post by kri » February 8th, 2006, 11:39 am

There is a word wroth, that rhymes with moth :) It actually means wrathful or angry so....

pberinstein
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Post by pberinstein » February 8th, 2006, 11:51 am

GordMackenzie wrote:That's a great one!

In regards to spelling and pronunciation, my Dad used to torture me with weird word puzzles likes this:

Question: How would you pronounce "ghoti" in English... and why?

Answer: "fish"

You'll have to come up with the "why" part yourself... just like I did... grrr....

:x
I've got part of it, Gord. The "gh" is pronounced like an "f," as in "rough." The "ti" is pronounced like "sh," as in "attention." Hm, the "o" is harder. I givvup.
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thistlechick
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Post by thistlechick » February 8th, 2006, 12:22 pm

Gesine wrote:Oh *don't* say that. Are you sure? Could this be an British/American English thing? Peter, what do you rhyme with wrath?

*Goes away in utter despair*
math ... bath ... i can't even imagine it pronounced moth

as for ghoti ... it is pronounced "fish"

"gh" as in enough
"o" as in women
"ti" as in nation
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Post by pberinstein » February 8th, 2006, 12:38 pm

My husband, who is English, says co-ROL-la-ree for "corollary." I am American and I say CO-ro-leh-ree. The first time I heard him say that, I thought I'd die laughing. We've been together for more than 6 years now, and he still occasionally comes out with something I've never heard before. Or I'll hear something on BBC America and say, "Do you pronounce that that way? I've never heard you say that."
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kri
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Post by kri » February 8th, 2006, 12:43 pm

The language differences between me and my fiance aren't quite so extreme, but they're interesting. He's from Louisiana, but doesn't have an accent. However, occasionally he'll throw out a wierd word pronounced in a southern accent. For example, if he were to say pin, or pen, they would be pronounced exactly the same "pin".

The other day he said "There's a tin on my head." As he was standing, I could not tell if he meant tin, or ten. I had no clue where the hell he'd get a tin, and he doesn't carry cash so it wouldn't be a ten. When there's no context to give me clues, it's confusing!

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