The Ecphorizer

English is hard
contributed by Tod Wicks

Issue 13 (February 2008)

English is hard

The matter is settled. The poem has been signaled in Drop Your Foreign Accent - Engelse Uitspraakoefeningen, by Gerard Nolst Trenité, 5th revised edition, published by H.D.Tjeenk Willink & Zoon, Haarlem 1929. Many thanks to C.J. Koster for unearthing the context of the poem.

 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.

 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;
 Camen, constable, unstable,
 Principle, disciple, label.

 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.
 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.

 Cloven, oven, how and low,
 Script, receipt, show, poem, 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.

 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 wil ally, yea, ye,
 Eye, I, ay, aye, when, and key.
 Say aver, but ever, fever,
 Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
 Heron, granary, canary.
 Crevice and device and aerie.

 Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
 Bouqet, 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.

 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.

 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.
 Sould 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, gauge,
 Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.

 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.

 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 difference seems little,
 We say actual but victual.
 Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
 Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
 Mind, pint, senate and sedate;
 Dull, bull, and George ate late.
 Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
 Science, conscience, scientific.

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

 * No, you are wrong. This is the plural of doe.

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