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The Chaos of English Pronunciation

The Chaos 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 will tear, So shall I – Oh, hear my prayer – Pray, console your loving poet, Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!

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).

Say said, pay paid, laid but plaid. Made has not the sound of bade, Now I surely will not plague you With such words as vague and ague.

But be careful how you speak: Say break and steak, but bleak and streak. Previous, precious, fuchsia, via, Pipe, snipe, recipe and choir, Cloven, oven, how and low, Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery: Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore, Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles, Exiles, similes, reviles, Wholly, holly, signal, signing, Thames, examining, combining, Scholar, vicar and cigar, Solar, mica, war and far. From desire, desirable, admirable from admire, Lumber, plumber, bier but brier.

Chatham, brougham, renown but known, Knowledge, done, but gone and tone. One, anemone, Balmoral, Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel. Gertrude, German, wind and mind, Scene, Melpomene, mankind. Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather, Reading, reading, heathen, heather.

This phonetic labyrinth Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth and plinth. Billet does not sound like ballet, Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet, Blood and flood are not like food, Nor is mould like should and would. Banquet gives no clue to parquet, Which is said to rhyme with darky. Viscous, Viscount, load and broad, Toward, to forward, to reward.

Your pronunciation’s okay, When you say correctly: croquet. Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve, Friend and fiend, alive and live, Liberty, library, heave and heaven, Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven. We say hallowed but allowed, People, leopard, towed but vowed.

Mark the difference, moreover, ’Twixt mover, plover and then Dover. Leeches, breeches, wise, precise, Chalice, but police and lice. Camel, constable, unstable, Principle, disciple, lapel, label.

Petal, penal and canal, Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal. Suit, suite, ruin, circuit, conduit, Rhyme with ‘shirk it’ and ‘beyond it’. But it’s very 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, And enamour rhyme with hammer. Pussy, hussy and possess, Desert, dessert and address. Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants, Hoist, in lieu of flags, left pennants.

River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb, Doll and roll and some and home. Stranger does not rhyme with anger, Neither does devour with clangour.

Soul but foul and gaunt but aunt, Font, front, won’t, want, grand and grant. Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger, Then say singer, ginger, linger. Real and zeal, mauve, gauze and gauge, Marriage, foliage, mirage and age.

Query does not rhyme with very, Nor does fury sound like bury. Dost, lost, post, doth, cloth and loth, Job, job, blossom, bosom, oath. Though the difference seems little, We say actual but victual. Seat and sweat, chaste, past and caste.

Leigh and eight and freight and height, Put but 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. Scenic, phrenic, and Pacific, Science, conscience, scientific.

Tour but our, and succour, four, Core provides a rhyme for door. Gas, alas, and pass and was (Dickens started off as Boz). Sea, idea, guinea, area, Psalm and charm, Maria, malaria. Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean, Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien and Italian, Dandelion and battalion.

Sally and ally, yea and 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 Ralph. Hero, heron, granary, canary, Crevice and device and eyrie.

Face but preface and efface, Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass. Large, but target, gin, give, verging, Ought, out, joust and scour but scourging. Ear but earn, and wear and tear, Do not rhyme with here but there. Seven is right but so is even, Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen.

Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk, Asp, grasp, wasp, and cork and work. Pronunciation – think of psyche! – Is appaling, 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, like rowlock, gunwale.

Islington and Isle of Wight, Housewife, verdict and indict. Aren’t you mixed up, reader, rather, Saying lather, bather, father? Finally: what rhymes with ‘tough’? Though, through, plough, cough, hough? Enough! Hiccough has the sound of ‘cup’, My advice is: “Give it up!”

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