The Chaos~!

the-chaos-by-gerard-nolst-trenitc3a9

Oh, I had to laugh about today’s prompt and even though I am in puppy-raising vacation, I couldn’t help it and wanted to write something about it.

 “A word, that made me laugh the most. I wish, I would have only had problems with one word. No, there were many words I had to fight with, when I learned the English language. I never left the house without a dictionary, there was always something I had to look up. I had notebooks full with words I had written down, words I wanted to find, because I wasn’t sure about the meaning. Writing down a new word just by hearing it, can be a little bit challenging. I think I learned a lot, just by searing for the correct word.

There is a beautiful poem called “The Chaos” and if you can pronounce correctly every word in this poem, you will be speaking English better than 90% of the native English speakers in the world. A Frenchman said,  he’d prefer six months of hard labor to reading six lines aloud and I agreed with him for a long time.

The 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 plaque 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 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.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.

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.

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.

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

“Gerard Nolst Trenité” in 1922


Dictionary, Shmictionary

Time to confess: tell us about a time when you used a word whose meaning you didn’t actually know (or were very wrong about, in retrospect).

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13 thoughts on “The Chaos~!

  1. Amazing poem that successfully communicates the difficulty with the English language and its various origins. Mind you I get so tongue-tied (another tricky word), trying to pronounce the unique sounds in the Danish language too!!!

  2. One of my favorite sayings about English Grammar: English does not borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, hits them over the head, and searches through their pockets for loose grammar.

    That explains why there are so many exceptions to the rules of English. Well, it’s one of the reasons. ^_^ The History of English is one of the things I studied in college.

  3. When I was teaching kindergarten we used a phonics-based reading curriculum. One of my jobs was to explain to them why tear (crying) was pronounced like bare, and yet bear was pronounced like tear (rip). Confusing to say the least, And we did just call them exceptions to the rules (though that’s not the word we used). I was amazed they survived! 😀

  4. I’ve never really given the english language a lot of thought. I knew there were a number of ‘exceptions’, but I had no idea there were so many inconsistencies in the pronunciation of words and multiple meanings for words that sound the same!!

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