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The Chaos of English Pronunciation

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Uploaded on May 17, 2008

A reading of an adapted version of Gerard Nolst Trenité's "The Chaos" (1922).

Dearest creature in Creation,
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.
It will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
Tear in eye your dress you'll 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);
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 break, steak, but bleak and streak,
Previous, precious, fuschia, 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, anernone; 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, plinth.
Billet does not sound like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should or would.
Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which is said to rhyme with "khaki".
Viscous, viscount; load and broad;
Froward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's O.K.,
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,
Between mover, plover, Dover,
Leeches, breeches; wise, precise;
Chalice, but police and lice.'
Camel, constable, unstable;
Principle, disciple; label;
Portal, penal and canal;
Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal.
Suit, suite, ruin; circuit, conduit
Rime 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
And enamour rime with "hammer".
Pussy, hussy and possess,
Desert, but dessert, 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 rime with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Soul, but foul and gaunt, but aunt;
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and, grant.
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then: singer, ginger, linger.
Roal, zoal, mauve, gauze and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age.
Query does not rime with "very",
Nor does fury sound like' bury'
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth,
Job, job, blossom, bosom, oath.
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 rime with "deafer",
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Dull, bull; Geoffrey, George; ate, late;
Hint, pint; senate, but sedate;
Scenic, Arabic, pacific;
Science, conscience, scientific.
Tour, but our and succour, four;
Gas, alas, and Arkansas!
Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria;
Couth, south, southern; cleanse and clean;
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion.
Sally 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!
Heron, granary, canary,
Crevice and device, and eyrie.
Face, but preface, but efface,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass;
Large, but target, gin, give, verging;
Ought, out joust and scour, but scourging.
Far, but earn; and wear and bear
Do not rime with "here", but "ore".
Seven is right, but so is even;
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen;
Monkey, donkey; clerk and jerk;
Asp, grasp, wasp; and cork and work.

Original version of the poem can be found here: http://ncf.idallen.com/english.html

Royalty Free Music is "Fairy Tale Waltz" by Kevin MacLeod.
http://www.incompetech.com

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