I copied it out for my Swedish friend and his sons who are fluent students of English. But then I thought, maybe you guys will find it interesting as well.
First is my letter to my friend with my commentary on the poem, then a tiny introduction about where the poem came from, then the poem. Definitely read the poem aloud.
My Letter and Commentary:
We had the American students read it to make them more aware of their own language and its idiosyncrasies. To be fair, even American students could not correctly pronounce all the words (like simile and anemone) and some of them are not common. (like ague and Terpsichore, for example).When in doubt about how to pronounce something, look at the word it's meant to rhyme with.
After reading this, I had to look up how to pronounce correctly: skein, groats and succor. I am surprised the word scissors doesn’t appear in this poem. As for the word loth, I have never heard of it and wonder if it is loathe?
Words like topsails and gunwale are nautical terms and were/are pronounced a certain way by seafaring people [top’sǝlz, gǝn’nǝl].
Also the poem uses British spellings (like mould, clamour, and enamour) instead of American (mold, clamor, enamor). In the
By the way, the reason for all this wide variation is the same as the reason for variation in pronunciation rules in Swedish: because the words are borrowed from other languages. In English, the other languages we borrow from are MANY and different from one another: Latin, French, Greek, German, and yes, even Swedish (example, kiosk, though we pronounce it key’osk. And smorgasbord, although see how we spell it?).
“Multi-national personnel at North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters near
English is Tough Stuff
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
(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, Mepomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should or 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 sleeve,
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 and loth.
Job, knob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr and heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull and George are late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
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.
Warm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour but our, and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien and 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 spiky?
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,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough –
Though, through, plough, dough or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!