An American Editor

October 3, 2012

On Language: Drop Your Foreign Accent

The following poem was brought to my attention by Tony Cole of eBookAnoid. It was originally published in 1929 in Drop Your Foreign Accent — Engelse Uitspraakoefeningen (5th revised edition, H. D. Tjeenk Willink & Zoon, 1929), which was written by Gerald Nolst Trenite, who was also known as Charivarius. The poem illustrates some of the peculiarities of English. Enjoy.

The Chaos
Gerald Nolst Trenite

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 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, diet, lord and word,
sword and sward, retain and Britain,
(Mind the letter, 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, fuchsia, via;
Pipe, snipe, recipe and chair,
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, 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!

5 Comments »

  1. Delightful! Thank you.

    Like

    Comment by judimoore — October 3, 2012 @ 7:41 am | Reply

  2. What a wonderful collection of words! I would not swear I could pronounce them all correctly.

    Like

    Comment by nancytinarirunswrites — October 3, 2012 @ 1:39 pm | Reply

  3. It’s only the 4th, but this is a strong contender for my favorite thing of the month! I wish I’d had this poem when I was teaching English. As it is, it makes me feel better in the sense that no language I tackle will be as hard.

    Like

    Comment by le cul en rows — October 3, 2012 @ 6:25 pm | Reply

  4. This is great! The English language is so, quirky!

    Like

    Comment by Ruth Rainwater — October 3, 2012 @ 8:38 pm | Reply

  5. Reblogged this on Le cul entre les deux chaises.

    Like

    Comment by le cul en rows — October 7, 2012 @ 5:49 pm | Reply


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