The joy of English pronunciation
The Chaos by Gerard Nolst Trenité (1870–1946)

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The text

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;
Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Just compare heart, hear 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: gush, bush, steak, streak, break, bleak,

Previous, precious, fuchsia, via,
Recipe, pipe, studding-sail, choir;
Woven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.

Say, expecting fraud and trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Branch, ranch, measles, topsails, aisles,
Missiles, similes, reviles.

Wholly, holly, signal, signing,
Same, examining, but mining,
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far.

From ‘desire’: desirable—admirable from ‘admire’,
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier,
Topsham, brougham, renown, but known,
Knowledge, done, lone, gone, none, tone,

One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel.
Gertrude, German, wind and wind,
Beau, kind, kindred, queue, mankind,

Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.
This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.

Have you ever yet endeavoured
To pronounce revered and severed,
Demon, lemon, ghoul, foul, soul,
Peter, petrol and patrol?

Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.

Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which exactly rhymes with khaki.
Discount, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward,

Ricocheted and crocheting, croquet?
Right! Your pronunciation's OK.
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Is your R correct in higher?
Keats asserts it rhymes Thalia.
Hugh, but hug, and hood, but hoot,
Buoyant, minute, but minute.

Say abscission with precision,
Now: position and transition;
Would it tally with my rhyme
If I mentioned paradigm?

Twopence, threepence, tease are easy,
But cease, crease, grease and greasy?
Cornice, nice, valise, revise,
Rabies, but lullabies.

Of such puzzling words as nauseous,
Rhyming well with cautious, tortious,
You'll envelop lists, I hope,
In a linen envelope.

Would you like some more? You'll have it!
Affidavit, David, davit.
To abjure, to perjure. Sheik
Does not sound like Czech but ache.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, loch, 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.
Petal, penal, and canal,
Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal,

Suit, suite, ruin. Circuit, conduit
Rhyme 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
Has the A of drachm and hammer.
Pussy, hussy and possess,
Desert, but desert, address.

Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants
Hoist in lieu of flags left pennants.
Courier, courtier, tomb, bomb, comb,
Cow, but Cowper, some and home.

‘Solder, soldier! Blood is thicker’,
Quoth he, ‘than liqueur or liquor’,
Making, it is sad but true,
In bravado, much ado.

Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Pilot, pivot, gaunt, but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand and grant.

Arsenic, specific, scenic,
Relic, rhetoric, hygienic.
Gooseberry, goose, and close, but close,
Paradise, rise, rose, and dose.

Say inveigh, neigh, but inveigle,
Make the latter rhyme with eagle.
Mind! Meandering but mean,
Valentine and magazine.

And I bet you, dear, a penny,
You say mani-(fold) like many,
Which is wrong. Say rapier, pier,
Tier (one who ties), but tier.

Arch, archangel; pray, does erring
Rhyme with herring or with stirring?
Prison, bison, treasure trove,
Treason, hover, cover, cove,

Perseverance, severance. Ribald
Rhymes (but piebald doesn't) with nibbled.
Phaeton, paean, gnat, ghat, gnaw,
Lien, psychic, shone, bone, pshaw.

Don't be down, my own, but rough it,
And distinguish buffet, buffet;
Brood, stood, roof, rook, school, wool, boon,
Worcester, Boleyn, to impugn.

Say in sounds correct and sterling
Hearse, hear, hearken, year and yearling.
Evil, devil, mezzotint,
Mind the Z! (A gentle hint.)

Now you need not pay attention
To such sounds as I don't mention,
Sounds like pores, pause, pours and paws,
Rhyming with the pronoun yours;

Nor are proper names included,
Though I often heard, as you did,
Funny rhymes to unicorn,
Yes, you know them, Vaughan and Strachan.

No, my maiden, coy and comely,
I don't want to speak of Cholmondeley.
No. Yet Froude compared with proud
Is no better than McLeod.

But mind trivial and vial,
Tripod, menial, denial,
Troll and trolley, realm and ream,
Schedule, mischief, schism, and scheme.

Argil, gill, Argyll, gill. Surely
May be made to rhyme with Raleigh,
But you're not supposed to say
Piquet rhymes with sobriquet.

Had this invalid invalid
Worthless documents? How pallid,
How uncouth he, couchant, looked,
When for Portsmouth I had booked!

Zeus, Thebes, Thales, Aphrodite,
Paramour, enamoured, flighty,
Episodes, antipodes,
Acquiesce, and obsequies.

Please don't monkey with the geyser,
Don't peel 'taters with my razor,
Rather say in accents pure:
Nature, stature and mature.

Pious, impious, limb, climb, glumly,
Worsted, worsted, crumbly, dumbly,
Conquer, conquest, vase, phase, fan,
Wan, sedan and artisan.

The TH will surely trouble you
More than R, CH or W.
Say then these phonetic gems:
Thomas, thyme, Theresa, Thames.

Thompson, Chatham, Waltham, Streatham,
There are more but I forget 'em—
Wait! I've got it: Anthony,
Lighten your anxiety.

The archaic word albeit
Does not rhyme with eight—you see it;
With and forthwith, one has voice,
One has not, you make your choice.

Shoes, goes, does. Now first say: finger;
Then say: singer, ginger, linger.
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age,

Hero, heron, query, very,
Parry, tarry, fury, bury,
Dost, lost, post, and doth, cloth, loth,
Job, Job, blossom, bosom, oath.

Faugh, oppugnant, keen oppugners,
Bowing, bowing, banjo-tuners
Holm you know, but noes, canoes,
Puisne, truism, use, to use?

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 rhyme with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
Hint, pint, senate, but sedate.

Gaelic, Arabic, pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific;
Tour, but our, dour, succour, four,
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.

Say manoeuvre, yacht and vomit,
Next omit, which differs from it
Bona fide, alibi
Gyrate, dowry and awry.

Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion,
Rally 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.

Starry, granary, canary,
Crevice, but device, and eyrie,
Face, but preface, then grimace,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.

Bass, large, target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, oust, joust, and scour, but scourging;
Ear, but earn; and ere and tear
Do not rhyme with here but heir.

Mind the O of off and often
Which may be pronounced as orphan,
With the sound of saw and sauce;
Also soft, lost, cloth and cross.

Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.
Respite, spite, consent, resent.
Liable, but Parliament.

Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk,
Asp, grasp, wasp, demesne, cork, work.

A of valour, vapid vapour,
S of news (compare newspaper),
G of gibbet, gibbon, gist,
I of antichrist and grist,

Differ like diverse and divers,
Rivers, strivers, shivers, fivers.
Once, but nonce, toll, doll, but roll,
Polish, Polish, poll and poll.

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 like rowlock, gunwale,
Islington, and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.

Don't you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough?

Hiccough has the sound of sup.
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!

Phonetic version (British pronunciation)

ˌdɪəɹɪst ˈkɹiːʧəɹ ɪn kɹɪ.ˈeɪʃn̩
ˌstʌdɪ.ɪŋ ˈɪŋɡlɪʃ pɹəˌnʌnsɪ.ˈeɪʃn̩
ˌaɪ wɪl ˈtiːʧ jʊ ɪn maɪ ˈvɜːs
ˈsaʊndz laɪk ˈkɔːps ˈkɔː ˈhɔːs ənd ˈwɜːs

ˌaɪ wɪl ˈkiːp jʊ ˈsuːzɪ ˈbɪzɪ
ˌmeɪk jə ˈhɛd wɪð ˈhiːt ɡɹəʊ ˈdɪzɪ
ˈtɪəɹ ɪn ˌaɪ jə ˈdɹɛs wɪl ˈtɛə
ˈkwɪə ˌfɛə ˈsɪə ˈhɪə maɪ ˈpɹɛə

ˈpɹeɪ kənˈsəʊl jə ˈlʌvɪŋ ˈpəʊ.ɪt
ˈmeɪk maɪ ˈkəʊt ˌlʊk ˈnjuː ˌdɪə ˈsəʊ ɪt
ˌʤʌst kəmˈpɛə ˈhɑːt ˈhɪəɹ ənd ˈhɜːd
ˈdaɪz ənd ˈdaɪ.ət ˈlɔːd ənd ˈwɜːd

ˈsɔːd ənd ˈswɔːd ɹɪˈteɪn ənd ˈbɹɪtn̩
ˈmaɪnd ðə ˈlætə ˌhaʊ ɪts ˈɹɪtn̩
ˈmeɪd həz ˈnɒt ðə ˈsaʊnd əv ˈbæd
ˈseɪ ˈsɛd ˈpeɪ ˈpeɪd ˈleɪd bət ˈplæd

ˌnaʊ aɪ ˈʃɔːlɪ wɪl nɒt ˈpleɪɡ juː
ˌwɪð sʌʧ ˈwɜːdz æz ˈveɪɡ ənd ˈeɪɡjuː
ˌbʌt bɪ ˈkɛəfl̩ haʊ juː ˈspiːk
ˌseɪ ˈɡʌʃ ˈbʊʃ ˈsteɪk ˈstɹiːk ˈbɹeɪk ˈbliːk

ˈpɹiːvɪ.əs ˈpɹɛʃəs ˈfjuːshə ˈvaɪ.ə
ˈɹɛsəpɪ ˈpaɪp ˈstʌnsl̩ ˈkwaɪ.ə
ˈwəʊvn̩ ˈʌvn̩ ˈhaʊ ənd ˈləʊ
ˈskɹɪpt ɹɪˈsiːt ˈʃuː ˈpəʊ.ɪm ˈtəʊ

ˈseɪ ɪkˈspɛktɪŋ ˈfɹɔːd ənd ˈtɹɪkəɹɪ
ˈdɔːtə ˈlɑːftəɹ ˌænd tɜːpˈsɪkəɹɪ
ˈbɹɑːnʧ ˈɹɑːnʧ ˈmiːzl̩z ˈtɒpsl̩z ˈaɪlz
ˈmɪsaɪlz ˈsɪməlɪz ɹɪˈvaɪlz

ˈhəʊllɪ ˈhɒlɪ ˈsɪɡnl̩ ˈsaɪnɪŋ
ˈseɪm ɪɡˈzæmɪnɪŋ ˌbʌt ˈmaɪnɪŋ
ˈskɒlə ˈvɪkəɹ ˌænd sɪˈɡɑː
ˈsəʊlə ˈmaɪkə ˈwɔːɹ ənd ˈfɑː

ˌfɹɒm dɪˈzaɪ.ə dɪˈzaɪɹəbl̩ ˈædməɹəbl̩ fɹəm ədˈmaɪ.ə
ˈlʌmbə ˈplʌmə ˈbɪə bət ˈbɹaɪ.ə
ˈtɒpsəm ˈbɹuː.əm ɹɪˈnaʊn ˌbʌt ˈnəʊn
ˈnɒlɪʤ ˈdʌn ˈləʊn ˈɡɒn ˈnʌn ˈtəʊn

ˈwʌn əˈnɛmənɪ bælˈmɒɹəl
ˈkɪʧən ˈlaɪkən ˈlɔːndɹɪ ˈlɒɹəl
ˈɡɜːtɹuːd ˈʤɜːmən ˈwɪnd ənd ˈmaɪnd
ˈbəʊ ˈkaɪnd ˈkɪndɹəd ˈkjuː mænˈkaɪnd

ˈtɔːtəs ˈtɜːkwɔɪz ˈʃæmɪ ˌlɛðə
ˈɹiːdɪŋ ˈɹɛdɪŋ ˈhiːðn̩ ˈhɛðə
ˌðɪs fəˈnɛtɪk ˈlæbəɹɪnθ
ˌɡɪvz ˈmɒs ˈɡɹəʊs ˈbɹʊk ˈbɹəʊʧ ˈnaɪnθ ˈplɪnθ

ˈhæv jʊ ˈɛvə jɛt ɪnˈdɛvəd
tə pɹəˈnaʊns ɹɪˈvɪəd ənd ˈsɛvəd
ˈdiːmən ˈlɛmən ˈɡuːl ˈfaʊl ˈsəʊl
ˈpiːtə ˈpɛtɹəl ˌænd pəˈtɹəʊl

ˈbɪlɪt dʌz ˈnɒt ˌɛnd laɪk ˈbæleɪ
bʊˈkeɪ ˈwɒlɪt ˈmælɪt ˈʃæleɪ
ˈblʌd ənd ˈflʌd ɑː ˈnɒt laɪk ˈfuːd
ˌnɔːɹ ɪz ˈməʊld laɪk ˈʃʊd ənd ˈwʊd

ˈbæŋkwɪt ɪz ˌnɒt ˈnɪəlɪ ˈpɑːkeɪ
ˌwɪʧ ɪɡˈzæktlɪ ˈɹaɪmz wɪð ˈkɑːkɪ
ˈdɪskaʊnt ˈvaɪkaʊnt ˈləʊd ənd ˈbɹɔːd
ˈtəʊ.ədd tə ˈfɔːwəd tə ɹɪˈwɔːd

ˈɹɪkəʃeɪd ˌænd ˈkɹəʊʃeɪɪŋ ˈkɹəʊkɪ
ˈɹaɪt jə pɹəˌnʌnsɪ.ˈeɪʃn̩z əʊˈkeɪ
ˈɹaʊndɪd ˈwuːndɪd ˈɡɹiːv ənd ˈsɪv
ˈfɹɛnd ənd ˈfiːnd əˈlaɪv ənd ˈlɪv

Phonetic version (American pronunciation)

ˌdɪɹɪst ˈkɹiːʧəɹ ɪn kɹi.ˈeːʃn̩
ˌstʌɾi.ɪŋ ˈɪŋɡlɪʃ pɹəˌnʌnsi.ˈeːʃn̩
ˌaɪ wɪl ˈtiːʧ ju ɪn maɪ ˈvɝs
ˈsaʊndz laɪk ˈkɔːɹps ˈkɔːɹ ˈhɔːɹs ənd ˈwɝs

ˌaɪ wɪl ˈkiːp ju ˈsuːzi ˈbɪzi
ˌmeːk jɚ ˈhɛd wɪθ ˈhiːt ɡɹoː ˈdɪzi
ˈtɪɹ ɪn ˌaɪ jɚ ˈdɹɛs wɪl ˈtɛɹ
ˈkwɪɹ ˌfɛɹ ˈsɪɹ ˈhɪɹ maɪ ˈpɹɛɹ

ˈpɹeː kənˈsoːl jɚ ˈlʌvɪŋ ˈpoː.ət
ˈmeːk maɪ ˈkoːt ˌlʊk ˈnuː ˌdɪɹ ˈsoː ɪt
ˌʤʌst kəmˈpɛɹ ˈhɑːɹt ˈhɪɹ ənd ˈhɝd
ˈdaɪz ənd ˈdaɪ.ət ˈlɔːɹd ənd ˈwɝd

ˈsɔːɹd ənd ˈswɔːɹd ɹɪˈteːn ənd ˈbɹɪtn̩
ˈmaɪnd ðə ˈlæɾɚ ˌhaʊ ɪts ˈɹɪtn̩
ˈmeːd həz ˈnɑːt ðə ˈsaʊnd əv ˈbæd
ˈseː ˈsɛd ˈpeː ˈpeːd ˈleːd bət ˈplæd

ˌnaʊ aɪ ˈʃʊɹli wɪl nɑːt ˈpleːɡ juː
ˌwɪθ sʌʧ ˈwɝdz æz ˈveːɡ ənd ˈeːɡjuː
ˌbʌt bi ˈkɛɹfl̩ haʊ juː ˈspiːk
ˌseː ˈɡʌʃ ˈbʊʃ ˈsteːk ˈstɹiːk ˈbɹeːk ˈbliːk

ˈpɹiːvi.əs ˈpɹɛʃəs ˈfjuːshə ˈvaɪ.ə
ˈɹɛsəpi ˈpaɪp ˈstʌnsl̩ ˈkwaɪ.ɚ
ˈwoːvn̩ ˈʌvn̩ ˈhaʊ ənd ˈloː
ˈskɹɪpt ɹɪˈsiːt ˈʃuː ˈpoː.əm ˈtoː

ˈseː ɪkˈspɛktɪŋ ˈfɹɔːd ənd ˈtɹɪkəɹi
ˈdɔːɾɚ ˈlæftəɹ ˌænd tɝpˈsɪkəɹi
ˈbɹænʧ ˈɹænʧ ˈmiːzl̩z ˈtɑːpsl̩z ˈaɪlz
ˈmɪsaɪlz ˈsɪməliz ɹɪˈvaɪlz

ˈhoːlli ˈhɑːli ˈsɪɡnl̩ ˈsaɪnɪŋ
ˈseːm ɪɡˈzæmɪnɪŋ ˌbʌt ˈmaɪnɪŋ
ˈskɑːlɚ ˈvɪkəɹ ˌænd sɪˈɡɑːɹ
ˈsoːlɚ ˈmaɪkə ˈwɔːɹ ənd ˈfɑːɹ

ˌfɹʌm dɪˈzaɪ.ɚ dɪˈzaɪɹəbl̩ ˈædməɹəbl̩ fɹəm ədˈmaɪ.ɚ
ˈlʌmbɚ ˈplʌmɚ ˈbɪɹ bət ˈbɹaɪ.ɚ
ˈtɑːpsəm ˈbɹuː.əm ɹɪˈnaʊn ˌbʌt ˈnoːn
ˈnɑːlɪʤ ˈdʌn ˈloːn ˈɡɔːn ˈnʌn ˈtoːn

ˈwʌn əˈnɛməni bælˈmɔːɹəl
ˈkɪʧən ˈlaɪkən ˈlɔːndɹi ˈlɔːɹəl
ˈɡɝtɹuːd ˈʤɝmən ˈwɪnd ənd ˈmaɪnd
ˈboː ˈkaɪnd ˈkɪndɹəd ˈkjuː mænˈkaɪnd

ˈtɔːɹɾəs ˈtɝkwɔɪz ˈʃæmi ˌlɛðɚ
ˈɹiːdɪŋ ˈɹɛdɪŋ ˈhiːðn̩ ˈhɛðɚ
ˌðɪs fəˈnɛɾɪk ˈlæbəɹɪnθ
ˌɡɪvz ˈmɑːs ˈɡɹoːs ˈbɹʊk ˈbɹoːʧ ˈnaɪnθ ˈplɪnθ

ˈhæv ju ˈɛvɚ jɛt ɪnˈdɛvɚd
tə pɹəˈnaʊns ɹɪˈvɪɹd ənd ˈsɛvɚd
ˈdiːmən ˈlɛmən ˈɡuːl ˈfaʊl ˈsoːl
ˈpiːɾɚ ˈpɛtɹəl ˌænd pəˈtɹoːl

ˈbɪlət dʌz ˈnɑːt ˌɛnd laɪk bæˈleː
buˈkeː ˈwɑːlət ˈmælɪt ʃæˈleː
ˈblʌd ənd ˈflʌd ɑːɹ ˈnɑːt laɪk ˈfuːd
ˌnɔːɹ ɪz ˈmoːld laɪk ˈʃʊd ənd ˈwʊd

ˈbæŋkwɪt ɪz ˌnɑːt ˈnɪɹli pɑːɹˈkeː
ˌʍɪʧ ɪɡˈzæktli ˈɹaɪmz wɪθ ˈkæki
ˈdɪskaʊnt ˈvaɪkaʊnt ˈloːd ənd ˈbɹɔːd
ˈtɔːɹd tə ˈfɔːɹwɚd tə ɹɪˈwɔːɹd

ˈɹɪkəʃeːd ˌænd kɹoːˈʃeːɪŋ kɹoːˈkeː
ˈɹaɪt jɚ pɹəˌnʌnsi.ˈeːʃn̩z oːˈkeː
ˈɹaʊndɪd ˈwuːndɪd ˈɡɹiːv ənd ˈsɪv
ˈfɹɛnd ənd ˈfiːnd əˈlaɪv ənd ˈlɪv

David Madore

Last modified: $Date: 2002/06/17 22:41:52 $