A Challenge for Writers and Speakers of English
This poem has seven hundred and sixty-seven words, four of which I honestly admit I mispronounced. I’m vain enough not to tell you which four, but I will reluctantly admit to not being perfectly at ease with the English language. However I am (insert smirk here) 99.995% proficient, and I’m an American.
by Dr. Gerard Nolst Trenité (1870-1946)
Studying English pronunciation,
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Dies and diet, lord and word,
(Mind the latter, how it’s written).
Say said, pay-paid, laid, but plaid.
With such words as vague and ague,
Say break, steak, but bleak and streak.
Pipe, snipe, recipe and choir,
Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Exiles, similes, reviles.
Thames, examining, combining
Solar, mica, war, and far.
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier.
Knowledge, done, but gone and tone,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind,
Reading, reading, heathen, heather.
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet;
Nor is mould like should and would.
Which is said to rime with “darky.”
Toward, to forward, to reward.
When you say correctly: croquet.
Friend and fiend, alive, and live,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Between mover, plover, Dover,
Chalice, but police, and lice.
Principle, disciple, label,
Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal.
Rime with “shirk it” and “beyond it.”
Why it’s pall, mall, but Pall Mall.
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,
Senator, spectator, mayor,
And enamour rime with hammer.
Desert, but dessert, address.
Hoist, in lieu of flags, left pennants.
Doll and roll and some and home.
Neither does devour with clangour.
Font, front, won’t, want, grand, and grant.
And then: singer, ginger, linger,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age.
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Job, Job; blossom, bosom, oath.
We say actual, but victual.
Put, nut; granite, and unite.
Hint, pint, Senate, but sedate.
Science, conscience, scientific,
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Psalm, Maria, but malaria,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Dandelion with battalion.
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay.
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.
Crevice and device, and eyrie,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Ought, out, joust, and scour, but scourging,
Do not rime with here, but ere.
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,
Asp, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Is a paling, stout and spikey,
Writing “groats” and saying “grits”?
Strewn with stones, like rowlock, gunwale,
Housewife, verdict, and indict!
Saying lather, bather, father?
Though, through, plough, cough, hough, or tough?
My advice is–give it up!