The Chaos

"The Chaos" is a poem which demonstrates the irregularity of English spelling and pronunciation, written by Gerard Nolst Trenité (1870-1946), also known under the pseudonym Charivarius. It includes about 800 examples of irregular spelling, and first appeared in an appendix to the author's 1920 textbook Drop Your Foreign Accent: engelsche uitspraakoefeningen .

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! 10
       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, 21 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, 30
       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,    40
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. 50
       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.       60
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? 70
       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.     80
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. 90
       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,      100
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", 110
       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. 120
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? 130
       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; [back to top] Brood, stood, roof, rook, school, wool, boon,
       Worcester, Boleyn, to impugn.   140
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, 150
       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. 160
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, 170
       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. 180
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; 190
       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. 200
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. 210
       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. 220
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. 230
       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.        240
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, 250
       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.  260
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? 270
       Finally, which rhymes with enough,
       Though, through, bough, cough, hough,
sough, tough?? Hiccough has the sound of sup. My advice is: GIVE IT UP! line 275


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