English pronunciation thru poetry

It’s a wonder we can communicate at all.

“The Chaos” (by G. Nolst Trenite, a.k.a. “Charivarius”; 1870 – 1946)

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 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 break, steak, but bleak and streak.

Previous, precious, fuchsia, via,
Pipe, snipe, recipe and choir,

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, reviles.

Wholly, holly, signal, signing.
Thames, examining, combining

Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war, and far.

From “desire”: desirable—admirable from “admire.”
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier.

Chatham, brougham, renown, but known.
Knowledge, done, but gone and tone,

One, anemone. Balmoral.
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel,

Gertrude, German, wind, and mind.
Scene, Melpomene, mankind,

Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, reading, heathen, heather.

This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.

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 is said to rime with “darky.”

Viscous, Viscount, load, and broad.
Toward, to forward, to reward.

And your pronunciation’s O.K.,
When you say correctly: croquet.

Rounded, wounded, grieve, and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive, and live,

Liberty, library, heave, and heaven,
Rachel, ache, 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,
Rime 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, and chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor,

Ivy, privy, famous, clamour
And enamour rime with hammer.

Pussy, hussy, and possess,
Desert, but dessert, address.

Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants.
Hoist, in lieu of flags, left pennants.

River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.

Stranger does not rime with anger.
Neither does devour with clangour.

Soul, but foul and gaunt but aunt.
Font, front, won’t, want, grand, and grant.

Shoes, goes, does. Now first say: finger.
And then: singer, ginger, linger,

Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age.

Query does not rime with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.

Dost, lost, post; and doth, cloth, loth;
Job, Job; blossom, bosom, oath.

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 rime with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.

Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
Hint, pint, Senate, but sedate.

Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific,

Tour, but our and succour, four,
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.

Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria,

Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion.

Sally 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 Ralph.

Heron, granary, canary,
Crevice and device, and eyrie,

Face but preface, but efface,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.

Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust, and scour, but scourging,

Ear but earn, and wear and bear
Do not rime with here, but ere.

Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,

Monkey, donkey, clerk, and jerk,
Asp, 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, 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 rimes with “enough”
Though, through, plough, cough, hough, or tough?

Hiccough has the sound of “cup.”
My advice is—give it up!

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Tom Swifties

  • “I dropped my toothpaste,” Tom said, crestfallen.
  • “Only one of my speakers works!” Tom said, monotonously.
  • “I have a split personality,” Tom said, being frank.
  • “My wrists are bleeding stumps,” Tom said offhandedly.
  • “The doctor removed my left ventricle and atrium,” Tom said halfheartedly.
  • “That is one ugly hippopotamus,” Tom said hypocritically.
  • “This is what happens when you mix an acid and a base,” Tom said neutrally.
  • “..—-..-….” said Tom, remorsefully.
  • “A word that contains all five vowels? And I suppose you want those vowels to appear in alphabetical order?” asked Tom facetiously.
  • “I am standing up”, Tom lied.
  • “I think I’m a homosexual”, Tom said, half in earnest.
  • “Someone stole all the twos from this deck of cards,” Tom deduced.
  • “I knocked down the rest of the pins on my second try,” Tom said sparingly.
  • “I’m going to sleep over there,” Tom lied.
  • “I disagree. Fences need to be secured to something every fifteen feet or so, check out my website for an example,” Tom posted.
  • “I really want to hear ‘It’s Not Unusual’ right now,” Tom jonesed.
  • “That show would be a lot better without Ross’s sister,” said Tom, demonically.\
  • “I feel like having sex for money,” Tom said horribly.
  • “I forgot to mark down which groceries to buy,” Tom said listlessly.
  • “I used to be Elvis, you know,” said Tom, expressly.
  • “Bingo!” Tom cried benignly.
  • “I think all I need is some condiments to make the perfect hotdog” Tom said with some relish
  • “For the first time in your life, I feel really clean”, Tom said zestfully
  • “I have a candy bar” Tom snickered.
  • “This isn’t my prime rib,” Tom said mistakenly.
  • “Sea World wasn’t the same without them,” Tom sighed purposelessly.
  • “I’m missing of my flowers!” claimed Jane lackadaisically
  • “Bring me a large serving of frozen dairy desert!” I screamed.
  • “3.142,” Tom said piously.
  • “Here’s looking at you,” I bawled.
  • “Merry-go-rounds make me sick!” said Tom, in a roundabout manner
  • The train derailed said Tom distractedly.
  • “But I’m sure I left it on the kitchen work surface” countered Tom.
  • “I just punched Mel Gibson in the face!” Tom said starstruck.
  •  “Guilty as charged!” Tom said with conviction.
  • “Tuna is 50 cents a pound” said Tom selfishly.
  • “I am passing a kidney stone.” Tom said painfully.
  • “I want a hot dog,” said Tom, frankly.
  • “It’s hard to think up puns,” Tom said thoughtfully.
  • “This food has no flavor!” Tom said, with distaste
  • “Who left the toilet seat down?” Tom asked peevishly.
  • “I might as well be dead,” Tom croaked.
  • “Only one of my speakers works!” Tom said, monotonously.
  • “They had to amputate them both at the ankles,” Tom said defeatedly.

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