Friday, September 2, 2016

Tough Pronunciation Quiz

If you can pronounce correctly every word in this poem, you will be speaking English better than 90% of the native English speakers in the world

After trying the verses, a Frenchman said he’d prefer six months of hard labour to reading six lines aloud, and we’ll be honest with you, we struggled with parts of it.

Dearest creature in creation,

 Study English pronunciation.

 I will teach you in my verse

 Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.

 I will keep you, Suzy, busy,

 Make your head with heat grow dizzy.

 Tear in eye, your dress will tear.

 So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

 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.)

 Now I surely will not plague you

 With such words as plaque and ague.

 But be careful how you speak:

 Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;

 Cloven, oven, how and low,

 Script, receipt, show, poem, and 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.

 Fe0ffer 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!!!

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You’ve been reading “The Chaos” by Gerard Nolst Trenité, written nearly 100 years ago in 1922, designed to demonstrate the irregularity of English spelling and pronunciation.

There’s also a video of the poem being read out should you want some help on couple of the more unusual words:

{above text and pronunciation video are at:}

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Pronunciation note
It may seem odd for the pronunciation of this very word to be an issue; the pronunciation of pronunciation should be evident from its spelling. The vowel in the second syllable is u, said as in the word up. It is not the diphthong ou, as in ouch. However, for some people, the impulse to retain the sound pattern of the familiar verb pronounce is too strong to resist, and we hear this word said as if it were spelled p-r-o-n-o-u-n-c-i-a-t-i-o-n all too frequently. All this is a reminder that the entire subject of “correct” pronunciation is fraught with controversy. Changes from what we heard growing up are often resisted with surprisingly passionate scorn. And yet we know that language is constantly changing, and that many pronunciations once attacked as ignorant are now accepted without question in even the most educated circles. For example, we hear [skiz-uh m] (Show IPA) as well as the older [siz-uh m] /ˈsɪz əm/ for schism, and [fawr-tey] /ˈfɔr teɪ/ as well as the historically correct [fawrt] /fɔrt/ for the sense of forte meaning “something that one excels in” (see Pronunciation note at forte1.). And stress patterns change with new generations: increasingly, [kuh m-pair-uh-buh l] /kəm pɛər ə bəl/ is overtaking [kom-per-uh-buh l] /ˈkɒm pər ə bəl/ for comparable. Language experts seize the opportunity to note and study these changes; language innovation can be fascinating--even exciting. But some deviations from the current norm will not become part of an accepted standard, and as long as the way one speaks remains a marker of one's education, or one's ability to perform well in school or in a prospective job, it is best to avoid misguided pronunciations like [pruh-noun-see-ey-shuh n] /prəˌnaʊn siˈeɪ ʃən/ .

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