Friday, January 6, 2012

WE SAY HALLOWED BUT ALLOWED: A 1922 poem by Gerard Nolst Trenité called "The Chaos" is making the rounds:
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.
It keeps going.


  1. Anonymous10:46 AM

    In my line of work, it's useful to have something like this in your back pocket for when the adolescents whine, "Why is French so hard?" The one I've got starts off with something like

    I take it you already know
    Of bough and cough and through and though

    I also like to show them comb, bomb and tomb, or write ghoti on the board and ask them what it says.

  2. Joseph Finn11:57 AM

    Wow, look at all those extra commas in the poem.  *cough*

  3. D'Arcy12:02 PM

    That was me. I had the poem wrong - it's at school and I'm not (yippee!) so I was going from memory. I found it online, though -

  4. Meghan12:05 PM

    WTH is sward?

  5. D'Arcy12:28 PM

    A stretch of ground covered with grass, apparently. I had no idea either.

  6. Squid4:54 PM

    This reminds me of my grandfather, who loved this sort of thing.  Though barely literate, he was a great fan (and a pretty good practicioner) of wordplay.  I may have to fire up a Victor Borge video tonight.