English is tough stuff

Here’s a poem called “The Chaos”, by Dr. Gerald Nolst Trenite (1870-1946) that highlights the irregularities of English pronunciation and spelling. It was said to be used by NATO as a tool to raise awareness of the English language for their staff in Paris. It’s complex and involved but very clever and very funny.

Here’s an extract;

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.

Here’s a link to the whole poem.
English is tough stuff

Have fun, and if that’s not enough for you here’s an even longer and more surreal version on the website of the English Spelling Society.

Also for more activities and fun with spelling try The Spelling Blog by our friend, Norwich based teacher trainer, Jo Stirling.

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About The Henry Brothers

We are English teachers involved in ELT publishing in Turkey, currently working for Cambridge University Press and also touring the country giving workshops and presentations to English teachers, mainly on the use of poetry, storytelling and other lively activities in the classroom. We can be contacted by e-mail to istanbul@cambridge.org, @istanbuljm on twitter or Henry Brothers on Facebook.
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