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‘The Chaos’ by Gerard Nolst Trenité

First published in Drop Your Foreign Accent: Engelsche uitspraakoefeningen (4th ed., H. D. Tjeenk Willink & Zoon, 1920)

Dearest creature in Creation,
Studying English pronunciation,
⁠I will teach you in my verse
⁠Sounds like corpsecorpshorse and worse.
It will keep you, Susybusy,
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 heartbeard and heard,
Dies and dietlord and word,
Sword and swardretain and Britain,
(Mind the latter, how it’s written!)
Made has not the sound of bade,
⁠Say—said, pay—paidlaid, but plaid.
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
⁠But be careful how you speak,
⁠Say breaksteak, but bleak and streak,
Previouspreciousfuchsiavia;
Pipesniperecipe and choir,
Clovenovenhow and low;
Scriptreceiptshoepoemtoe,
Hear me say, devoid of trickery:
Daughterlaughter and Terpsichore,
Typhoidmeaslestopsailsaisles;
Exilessimilesreviles;
Whollyhollysignalsigning;
Thamesexaminingcombining;
Scholarvicar and cigar,
Solarmicawar and far.
From “desire”: desirableadmirable from “admire”;
Lumberplumberbier but brier;
Chathambroughamrenown but known,
Knowledgedone, but gone and tone,
OneanemoneBalmoral;
Kitchenlichenlaundrylaurel;
GertrudeGermanwind and mind;
SceneMelpomenemankind;
Tortoiseturquoisechamois-leather,
ReadingReadingheathenheather.
⁠This phonetic labyrinth
⁠Gives mossgrossbrookbroochninthplinth.
Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquetwalletmalletchalet;
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”.
Viscousviscountload and broad;
Toward, to forward, to reward,
And your pronunciation’s O.K.
When you say correctly croquet;
Roundedwoundedgrieve and sieve;
Friend and fiendalive and live;
Libertylibraryheave and heaven;
Rachelachemoustacheeleven.
⁠We say hallowed, but allowed;
Peopleleopardtowed, but vowed
Mark the difference, moreover,
Between moverploverDover,
Leechesbreecheswiseprecise;
Chalice but police and lice.
Camelconstableunstable;
Principledisciplelabel;
Petalpenal and canal;
Waitsurmiseplaitpromisepal.
Suitsuiteruncircuitconduit
Rime with “shirk it” and “beyond it”,
⁠But it is not hard to tell,
⁠Why it’s pallmall, but Pall Mall.
Musclemusculargaoliron;
Timberclimberbullionlion,
Worm and stormchaisechaoschair;
Senatorspectatormayor.
Ivyprivyfamousclamour
And enamour rime with “hammer.”
Pussyhussy and possess.
Desert, but dessertaddress.
Golfwolfcountenancelieutenants
Hoist, in lieu of flags, left pennants.
Riverrivaltombbombcomb;
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;
Fontfrontwontwantgrandandgrant,
Shoesgoesdoes.[1]) Now first say: finger,
And then: singergingerlinger.
Realzealmauvegauze and gauge;
Marriagefoliagemirageage.
Query does not rime with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dostlostpost and dothclothloth;
JobJobblossombosomoath.
Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual,
SeatsweatchastecasteLeigheightheight;
Putnutgranite, but unite.
Reefer does not rime with “deafer,”
Feoffer does, and zephyrheifer.
DullbullGeoffreyGeorgeatelate;
Hintpintsenate, but sedate;
ScenicArabicpacific;
Scienceconsciencescientific;
Tour, but our, and succourfour;
Gasalas and Arkansas!
Seaideaguineaarea,
PsalmMaria, but malaria;
Youthsouthsoutherncleanse and clean;
Doctrineturpentinemarine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion,
Sally with allyyeaye,
EyeIayayewheykeyquay!
Say aver, but everfever,
Neitherleisureskeinreceiver.
⁠Never guess—it is not safe;
⁠We say calvesvalveshalf, but Ralf!
Herongranarycanary;
Crevice, and device, and eyrie;
Face but preface, but efface,
Phlegmphlegmaticassglassbass;
Large, but targetgingiveverging;
Oughtoutjoust and scour, but scourging;
Ear, but earn; and wear and tear
⁠Do not rime with “here”, but “ere”.
Seven is right, but so is even;
HyphenroughennephewStephen;
Monkeydonkeyclerk and jerk;
Aspgraspwasp; 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 groats?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel,
Strewn with stones, like rowlockgunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewifeverdict and indict!
Don’t you think so, reader, rather,
Saying latherbatherfather?
⁠Finally: which rimes with “enough,”
Thoughthroughploughcoughhough, or tough?
Hiccough has the sound of “cup”……
My advice is—give it up!

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Testimonials:

My Longman Pronunciation Dictionary includes a sound file of every entry in the dictionary – nearly 100,000 words and phrases.

Glen McCready demonstrated that he had been well trained phonetically, and could follow the phonetic transcriptions accurately. He was fully competent to achieve what we needed; his skills as a voice teacher are underpinned by a solid training in phonetics.

John Wells

Professor Emeritus, University College London

Glen is the best kind of teacher – passionate and enthusiastic, and he also knows his subject inside out. He really cares about the spoken word and he really cares about the people he teaches. Learning from him was easy; now, instead of feeling lost and at sea, I feel confident and raring to go. Glen is a master of the spoken word, and a wonderful teacher.

Gabrielle Bradshaw

TV Presenter, Artist, Actor