Off topic: On English spelling
Thread poster: Marek Daroszewski (MrMarDar)

Marek Daroszewski (MrMarDar)  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:11
English to Polish
+ ...
Dec 1, 2010

English spelling and rhyming explained in 2 minutes.


Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:11
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
"ough" - 7 pronunciations Dec 1, 2010

Seven different ways of pronouncing "ough", depending on which word contains it.
1. tough (as if spelled tuff)
2. bough (rhymes with now, cow, how)
3. through (rhymes with you, blue, who)
4. though (rhymes with throw, know)
5. cough (rhymes with off)
6. borough (rhymes with thorough, ends with a schwa sound)
7. hiccough (can also be written hiccup)



Mats Wiman  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:11
Member (2000)
German to Swedish
+ ...

Farmer: "Do you have a medicine for my cough?" Dec 1, 2010

Doc: "For you or your cow??"



Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:11
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
A poem on the subject Dec 1, 2010


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.
Pray console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear; sew it.

Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet and 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.
Feoffer 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!!!


Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:11
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Another poem Dec 1, 2010

This one was allegedly written by a Russian student of English, confused by "ough".

The wind was rough, and cold and blough
She kept her hands inside her mough
It made her cough, please do not scough;
She coughed until her hat blew ough.



Arianne Farah  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:11
Member (2008)
English to French
Phenomenal! Dec 1, 2010

I love the long poem, I'm having fun reading it aloud and I think it just might make it's way to my facebook page if you don't mind!icon_biggrin.gif


Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:11
+ ...
It's already on Facebook, Arianne. Dec 1, 2010

Arianne Farah wrote:

I love the long poem, I'm having fun reading it aloud and I think it just might make it's way to my facebook page if you don't mind!icon_biggrin.gif

There are videos of The Chaos on Youtube: (A slower version for ESL students)

An earlier thread also discusses this subject:


Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:11
+ ...
Reminds me of... Dec 1, 2010

Oliver Walter wrote:

Seven different ways of pronouncing "ough", depending on which word contains it.

...this poem I have on my profile, under the "English, etc." tab:

Werse Verse
(by Bennett Cerf)

The wind was rough
And cold and blough.
She kept her hands inside her mough.
It chilled her through,
Her nose turned blough,
And still the squall the faster flough
And yet, although there was no snough,
The weather was a cruel fough.
It made her cough,
Please do not scough,
She coughed until her hat blough ough.


Caryl Swift  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:11
Polish to English
+ ...
Another 'golden oldie' Dec 2, 2010

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you
On hiccough, thorough, laugh and through?
Well done! And now you wish perhaps
To learn of these familiar traps?

Beware of heard, a dreadful word,
That looks like beard and sounds like bird,
And dead: it’s said like bed, not bead,
For Goodness’ sake, don’t call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat,
They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.

A moth is not a moth in mother
Nor both in bother, broth in brother,
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
And then there’s does and rose and lose-
Just look them up: and goose and choose.

And cork and front and word and ward
And font and front and word and sword.
And do and go and thwart and cart-
Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start!
A dreadful language! Man Alive,
I’d mastered it when I was five.


"The English have no respect for their language, and will not teach their children to speak it. They spell it so abominably that no man can teach himself what it sounds like. It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him. German and Spanish are accessible to foreigners: English is not accessible even to Englishmen."

George Bernard Shaw (


Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:11
+ ...
And then there's... Dec 2, 2010

menial and denial.


Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:11
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Some strange pairs Dec 2, 2010

Some strange pairs that have always confused my students are:

REFUSE - /ri-FEWZ/ meaning reject, /REFF-youss/ meaning waste - you can't refuse refuse if you work in a landfill. (and possibly even /REE-fyooz/ meaning "fuse together again")

MINUTE - /MIN-it/ of time or angle measure, /my-NEWT/ meaning very small (so could we have a minute minute?)

POLISH - /POHL-ish/ for the floor - /POLE-ish/ meaning from Poland - so you could try Polish polish some day.

INVALID - /in-VAL-id/ meaning not valid, /IN-val-eed/ meaning a handicapped person (not politically correct these days - the new term is "physically challenged")

WIND - /u-IND/ which blows, /WHY-nd/ meaning to do circular movements.

I am sure you can think of many other examples.


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