"The Chaos" is a poem demonstrating the irregularity of English spelling and pronunciation. Written by Dutch writer, traveller, and teacher Gerard Nolst Trenité (1870–1946), it includes about 800 examples of irregular spelling.
The first version of 146 lines of text appeared in an appendix to the author's 1920 textbook Drop Your Foreign Accent: engelsche uitspraakoefeningen, but "the most complete and authoritative version ever likely to emerge", published by The Spelling Society in 1992–93, has 274 lines.
BIT 1. Text
To demonstrate the flavour of the poem, the opening lines are:
- Dearest creature in creation
- Studying English pronunciation,
- I will teach you in my verse
- Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.
and the closing lines are:
- Finally, which rhymes with enough,
- Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough??
- Hiccough has the sound of cup...
- My advice is: GIVE IT UP!
These lines are set out as in the author's version, with alternate couplets indented and the problematic words italicised
Dearest creature in creation,Study English pronunciation.I will teach you in my verseSounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.I will keep you, Susy, 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, lord and word,Sword and sward, retain and Britain.(Mind the latter, how it's written.)Made has not the sound of bade,Say-said, pay-paid, laid, but plaid.
Now I surely will not plague youWith such words as vague and ague.But be careful how you speak:Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;Previous, precious, fuchsia, via; Cloven, oven, how and low,Script, receipt, shoe, poem, and toe.
TASK1. Read some reactions. Pick up the one you are closer to...:
- Many words mispronounced. I am Canadian as well and have never heard "plait" prononounced like she did (British style - "platt"; American style - "plate")
- To speak English, don't rely on an American, they live 3,000 miles away from England.
- Well done for the most part and very helpful for us non-native speakers, but I'm sure your English teacher made many a mistake in pronouncing the uncommon words
BIT 3. the trials
Compare these two attempts on youtube.
A clear and slow reading of "The Chaos". Read along with our English teacher - she has a clear, Canadian accent. Use your headphones for extra clarity. Enjoy!
Option two. Jimmy Jams
Even a native English speaker has to find this interesting. English must be a very old language, because how else could one explain the random way we pronounce words? I guess the one good thing that has come out of the chaos: spelling bees! ;)
<iframe width="460" height="275" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/1edPxKqiptw" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>
BIT 3. CHALLENGE (get right 85 %)
Ready to learn some of it? Just try this 5-minute challenge.
Poem is split in 12 small moutfull pieces!:
For the best didactical attempt (known to me)