SpellingSociety’s “Absurd English” poems
See how well you native English speakers can tackle this one – read it out loud and count how many times you have to go back and correct yourself!
When the English tongue we speak.
Why is break not rhymed with freak?
Will you tell me why it’s true
We say sew but likewise few?
And the maker of the verse,
Cannot rhyme his horse with worse?
Beard is not the same as heard
Cord is different from word.
Cow is cow but low is low
Shoe is never rhymed with foe.
Think of hose, dose,and lose
And think of goose and yet with choose
Think of comb, tomb and bomb,
Doll and roll or home and some.
Since pay is rhymed with say
Why not paid with said I pray?
Think of blood, food and good.
Mould is not pronounced like could.
Wherefore done, but gone and lone –
Is there any reason known?
To sum up all, it seems to me
Sound and letters don’t agree.
This poem was written by Lord Cromer, and was published in the Spectator, August 9th, 1902. It just goes to show that in over 100 years, English spelling and pronunciation rules have not gotten any less challenging.
For speakers of mostly phonetic languages like Spanish or Russian, learning English is made even more difficult than it should be because of the myriad rules of pronunciation and spelling and the language’s penchant for going ahead and constantly breaking them.
There are plenty more poems on the Spelling Society page showing further examples of the ‘absurdity of English spelling’. One of my favourites is this verse by Faith M. Daltry, in which each line rhymes, but the final words each have a different spelling for the same sound.
There was a man named David Byrd
Whose courage rose when he was stirred;
Thus all his friends to him referred
As quite first class, not second or third.
Then one day David gave his word
To join a pal whose name was Ferd.
And though it all seems quite absurd,
Some dreadful thing must have occurred.
For nothing more was ever heard
Of David Byrd and his pal Ferd.