04 Jul 2022

Mastering the language - tough, bough, cough and dough!

Gerry Moran Kilkenny

Has texting put the kibosh on spelling along with the English language?

I was in primary school and had just finished a spelling test when our teacher told us that the English language is one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn.
We didn’t believe him. Sure we all spoke it fluently (ah, you know what I mean) and couldn’t see any difficulty whatsoever with it.
Today I know exactly what our teacher meant.
The following are two ‘poems’ that exemplify the vagaries, and intricacies, of the English language and how challenging it can be for those trying to learn it.
By the way, do kids do spelling tests anymore?
Can kids spell anymore? Or has texting put the kibosh on spelling along with the English language? Just asking.

Pronunciation Poem
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 less 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
And 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 the 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 dose and rose and lose
Just look them up, and goose and choose
And cork and work and card 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!

Plane English
Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea
Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight for it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong
Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

Beautiful words
In 2004, the British Council polled 7,000 people in 46 countries asking what they considered to be the most beautiful words in the English language.
Here’s a selection from that poll:
mother; smile; flabbergasted; serendipity; lullaby; gorgeous; tickle; umbrella; cherish; tranquillity; smithereens; extravaganza; galaxy; gazebo; bliss; blossom; banana, bumblebee; lollipop; loquacious.
Finally, feel free to draw up a list of your own most beautiful words.

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