The tongue twister that’s driving everyone crazy 8



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They say English is one of the trickiest languages out there and this tongue twister seems to prove just that!

The poem, by Dutch poet Gerard Nolst Trenité, contains 800 bizarre irregularities in the English Language and aims to trip up even the most articulate people.

While it all seems easy enough in the first few lines, once you really get into it, it can be difficult to keep up with all the slight changes Trenité slips in.

Can you get through it without stumbling?


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, 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.

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.

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!!!

How’d you go? Harder than it looks, right?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I loved reading it and no I didn’t slip as I was taught the proper pronounciation.

    1 REPLY
  2. I managed the whole article. I attribute this to sound education principles from the ’50’s.

  3. ‘Tis somewhat tricky, but, wiff a solid grounding in grammar as wot wuz tort in tha 50’s, (yes I’m of that vintage), one should not have too much difficulty with it. I must say I enjoyed it.

  4. I enjoyed it. A 1950’s student & a good grounding in English.

  5. No problems here either (born in ’52) my international students find it very difficult!

  6. Same here, educated in the fifties and early sixties, Mrs. Hazelwood (english teacher) would be proud that at least one of her students passed the above with flying colours.

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