The Wordsmythe's Weblog…

…On Words, Love and Life

Archive for the month “October, 2012”

English pronunciation

There are lots of weird and wonderful things in life and, in my opinion, English pronunciation would top the list. There are very few things I find more puzzling yet as intriguing.

There are words that sound alike but have different meanings, they are called homonyms. Then there are words that sound alike but have different meanings and different spellings, those are homophones.

There are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings, those are called homographs. Then you have heteronyms that are also spelled the same but sound different and have different meanings.

Words that sound and are spelled the same are both homonyms (same sound) and homographs (same spelling).

I bet you’ve read and re-read that over and over again just to take it all in Open-mouthed smile It’s amazing that anyone actually learns how to speak and write English at all with all these peculiarities!

Anyway I came across a poem that so accurately captures the complexities of the English language pronunciation and thought I’d share. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

It’s called The Chaos by Dr. Gerard Nolst Trenité who was a Dutch observer of English. It first appeared as an appendix to his 1920 textbook Drop Your Foreign Accent: engelsche uitspraakoefeningen. The subtitle of the book means “English pronunciation exercises”.

“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.

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.
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.
Foeffer 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!!!”


Painful pleasure or pleasurable pain

I’m not sure if writing comes easy to any writer but I know that it most definitely doesn’t to me. Don’t get me wrong, I have my moments. Those times when ideas, inspiration, time and all the other ingredients that make writing a delight conspire to form a magical combination for a winning recipe.

At times like that, my adrenal glands send a surge of adrenaline into my blood stream, causing my fingers to fly across the keyboard at the speed of light. Thoughts and ideas, over-eager to be crystallised, tumble out in an abundance of concise, meaningful words. My otherwise elusive muse works overtime supplying oodles of inspiration while seconds, minutes and even hours flow seamlessly, one into the other, in tandem with my creativity .

When the above happens, writing is such a delight and I wonder why I don’t do it all the time. I wish I could summarise my entire experience of writing in this way however, the truth is these times are few and far between for me. They are more the exception than the rule.

More often than not, I find writing tedious, laborious, tough-going and a hard slog. An idea makes a fleeting appearance in my head but when I sit to flesh it out, it proves as cooperative as an eel in stilettos. I struggle to find words that accurately convey my thoughts. In dialogue, the words are stilted, forced and lacking in emotion. In narrative, they are flat, unconvincing and far off the mark.

At those times, I am reduced to checking the word count feature of my word processor every so often and the measly sum total of words I’ve written make a mockery of the effort and time I’ve expended. The clock ticks away ever so slowly, every passing second magnifying my anxieties.

It is then that I question my sanity and wonder why I afflict myself in this manner. I have come to the conclusion that possessing a certain amount of masochism is a prerequisite for writing.

Writing is like childbirth, painful, almost traumatic yet I find myself doing it again and again. It can be arduous yet so very fulfilling and satisfying when completed. It is like an itch, the more I scratch, the more it itches. Writing is an act of folly; a fever that won’t abate so I just have to ride out. It is like a drug addiction, a high I am reluctant to ever come off.

As painful and as difficult as it sometimes is for me, like a moth to a flame, I am drawn to it time and time again. I find that if I persevere and push through the tedium, it gets better, easier and less of a chore. The end result may not always be as scintillating as I hope but I still get immense satisfaction from it. So for good or for bad, I will keep on writing, who knows, maybe a time will come when it will become easy. I live in hope.

I don’t write because I want to, at least not all the time. I write because I have to. I have to scratch that itch, bring down the fever, rid myself of the folly and get off that high.

In the meantime, I take comfort in the knowledge that some more accomplished writers also experience/d this painful pleasure so I’m in good company. Read what they have/had to say about it. Enjoy and thanks for stopping by.

“Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Gene Fowler, American journalist, author and dramatist.

“Writing is a dog’s life, but the only life worth living.” Gustave Flaubert, French author of Madame Bovary.

“The desire to write grows with writing.” Desiderius Erasmus, Dutch Renaissance humanist.

“A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” Thomas Mann, German novelist.

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” Nathaniel Hawthorne, American novelist.

“There is no way of writing well and also of writing easily” Anthony Trollope, English novelist.

“I like myself better when I’m writing regularly.” Willie Nelson, American country music singer-songwriter.

“I enjoy writing but I much prefer the experience of having written.” Fareed Zakaria, American-Indian journalist and author.

“Writing is pretty crummy on the nerves.” Paul Theroux, American travel writer and novelist.

“Let’s face it, writing is hell.” William Styron, American novelist and essayist.

“The drudgery of being a professional writer comes in trying to make good days out of bad days and in squeezing out the words when they won’t just flow.” Benjamin Cavell, producer and writer.

Mal de debarquement

I just got back from a holiday with some friends from secondary school, a mini-reunion. We had so much fun. We reminisced about our school days, dredging up memories long forgotten, each of us recalling something the others didn’t. We laughed till tears ran down our faces, fits of laugher rendering us immobile and even knocking one of us to the floor in a hotel lobby!

We spent a few days in Orlando, Florida then went on a cruise to the Bahamas. We toured Nassau and New Providence with an extremely friendly and knowledgeable tour guide who regaled us with tales of the rich history of the Bahamas. It was such a fantastic experience and I hope to do it all again. P1010985

Shortly after we got off the ship, I felt like I was still at sea. I could actually feel the rocking and rolling even though I was standing on solid ground and I felt a bit woozy too. I thought I might be imagining things so I asked my friends and one of them said she felt exactly the same.

I vaguely remembered that I’d heard of a similar condition which afflicts sailors so I called on the services of my trusty friend, Google. That’s where I happened upon the term ‘mal de debarquement’ meaning disembarkment illness.

According to wiki, it is also known as disembarkment syndrome and “is a rare condition usually occurring after a cruise, aircraft flight, or other sustained motion event.” Symptoms include “a persistent sensation of motion usually described as rocking, swaying, or bobbing; difficulty maintaining balance; extreme fatigue; and difficulty concentrating (“brain fog”). Other common symptoms include dizziness, visual disturbances (such as seeing motion, inability to focus etc.), headaches and/or migraine headaches, confusion, and anxiety. Many patients also describe ear symptoms such as hyperacusis, tinnitus, “fullness”, pain, or even decreased hearing. Cognitive impairment (“brain fog”) includes an inability to recall words, short term memory loss, and an inability to multi-task.”

I’m very pleased to say that my symptoms were just those I mentioned earlier and they stopped after two days, that is, until desynchronosis aka jet lag set in Sad smile

Anyway, I’m pretty much back to normal now. Thank you for asking. And being the kind, generous soul that I am, I would like you to share in some of my experiences of the trip. Vicariously Open-mouthed smile Here are some photos, enjoy!

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Views of the resort by night and day.

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Menchies at The Loop mall, sells the most delicious frozen yogurt. I made a few visits Open-mouthed smile


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Fantastic Cirque du Soleil show, La Nouba, with a delightful cast and a view of the ship as we approached Port Carnaveral.

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The view from my balcony. And land ahoy! The Bahamian coast with The Lighthouse and The Atlantis in the background.


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The last group of photos are of some of the sights of the Bahamas including Fort Fincastle, the highest point of New Providence island and The Queen’s Staircase named after Queen Elizabeth II. The last one is a sign we spotted on a wall and asked the driver to double back so we could take pictures of it. I think it’s hilarious!

Hope you’ve enjoyed the photographs. Thanks for stopping by.

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