In a previous article, we presented two humorous poems to illustrate the daunting challenge that homophones present.
This time, we offer three examples that highlight the obstacle posed by inconsistencies in pronunciation, one more head—if you will—in the menacing hydra known as English.
Here is the first example, a poem called “The Chaos” by G. Nolst Trenité. The caveat that accompanies this poem is that “if you can pronounce every word correctly in this poem, you will be speaking English better than 90% of the native English speakers in the world.”
If your sanity is still intact, and if you refuse to give up, take a look at this:
Wikipedia asserts that the above claim is more accurately “six pronunciations in North American English and over ten in British English.”
Lastly, there’s this:
Of course, this is both facetious and inaccurate (after all, the position of letters within words also determines what sounds they make), but it still illustrates the point that George Bernard Shaw (allegedly) was trying to make about “Engloti.”
So why is English so inconsistent and unpredictable when it comes to spelling and pronunciation? Without delving into minutiae of etymology, history, and sociology, the simple explanation is that English has been subjected to more than a thousand years of external influences. This includes the forced imposition of French, shifts in pronunciation after spelling became fixed, the lingering (yet haphazardly applied) linguistic influence of Greek and Latin, and the acceptance of legions of foreign words.
In other words, this:
There are three things to take away from this article:
- English is hard.
- It’s hard for everyone.
- Do your best; don’t give ough.