The Chaos

    Spotlight 4/2023
    © Brett Jordan/

    “The Chaos” is a poem about the craziness of English spelling and pronunciation. Gerard Nolst Trenité was a Dutch teacher of English who wrote it to to sympathizemit jmdm. fühlen, jmdn. verstehensympathize with his students.​ English words are not phonetic – the way they are written often does not help you with their pronunciation at all. Words might look the same, but still don’t rhyme. ​ Some of the words from this poem are rare, so even native speakers may struggle with pronouncing them correctly. What about you?

    Read the poem (maybe even aloud?) and try to solve the three exercises below.


    The Chaos

    by Gerard Nolst Trenité (1870–1946)​

    Dearest creature in creation​
    Studying English pronunciation,​
    I will teach you in my verse​
    Sounds like corpseLeiche​corpse, corpsTruppe​corps, horse and worse.​

    I will keep you, Susy, busy,​
    Make your head with heat grow dizzybenommen, schwindelig​dizzy;​
    Just compare heart, hear and heard,​
    Dies and diet, lord and word.​

    Have you ever yet to endeavoursich bemühen​endeavoured​
    To pronounce to revereehren​revered and to severreißen, durchtrennen​severed,​
    Blood and flood are not like food,​
    Nor is mouldForm; Schimmel​mould like should and would.​

    Stranger does not rhyme with anger,​
    Neither does to devourverschlingen​devour with clangourKlirren, Schmettern​clangour.​
    Pilot, pivotDrehpunkt​pivot, gauntdünn, mager​gaunt, but aunt,​
    Font, front, wont, want, grand and grant.​

    Shoes, goes, does. Now first say: finger;​
    Then say: singer, gingerIngwer​ginger, to lingerverweilen, fortbestehen​linger.​
    Real, zealEifer​zeal, mauvemalvenfarbig, hellviolett​mauve, gauzeGewebe, Gaze​gauze and gaugeMaßstab, Spurweite​gauge,​
    Marriage, foliageLaub, Blätter​foliage, mirageIllusion, Fata Morgana​mirage, age.​

    Don’t you think so, reader, rather,​
    Saying lather(Seifen)schaum​lather, bather, father?​
    Finally, which rhymes with enough,​
    Though, through, boughAst, Zweig​bough, coughHusten​cough, tough??​

    hiccoughSchluckauf​Hiccough has the sound of sup...​
    My advice is: GIVE IT UP!​


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