Fun with English? Criticism of English? A Tool for Teaching Perfect English?

or None of the Above?

The Chaos was published as an appendix to a textbook of English pronunciation for Dutch students.

             But, was it light humor, heavy-handed criticism, veiled scorn, or simply a clever composition to illustrate the Dutch author’s mastery of the medium?  An ESL website called it “…this amusing and half-serious poem…a wonderful, if exasperating, pronunciation exercise.”

             To me, it is none of the above.  Instead, it provides insight into why 2/3 of Americans over age 5 do not read proficiently although more than 96% speak the language well or very well.  Side-by-side is a second version—the poem transliterated into text representing the words as spoken (and understood) by Americans, in general, not as pronounced by anyone.

The Chaos
by G. Nolst Trenité

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse
I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress you'll 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).
Made has not the sound of bade,
Say said, pay-paid, laid, but plaid.
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
But be careful how you speak,
Say break, steak, but bleak and streak.
Previous, precious, fuchsia, via,
Pipe, snipe, recipe and choir,
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles.
Exiles, similes, reviles.
Wholly, holly, signal, signing.
Thames, examining, combining
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,

Solar, mica, war, and far.
From "desire": desirable--admirable from "admire."
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier.
Chatham, brougham, renown, but known.
Knowledge, done, but gone and tone,
One, anemone. Balmoral.
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel,
Gertrude, German, wind, and mind.

Scene, Melpomene, mankind,
Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, reading, heathen, heather.
This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.
Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet;
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which is said to rime with "darky."
Viscous, Viscount, load, and broad.
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's O.K.,
When you say correctly: croquet.
Rounded, wounded, grieve, and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive, and live,
Liberty, library, heave, and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven,
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover,
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police, and lice.
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label,
Petal, penal, and canal,
Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal.
Suit, suite, ruin, circuit, conduit,
Rime with "shirk it" and "beyond it."
But it is not hard to tell,
Why it's pall, mall, but Pall Mall.

Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, and chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor,
Ivy, privy, famous, clamour
And enamour rime with hammer.
Pussy, hussy, and possess,
Desert, but dessert, address.
Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants.
Hoist, in lieu of flags, left pennants.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rime with anger.
Neither does devour with clangour.
Soul, but foul and gaunt but aunt.
Font, front, won't, want, grand, and grant.
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say: finger.
And then: singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age.
Query does not rime with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post; and doth, cloth, loth;
Job, Job; blossom, bosom, oath.
Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual.
Seat, sweat; chaste, caste; Leigh, eight,              height;
Put, nut; granite, and unite.
Reefer does not rime with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George ate late,
Mint, pint, Senate, but debate.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific,
Tour, but our and succour, four,
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria,
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,

Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay.
Say aver, but ever, fever.
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.
Never guess--it is not safe:
We say calves, valves, half, but Ralph.
Heron, granary, canary,
Crevice and device, and eyrie,
Face but preface, but efface,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust, and scour, but scourging,
Ear but earn, and wear and bear
Do not rime with here, but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, clerk, and jerk,
Asp, 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, like rowlock, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict, and indict!
Don't you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?
Finally: which rimes with "enough"
Though, through, plough, cough, dough, or              tough?
Hiccough has the sound of "sup."
My advice is--give it up!

Kāos Rēdēmd

Bī J. H. Kanzelmeyer  translit. frum G. Trenité

Dearest krēcher in krēāshun

Studēiŋ Iŋglish prōnunsēāshun,

Ī wil tēch Ū in mī vers

Sowndz līk korps, kor, hors and wers

Ī wil kēp Ū, Suzy(soozē), bizē,

Māk ūr hed with hēt grō dizē.

Tear in ī, ūr dres ū’l tair,

Sō shal Ī!  Ō, hear mī prair.

Prā, konsōl ūr luviŋ pōet,

Māk mī kōt luuk noo, dear, sō it!

Just kompair hart, beard and herd,

Dīz and dīet, lord and werd,

Sord and sword, rētān and Britain(briten).

(Mīnd ŧhu later, how it’s riten).

Mād haz not ŧhu sownd uv bad,

Sā sed, pā-pād, lād, but plad.

Now Ī sherly wil not plāg Ū

With such werds az vāg and āgū,

But bē cairfuul how Ū spēk,

Sā brāk, stāk, but blēk and strēk.

Prēvēus, preshus, fūshu, vīu,

Pīp, snīp, resipē and kwīer,

Klōven, uven, how and lō

Skript, rēsēt, shō, pōem, tō.

Hear mē sā, dēvoyd uv trikerē;

Dawter, lafter, and Terpsichore(terpsikorē),

Tīfoyd, mēzels, topsālz, īulz.

Xīlz, similēz, rēvīlz.

Hōlē, holē, signul, sīniŋ.

Thames(temz), xaminiŋ, kombīniŋ

Skoler, viker, and sigar,

Sōlar, mīku, wor, and far.

Frum “dēzīer”: dēzīerubul—admirubul frum “admīer.”

Lumber, plumer, bear, but brīer.

Chatham(chatum), brooum, rēnown, but nōn.

Nolij, dun, but gon and tōn,

Wun(1?), unemōnē.  Balmoral.

Kichen, līken, lawndrē, lorel,

Gertrude(gertrood), German(jerman), wind             (wīnd?), and mīnd.

Sēn, Melpomene(melpomenē), mankīnd,

Tortus, terkoyz, shamē-leŧher,

Reading(rediŋ), rēdiŋ, hēŧhen heŧher.

ŦHis fōnetik laberinŧh

Givz mos, grōs, brook, brōch, nīnth, plinth.

Bilet duz not end līk balā;

Bookā, walet, malet, shalā;

Bluud and fluud ar not līk food,

Nor iz mōld līk shuud and wuud.

Baŋkwet iz not nearlē parkā,

Hwich iz sed too rīm with “darkē.”

Viskus, Viscount(vīkownt), lōd and brawd.

Tord, too forword, too rēword.

And ūr prōnunsēāshun’z O.K.,

Hwen Ū sā korektlē: krōkā.

Rownded, woonded, grēv, and siv,

Frend and fēnd, ulīv, and liv(līv?),

Libertē, lībrairē, hēv, and heven,

Rachel(rāchel), āk, mustash, ēleven(11),

Wē sā halōd, but ulowd,

Pēpul, leperd, tōd, but vowd.

Mark ŧhu diferens, morōver,

Bētwēn moover, pluver, Dover(dōver),

Lēchez, brēchez, wīz, prēsīs,

Chalis, but pōlēs, and līs.

Kamel, konstabul, unstābul,

Prinsipul, disīpul, lābel,

Petal, pēnal, and kanal,

Wāt, sermīz, plāt, promis, pal.

Soot, swēt, rooin, serkit, kondooit,

Rīm with “sherk it” and “bēyond it.”

But it iz not hard too tel,

Hwī it’s pol, mol, but “Pall Mall(pel mel).”

Musul, muskūler, jāl, īern,

Timber, klīmer, buulyun, līon,

Werm, and storm, shāz, kāos, and chair,

Senater, spektāter, mair,

Īvē, privē, fāmus, klamor

And ēnamor rīm with hamer.

Puusē, husē, and pōzes,

Dezert, but dēzert, udres.

Golf, wuulf, kowntenans, lootenants.

Hoyst, in loo uv flagz, left penants.

River, rīval, toom, bom, kōm.

Dol and rōl and sum and hōm.

Strāŋjer duz not rīm with aŋger,

Nēŧher duz dēvower with klaŋgor.

Sōl, but fowul and gawnt but ant.

Font, frunt, wōn’t, wawnt, grand, and grant.

Shooz, gōz, duz.  Now ferst sā: fiŋger

And ŧhen: siŋer, jinjer, liŋger.

Rēl, zēl, mawv, gawz, and gāj,

Mairij, fōlij, mirazh, āj.

Kwearē duz not rīm with vairē,

Nor duz fūrē sownd līk bairē. 

Dust, lost, pōst; and duŧh, kloŧh, lōŧh;

Job, Job(jōb); blosum buuzum, ōŧh.

ŦHō ŧhu diferens sēmz litul,

Wē sā akchul, but vitul,

Sēt, swet; chāst, kast; Leigh(lē), āt(8), hīt;


Puut, nut: granit, and ūnīt.

Rēfer duz not rīm with defer,

Foeffer(fefer) duz, and zefer, hefer.

Dul, buul, Goeffery(jefrē), George(jorj) āt lāt,

Mint, pīnt, Senate(senat), but dēbāt.

Sēnik, Arabic(airubik), Pacific(pasifik),

Sīens, konshens, sīentifik,

Toor, but ower and sukor, for(4),

Gas, ulas, and Arkansas(arkansaw).

Sē, īdēu, ginē, airēu,

Psalm(sawm), Maria(murēu), but malairēu,

Yooŧh, sowŧh, suŧhern, klenz and klēn,

Doktrin, terpentīn, murēn.

Kompair ālēen with Italien(italēen),

Dandilīon with batalēun

Salē with alī, yā, yē,

Ī, Ī, ī(ā?), ā, hwā, kē, kē.

Sā aver, but ever, fēver,

Nēŧher, lēzher, skān, rēsēver.

Never ges—it iz not sāf:

Wē sā kavz, valvz, haf, but Ralph(ralf).

Hairon, granerē, kanairē,

Krevis and dēvīs, and airē,

Fās but prefis, but ēfās,

Flem, flegmatik, as, glas, bās(bas?).

Larj, but target, jin, giv, verjiŋ,

Awt, owt, jowst, and skower, but skerjiŋ,

Ear but ern, and wair and bair

Doo not rīm with hear, but air.

Seven(7) iz rīt, but sō iz ēven,

Hīfen, rufen, nefū, Stephen(stēven),

Muŋkē, doŋkē, klerk, and jerk,

Asp, grasp, wosp, and kork and werk.

Prōnunsēāshun—thiŋk uv sīkē—!

Iz u pāliŋ, stowt and spīkē,

Wōn’t it māk Ū looz ūr wits,

Wrītiŋ “grōts” and sāiŋ “grits?”

It’s u dark ubis or tunel,

Strewn with stōnz, līk rowlock, gunel,

Islington(izliŋtun) and Isle of Wight(īl uv wīt)

Howswīf, verdikt, and indīt!

Dōn’t Ū thiŋk sō, rēder, raŧher,

Sāiŋ laŧher, bāŧher, foŧher?

Fīnalē: hwich rīms with “ēnuf”

ŦHō, throo, plow, kof, dō, or tuf?


Hikup haz ŧhu sownd of “sup.”

Mī advīs iz—giv it up!

If you speak RP (Received Pronunciation) on the original version, you passed the “test of Perfect English.”  Word spellings are those in your dictionary and rhyming and non-rhyming words fit the poem’s logical plan.  If you read it with GA (American English), you encountered uncommon spellings, many rhymes that didn’t “work,” and rhymes the author didn’t intend.

The phonemic version of the poem replaces spelled words with words written phonemically (as Americans say and hear them).  This page is not presented to instruct those who already read.  It is intended to highlight the horrible plight of the 18 to 20 million children ages 4-7 who speak good English, want to read it, but are denied an orthography they will learn to use as fluently, quickly and intuitively as they learned to speak.

For further information visit:


First published July 19, 2009   James. H. Kanzelmeyer (Tīpōz corekted 4/24/12, 10/14/12.)