https://www.duolingo.com/toussaintlou

Pity those that learn English, for...

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Today we speak, but first we spoke; Some faucets leak, but never loke. Today we write, but first we wrote; We bite our tongues, but never bote.

Each day I teach, for years I taught, And preachers preach, but never praught. This tale I tell, this tale I told; I smell the flowers, but never smold.

If knights still slay, as once they slew, Then do we play, as once we plew? If I still do as once I did, Then do cows moo, as they once mid?

December 1, 2015

81 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Popp2
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English is a hard language, but it can be understood through tough, thorough thought, though.

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/rumnraisin
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Thank you toussaintlou, I really enjoyed reading that.

Just for any learners of English who aren't sure which words are incorrectly conjugated, they are listed here, followed by what the word should have been, with links through to the full conjugation:

December 1, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Popp2
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My native language is English and I had to think for a bit about what the past tense of bite is... Haha I love poems like these because of how they mess with my head!

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Cephlin
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Check out the poem The Chaos by Gerard Nolst Trenité, it's so good, but you have to read it aloud to truly understand why!

Native speakers be warned, you WILL trip up at some point during this poem when you read it aloud.

For none native speakers, I wish you the best of luck.

December 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/A_User
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We should teach kids to be able to say that at high speed without a mistake. :-)

December 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Cephlin
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That would make for some hilarious youtube videos.

December 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/A_User
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It would indeed. :-D

December 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/jessd47
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My favorite is that if English letters were pronounced the same every time, then "ghoti"could be pronounced "fish." Think about it... tou(gh) w(o)men na(ti)on

December 1, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Theron126
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If GH can stand for P as in Hiccough, And if OUGH stands for O as in Dough, And if PHTH stands for T as in Phthisis, And if EIGH stands for A as in Neighbor, And if TTE stands for T as in Gazette, And if EAU stands for O as in Plateau, Then an alternative spelling of POTATO could be GHOUGHPHTHEIGHTTEEAU, right?

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/fandomAlgamation

I want to give this man my lingot, but I need all of mine lol :P

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Theron126
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You've got one to spare now :-)

DISCLAIMER: I said this in my other post, but it's gotten separated a bit so sticking it here too, I can't claim the credit for inventing this, just for remembering having read it years ago and going digging to find it again.

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/fandomAlgamation

Ah. Still fun that you share this :D

December 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Middleton27

I have a teacher from India who once said "If R-O-G-E-R spells Roger, then what does K-R-O-G-E-R spell?" and almost everyone mispronounced it, saying it as if it was just Roger with a K in front.

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/csi
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I don't get it.

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/michikade

Kroger is a chain supermarket in parts of the United States, named for the first shop's owner Barney Kroger (so it's a proper surname).

Here's a link with the pronunciation of Kroger. Here's a link to the pronunciation of Roger. Both links have BrE and NAmE pronunciations.

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/csi
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Ohh, ok... got it. Thanks for explaining.

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/alanjwhite

except of course all this irrelevant to the English language :-(

Kroger is a foreign family name ... written as it is spelled in that language

out of courtesy, an English speaker will try to pronounce it as requested by the person (again usually as it was in the original language)

without that guidance of course, anything could happen

December 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Theron126
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And another, based on the name of the English chess grandmaster Nigel Short (I didn't invent these, by the way):

ktioughicerlcdn= is a different way to spell Short. Never seen it before though. Explanation: a k at the start of a word is not always pronounced -> knight. sh and ti have in some words the same pronunciation -> like this last word. the ough is the o like in thoroughly. ice like ice in Leicester - pronounce Lester. Just ignore the ice. the r is the r. ld equals the t, like in could. But it says lcd you say? Correct, that is the silent c of muscle. The n finally is another silent vowel, like in the words column and hymn.

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/alanjwhite

in many cases the "odd" spellings in English are due to he fact that these words did not originate in English Taking your last two example Column is from Latin, hymn from Greek.

Blaming English for their irregularity is like blaming French for the spelling of "Le weekend"

English probably has more borrowed words and from a higher number of sources than any other single language

Of course in many cases the spelling is a crude attempt at phonetics e.g. pajamas, bungalow or curry all from the Indian sub-continent; safari, algebra and coffee (probably) from Arabic; etc etc

In other cases, as so often happens, the original spelling is simplified e.g. columna ->column

or the word form becomes misapplied e.g. guerrilla

December 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Theron126
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Leicester? Can't blame anyone else for that :-)

Edit: Or Gloucester.

December 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/alanjwhite

actually we can ... at least a bit ..-)

For Gloucester - Roman name Glevum

Latin again - "castra" - camp, fort or fortress

both squeezed through a thousand years of Anglo Saxon and then old English and Middle English etc..

similarly Leicester though in this case the fortress element predated the Romans who named it Ratae Corieltauvorum after the local tribe

see Gaelic rath - Ramparts

Blame the Medieval chroniclers for Leir castra (though I suppose Will Shakespeare would be grateful)

BTW: did you know that of the 6 known Shakespeare signatures he spelled his name 3 different ways (not counting 3 separate contractions of his given name)

so you can see how pronunciation and spelling would slur original forms

December 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Theron126
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I knew Shakespeare used different spellings. I also remember reading, but I don't know if it's true or not, that he never spelled it "Shakespeare".

Edit: Do you know all this already? Or are you looking it up somewhere? Either way it's quite interesting for people like me who want to know everything :-)

December 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/A_User
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We can blame ourselves for all of it, actually. We can blame ourselves for borrowing what we borrowed and changing what we changed. :-)

December 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Popp2
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Huh, I don't pronounce women like in fish. For me the "o" in "women" is like the "oo" in "book." Maybe it's a dialect difference.

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/michikade

I think the play is that "woman" and "women" in many dialects of English play with the vowel pronunciation of the "o" and the "a" and "e" are more similar sounds.

In my native dialect, it's like the oo in book for the o in woman but women is more like a soft i or e sound for the o.

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/jessd47
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It could be a dialect issue, but generally I have heard woman pronounced as wooman and women as wihmen. (This is usually the standard in American english, but I don't know about other dialects)

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Popp2
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I live in Massachusetts, I don't have a Boston accent, and I pronounce both woman and women the same, with the "o" like in "book" and the "a/e" like in "hit"

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/vihali

Do you pronounce WOMAN and WOMEN without any difference? I was taught WOMEN is pronounced as /wimin/.

December 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Popp2
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That's what I just said. I pronounce womAn and womEn the same. I pronounce them both as /wʊmɪn/ (You were trying to use IPA, right?(International Phonetic Alphabet) if you were, your "i"s should've been "ɪ"

If you can't read the IPA, basically I pronounce the "o" in wom(a/e)n like in book or hook, and I pronounce the "a/e" like the "i" in hit or miss.

December 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/A_User
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I live in Britain, and say them the same, with the o like in book and the a/e like the i in with.

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/jessd47
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I live in Georgia (no southern accent), so possibly a regional difference?

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/A_User
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Possibly.

December 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/vihali

I am OK with the IPA. I was a bit surprised when you pronounced the two words in the same way. May I ask your pronunciation in this sitiuation is considered right in your area? Anybody says it's wrong? If it is right and accepted by the others, it will be a very interesting case to show to our English teachers here in Vietnam. They do not know this either.

December 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/A_User
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I say it the same way as Popp2. I speak British English, I don't know about others.

December 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Shamrock888
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In Canada, we pronounce woman like the 'oo' in book and women like the 'i' in fish.

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/csi
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Title of the poem is "Tense Times with Verbs".

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/jkirby101
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That's awesome

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/VeeDrawStuff
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Thanks! Most people don't care about citing the original authors but I definitely appreciate finding the source.

December 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/A_User
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Thanks! "This poem I like, but never luck" Great line!

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/TiffanniL

Thanks for sharing! I'm actually looking to purchase the book now. :)

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/A_User
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The plural of mouse is mice, so why isn't the plural of house hice? :-)

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/catcampion

And the plural of spouse...spice!

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/A_User
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The best of some of these is the English meaning of the word you get. :-)

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Tessallation

I was wondering the other day...what is the plural of 'mouse' used in sense of 'computer mouse'? I think it might be 'mouses' - I don't think it's 'mice'.

December 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Emoore722

It is still mice. At least when I say it!

December 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/jkirby101
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Yea I say mice as well

December 21, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Emperor_Pham

Same here. I use mice as well.

December 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Bvogel1
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My first-year French teacher told us that we were lucky English was our first language because it was so difficult to learn.

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Emperor_Pham

Really, for me my french teacher told us it was the easiest because it is connected with other languages so if you know those ones English will be easier.

December 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/michikade

I've always found these poems and things so interesting.

We all struggle with verbs regardless of the language we're learning, it seems. Many people struggle with even regular verbs in second or additional languages (I've seen many a post asking about verb conjugation).

English has so many rules and so many exceptions to said rules. Even those of us that have spoken it natively since shortly after birth in a English speaking society occasionally struggle with some of the rules and sometimes have to think about certain things (for those native English speakers out there, I'm sure you've experienced as I have that moment when something just hits the ear wrong but you aren't really sure why).

December 1, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/alanjwhite

Ironically most non natives learning English struggle precisely because it has so FEW rules

English evolved as a trade language between many peoples with very different grammar, accents and vocabulary. . To simplify communication many linguistic forms and mechanisms were dropped or at least deprecated.

You don't think so? Consider its lack of tonality, its low number of tenses, no genders for objects, flexible word order, use of phrases over complex words , it's wide vocabulary and tolerance of synonyms.

That freedom confuses many potential learners who want to know "proper" English -
yet at the same time allows for much better communication in "pidgin" or even "baby talk" modes than most other languages.

December 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/toussaintlou
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Your points have changed the way I view my native language. Awesome. BTW, do they have "spelling bees" in other countries? If a language is phonetic, all the participants have to do is ask for the word to be repeated again, and they can spell the word without difficulty.

December 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/alanjwhite

I am native British and far from up-to-date in my attitudes.

I'm a child of a 'mixed marriage' in the dialect sense, with each of my parents using a different broad dialect and very distinctive word set, even word order. My first teacher was Welsh - again with a stereotypical accent. My own accent came out as "white noise" as a result. So perhaps I'm biased about the "slackness" that English allows :-)

On the other hand when I was at school over 50 years ago tests of reading (including pronunciation) vocabulary and spelling were used extensively. Both in everyday classroom and for formal assessments. So I'm rather keen on these as a platform for learning.

However at that time there were no inter school or extra mural contests based on Spelling, which is surprising now that I think about it.

I have studied the history of my home town and looking back on the material now I have found such contests fairly common in the mid to late 19th century, but I remember none in the 1960s.

And of course they were not known as "Spelling Bees" - a terms invented in the USA in the 1920s but one that has since been "borrowed" into British English.

December 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/KolonelSpons

Beautiful... but I still reckon I'd rather learn these than about 50 different conjugations per verb :D

December 1, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/toussaintlou
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or genders....

December 1, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Eva_P.
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From my short study of other languages, I see we stole so many from others that we have a conglomeration of words. (I just love that word.)

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/A_User
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Is it a conglomeration of letters?

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Tessallation

Conglomerate of letters?

December 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/KolonelSpons

Try this for size:

"A rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough; after falling into a slough, he coughed and hiccoughed."

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Marwill123

I don't understand what's about? I got that it's a poem, at least kinda. Could you, please, explain me what it meant, not word by word., 'cause I already knew most of 'em. I'm currently learning past tense of irregular verb, so that helpt a lot! Thank you for sharing that text who was I'm sure, even if I didn't understand, very nice!

December 1, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/toussaintlou
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Your confusion is exactly the point of the poem. Irregular past tense verbs. The first sentence is right, and the following sentence is wrong, although the same conjugation as the preceding sentence.

December 1, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Marwill123

Got it! Thank you, that's a really cool poem, I'd like to write some like this, I'a a lover of poesy, I do a lot of it in my mother tongue :)

December 1, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Ezkertia
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Got a good laugh out of this. Thanks for sharing.

December 1, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/OpalKoboi2

This is hilarious!

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/enidkeaner
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This is fantastic!

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/MrAgtuma

That's such a nice poem!

December 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/AndreGardner21

Like they say man, if yes is spelt, Y-E-S. Then what is E-Y-E-S.

December 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/gijira

eee-yes

December 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/S0S_90
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https://www.duolingo.com/MuffinGirl555

I really liked this. It's funny and helps English learners.

December 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/JanelleMobley

English is weird. :P

December 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/alanjwhite

So are all natural languages ... only artificial ones like Esperanto strictly follow rules and they don't work because they are rigid

Life is movement and interaction and freedom to adapt, to change and grow - not rules, restrictions and limitations

That is not to say rules and restrictions are not useful to simplify communication in limited circumstances (and I write as one whose livelihood depends on being fluent in a range of constructed languages) but the world is wider than that ... and so is the human spirit.

Though he wrote these words for a different purpose, the Poet Pope gave the correct starting point for any student of language:

"All Nature is but Art, unknown to thee;

All discord, harmony not understood,

All partial evil, universal good:

And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,

One truth is clear, whatever is, is right.

December 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Theron126
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All languages are weird, but there's generally a method to the madness. Some of us enjoy the madness and finding out the reasons for it.

I'm trying to figure out... what kind of job requires being fluent in a range of constructed languages? Are you writing scripts for movies like the Lord of the Rings or something?

P.S. If you wrote the script for that and I was your boss I'd fire you.

December 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/alanjwhite

I have worked in information systems for over forty years, as analyst, developer and trainer.

Beside being a programmer in many computer languages, both third and fourth generation, I've worked in industries that use a "restricted" version English as a means of defining systems (lookup "Atlas Test Language")

Also when deploying systems worldwide or giving training in a foreign county I have often been forced to use "Simplified English"

December 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Theron126
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Oh, programming languages. I know about those :-) You mentioned constructed languages and I was thinking Esperanto, Elvish, Klingon kind of thing.

December 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/JanelleMobley

Cool cool

December 8, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/marquislpila
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Gosh! Just gosh.. That's just so beautiful. It sounds like one of those old English novels I'm addicted with, LOL

December 9, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/perkacher15

this is pointless also English is really easy

December 11, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/lanny.ripple

But I bote my tongue just the other day.

:)

While we were growing up and my dad was teaching us some oddity of English he'd always throw in, "Just like 'bit. bite. bought.'".

December 21, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Josie439637

I am English speaking and I actually don't think its that hard

February 14, 2017
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