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Beware the Spelling Traps

Author unknown*

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough.
Others may stumble, but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, slough and through.
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?

Beware of heard, a dreadful word,
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead--it's said like bed, not bead;
For goodness sake, don't call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat.
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.)
A moth is not a moth in mother;
Nor both in bother, broth in brother.

And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear;
And then there's dose and rose and lose--
Just look them up--and goose and choose;
And cork and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword.
And do and go, then thwart and cart.
Come, come, I've hardly made a start.

A dreadful language? Why man alive,
I learned to talk it when I was five;


*Editor's notes:

I have not been able to find out who wrote this piece, or wether it was published at all. If you have a pertinent clue to offer, I'd be glad to hear about it.

I got my first copy of this poem from a friend, who in turn had received it from an English teacher as a reading exercise. That was in 1985, and the paper claimed that the poem had been published in the The Sunday Times of January 3, 1965. I have tried to contact the Editors of the Sunday Times about this, but probably they're too busy to run such a fool's errand for me - at least I have not heard anything back from them.

If you do a web search on some of the more unique phrases of the poem, you'll turn up several version as well as several attributions. One source says this poem was published in the January 1991 issue of "Design Engineering" magazine. Other sources say the auther is one linguist by the name Richard Keogh or Krogh. Most hits will lead you to an unattributed piece called "The English Lesson" that embeds this poem - and with some versions, you can easily notice the changes in poetic quality that refute the claim that that particular version was indeed the original. One of the better versions is online on the Barrett Family homepage (not directly related to Daniel J. Barrett of and Blazemonger fame).


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Links: Imprint, Humor on the Internet, my homepage.

Thomas Bätzler,