English spelling is exasperating (-ough edition)

In one sense English spelling is fantastic. In its mishmashes and inconsistencies you can see much of the languages long and winding history. For example there’s a whole academic discipline devoted to uncovering the history of places through their unusual names and weird spellings like ‘Worcestershire’ are a key part of it.

But in a larger sense the lack of a consistent correspondence between spelling and pronunciation is a nightmare. It makes learning to read and write unnecessarily difficult. Rather than remembering a few simple rules, we also wind up learning myriad exceptions and special cases.

This video from Oxford Dictionaries highlights one of the most maddening, the strange case of ‘-ough’:


One thought on “English spelling is exasperating (-ough edition)

  1. Reminds me of the following poem. Don’t know the author

    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 and thwart and cart —
    Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start.
    A dreadful language? Man alive,
    I mastered it when I was five.

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