Prufrock's Page

Friday, August 12, 2005

Tough Enough

The wind was rough
And cold and blough;
She kept her hands inside her mough.
It chilled her through
Her nose turned blough,
And still the squall the faster flough.
And yet although
There was no snough,
The weather was a cruel fough.
It made her cough
(Please do not scough);
She coughed until her hat blew ough

With the above ditty by Bennet Cerf as an example, Ralph Berry goes on to explain just why the English language "
can appeal to nothing systematic. You just have to know the word."

Helpfully, he adds:
"It has been said, on traditional authority, that there are only 36 words in English containing the letters 'ough'. There are nine ways of pronouncing them, all of which can be found in this rather obscure sentence: Though a rough cough and hiccouphs ploughed through him, he houghed the horse with thorough thoughtfulness. "

Hmm. Reminds one of George Bernard Shaw's suggested spelling for 'potato':
ghoughpteighbteau (the P as in 'hiccough', the O as in 'though', the T as in 'ptomaine', the A as in 'neigh', the T as in 'debt' and the O as in 'bureau'. Phew.)


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