Sometimes on the way to your dream,

you get lost and find a better one.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

English is a crazy language

Secondary title: that F sound

we all know this combination of letters makes an F sound.
Unless there are variations that I don't know about.

phone - fone
photo - foto
pheromone - feromone.
pharmacy - farmacy
phantom - fantom
philosophy - filosofy
phraseology - fraseology

but what about the gh combination?
these two letters together do not always sound the same
and do not always make that F sound.

Placed at the beginning of a word gh is simply g.
A "hard" g, not the softer gee.
Now and again it's a J as in Gillian (Jillian) or Geoffrey (Jeffrey)

Placed in the middle of a word, or at the end, it's a totally different sound.
In laughing or coughing it becomes an F

laughing -larfing
coughing - cofing
yet coffin is not spelled c-o-u-g-h-i-n
Gough Whitlam is not spelled Gof Whitlam
slough is pronounced sluf

bough - the tree branch - is a W sound; bow

other gh words have other sounds;
bought -bort; but not boft
brought - brort
ought -ort; why not oft?

there are still more variations
sleigh - slay
eight - ate
right - rite, but not rift...
rough is ruff
thigh is theye? or could it be thif....

Port Broughton certainly isn't Port Brofton, but it could be.

For newcomers arriving in Australia or any other English speaking country, learning to speak the language isn't so hard, (deciphering our slang is a different matter altogether), but when it comes to the reading and, more importantly, the writing, getting it right (rite? ryte?) isn't so easy.

I'm not at all surprised when immigrants bring their school age children to the supermarket to help with the shopping.

And I'm thankful for those dedicated people, like Frogdancer, who teach English as a second language, whether it be to children in a High School, or to adults at a TAFE course in the evenings.

I did my share for a while, working in a shoe factory and helping the group of girls at my table to better understand the "English" they were hearing daily, that didn't correspond with the proper English they'd learnt before coming to Australia.
One had come from Madrid, two from Poland.

Anyrthing that helps to achieve better understanding is a plus in my books.


  1. It's a tough language alright... just sift through the ough words like tough/through/thorough and it will make your head spin how ou can sound so different. God bless those who can make it sound sane.

  2. I too used to teach English to migrants. My students were Polish. Sometimes they would ask the dreaded question why? The only sensible answer I could give them was, it just is.

  3. Delores; if only words were spelled the way they sound.

    Andrew; Why? is the hardest question to answer. Another friend who was from Papua New Guinea wanted to know what was meant by "how come?" I explained that is was a slang term for "why" or "what for".

  4. And now the kids have to cope with text-speak spelling which makes their spelling even more wonky lol.

  5. The one that has always tickled me, and really brought home the absurdity of the way of our language is pronounced is:
    ghoti (pronounced fish)
    gh as in tough
    o as in women
    ti as in station.

  6. I just laugh and tell them that English can't be THAT hard... after all I learned it when I was a very small child...

    The poor darlings roll their eyes and sigh. I don't know why. :P

  7. Ro; text speak is the worst! I hate it. Or perhaps I should h8 it?

    EC; ghoti is pronounced fish? That's absurd. What is ghoti anyway? Where's my dictionary.....

    Frogdancer; Ha Ha. :)

  8. Ghoti was a word someone invented to illustrate how silly English pronunciation is. I cannot remember who it was, but he wrote detective novels with Inspector Ghoti (fish) as the protagonist.

  9. EC; thanks. That explains why I couldn't find ghoti in my dictionary.

  10. And no wonder people want the food they ate in the "old" country. If you can't follow package directions, who knows what will happen?

  11. Thanks for the post. When we grow up using English we never think about, but if it wasn't my native language I'd probably never learn it.

  12. Nice articles. I'm just blogwalking and very happy to stop here. And also give you some comment here.

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  13. Nice articles. I'm just blogwalking and very happy to stop here. And also give you some comment here.

    Dont forget to give us some your comment into my blog too.

    Thanks for share,

    ¤ Rio Prasetyo ¤

  14. Happy elf; that's one of the reasons I don't shop in asian supermarkets here; I can't read what the foods are nor the directions for cooking it. Fresh foods like greens etc, I buy those, and chopping knives too, but not canned or packaged stuff.

    Manzanita; I thought the same thing, but then thought that if I was going to be permanently in a place, I'd have to learn the language, simply to be able to read instructions, timetables for buses, newspapers etc.

    prasetyo; welcome to drifting. glad you like my work.

  15. Hi River,

    I'm currently trying to teach myself Spanish and the pronunciation side of things is easy - there are basic rules and the only exceptions are when the word is derived from a foreign language.

    Of course the problem is understanding it when spoken very quickly by native speakers.




  16. Plasman; I always wanted to learn Italian, but I've discovered I'm hopeless at languages. Maybe if they slowed it down a bit, or a lot.