jump to navigation

The Chaos June 3, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, Poetry, Word Play.

For all you lovers (and loathers) of words:

Aah . . . that’s better!

Related posts:  Fun With English ~ The English Pronunciation Poem * The Chaos by Gerard Nolst Trenité

Addendum (7/17):  Here’s “I Hate These Word Crimes” by Weird Al:



1. Grannymar - June 3, 2014

Thems a lota wurds to remember! 😉

nrhatch - June 3, 2014

It’s a wonder than any of us ever learn to read and write given the bizarre spellings and pronunciations of the English language.

What a minefield. 😎

Grannymar - June 3, 2014

Did Col write that??? 😉

nrhatch - June 3, 2014

I expect that Gerard Nolst Trenité and Col are twin sons from different mothers.

colonialist - June 3, 2014


2. William D'Andrea - June 3, 2014


nrhatch - June 3, 2014

All the nuances of the English language lend diversity to its prose.

3. Jill Weatherholt - June 3, 2014

Love it! Thanks, Nancy! 🙂

nrhatch - June 3, 2014

I bumped into the poem on my nephew’s vlog and decided to see if I could find a youtube version to share.

Because it’s one thing to read it . . . and another to hear it.

4. Val Boyko - June 3, 2014

Word overload … or should that be overhead … or overheard.
Too many choices!

nrhatch - June 3, 2014

That’s the best thing about the English language . . . if one word grates like chalk on a board, you can almost always find another within reach that works as well or better.

5. http://theenglishprofessoratlarge.com - June 3, 2014

Great post!

nrhatch - June 3, 2014

Yay! As an English professor, you must have scratched your head a time or two thousand at the vagaries of this versatile language.

http://theenglishprofessoratlarge.com - June 3, 2014

Yes! I love the way mankind has played with the English language, shifting words from amelioration to pejoration, from general to specific, borrowing from other languages, inventing new words all the time. One of my term paper assignments was to research the changes of just one word from the OED, and my students had a field day with it.

nrhatch - June 3, 2014

The constant change and fluid nature of communication is challenging and rewarding.

6. nancytex2013 - June 3, 2014

This should be viewed by every cynic who claims English to be a simple language. Tell that to the ESL student looking for some sense of ‘rules’ to apply. 🙂

nrhatch - June 3, 2014

The author of this poem was not a native to the American language and used it to help ESL students gain more proficiency with English:

The author of The Chaos was a Dutchman, the writer and traveller Dr Gerard Nolst Trenité. Born in 1870, he studied classics, then law, then political science at the University of Utrecht, but without graduating (his Doctorate came later, in 1901). From 1894 he was for a while a private teacher in California, where he taught the sons of the Netherlands Consul-General. From 1901 to 1918 he worked as a schoolteacher in Haarlem, and published several schoolbooks in English and French, as well as a study of the Dutch constitution. From 1909 until his death in 1946 he wrote frequently for an Amsterdam weekly paper, with a linguistic column under the pseudonym Charivarius.

The first known version of The Chaos appeared as an appendix (Aanhangsel) to the 4th edition of Nolst Trenité’s schoolbook Drop Your Foreign Accent: engelsche uitspraakoefeningen (Haarlem: H D Tjeenk Willink & Zoon, 1920). The book itself naturally used the Dutch spelling current before the 1947 reform (see JSSS 1987/2, pp14-16). That first version of the poem is entitled De Chaos, and gives words with problematic spellings in italics, but it has only 146 lines, compared with the 274 lines we now give (four more than in our 1986 version).

To read more: http://ncf.idallen.com/english.html

7. colonialist - June 3, 2014

That is a really comprehensive one! I have done on a smaller scale.
Actually, hearing this reminds one how the Atlantic can wash away a lot of perfect rhyme. Two words which work perfectly well together in USA come to fisticuffs in UK and vice versa. Like the famous tomato – timaytoe/timahto.

nrhatch - June 3, 2014

I thought his words would ring true to you, Col. And, yes, the differences from one side of the Atlantic to the other add yet another layer of complexity to the mix. Fun!

8. http://theenglishprofessoratlarge.com - June 3, 2014

Reblogged this on The English Professor at Large and commented:
Spirits Lights The Way posted this today, and I have to re-blog it. Mankind loves to play with words,changing meanings from amelioration to pejoration, from general to specific, borrowing from other languages, and inventing new ones every day.

nrhatch - June 3, 2014

Hope your readers see the humor in it. I am glad that I don’t have to recite all these words and lines from memory.

9. ashokbhatia - June 3, 2014

Great post!
May I take the liberty of sharing this one with you:

nrhatch - June 3, 2014

Thanks. I’ll swing by for a peek in a few minutes.

10. Crowing Crone - June 3, 2014

the English language continues to amuse and amaze!

nrhatch - June 3, 2014

I feel the same, Joss. Hope your birthday was “OK.”

11. Silver in the Barn - June 3, 2014

Wow, I must be smarter than I realize to have grasped all of this without even realizing it! It is amazing when you see it all in front of you like this just how many exceptions to every rule there really are! Great fun.

nrhatch - June 3, 2014

Yay! Glad you enjoyed. I felt much the same as I read through the words with flawless pronunciation . . . on most.

I had a couple of surprises when she pronounced a word with different intonation or inflection.

12. bluebee - June 3, 2014

Och, my brain hurts!

nrhatch - June 3, 2014

I’d love to hear the list read by someone from Aussie land ~ care to do a video, BB?

Another options: print out a copy of the poem and incorporate these fun words into your upcoming poems.

bluebee - June 3, 2014

I’m not a good candidate for the video, Nancy, because I have a South African English accent. I’ll see if I can entice a true blue Aussie 😉

nrhatch - June 3, 2014

Oh, now I’m thinking that it would make a great Blog Hop ~ with Scotland, Ireland, South Africa, India, Australia, England all represented.

13. jannatwrites - June 3, 2014

English really is confusing when you think about it (and I think of it whenever I’m helping my younger son with ‘rules’ about spelling.)

nrhatch - June 3, 2014

Each year, we had a Linguistics Professor teach the AmeriCorps members tips on helping kids learn how to read and write ~ it’s not just a matter of “sounding it out” or learning the rules. Much of mastering the English language is rote memorization (i.e., the “because I said so” rule).

14. Barbara - June 3, 2014

It’s a wonder any of us learn to read and write!

nrhatch - June 3, 2014

That’s what I think. Some of its idioms and idiosyncrasies are idiocies . . . which makes it challenging, frustrating, and fun. 😎

15. Eric Tonningsen - June 4, 2014

I was thinking Eric Baker put you up to this post. Yet I see he hasn’t even chimed in. 🙂

nrhatch - June 4, 2014

Eric’s busy slaying dragons on the diversity front. 😎

16. diannegray - June 4, 2014

I’ve seen shorter poems than this, but these really do my head in! English is so confusing 😉

nrhatch - June 4, 2014

I have a great collection of “fun with words” posts sprinkled throughout SLTW ~ this one is more comprehensive than most.

The English language is a doozy . . . or should that be doozie!

17. Pix Under the Oaks - June 4, 2014

So, I finally had 9 minutes this morning without the TV on, someBODY asking me questions, and my mind not all fuzzy to listen to this. I found it befuddling. I feel very fortunate that I am not trying to learn English at this time in my life. I believe I might give it up.. 😀 It was fun this morning Nancy and I found that I don’t know how to pronounce a few words!!!!!

nrhatch - June 4, 2014

I blinked in surprise at a couple of her pronunciations ~ good thing they weren’t words I use every day. 😎

18. William D'Andrea - June 7, 2014

The sun rose. Rows of seats. Rows a boat. Arose from a seat. A rose is a rose. Arrows.

nrhatch - June 7, 2014

I am glad I learn to speak and write English before realizing all of its quirks.

What Say YOU?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: