The Chaos – Gerard Nolst Trenité


Do not you suppose so, reader, somewhat,
Saying lather, bather, father?
   Lastly, which rhymes with sufficient,
   Although, by, bough, cough, hough, sough, powerful??

Hiccough has the sound of sup
My recommendation is: GIVE IT UP!

Notes on The Chaos

“The Chaos” is a poem which demonstrates the irregularity of English spelling and pronunciation, written by Gerard Nolst Trenité (1870-1946), additionally identified underneath the pseudonym Charivarius. It first appeared in an appendix to the creator’s 1920 textbook Drop Your International Accent: engelsche uitspraakoefeningen. (From Wikipedia:

Chris Upward introduces
The Basic Concordance of Cacographic Chaos

[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1994/2 pp27-30 later designated J17]

This model is actually the creator’s personal last textual content, as additionally revealed by New River Challenge in 1993. A number of minor corrections have nonetheless been made, and occasional phrases from earlier editions have been most well-liked. Following earlier follow, phrases with clashing spellings or pronunciations are right here printed in italics.

A lot of readers have been urging republication of The Chaos, the well-known versified catalogue of English spelling irregularities. The SSS E-newsletter carried an incomplete, somewhat tough model in the summertime of 1986 (pp.17-21) underneath the heading “Writer Unknown”, with a parallel transcription into an early type of Lower Spelling. Since then a stream of additional data and textual variants has come our approach, culminating in 1993-94 with probably the most full and authoritative model ever more likely to emerge. The time is subsequently now really ripe for republication within the JSSS.

Our stuttering progress in direction of the current model is of curiosity, because it testifies to the poem’s persevering with worldwide affect. Elements of itturned up from the mid-Nineteen Eighties onwards, with trails main from France, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. The chequered profession of the primary model we acquired was typical: it consisted of a tattered typescript present in a women’ Excessive College in Germany in 1945 by a British soldier, from whom it handed by varied fingers finally to succeed in Terry De’Ath, who handed it to the SSS; nevertheless it didn’t point out who its creator was. A somewhat unhappy occasion of the thriller that has lengthy surrounded the poem is seen in Hubert A Greven’s Components of English Phonology, revealed in Paris in 1972: its introduction quoted 48 traces of the poem to reveal to French college students how unimaginable English is to pronounce (ie, to learn aloud), and by the use of acknowledgment stated that the creator “wish to pay an acceptable tribute to Mr G Nolst Trenité for permission to repeat his poem The Chaos. As he couldn’t discover out his whereabouts, the creator presents his warmest thanks, ought to the latter occur to learn this e-book”. Alas, the poet in query had died over 1 / 4 of a century earlier.

For the numerous supplies and knowledge despatched us over time we’re significantly indebted to: Terry De’Ath of Newcastle-upon-Tyne; Tom McArthur (Editor of English As we speak) of Cambridge; Benno Jost-Westendorf of Recklinghausen, Germany; Professor Che Kan Leong of the College of Saskatchewan, Canada; the Editor of Good Your English, Barcelona; and SSS committee member Nick Atkinson for the French reference. From them we learnt who the creator was and that quite a few variations of the poem had been in circulation; however many tantalizing questions remained unanswered.

Three contributions in 1993-94 then largely crammed within the gaps within the image. The primary of those contributions was as a result of diligent analysis of Belgian SSS member Harry Cohen of Tervuren which outlined the creator’s life and instructed us a superb deal concerning the successive editions of the poem. The second got here from Bob Cobbing of New River Challenge (89a Petherton Street, London N5 2QT), who despatched the SSS a good-looking re-creation (ISBN 1 870750 07 1) he had simply revealed at the side of the creator’s nephew, Jan Nolst Trenité, who owns the copyright. This version had been primarily based on the ultimate model revealed by the creator in his lifetime (1944), and should subsequently be thought-about significantly authoritative. Lastly, Jan Nolst Trenité himself went to appreciable hassle to appropriate and fill out the small print of his uncle’s biography and the poem’s publishing historical past which the SSS had beforehand been capable of compile.

The creator of The Chaos was a Dutchman, the author and traveller Dr Gerard Nolst Trenité. Born in 1870, he studied classics, then regulation, then political science on the College of Utrecht, however with out graduating (his Doctorate got here later, in 1901). From 1894 he was for some time a non-public trainer in California, the place he taught the sons of the Netherlands Consul-Common. From 1901 to 1918 he labored as a schoolteacher in Haarlem, and revealed a number of schoolbooks in English and French, in addition to a examine of the Dutch structure. From 1909 till his demise in 1946 he wrote continuously for an Amsterdam weekly paper, with a linguistic column underneath the pseudonym Charivarius.

The primary identified model of The Chaos appeared as an appendix (Aanhangsel) to the 4th version of Nolst Trenité’s schoolbook Drop Your International Accent: engelsche uitspraakoefeningen (Haarlem: H D Tjeenk Willink & Zoon, 1920). The e-book itself naturally used the Dutch spelling present earlier than the 1947 reform (see JSSS 1987/2, pp14-16). That first model of the poem is entitled De Chaos, and provides phrases with problematic spellings in italics, nevertheless it has solely 146 traces, in contrast with the 274 traces we now give (4 greater than in our 1986 model). The final significance of Drop your international accent is evident from the variety of editions it went by, from the primary (with out the poem) in 1909, to a posthumous eleventh revised version in 1961. The final version to seem in the course of the creator’s life was the seventh (1944), by which period the poem had almost doubled its authentic size. It’s not stunning, in view of the quite a few editions and the poem’s regular growth, that so many alternative variations have been in circulation in so many alternative nations.

The Chaos represents a virtuoso feat of composition, a mammoth catalogue of about 800 of probably the most infamous irregularities of conventional English orthography, skilfully versified (if with a number of awkward traces) into couplets with alternating female and masculine rhymes. The number of examples now seems considerably dated, as do a number of of their pronunciations, certainly a number of phrases might even be unknown to in the present day’s readers (what number of will know what a “studding-sail” is, or that its nautical pronunciation is “stunsail”?), and never each rhyme will instantly “click on” (“grits” for “groats”?); however the overwhelming bulk of the poem represents as legitimate an indictment of the chaos of English spelling because it ever did. Who the “dearest creature in creation” addressed within the first line, additionally addressed as “Susy” in line 5, may need been is unknown, although a mimeographed model of the poem in Harry Cohen’s possession is devoted to “Miss Susanne Delacruix, Paris”. Presumably she was one in every of Nolst Trenité’s college students.

Readers will discover that The Chaos is written from the perspective of the international learner of English: it’s not a lot the spelling as such that’s lamented, as the truth that the poor learner can by no means inform how one can pronounce phrases encountered in writing (the poem was, in spite of everything, appended to a e-book of pronunciation workout routines). With English in the present day the prime language of worldwide communication, this unpredictability of symbol-sound correspond-ence constitutes no much less of an issue than the unpredictability of sound-symbol correspondence which is so bewailed by native audio system of English. Nonetheless, many native English-speaking readers will discover the poem a revelation: the juxtaposition of so many in another way pronounced parallel spellings brings house the sheer illogicality of the writing system in numerous situations that such readers might have by no means beforehand observed.

It will be attention-grabbing to know if Gerard Nolst Trenité, or anybody else, has ever really used The Chaos to show English pronunciation, for the reason that tight rhythmic and rhyming construction of the poem would possibly show a worthwhile mnemonic help. There could possibly be materials for experiments right here: non-English- talking learners who had practised studying components of the poem aloud could possibly be examined in studying the identical problematic phrases in a plain prose context, and their success measured towards a management group who had not practised them by The Chaos.

This model is actually the creator’s personal last textual content, as additionally revealed by New River Challenge in 1993. A number of minor corrections have nonetheless been made, and occasional phrases from earlier editions have been most well-liked. Following earlier follow, phrases with clashing spellings or pronunciations are right here printed in italics.


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