Monday, December 27, 2010

The most useless poem in the world, English division.

I before e
Except after c
Or sounded like "A"
As in neighbor or weigh.

So now we know how to spell words in English! Done and done!

What's for lunch?

Hmmm... not so fast.

Of all the rules I learned in school, this one ranks as one of the most useless. I also remember the rules about "silent e", and the poem

When two vowels go walking
The first one USUALLY does the talking.

At least this poem admits there are no hard and fast rules, though it ruins the meter.

If "silent e" always worked, there would rhyme with here and are would rhyme with bare. If the two vowels rule was any good, bear and ear would rhyme.

To any adults learning English as a second language, you have my deepest heartfelt apologies, but I'm in no position to change it. It is what it is.

Back to "i before e". The extra line about neighbor and weigh makes it better, but not perfect. Weight rhymes with eight. So far so good. So how about height?

Oh, you already know the answer.

Short list of e before i with no c and not sounding like "a": protein, feisty, seize, height, foreign.

I'm sure there are more, and I'm sure they will bite me in the ass when I'm playing Scrabble.

Of course, in German there are rules and ZOSE RULES VILL BE FOLLOWED MITOUT EXCEPTION!

E before i sounds like the long "I" in English, as in Einstein and Heidi.

I before e sounds like the long "E" in English, as in Riemann.

I tease the Germans, but seriously, every language has pronunciation rules that make sense once you learn them.

Except for us. And the French.

Think about how people sneer at the French. You can be pretty sure they feel the same about us, but they do it behind our backs.

And don't think we haven't earned it.


susan s. said...

Most of the French I've met sneer at us to our faces if we can't pronounce their language(I will not go into the actual grammar here), while Americans like me(and I am not saying all Americans are like me) find it charming when the French can't pronounce our language. It goes without saying that they are much better in English than I could ever hope to be in French.

Lockwood said...

Thanks for putting this together; it's a topic I've been thinking about for some time, but never bothered to organize a post. My nominee for an exception is weird.

Matty Boy said...

Lockwood, thanks for putting in weird. I thought I had it on my cut and paste list, but it got lost.

Sometimes to remind myself, if there is an i before e but no c to be seen, I pronounce the words incorrectly as a reminder, so I say "face-ty" instead of "feisty" or "wared" instead of "weird".