Ian's Rant 03 – English Pronunciation

bough, cough, dough

Ian demonstrates the difficulty of learning pronunciation in English.

Pronouncing 'OUGH'

One of the most striking examples of the inconsistencies of English pronunciation is with the many different ways of pronouncing 'ough':

  • Bough and Plough are pronounced "OW" (as in "NOW").
  • Cough and Trough are pronounced "OFF" (as in "OFF").
  • Dough and Though are pronounced "O" (as in "NO").
  • Fought and Thought are pronounced "OR" (as in "FORT").
  • Rough and Tough are pronounced "UF" (as in "CUFF").
  • Hiccough is pronounced "UP" (as in "HICCUP").
  • Through is pronounced "OO" (as in "TOO").
  • Thorough is pronounced sort of like "AH" (somewhere between "ERA" and "HORROR").

By the way, although I'm undoubtedly influenced by living in Australia, I've tried to make the above pronunciations as close as possible to neutral "English", as opposed to American, British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealander, or any of the other regional variations of the English language.

– Ian Fieggen, 2000

The 'OUGH' Poem

The above could be turned into an interesting poem:

The English Boy's Lament
I climbed on the BOUGH but fell off and said "Ow!"
I started to COUGH and my Mum told me off.
I needed some DOUGH and asked Dad – who said "No."
I met Bob and FOUGHT – and of course we got caught.
I did a HICCOUGH and spilled drink from my cup.
I fell in the ROUGH and got mud on my cuff.
I lived the day THROUGH and by evening I knew:
My lament is THOROUGH – my life is a horror.

– Ian Fieggen, 02-Sep-2016

English Pronunciation Feedback

"Yes, English can be weird. It can be understood through tough thorough thought, though."

– (Unknown author – widely quoted – discovered years after my original rant.)

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