Rough and Tough

There had been many verses written over the years that talk about the intricacies of English pronunciation. The following verse from The Mixture of Low Spirits (1875) is just one of many:

If your first line ends with cow,
Rhyme o w with plough;
Should your second nicely go,
Seek o long, as found in though;
Thirdly, would you try this too,
Double o is found in through;
Fourth, a variance we are taught,
Like an a u is heard in thought;
Speak you, fifthly, of a sorrow,
Give the o obscure in borough;
In the sixth place, you may pick up
Sound of u p in a hiccough;
Turn your seventh couplet off,
Assuming o f as in cough;
Eighthly, sing you of a rock,
Echo c k with a lough;
Ninth and last, and quantum suff,
Sound u f, and cry,–enough!

Anyway, this letter from H. Pirie-Gordon to The Athenaeum on September 20, 1934, is also worth mentioning:


‘A rough-coated dough-faced ploughman strode coughing and hiccoughing through the streets of Scarborough’ used to be set as a spelling-test at my prep school at Crowborough in the middle nineties.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

H. Pirie-Gordon


About Edmark M. Law

My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. I blog at You can find me on Twitter @EdmarkLaw and Facebook. My email is
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11 Responses to Rough and Tough

  1. Very interesting article. Hailing from England I can attest to some pronunciations can also coloured by accent 🤣


  2. There is no wonder why I have trouble with languages other than English. It took all my ability to understand anything else. Great Post Edmark.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lindasschaub says:

    English is the worst to learn and I congratulate anyone who speaks another language besides their native tongue, The various spellings, not to mention the double entendres can leave one scratching his/her head.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jason Frels says:

    I often wonder what non-native English speakers think when they come to this language for the first time. I work with a lot of people from Southeast Asia and they do an admirable job of sorting through our mess of a language.

    Liked by 2 people

    • MOMENTS says:

      Sorting through the mess is a thrilling adventure. English is my third language but I began to learn it when I was eight. Then I went to university and studied English and German Language and Literature. Such lovely poems as this one here always fascinate me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. GoofyEd says:

    Dependin’’, of course, on what paht of which contra you’re in—thoroughfare coulda been ten.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. pendantry says:

    “Though the tough cough and hiccough plough him through” — a phrase I picked up a long time ago, from one of Robert A Heinlein’s books, I think it was.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Reblogged this on Reflections and Stuff and commented:
    Pretty cool.

    Liked by 1 person

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