Slaw, Slow, Sloff, Sluff, Slou, Sluh, or Sloo?

May 3, 2012

The evolution of language is fascinating. However, it would be so much easier for English natives to learn other languages if English had evolved a little less. I'm thinking specifically of me here; me attempting to learn Italian. Not so long ago, English had the same formal versions of 'you' that many other languages still have. The formal was 'thou' and the informal 'thee', corresponding to 'vous' and 'tu' in French, and 'Lei' and 'ti' in Italian. The first change was that 'thou' became 'you'. Then, over time, 'thee' also became 'you'. So, English is far simpler than many other languages.  Until one considers pronunciation. Thought, though, trough, enough, bough, thorough, brougham ... There are over seventy words in English containing 'ough' and no rules that can be applied to their pronunciation. Is a visitor to Slough going to Slaw, Slow, Sloff, Sluff, Slou, Sluh, or Sloo? Perhaps I am better off as an English native grappling with Italian rather than the other way round.

We're on the verge of the UK exam season. With high stress and volatile teenage tempers. My island of peace is anything but peaceful. Doing the exams would be infinitely preferrable to sitting helplessly on the sideline. And I would much rather be learning French and Philosophy, History and Homer than cooking and cleaning and uttering trite cajolings. Perhaps the time has come for the PhD...



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