“…study English pronunciation…”

“Dearest creature in creation,

study English pronunciation.

I will teach you in my verse,

sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.”

Thanks so much for this to Dr. Gerard Nolst Trenité,  (1870-1946), a Dutch observer of the wonderfully quirky and diverse English language with all its pronunciation anomalies. Well, we like to make things interesting. And impossible to learn. Don’t we?





At least I’ve managed to spell pronunciation correctly. (No, it is NOT pronounciation, as I’ve seen too many times to count).

My blog this time was inspired, if that’s the right word, by a childhood recollection. One of those family stories which has endured for decades. It still slightly embarrasses me.  I was ridiculed as a child, in the nicest possible way.






Why? …Because I always had my nose stuck in a book. No, I wasn’t ridiculed because of that, but I WAS ridiculed because I then went on to use words in speech which I had no idea at all how to pronounce.








Here are the pronunciation blunders that will live in family history (thanks, sister Jane for reminding me of a few!) and even now cause me to cringe. I was going to say ‘faux pas’ but, as you will see, using French phrases can be fraught with danger.







This is not me expressing my fear at revealing my shameful past, it’s the first example.

Anxiety: pronunciation by Young Caroline – Anx-itty.

In fairness, I did grow up in the 1960s when ITA was in fashion – a phonemic alphabet designed to help young children to take their first steps in reading before transferring to regular letters. Yeah, right.





Answers on a postcard. (I know what it says…)

Example Number Two:





Of course – Grand (not with the French pronunciation) Pricks.

Example Number Three:

I was a great reader of James Bond from a very early age. The female protagonist in Dr. No…

Honeychile Rider: pronunciation by Young Caroline – Honeychilly Rider. Chile like the South American country, you see. There was logic in my mistakes.

Well, most of them…

For the life of me, I’ll never understand why an…







was pronounced by Young Caroline as an Orange Outing

But it was. And still is, if I let my concentration slip.

I think I’ll learn Georgian or another Caucasian language with what seem to be unpronounceable consonant clusters like like brt’q’eli, mc’vrtneli, or prčkvna.

Pronunciation? Easy peasy.





Real writers read a lot!

Do they? DO they? Read a lot, that is, to qualify as real writers, good writers.


Perhaps, qualify is the wrong word? What I mean to put forward has already been said by Stephen King. (How annoying is that?)

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”


King, much to my shame, also declares he has little patience with people who say they want to be writers but claim they haven’t got any spare time to read.

Note to self: Keep out of Stephen King’s way. I expect he could be vicious when cornered.

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Oh yeah, he looks pretty scary there.

What’s more, my beloved William (well, it’s not so much HE who’s beloved, but two of his books, The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying, sorry William, to get your hopes up)  Faulkner said this:

“Read, read, read. Read everything-trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.”

So, the importance of a writer taking the time to read a lot cannot be underestimated then?

(But, having said that, I’m not sure how much difference it would make to The Worst Writer In The World to munch his way through Tolstoy and Joyce and King and Blyton and Austen and Frost and Dickens…there has to be something else. SURELY? You know, like, a little natural talent?)

word poetry

Here’s John Dufresne, writing teacher, now sadly departed, from one of his works, The Lie That Tells A Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction:

“There are two ways to learn how to write fiction: by reading it and by writing it. Yes, you can learn lots about writing stories in workshops, in writing classes and writing groups, at writers’ conferences. You can learn technique and process by reading the dozens of books like this one on fiction writing and by reading articles in writers’ magazines. But the best teachers of fiction are the great works of fiction themselves.”

Okay, I’m convinced. Really.

Apart from cereal packets, emails, writing on the sides of buses and similar, at the moment I’m reading the (heart-rending) book by Donna Tartt – The Goldfinch.

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It’s very good.

It also leaves me little spare time for writing!


Reader’s block – there is such a thing.

How do I know? Because I’ve got it.


May be THAT’s why I have reader’s block? Maybe it’s because I spend all my days writing text, reading text, editing text, proofreading text – so that when it gets to the end of the day, picking up a book is about the last thing I feel like doing?

Gosh, when I think back to my university days when I was reading about three hefty novels a week, and loving it. Tess of the D’urbervilles…Moby Dick…Hard Times…As I lay Dying…Sons and Lovers…I gobbled them up gourmand-like and went back for more.

I don’t watch that much TV. I spend too long on Facebook and surfing the internet. I DO listen to a lot of radio drama, and I suspect that’s my substitute for reading at the moment.


You might say, ‘ Well, get a Kindle! That will satisfy your apparent obsession with electronic peripherals AND get you reading again.’

Sorry, I have NO desire to read eBooks. The joy of reading for me is (was!) BOOKS. Actual books. The feel of them, the look of them, the smell of them, the permanence of them…

Having reader’s block is like losing my religion. It’s a huge missing. The life with a hole in it.

I thought of that phrase, then discovered Philip Larkin had written a poem with the same title. Copycat!

Here’s the last verse:

Life is an immobile, locked,
Three-handed struggle between
Your wants, the world’s for you, and (worse)
The unbeatable slow machine
That brings what you’ll get. Blocked,
They strain round a hollow stasis
Of havings-to, fear, faces.
Days sift down it constantly. Years.

Oh dear. Note to self: Try reading Wendy Cope instead. Or Spike Milligan.

I keep buying new books to tempt myself, despite the fact that we have shelves and shelves full of reading material, mostly inherited from my parents. That hasn’t worked.

But reader’s block is hardly serious. Just stop worrying about it, woman!

I would, except for the fact that I don’t think it’s possible to be a writer if you don’t read.

Perhaps I should start with baby books?