Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird,
And dead: it’s said like bed, not bead —
For goodness’ sake, don’t call it deed!
Presumably written by a frustrated immigrant trying to learn the language, this poem exemplifies the inconsistencies in English. As related in The Story of English by Robert McCrum, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil (Penguin Books, 1986/87, page 46), the language features rare and difficult vowels, for example. “the vowel sound in bird and nurse occurs in virtually no other language. There are no fewer than thirteen spellings for sh: shoe, sugar, issue, mansion, mission, nation, suspicion, ocean, conscious, chaperon, schist, fuchsia, and pshaw.”
With all these irregularities, why is English so popular? I’ll give some reasons tomorrow.