wanderingstan 5 days ago

This is from the old book “Anguish Languish” (“English Language”)

The entire book is on Project Gutenberg: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/64432/64432-h/64432-h.htm

Wikipedia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anguish_Languish

My uncle, a pastor, would read these with incredible intonation before bedtime at family reunions.

We kids would laugh so hard at this version of “Home on the Range”


O gummier hum warder buffer-lore rum

Enter dare enter envelopes ply,

Ware soiled’em assured adage cur-itching ward

An disguise earn it clotty oil die.

Harm, hormone derange,

Warder dare enter envelopes ply,

Ware soiled’em assured adage cur-itching ward

An disguise earn it clotty oil die.

A machine learning friend started on a prolog program to “translate” English into “Anguish Languish”, but didn’t get to far.

  • mikelevins 5 days ago

    Walt Kelly, in the great comic strip Pogo, did quite a lot of this kind of thing, from writing short snippets of dialog (for example, when the French skunk, Mamselle Hepzibah asked the turtle to play "Fly Tough Zee Bumbly Beans" on his lute) to extended songs and poems (for example, the multiple verses of the "Crispness" carol, "Deck Us All With Boston Charlie").

    Sometimes the substitutions he made were commentaries on social or political or cultural topics. Sometimes they were just bits of silliness.

    I grew up reading the strip from before I went to school. My whole family loved it. I passed the game of "anguish languish" down to my kids, too. On long drives we sometimes took turns inventing mangled verses of familiar songs or poems.

    Naturally, Ladle Rat Rotten Hut is an old favorite.

  • OJFord 5 days ago

    I read your comment before the submission, and was surprised the author was American with no apparent British connection - it seems to fit so well with certain niche regional accents, of the kind you might expect an American (as an English-speaking (but) foreigner) to struggle to comprehend. Then I listened to the audio at the submitted link - it works just as well, but so differently. That just makes it even more fascinating to me.

    • colanderman 5 days ago

      To me as an American, the GP's lyrics read as a heavy Western drawl (befitting the song). Strong dipthongs and rhotacized vowels.

  • morsch 5 days ago

    Wow. Is that intelligible to native speakers? I have a very hard time decoding it. Having it read out with the right intonation makes it a lot easier.

    • thaumasiotes 4 days ago

      > Wow. Is that intelligible to native speakers?

      No, it isn't, but it doesn't need to be because we already know the correct words.

      • dwringer 4 days ago

        I think it helps that we're often familiar with the song from heavily-comically-accented Looney Tunes characters and the like, so it already sounds exaggerated and ridiculous, and the alternative words make it sound like an even more ludicrous drawl not too unlike Mel Blanc. Not being able to mentally hear it sung cartoonishly while reading would probably take away some of the effect.

    • TaylorAlexander 5 days ago

      Not intelligible to me unless I can recall the original lines first, which kind of defeats the point.

      • rob74 5 days ago

        I guess it's a "say this ten times fast" situation, you have to do that to catch the hidden meaning...

    • throwaway4aday 4 days ago

      It's somewhat intelligible if you have some experience with other English dialects and accents. Pronunciation of vowels and consonants can vary widely due to different regional influences. It's a bit more difficult to understand than someone speaking with a really thick Scouse, Yorkshire, Scottish or Irish accent since every word is modified but some of the substitute words do actually sound similar to real life pronunciations.

      "Where the" becoming "Warder" is not uncommon.

      "The skies" slurs into "daskies" which sounds a lot like "disguise".

      "is heard" > "issheard" > "assured"

gwern 5 days ago

For those who don't get it, you need to listen to the audio. The idea is that this is "Little Red Riding Hood", but written in other English words which have the same rhythm/intonation but not the same phonetic sound otherwise ('ladle' is not a homonym of 'little', it just has the same stress on the first sound); after a while, it will start to make sense.

  • jeroenhd 5 days ago

    This is also explained in the footer, though confused readers might not reach it:

         What's Going On?
        This story, believe it or not, is the very familiar fable of Little Red Riding Hood. This curious version was written in 1940 by a professor of French named H. L. Chace, who wanted to show his students that intonation - that is, the melody of a language - is an integral part of its meaning. The words here are all common English words, but not the ones you'd expect to tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood.
    • rob74 5 days ago

      After reading the explanation, I was able to decode at least the first sentence:

      "Wants pawn term, dare worsted ladle gull hoe lift wetter murder inner ladle cordage" -> "Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived with her mother in a little cottage"

      • throwaway4aday 4 days ago

        If you do the Swedish Chef accent while reading this it makes it easier to understand.

      • thaumasiotes 4 days ago

        H. L. Chace seems to have been a nonrhotic speaker.

  • anamexis 5 days ago

    I actually find it easier to decipher from the written version, rather than the audio.

    • marktolson 5 days ago

      I think it also depends on the accent you read this in. The Australian accent makes this very difficult to decipher. The audio sounds much closer to the original.

      • jeffparsons 5 days ago

        This Aussie thanks you. I equipped my best-worst "deep south" accent and it suddenly all makes sense.

seryoiupfurds 5 days ago

Here's one that's interlingual!

    Un petit d'un petit
    S'étonne aux Halles
    Un petit d'un petit
    Ah! degrés te fallent
    Indolent qui ne sort cesse
    Indolent qui ne se mène
    Qu'importe un petit d'un petit
    Tout Gai de Reguennes.
  • lupire 5 days ago

    This is great for teaching English natives to learn French pronunciation.

  • ggm 5 days ago

    Have this book. love references to this book!

ZeroGravitas 5 days ago

There's a few short versions of these where you say a list of words in your accent and it sounds like something else in a different accent.

I'm not sure what they're called, there must be millions of them for different accents, including combinations of from/to pairs.

Air Hair Lair -> Oh Hello in a posh English accent.

(Similar joke used in Wallace and Grommet: "Well be there in a ... Aargh!" "In an hour? We can't wait that long")

Wheel Oil Beef Hooked -> We'll I'll be fucked in an Irish accent.

(Googling for more it seems the common version of that one is Whale Oil, not sure if that's to do with the host or target accent or just “Whale oil" being a real thing so the punchline is disguised for longer.

Thinking about it now, these are related to the Bart Simpson prank call jokes: "I'm looking for Amanda Hugenkiss" etc.

pkdpic 5 days ago

Really nice to see the exploratorium keeping old-school parts of their site up like this. Honestly surprising.

Brings back memories of the old days in their punk-rock warehouse location. Some of the best times of my life. Cleaning stains out of the tactile dome, riding skateboards the around the empty museum after we closed, cutting cows eyes open with my best friend, explaining ladle rat rotten hut to confused visitors...

It's still a world-class museum but different obviously. Maybe the grunge-magic captured by this page is still alive over there in some form.

*Shakes fist at time.

  • benatkin 5 days ago

    They might be pandering with this. I don't think it's a world class museum or tries to be. It's edutainment.

  • pkdpic 5 days ago

    Upon further reflection I have no memory of where this exhibit was. Where was it? On the mezzanine?

monkeycantype 5 days ago

I love the poems of the Australian poet TT O, Initially it’s impenetrable, but once you start reading it out loud you hear in the phonetic smash of letters, the voices of inner city Melbourne in the decades between ww2 and gentrification, indigenous and immigrant voices speaking an English they’ve picked from the people around them who are often using it as a second or third language.

If it’s not a time and place you remember, I’m not sure what you’ll hear when you read his poems, maybe it’s not such an obstacle, there are other places where people lived a similar experience, but for me I have to dwell on it until I hear the sounds, and then it fills we with this vivid longing for a time and place we can never go back to, a place that now exists only as a working class patina over luxury dining and real estate


classichasclass 5 days ago

This reminds me of the seminal work of Australian dialectical analysis, Let Stalk Strine.

yellowapple 5 days ago

I think I understand Dutch now.

  • ericbarrett 5 days ago

    Dutch conversation at a distance sounds close enough to English that I have great difficulty telling them apart.

    • lproven 4 days ago

      “Dutch sounds like nothing so much as a peculiar version of English


      We would be walking down the street when a stranger would step from the shadows and say ‘Hello, sailors, care to grease my flanks?’’ or something, and all he would want was a light for his cigarette. It was disconcerting.

      I found this again when I presented myself at a small hotel on Prinsengracht and asked the kind-faced proprietor if he had a single room.

      ‘Oh, I don’t believe so’, he said (in English), ‘but let me check with my wife.’ He thrust his head through a doorway of beaded curtains and called, ‘Marta, what stirs in your leggings? Are you most moist?’ From the back a voice bellowed, ‘No, but I tingle when I squirt.’

      ‘Are you of assorted odours?’

      ‘Yes, of beans and sputum.’

      ‘And what of your pits – do they exude sweetness?’


      ‘Shall I suck them at eventide?’

      ‘Most heartily!’

      He returned to me wearing a sad look: ‘I’m sorry, I thought there might have been a cancellation, but unfortunately not.’ “

      — Bill Bryson, Neither here nor there: Travels in Europe.

csours 5 days ago
  • Lio 5 days ago

    That's exactly the link I was about to post! Adriano Celentano is a genius. :D

    I love the idea that languages have a certain phonetic sound even if you can't understand them.

    To me the original article read like someone speaking English with a heavy Dutch accent. Sometimes when I watch foreign, to me, Dutch language TV if I sort of "squint" I think I can understand it.

    That might just be though that Dutch is close to English and that I watch a lot of Belgian cycling events so know the subject a bit.

JasonFruit 5 days ago

The worst English teacher I ever had assigned us this to read, and then seemingly expected us to honor him for his cleverness. I did not find it clever then and do not find it clever now.

  • Noumenon72 5 days ago

    Optical illusions are sometimes clever, but their main function is to help you understand your perception by seeing the shortcuts it relies on. This essay is an auditory illusion to help illustrate that the words that are said may not be the ones you hear. I first saw it as a handout for missionaries going to foreign fields to help them focus on learning oral and not just written language.

    • sumy23 5 days ago

      To me it perfectly illustrates that the words that are said are in fact the words you hear.

      • Noumenon72 5 days ago

        Did you read it to yourself maybe? I had a stranger read it to me so it sounded like a strange accent. Kind of like Magic Eye, I did perceive both the illusion and the fakeness of it at the same time. But it definitely did not feel like telling Siri to read the list

        * ladle

        * rat

        * rotten

        * hut

  • kbutler 5 days ago

    I find it a delightful bit of whimsy and am sorry you can't enjoy it.

fritztastic 5 days ago

I could see something like this being a nightmare for non-native speakers. English is my second language, but I speak it fluently so this is somewhat coherent. However, if I encountered something like this in other languages I understand but not fluently (French, Arabic, Italian), I would be very confused and frustrated- especially if I attempted to transcribe it from audio to understand it better.

teeray 5 days ago

> Inner ladle wile, Ladle Rat Rotten Hut a raft attar cordage

It’s kind of amazing how putting English through a food processor exposes its Germanic roots.

awinter-py 5 days ago

honestly this helps me to understand finnegan's wake just the smallest bit

naniwaduni 5 days ago

Well, that's certainly a way to put together a passphrase, or a band name, not sure which.

blakewatson 5 days ago

There is a party game based on this principle. Mad Gab.

dekhn 5 days ago

You mean, like Mairzy Doats?

IncRnd 5 days ago

Lorem Ipsum.

This must have been a labor of love to produce.