What Would English Sound Like If Its Rules Were Consistent?

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iStock

The English language isn’t always logical. Take the following words: wound, bow, produce, present, tear, and wind. Their pronunciation depends entirely on whether they’re used as a verb or a noun. By some estimates, about a quarter of all English words fail to follow the standard spelling and pronunciation rules taught in schools.

So what would English sound like if its rules were phonetically consistent? That was the question posed recently by Aaron Alon, a composer, writer, and filmmaker whose video on the subject went viral.

As an example of English’s rogue rules, he uses the following sentence: “Though I coughed roughly and hiccoughed throughout the lecture, I still thought I could plough through the rest of it.” Although ough appears eight times in this sentence, it’s pronounced differently each time.

In what surely required a great deal of practice, Alon then proceeded to narrate the video using only one of the possible pronunciations for each vowel (for example, he pronounces the letter a as ah each time, and the letter e as ee). The result is something that sounds like a cross between Irish, German, Italian, and something else entirely.

“Some of them left me laughing repeatedly,” Alon said in the comments, noting that the shoot required multiple takes. Check out his video below, and see if you can get through it without laughing.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

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Wa Wa Wee Wa: The Origin of Borat's Favorite Catchphrase

Wa wa wee wa! Sacha Baron Cohen is back in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2020).
Wa wa wee wa! Sacha Baron Cohen is back in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2020).
Courtesy of Amazon Studios

When Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan was released in 2006, a new audience was exposed to Borat Sagdiyev, a “journalist” portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen who had made frequent appearances on the comedian’s Da Ali G Show.

Soon, in our country there was problem: People mimicked Borat’s catchphrases, "very nice" and “wa wa wee wa,” incessantly. The latter phrase was used to denote surprise or happiness on Borat’s part. While some may have assumed it was made up, it turns out that it actually means something.

Wa wa wee wa is Hebrew, which Cohen speaks throughout the film and which helped make Borat a hit in Israel. (Cohen is himself Jewish.) It was taken from an Israeli comedy show and is the equivalent of the word wow. Reportedly, the expression was popular among Israelis, and they appreciated Cohen’s use of it.

The original Borat also sees Cohen singing a popular Hebrew folk song, “Koom Bachur Atzel,” or “get up lazy boy,” among other Hebrew mentions. It remains to be seen how much of it he’ll be speaking in the sequel, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. It premieres on Amazon Prime Friday, October 23.

[h/t The Los Angeles Times]