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The past tense of the verb “lead” is “led,” but the past tense of “read,” the verb, is “read,” not “red.” It’s easy to determine the pronunciation of the former, but for the latter; it depends on the context: “I’m going to read the book,” or “I read the book yesterday.”

And then there’s “read” the noun, as in “The book was a good read” (not to be confused with “reed”). As if that’s not enough, there’s “lead” the noun and “lead” the other noun, as in: “I couldn’t hold the lead in the race because my feet felt as heavy as lead.” Which means I no longer led.

It doesn’t end there. Take “head,” which is pronounced like one “lead,” but not the other “lead.” Or take “heed,” which has nothing to do with “head,” but raises questions because of “bread” and “bred,” which is the past tense of “breed” while “bread” is the past tense of nothing.

Or “great” and “grate” or “flew,” “flue” and “flu.” And is there such a thing as a fowl ball? Well, if your Rhode Island Red plays with the Red Sox, why not?

And then there’s “herd,” “bird,” “word” and “curd” (“heard” creating a category all its own, thank you). No one living or dead can explain why four different single vowels can be used for the same sound. Germans would be appalled. And what about “boarder” and “border”? “Board” and “bored”? “Hoard” and “horde”? “Hoar” and “roar”? “Hoard” and “roared”? “Soar” and “sore”? “Boar” and “bore”?

Yada-yada-yada. It’s enough to make me a neurotic nuisance, but what’s pneu? At least I won’t get pneumonia because I just had a booster shot.

And don’t get me started on “through” and “threw.” Or “throw” and “though.” Or “boy” and “boil.” Now I ask you, why not just tack an L on the end of “boy” and call it “boyl”? Nooooo. Ack. Enough already!

But you do see my point, don’t you? It’s enough to make your head spin. And where in the -gh does the F sound in “enough” come from anyway? Or in “tough” but not “dough”? Why can’t a lousy golfer who’s sick be a “dougher who soughers from the flue”? If -gh is pronounced F, why not “ghorget about it.” Well, I’d love to, wouldn’t you?

Makes you wonder by what miracle English-speakers ever master their language — not that all of us do. And think of the challenge facing immigrants who speak phonetically logical languages.

Meanwhile, today we will not talk about the difference between “color” and “colour,” “neighbor” and “neighbour” or “honor” and “honour.” Besides, there is none, the ocean that separates them notwithstanding.

Don’t get mad if I omitted your favourites. I could have gone on, I suppose, but I was afraid you’d run out of patients and dump a pale of water on my hare.

(Wink.)

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