Monday, February 22, 2010

I Before E

My brother asked me to "ghost pimp this poem" for him. Pretty neat little idea he had, and it was fun to work with it and add some more words and jokes and stick it in anapestic tetrameter with a cohesive rhyme structure. The final result (which earned me 50 bucks):

I Before E

English has rules that are tough, I confess.

But they can be mastered with regular discipline.

Just follow these rules and you'll find your success,

And know that at least it's not Swedish or Mandarin.

We'll start with the easy ones: mischief and field,

Or pierce, believe, diesel, and even Marie,

There's priest, and belief, and grief, thief, and yield,

The rule, you can see, is it's I before E.

And then we've conceited, perceive, and deceit,

These words beak the mold; I think you'll agree.

With ceiling, receipt, and receive–ain't this neat?
It's I before E, except after C.

The rule’s also broken when sounding like “A,”

'Least that's what I found in heir, reindeer, and feign,

And neighborhood, weightlifter, terreplein, sleigh,

As eight weighty geishas surveil my chow mein.

Society, deity, science, sobeit,

It sounds like our language is digging for laughs.

But there's still a rule that works here, if you see it:

Seems "I before E" only works for digraphs.

There's Geiger and eiderdown, seismic, and gneiss

I think of these words, and I ask with a sigh,

If Einstein's a genius, how'd he miss it twice?

Unless the rule stops when E I just says I.

Remember: forget all the rules if you please.

Regarding the plurals of words with -C Y,

In fallacies, agencies, and frequencies.

It's always I E, and It's never E I.

Now Dreidl is foreign, and so's edelweiss,

So they're off the hook. Oh, and what of Beijing?

To answer your questions, this rule should suffice:

We tend to let proper nouns do their own thing.

There's counterfeit, heifer. die, neither, weird, seize,

friend, reveille, protein–our rules are now wrecked.

So memorize rules all day long if you please,

But when you're all done, have your papers spell-checked!