How Do I Say “ough”? Let Me Count the Ways

Thanks to my sister Trish for sending me the idea for today’s blog.

She tagged me on Facebook with the following post:

The letter sequence “ough” can be pronounced eight different ways. The following sentence contains them all “A rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough; after falling into a slough, he coughed and hiccoughed.”

She even sent me a video from “I Love Lucy” that goes with it:

I don’t know if Ricky’s claim that the Spanish language doesn’t have issues like this, but I can’t imagine it could be any worse. I can see how someone would have trouble learning such subtleties of the English language.

I did a little bit of searching, and I found a web site that claims there are actually nine different ways to pronounce “ough”, and provided the following sentence as an example:

The wind was rough along the lough as the ploughman fought through the snow, and though he hiccoughed and coughed, he thought only of his work, determined to be thorough.

I even discovered a Wikipedia page devoted to the orthography of ough and a few poems dedicated to o-u-g-h.

The baker-man was kneading dough
And whistling softly, sweet and lough.

Yet ever and anon he’d cough
As though his head were coming ough!

“My word!” said he,” but this is rough:
This flour is simply awful stough!”

He punched and thumped it through and through,
As all good bakers dough!

“I’d sooner drive,” said he “a plough
Than be a baker anyhough!”

Thus spake the baker kneading dough;
But don’t let on I told you sough!

Here’s another, just the first verse only. The rest of the poem features other pronunciation inconsistencies.

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough.
Others may stumble but not you,
On hiccough, through, lough and through.
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps.

and another:

Four letters cause me disillusion
OUGH makes phonetic confusion
Four simple letters with four pronunciations
Make learning English tough for Asians.

OUGH has no logic, no rule
Or rhyme or rhythm; it will fool
All who struggle to master expression
English may cause thorough depression.

I pour some water in a trough
I sneeze and splutter, then I cough.
And with a rough hewn bough
My muddy paddy fields I plough.

Loaves of warm bread in a row
Crispy crusts and doughy dough.
Now, my final duty to do
And then my chores will all be through.

My lament is finished, even though
Learning this word game is really slow.
It is so difficult, it’s very rough
Learning English is really tough.

If a trough was a truff
And a plough was a pluff
If dough was duff
And though was thuff

If cough was cuff
And through was thruff
I would not pretend, or try to bluff,
But of OUGH I’ve had enough.

And here’s one more that is part of quite a long poem featuring the inconsistencies of the English language:

Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough??
Hiccough has the sound of sup …
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!

So thanks again to my big sis for sending me something that was simply meant to put a smile on my face (which it did), but which I also managed to turn into two hours of work…

*image from

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