A Lecture on the Great Vowel Shift

(If you’ve been a student you have probably sat through some variation of this lecture and had the experience of being in a class taught by this instructor.)

I know. It’s boring. You can take a pass

today. Forget about the lecture. Sleep.

It doesn’t matter if you are awake

or not or sleeping at your desks with eyeballs glazed.

In fact, I think that I’d prefer them glazed . . .

in aspic. I digress. But that’s all right.

My lecture is about a seismic shift

in language. Nothing of importance. Dumb.

So fiddle with your phones. Pretend to care.

Or don’t. It doesn’t matter either way

for nothing makes a difference in your lives.

But anyway, in case there’s anyone

who cares, imagine you are speaking French

or Spanish. Have you been to Italy

and listened to the way the words are formed?

It isn’t necessary that you know

what’s being said. It’s how it’s being said.

The vowels are weird. They haven’t got a clue

about the way they are supposed to sound.

An I is E and A is awful. Flat

and blah. And as for how an O or U

is spoken, well not one of you would understand

the way they worked or sounded. You would need

a Babel fish implanted in your ear,

and even then you’d probably be lost.

It’s fortunate you’re living now not then.

That cataclysm’s over. Probably

you needn’t worry how the letters sound

right now, and who cares how they sounded then?

I think you’re all asleep. I’m outa here.

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