Who is the author of I take it you already know
Of though and bough and cough and dough
Others may stumble, but not you
On hiccough, thorough, slough and through
Long, long ago, when I was in high school (“Middelbare school” zo u wilt), I published this little poem in our Schoolkrant. Recently, it came to my attention again and today I tried to find out about the author.
Many sites on the Internet say that the author is “unknown”, but there are a few exceptions. Sometimes, a certain “Richard Krogh” is attributed, but, as far as I can see, this is due to a misunderstanding when it actually says: “Quoted by Vivian Cook and Melvin Bragg 2004, by Richard Krogh, in D Bolinger & D A Sears, Aspects of Language, 1981, and in Spelling Progress Bulletin March 1961, Brush up on your English”.
However, in “The Psychology of Reading”, page 99, Google Books, it says: “T.S. Watt (1954)” and “reproduced with permission of The Guardian”. This is consistent with other sources on the Internet, that say this poem was published on June 21, 1954, in the Manchester Guardian. For example, in the book “An Introduction to Foreign Language Learning and Teaching”, Second Edition, by Keith Johnson, (ISBN 13: 78-1-4058-3617-3), an excerpt from the poem (on page 23) is attributed as follows: “From a letter published in the Manchester Guardian, 21 June 1954, Copyright Guardian News & Media Limited 1954”.
So my guess is:
the author is T.S. Watt and the poem was first published in the Manchester Guardian on June 21, 1954.
Update January 2023: I found a copy of the original page of the Manchester Guardian, Monday June 21, 1954, page 3. Clicking the link may even show the “clipped article” that “people” (that being me) have found on this page. The title of the poem is “Brush up your English” with a sub title of [Hints on pronunciation for visiting foreigners.] – brackets included. The author just says T.S.W.
The original poem differs slightly from the one I had. The original has “thorough, lough and through”. Also, the end of the poem in the Manchester Guardian simply says “A dreadful language? Man alive, I’d mastered it when I was five!“, while the version I had ended with “A dreadful language? Why, man alive, I’d learned to talk it when I was five. And yet to spell it, the more I strive, I haven’t learned at fifty-five“.