Email from Eric Baković:
Tom Lehrer once shared this one with me:
I cannot distinguish
some phonemes in Enguish
which causes me anguish
in learning the languish
He said he'd have been a linguist instead of a mathematician if he'd had to do it over again. Now THAT would have been something.
Tom was probably inspired by Howard L. Chace's beloved 1956 work Anguish Languish, which has been out of print for some time, although used copies seem to sell for $75 or so, and spin-offs continue to emerge from time to time.
Luckily, you can read the whole thing here, including the Introduction, which begins (more or less) like this:
A visiting professor of Anguish, Dr. ____________, [This isn't his real name, nor is it intended to be the name of any other Anguish Languish professor, living or dead.] who, while learning to understand spoken English, was continually bewildered and embarrassed by the similarity of such expressions as boys and girls and poisoned gulls, used to exclaim:
"Gracious! What a lot of words sound like each other! If it wasn't (sic) for the different situations in which we hear 'em, we'd have a terrible time saying which was which."
Of course, these may not have been the professor's exact words, because he often did his exclaiming in Anguish rather than in English. In that case he would say:
"Crashes! Water larders warts sunned lack itch udder! Egervescent further delerent saturations an witch way harem, wade hei[er haliver tam sang witch worse witch."
Dr. ____________ seems to have been a speaker of an r-less dialect of Anguish.