One of the more difficult parts of learning English is being able to distinguish where a word starts and where it ends. Why is this? Because in English, we link our words, joining the end of one word with the beginning of the next.

Linking (which also happens in other languages) can lead to some funny confusions. I remember, when I was young, along with a group of friends, listening to a Jimi Hendrix song and trying to figure out if he was saying – Excuse me while I kiss the sky – or if he was actually saying – while I kiss this guy!

The linking rule is this: When a word ends in a consonant sound and the following one starts with a vowel sound, the consonant moves forward to link with the vowel. So the phrase – turn it on – becomes – tur-ni-ton. This is important because if we say this in past tense – turned it on – we get – turn-di-ton.

In keeping with the crazy sounds which we can hear when we link, I am sharing part of a popular children’s song called Mares Eat Oats. According to Wikipedia, Mairzy Doats is a novelty song composed in 1943 by Milton Drake, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston. The song’s refrain, as written on the sheet music, seems meaningless:

Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, wooden shoe?

So first, in order to figure this out, you need to know some vocabulary:

Mare – female horse
Doe – female deer
Lamb – baby sheep
Kid – baby goat

Now, here is what those sounds translate into when we un-link them. You can practice the poem along with the audio file below. And you can find many versions of the longer song by searching Mairzy Doats. Enjoy.

Mares eat oats
And does eat oats
And little lambs eat ivy.
A kid’ll eat ivy too
Wouldn’t you?