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What words can be pronounced more precisely?
August 20, 2013 6:33 PM   Subscribe

I remember in Six Degrees of Separation, Will Smith's character practices pronouncing the 't' sound in 'bottle', so that he doesn't do what most people do, which is to say, "a boddle of beer". Another example: the first time I heard someone pronounce the 'n' in gover*n*ment, I was surprised. I'm not looking for examples like the 'k' in knife, which is silent for everyone; I'm looking for words that most people pronounce one way, but can be correctly pronounced in a more precise manner. Thanks!
posted by surenoproblem to Writing & Language (132 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wednesday.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:35 PM on August 20, 2013


Wednesday.
posted by The Deej at 6:35 PM on August 20, 2013


Nuptials.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:35 PM on August 20, 2013


February and often
posted by soelo at 6:36 PM on August 20, 2013


Badminton
posted by aviatrix at 6:36 PM on August 20, 2013


Comfortable and probably
posted by redfishbluefish at 6:37 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Iron
posted by The Michael The at 6:37 PM on August 20, 2013


Kitten, width.
posted by teremala at 6:40 PM on August 20, 2013


Particularly.

(In my speech class at drama school, this very exact thing was an exercise assigned us once - I picked that word. Nevertheless, I still pronounce it "pah-tick-yer-ly.")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:41 PM on August 20, 2013


Eighth. I only recently noticed not everyone says the "gt" part, making it more like "aith."
posted by something something at 6:42 PM on August 20, 2013


Pronouncing the "wh" in things like "whether" and "why."
posted by xingcat at 6:42 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Eighth. I only recently noticed not everyone says the "gt" part, making it more like "aith."

Some people pronounce the "gt"?!? :::head explodes:::
posted by The Michael The at 6:43 PM on August 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


Eighth. I only recently noticed not everyone says the "gt" part, making it more like "aith."

Hwut?
posted by Rock Steady at 6:44 PM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


February.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:44 PM on August 20, 2013


Potato and tomato instead of puddado and tummado.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:45 PM on August 20, 2013


Caramel vs "carmel" always stands out to me.

Also, this study was linked to on the blue awhile ago, and provided some good examples. The student who did the study's full site is down right now, but that went into more than 100 examples, many of which were pronunciation issues like you raise in your question.
posted by JannaK at 6:48 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is a name, but at least a reasonably common one. I have a friend who insists on the pronunciation of the 'q' in Jacqueline, making it Jack-quell-in, rather than Jack-ell-in.
posted by darchildre at 6:50 PM on August 20, 2013


I have always pronounced the roo in February (having been more of a reader than a socializer as a kid), and never noticed that no one else did until I was in my 20s.

Prerogative vs. perogative
Auxiliary vs. auxillary
Broccoli vs. brockli


Others: greazy vs. greasy (regional pronunciation variant); delta, filter, and water instead of delda, filder, and wadder (or wooder); pellow/pillow; melk/milk.
posted by phunniemee at 6:52 PM on August 20, 2013


The final consonant sound of many words often gets dropped (or turned into a glottal stop - maybe worth your time to look up "glottal stop" and "velar flap" :). This is most clear in series of words rather than in isolation.

- I bet you.
- Aren't you?


'd' often gets turned into 't' (and sometimes vice-versa), particularly in -ed endings following voiceless consonants.

- The dog perked up.
- You're all kitted out.
- Forget it.


I wouldn't recommend being too precise in everyday speech. Gauge what's appropriate.

Oh, and please: nuclear; horror; etc.

Also - you should look up the peculiarities of your particular regional accent. My family, for instance, pronounced "wash" as "warsh".
posted by amtho at 6:52 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh, and one of my pet peeves:

it's jewelry, not jewlery. Jew-el-ree. Jewelry. Every time I hear someone say jew-lur-ree I get to feeling all stabby.
posted by phunniemee at 6:54 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sherbet
Arctic
Candidate

"Carmel" makes me insane. THE "A" IS RIGHT THERE, PEOPLE.
posted by dayintoday at 6:55 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some people don't pronounce the "d" in "vodka," and it always sounds super-sloppy to me.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:55 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Battery
posted by calgirl at 6:56 PM on August 20, 2013


Coopon not quepon
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:06 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


"bottle" / "boddle" is an example of intervocalic alveolar flapping and I suspect most of the examples here of d's disappearing would be glottaliation. Wikipedia has a fairly comprehensive list of these patterns in its article on English phonology; read the sections about allophones.
posted by d. z. wang at 7:06 PM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


There are at least two words that I pronounce differently as adjectives than I do as verbs: Elaborate and Separate. Can you elaborate on that? E-lab-oh-rate. That's an elaborate table setting. E-lab-writ. Please separate your laundry. Sep-uh-rate. They are two separate things. Sep-writ.
posted by soelo at 7:07 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Something something, please explain! I've been sitting here saying "egg-ith" and it's just not working. What else is there than "aith"?

My contributions: "drowned" instead of "drownded", "don't know" vs "dunno" (and similar), and fully articulating "quite" instead of using a glottal stop for the "t" sound.
posted by windykites at 7:09 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


strength
posted by shivohum at 7:10 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Library. As opposed to Libury. (Hi Jessamyn!)
posted by Rob Rockets at 7:10 PM on August 20, 2013


Something something, please explain! I've been sitting here saying "egg-ith" and it's just not working. What else is there than "aith"?

Upon reflection, I think the distinction is between aith and eight-th.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:11 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Almost everyone pronounces Mascarpone incorrectly as mascapone.
posted by odinsdream at 7:13 PM on August 20, 2013


Upon reflection, I think the distinction is between aith and eight-th.

Indeed. The difference is enunciating "eight"+ a "th" sound vs. running it all together without the hard t, to make it rhyme with "faith". Sorry for the confusion.
posted by something something at 7:17 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pronouncing "ribald" to rhyme with "Tybalt" instead of sounding like "rye-bald".

Some people use the archaic pronunciation of "height" that rhymes with "length", "breadth", "width", and "depth" (i.e. "heighth"). I think "height" with a clearly enunciated final t would probably be considered the higher class way to pronounce it.

"Law-yer" versus "loyer". The former makes sense to me by analogy to words like bowyer and sawyer, but "loyer" is probably considered higher class, certainly outside the American South.
posted by jedicus at 7:18 PM on August 20, 2013


Did you know cheerleaders pronounce it pom-pon?
posted by Rock Steady at 7:20 PM on August 20, 2013


Documentary vs. documennary

Realtor vs. realator

Defibrillator vs. defibulator
posted by phunniemee at 7:21 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Toronto
posted by Flashman at 7:26 PM on August 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Manufacturing vs manafacturing
posted by gnossos at 7:29 PM on August 20, 2013


Long-lived. Long livd? Long Lye-vd?
posted by Linnee at 7:34 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Texts." These days, I generally hear either "texez" or "textez."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:37 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


oh hai — most of these precise pronunciations are how I (a pan-loaf Scot) would talk. We only have one 'oo' sound (book, look, boom: all the same), but we do 'wh' right, so nyah.

Pronouncing the t in ‘often’ is shockingly non-U.

The midwestern pronunciations of mirror (meer) and warrior (woyer) are charming, but why waste those Rs?

You're probably saying "jejune" wrongly.

Tortoise (tor-toys instead of tawtus) and turtle (tur-tull insted of turl).

If you want to put on classicist airs, you can pronounce the 'mn' in 'mnemonic'. It can sound affected.
posted by scruss at 7:37 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Internet vs innernet
posted by wiskunde at 7:50 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some extraordinary people say extra-ordinary (vs we ordinary folks who say extrawrdinary)
posted by third rail at 7:53 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cool WHip.
posted by Wild_Eep at 7:54 PM on August 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Fustrated (aaiee!)
posted by theredpen at 8:01 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Meta - as in Met-taFilter vs MedduhFilter.
posted by sleepykitties at 8:02 PM on August 20, 2013


Drawer
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:09 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fow-erd instead of for-word. (Forward) *scream*
posted by _Mona_ at 8:11 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Breakfasts vs. breakfussez
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:16 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Almost everyone pronounces Mascarpone incorrectly as mascapone.

I hear "marscapone" distressingly frequently. But if we're talking italian mispronunciations, one could spend hours on Jersey/New York Italian-American dialects. I still don't know how capicola becomes gabagool.
posted by supercres at 8:17 PM on August 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Both and bolth.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:19 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Samurai and Sameerai.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:20 PM on August 20, 2013


After slightly more googling, c -> g, sc -> zh, and leaving off the last vowel seems to be characteristic of the Napolitan dialect. Far be it from me to tell someone how to speak their own language. Still seems like an odd/unique phonemic shift though.
posted by supercres at 8:23 PM on August 20, 2013


Ambulance as Ambalamps

never mind...wrong thread
posted by JujuB at 8:29 PM on August 20, 2013


My name! Mar-gar-et vs. Mar-grit. I know I most often say it with two syllables, but it sounds so much better with at least an acknowledgement of a third syllable in there.
posted by MadamM at 8:30 PM on August 20, 2013


MuthaFuckas sometimes ought to be pronounced as MotherFuckers.

The 'ange' in orange.

The 'or' in error.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:31 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


After slightly more googling, c -> g, sc -> zh, and leaving off the last vowel seems to be characteristic of the Napolitan dialect. Far be it from me to tell someone how to speak their own language. Still seems like an odd/unique phonemic shift though.

That's a big one to get into. Yeah, a large part of NY/NJ "Italian Americans" are Napolitani, but even in Italy among people who have never left, the dialect would confound you if you were a highly formal speaker of Italian. So cut them some slack, they come by it honestly. Though, in my own lifetime, I've noticed this becoming a much more self-conscious, performative thing than it used to be.

The first name Michelle - I grew up hearing "Muh-SHELL" but as an adult have heard a Frenchier "MEE-shell." (Michele Norris on NPR says it that way).
posted by Miko at 8:39 PM on August 20, 2013


Groceries: grow-sir-ees instead of grosh-erees.

Espresso: ess-press-oh instead of ex-press-oh.

Texts: as spelt, instead of teckss

Library: lie-brayr-ee instead of lie-berry, ditto librarian vs lie-berrian (I have some colleagues who say the latter)

Aluminium: al-you-min-ee-um, as spelt, instead of al-oo-min-um. At least American spelling is consistent with American pronunciation, although wrong.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:47 PM on August 20, 2013


I don't know if anyone pronounces the second C in "Connecticut" except me. But it's still fun to do.

Also, my family never pronounced the first R in "turmeric."
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:47 PM on August 20, 2013


Diamond. (DIE-a-mond.)

Ninety. (Nine-tee.) Actually, for that matter most of the multiples of 10. Twenty is probably the only one we usually say accurately. Thurdy. Fordy. Fifdy. Sicksdy. Sevundy. Eighdy. Ninedy.
posted by jph at 8:54 PM on August 20, 2013


I have many issues. Real-a-tor drives me batty. It's likely a western NY thing, but folks that pronounce Saturday "sah-urday" and mitten "mi--enn" need to be prevented from procreating. Ts exist for a reason.
posted by karlos at 8:58 PM on August 20, 2013


I'm not sure there is a correct way to pronounce "Worcestershire sauce". I pronounce it "woostuhshure" but I've heard other ways (woostirshure).
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:58 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"More precisely" is a difficult thing in linguistic terms, as pronunciations are never more or less precise but rather real difference in accent or dialect. The person who says "often" with a 't' does so because that's how it is pronounced for them; those who say it without the 't' aren't missing the sound out or being unprecise, rather that word simply no longer has a 't' in it any more than there is no 'k' in "knife" or 'w' in "who".

That out of the way, there are some basic rules with which to identify those words which are likely to have sounds "missed" or "less precisely" pronounced. Here's two:

1) If a syllable is unstressed it will usually be pronounced with only one or two different vowels. Note the difference between the second 'o' in "photograph" as opposed to "photography" or "photographer". The endings of '-y' and '-er' have shifted the stress in a word and so changed the pronunciation. Unstressed syllables also have a habit of being further "worn down" or even skipped. The middle syllable of "probably" is unstressed, and we often hear "probly" instead. Same with "caramel" and "carmel", "particularly" and "particuly", "jewelry" and "jewlry".

2) The sounds that we say are influenced by those around them. As our tongue moves about in our mouth to form all the different sounds we often unawarely take little "shortcuts" to lessen how much movement (or difficult movement) we have to make. So, for example, if one sound right at the back of the mouth or throat follows one right at the front, we might not move our tongue all the way back but rather only some of the way or not at all. An example of this would be '-nk' as in "thank" or "chunk". 'N' is said toward the front of the mouth and 'k' toward the back, so to lessen the movement we actually say "ng" then "k'. This explains words like "arctic" and "artic", as in many dialects 'r' and 't' are said in the same part of the mouth, making it a pain to go all the way back to 'c' only to come forward again.

So, in short, look for words with unstressed syllables and/or difficult strings of sounds. These are the ones most likely to have the kind of variant pronunciations you are looking for.
posted by Thing at 9:03 PM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm not sure if it meets your criterion, but some people say "liquorice" ending with "iss" instead of "ish".

The consonant cluster at the end of "sixths" is a lot of work to say so people usually just leave off the ths.

The first c in "Antarctica" often is dropped.
posted by aubilenon at 9:05 PM on August 20, 2013


Literature (Lit-er-a-toor)

Mature (Muh-toor)

Nature (Nay-toor)

Adventure (Ad-ven-toor)
posted by Unified Theory at 9:12 PM on August 20, 2013


Oh, another. Since I moved from the South to the Northeast as a kid, I was attuned to lots of subtle differences in speech. And one of the ones I have never stopped noticing is the separate treatment of the "wh" unit at the start of words. In most Southern accents, "wh" includes a pronunciation of both consonants. A good place to

hear that is in "whether," which in the South sounds different from "weather." But you can hear it on "why," "where," "what," etc. It's almost like the breathiness of the "h" even precedes the "w" - "hhhhwhy," "hhhwether."

In the Northeast I usually just hear the "w" pronounced with no hint of an h around.
posted by Miko at 9:14 PM on August 20, 2013


Cupboard.
posted by matlock expressway at 9:19 PM on August 20, 2013


going to
posted by blurker at 9:20 PM on August 20, 2013


...a clearly enunciated final t would probably be considered the higher class way to pronounce it.

We regionalists poin and laff at yer hi-er class.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:21 PM on August 20, 2013


Worcestershire sauce

Oddly, the "correct" pronunciation is the very sloppy "wusta sauce".

A programming one that is invariably misprononunced: parallelizable. Everyone says pretty much "paralyzable".
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:21 PM on August 20, 2013


Asked. A lot of people say "axed".
posted by SLC Mom at 9:29 PM on August 20, 2013


"Mirror": mir-or, not mirrer.
posted by nicwolff at 9:29 PM on August 20, 2013


Clothes. (It's /kloʊðz/, not /kloʊz/.)
posted by likedoomsday at 9:37 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Tact" vs "tack"

"want to" vs "wanna".

"expresso" vs "esspresso"

"And" vs "an'"

Finally, "Aussie" - it's pronounced "ozzie" not "AW-SEE" like most Americans say it.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:45 PM on August 20, 2013


I frequently hear people pronounce "tour" as tor.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:57 PM on August 20, 2013


Artichoke.
posted by walla at 10:03 PM on August 20, 2013


All right (which seems to have become 'alright') and aiight
posted by Going To Maine at 10:10 PM on August 20, 2013


Listen to Thing. I think the question is flawed in the sense that asks how to pronounce words "more precisely", which does not make much sense linguistically speaking. Unless one has a speech impediment or is slurring words under the influence of something like alcohol or an oral anesthetic, the words are being pronounced precisely. It would be more accurate to talk about variants in pronunciation.

Perhaps a most notable example are rhotic and non-rhotic dialects. For example, "I parked the car in Harvard Yard" and "I pahked the cah in Hahvahd Yahd". Neither utterance is more or less "precisely" pronounced than the other.

Will Smith's character in SDOS is actually showing his own class anxiety. One famous linguistic survey of New York City residents found that the lower-middle class spoke more rhotically than the upper-middle class because they were attempting to imitate the upper-class rhotic accent and were overcompensating. Most people are aware that one's speech signals class and many will try to speak as they think those higher on the class ladder speak. That's what Will Smith was doing, and what one would likely be doing if endeavoring to pronounce every letter in "cupboard", when in fact the voiceless followed by voiced bilabial plosive is cumbersome to speak and hear.

It appears that a lot of the answers here are taking a prescriptivist view of spelling, which is odd because writing is the rendition of the spoken sounds of language - language is not the pronunciation of the writing. And, no one really pronounces words as spelled. Does anyone here pronounce the "t" in "listen"? I hope not, not because it would necessarily be "wrong" but because it would reflect such a hypercorrection.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:21 PM on August 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Interesting - where I grew up, it's IN-triss-tin, but where I live, it's IN-tur-res-ting. Kind of. I no longer know how I say it without thinking.
posted by Occula at 10:30 PM on August 20, 2013


Miniature.

I like to say min-ee-ah-chur, but almost everyone I know says min-ih-chur.

I don't know which one is "correct" though.
posted by hapticactionnetwork at 10:45 PM on August 20, 2013


Tanizaki has a valid point - it may be better to characterise these as alternative pronunciations, rather than correct/incorrect.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:47 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Infrastructure and chipotle. As usual, Mitchell and Webb have the correct approach to handling these situations.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:06 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Phunniemee, you mean jewellery? More common in Britain, but correct enough for anywhere.

See also alumin-i-um.
posted by jacalata at 11:15 PM on August 20, 2013


It appears that a lot of the answers here are taking a prescriptivist view of spelling

These are spelling pronunciations, in which we are led to pronounce words based on their spelling, when the traditional pronunciation is something else. These not infrequently happen in English where we've reinserted silent consonants into words based on etymology, but then the "silent" consonants start getting pronounced based on the spelling, especially as literacy has gotten higher, to the point where the original pronunciation is deemed as incorrect/stigmatized.

Example: Arctic (and Antarctica), in which the normal pronunciation was once "artic". The first c was then reintroduced to make the English word more closely reflect its Latin origins, and then people started pronouncing the first "c," to the point where the "artic" pronunciation is now perceived as incorrect. More here.


And d.z. wang, Thing, and Tanizaki have it right. Intervocalic flapping ("boddle" for "bottle," "wadder" for "water," etc.) is simply a standard feature of General American speech and not "less precise" or "lazy." To contrast with a counterintuitive example, English was originally rhotic: that is, most all English speakers, even in Britain, pronounced the "r" in words like "park," "yard," etc. Starting in the 1700s, non-rhoticity -- not pronouncing these "r"s -- became widespread in southern England, and quickly became a prestige pronunciation in what is now the UK and a standard feature of Received Pronunciation (RP, basically what you would hear as a "cut-glass" English accent: the "Queen's English/BBC English").

So, one could argue that it's the English, Australians, New Zealanders, etc., that now pronounce these words "less precisely" since they've dropped all these "r"'s from their speech. Of course, nobody says that, and it's a silly thing to say. But fundamentally it's the same thing as American intervocalic flapping: a sound change that occurred and is now the standard feature of those particular English dialects. It just goes to show that these perceptions are basically socially linked: Americans tend to perceive "boddle" and "wadder" as less precise partially because RP doesn't have this feature, but I'd bet that if Londoners also had "boddle," they wouldn't think so. Nobody ever criticizes an RP speaker for "pahk" for park, after all, though it's fundamentally a similar phenomenon.
posted by andrewesque at 11:17 PM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


See also alumin-i-um.

This has to do with the etymology of the word and is a regional difference. "Aluminum" (four syllables) is the standard US/Canada form, while "aluminium" (five syllables) is the standard elsewhere. Both forms were present in the early discovery/development of the metal, and for a variety of reasons each side of the Atlantic essentially standardized on one of the two forms, either of which is perfectly correct in its respective form of English.
posted by andrewesque at 11:28 PM on August 20, 2013


I remember a question in a school book at primary school which asked us to underline the silent letter in words. Then they listed 'almond'. None of us would believe there were any silent letters there.
posted by biffa at 11:32 PM on August 20, 2013


Soo-burbs - outside the city limits.
posted by Cranberry at 11:41 PM on August 20, 2013


Pointsettia
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:42 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Asterisk.
posted by pajamazon at 1:06 AM on August 21, 2013


Gerunds. I often hear people talkeen about runneen late and setteen their alarms, rather than talking about running and writing.
posted by headnsouth at 1:12 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


From a UK perspective:

Secretary - "sek-rut-tree" rather than "sek-ret-erry"

Garage - "garrahj" rather than my north-of-England "garridge"
posted by essexjan at 2:03 AM on August 21, 2013


Estuary English and some parts of Northern English are full of these, thanks to the glottal stop. If you're black and grew up in London, you may well pronounce 'ask' as 'arske'.

Restaurant. I've heard people pronounce it in a...more French way, and it always sounds pretty posh to me.
posted by mippy at 2:34 AM on August 21, 2013


In Britain, "correct" is sometimes blatantly incorrect, "Worcestershire" and "Mainwaring" (wusta-shah, mannering) spring to mind.

And for the love of God "nuclear", if ever there was cause to use weapons of mass destruction then repeatedly having to listen to people saying "noo-kyu-lah" would surely be justified.
posted by epo at 3:30 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are you specifically looking for examples in English?
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:39 AM on August 21, 2013


it's jewelry, not jewlery
Actually, in the UK it's spelled "jewellery" and usually pronounced as such. This may explain one source of your stabbiness.
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:42 AM on August 21, 2013


Just to chip in on the arsk thing: also arks and ax. No longer just a black thing.

In West African English sometimes the silent vowels are pronounced, since people may have learned these words through reading them. Thus, list-in, cool-dint, wool-dint for listen, couldn't, wouldn't.

West Country English stretches 'ahs' in many words, not just in the pirate Aaaarr! Thus, You caaarnt do that yer, mind. Yer we aar, Baarth Spaar (T-shirt legend.)

There is an English English pronunciation that still almost certainly indicates landed aristocracy if you hear anyone use it, which is to leave off the g in 'ing' words: huntin, shootin and fishin. People outside that class don't even imitate it unless they're overtly performing an impression.
posted by glasseyes at 3:57 AM on August 21, 2013


To continue the T-shirt theme, 'f' for 'th' - Cuz Ize Wurf It
posted by glasseyes at 4:13 AM on August 21, 2013


vegetable
posted by drlith at 4:30 AM on August 21, 2013


> "Worcestershire" … wusta-shah

Actually, as noted upthread, it's 'wooster', or 'wusta'. As is the town of Worcester.
posted by scruss at 5:06 AM on August 21, 2013


One I notice very clearly w.r.t. posh English speakers is that they enunciate (t)issue so that the double -ss- is very clear, and not a -sh- noise; it's spoken with a smile rather than pout & is quite distinctive.
posted by AFII at 5:11 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


vehicle

And yeah, it's jewelry in the USA, but jewellery in other places.
posted by gaspode at 5:32 AM on August 21, 2013


Library and mirror. (v. libarry and meer)
posted by catatethebird at 5:38 AM on August 21, 2013


You sometimes run into people who say 'calvary' for 'cavalry'.
posted by hoyland at 6:02 AM on August 21, 2013


When we did a DIY upgrade of our kitchen, the cabinet installation video from Home Depot pronounced it "cab-EH-nets" instead of "cabnets," which was super distracting. To this day, cab-EH-nets is my word for kitchen cabinets that are really, really fancy.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:19 AM on August 21, 2013


Roo-ral, few-rur, jew-rur vs. r-earl, f-yerr, jeorrr.

some of these dip dangerously into this territory
posted by a halcyon day at 6:23 AM on August 21, 2013


Uranus does not have the word anus when said correctly.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:55 AM on August 21, 2013


I can't believe no one has chimed in yet with my pet peeve: recognize (not reck-i-nize). It's astonishing to me when well-educated and otherwise quite precise people mispronounce that word.
posted by DrGail at 7:04 AM on August 21, 2013


Parliament rather than parlymeant.
posted by BenPens at 7:09 AM on August 21, 2013


> Actually, as noted upthread, it's 'wooster', or 'wusta'. As is the town of Worcester.

Certainly true for the sauce, I've heard both pronunciations for the shire.

Also Gloucester, Bicester, Leicester, not to mention Happisburgh and Cholmondley. I will leave our American friends to take a stab at these
posted by epo at 7:12 AM on August 21, 2013


If you like these types of queries, you should pick up a copy of Garner's Modern American Usage.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:17 AM on August 21, 2013


My girlfriend, from Connecticut, idiomatically says 'pitchers' when referring to 'pictures,' which makes my Californian ears bleed. But I say 'ayygs' when I mean 'eggs,' which makes her head explode.
posted by scarylarry at 7:19 AM on August 21, 2013


Phunniemee, you mean jewellery? More common in Britain, but correct enough for anywhere.

Nope, because even the word jewellery has the fucking word jewel in it. At no point is jew-luh-ree a legitimate pronunciation of the word.

American English: jew-el-ry
UK English: jew-el-er-ry

IT IS JEWELS. THAT YOU WEAR. PEOPLE. JEWEL-RY. AAHAHHHGHHH.
posted by phunniemee at 7:21 AM on August 21, 2013


Chest of drawers.
not Chester drawers.

or, y'know, bureau.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:35 AM on August 21, 2013


Chest of drawers.
not Chester drawers.


Does it count if you deliberately say "Chester Drawers" because it's funnier?

My Grandma used to pronounce "truffles" "troofles." For the longest time I thought she way saying "toothfuls," and I thought it was a pretty appropriate name for chocolate candies.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:29 AM on August 21, 2013


Water. With a t.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:31 AM on August 21, 2013


I hear a lot of people say "mason-a-ry", it's "masonry".
posted by humboldt32 at 8:34 AM on August 21, 2013


I actually struggle with my own last name, Martineau, because of this issue. I hear "Martno" an awful lot, and I even pronounce it that way on occasion, but if I'm introducing myself for the first time or saying it on the phone, I'm usually careful to get the "tin" in there. I think it's more likely that people will get it/spell it right if I'm more precise.
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:40 AM on August 21, 2013


Dog, not dawg or doog.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:02 AM on August 21, 2013


No one says doog. Who says doog. That's just ridiculous. I'm totally calling my puppy "doog" from now on.

Got another one: infinitesimal vs. infintesimal.
posted by phunniemee at 9:05 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


the cabinet installation video from Home Depot pronounced it "cab-EH-nets" instead of "cabnets,

I say "cabinets" and so did everyone I grew up around. Didn't realize that people shorten it.

Chester Drawers reminded me of the word "draw." In New England, so many people pronounce drawer as "draw" that you will often see on Craigslist a listing for a "bureau with four draws" or similar.
posted by Miko at 10:10 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nope, because even the word jewellery has the fucking word jewel in it. At no point is jew-luh-ree a legitimate pronunciation of the word.

Actually, it is, and in fact it's how I say it. It goes along with pretty much ignoring the 'w' in the word 'jewel' to start with, which I have even heard as a single syllable word but more commonly as a sort of pause in the middle. ("joo'ools").
posted by jacalata at 10:47 AM on August 21, 2013


"bin" for been
posted by mister_kaupungister at 11:01 AM on August 21, 2013


You seem to be asking about artificial pronunciations or pronunciations based on letter shape rather than actual speech. (For example, boTTle is not an American pronunciation -- the t to d shift is so standardized in American English that I teach it in my ESL classes.) However, most people are answering about common mispronunciations. I think it's important to be clear that there is a difference.

Standard American English (I assume you're American from the "bottle" comment)
bottle with a /d/ sound
been rhyming with in
literature with only one /t/ sound
orange as /ornj/
water with a /d/ sound
etc. etc.

Nonstandard American English (some are perfectly fine in some dialects, but not standard)
library with only one /r/ (lie-berry)
confusing calvary and cavalry
/aks/ instead of /ask/ (but hey, I don't believe that was EVER "just a black thing")

etc.

Pronouncing every letter or syllable, or pronouncing letters only a single way instead of the many ways that they are actually pronounced in English, will not make speech more precise or correct. It will make it confusing, artificial, and nonstandard. If the goal is just to sound different, well, that'll work, but probably not in a good way.

I hope someone with actual linguistic chops will be along shortly to make things clear...
posted by wintersweet at 11:29 AM on August 21, 2013


"Triathalon" instead of "triathlon." Dudes! There is no second "a" in there! (Maybe it's the one that fell out of "carmel.")
posted by sldownard at 11:45 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually, it is, and in fact it's how I say it. It goes along with pretty much ignoring the 'w' in the word 'jewel' to start with, which I have even heard as a single syllable word but more commonly as a sort of pause in the middle. ("joo'ools").

Yep, I'm with jacalata. I (Canadian) pronounce it jewel-ery. Phunniemee, I presume you are also pronouncing it jewel-ery (or, I guess, American-wise it would be jewel-ry). The difference might be that I pronounce jewel as a single syllable with a bit of a lilt--"jool"--hence probably what would sound like "joolleree." I also pronounce jeweller "jooller."

Regardless, Tanizaki and Thing have it right--some of these are just regional variations. There's no right or wrong.
posted by looli at 11:54 AM on August 21, 2013


Amtho is right that using the flap sound (halfway between 't' and 'd') is not incorrect or imprecise--not in North America at least.

The flap and its distinctive sound is also the easiest way to tell a Brit putting on a (bad) American accent--they think North Americans pronounce every 't' as a 'd' and don't seem to get the difference between a mushy-sounding 'dd' and a flapped 'tt'.
posted by yellowcandy at 12:31 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ambulance. I recently heard several hospital employees call it something that sounded like "amblance" or maybe even "amlance" - definitely two syllables. Also, in the Werner Herzog texting-and-driving doc that was on MeFi recently, there is a woman who calls it the "ambylance" - it was during a very intense, emotional scene, and I am basically the worst person in the world because I laughed.
posted by naoko at 1:55 PM on August 21, 2013


Where I live, "nephew" is usually pronounced as "neffew" but comes from a word that was pronounced more like "nev-hew", and some older people will pronounce it that way. This seems to come from a spelling-to-pronunciation heuristic that "ph" is said as "f".
posted by Jabberwocky at 3:01 PM on August 21, 2013


There's a really interesting discussion of the cabinet pronunciation issue on a home improvement forum. A slightly less intelligent discussion on amirite.com... but hey - amirite.com... that's great.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:17 PM on August 21, 2013


A host of a few podcasts I listen to pronounces the traditionally silent L in words like yolk and walk.
posted by KatlaDragon at 11:04 AM on August 22, 2013


Envirement vs. Environment comes to mind. Or Ire-ny vs Irony (now that... is!... irony!)

That said, I'm also reminded of this Onion piece:

Blind Date Pronounces Every Syllable Of Word 'Comfortable'
INDIANAPOLIS—In what Melissa Mathis, 30, termed "a deal-breaker," blind date Jeff Rochlin, 33, pronounced every syllable of the word "comfortable" Tuesday. "We sat down at the table, and he said, 'This booth's really com-fort-a-ble,'" Mathis recalled. "Then, a little while later, he said something about the 'grilled veg-e-ta-bles.' I'm sorry, but there's no way I could date a guy like that."
posted by Rhaomi at 2:24 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, and the letter W. Most people leave out the L and pronounce it dubbayou, but it's double-you.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:45 AM on August 23, 2013


Late to the party, but I have this totally weird fascination with Air Canada safety videos. The English in the video is beautiful and ethereal. I've never found English to be a particularly beautiful language (as compared to Italian or French), but this woman's enunciation makes me feel like I'm walking on air.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:52 AM on August 26, 2013


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