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Words that native English speakers mispronounce
December 30, 2007 6:25 AM   Subscribe

I'm a native speaker of English but I pronounce some words incorrectly. What other words am I pronouncing wrong?

Some time ago at a gathering of friends, I mentioned "tire iron" and was greeted with hysterical laughter. You see, I pronounce the word "iron" as "eye-run", and everyone thought it was funny because apparently "tire iron" is supposed to rhyme and the correct pronunciation of "iron" is "eye-urn." I had never heard of this before, but I checked dictionaries and it really is the right pronunciation for both British and American English, alas.

There have been a number of similar incidents with the words "heifer", "heir", and "cache", which I pronounce(d) "high-fer", "hair", and "cay-sh", respectively. There are probably some other words I have a habit of pronouncing incorrectly that I can't recall now.

I consider myself a reasonably educated person, so the only explanation is that I picked up some peculiarities from my parents, who are non-native speakers of English. It seems most of my pronunciation errors are a result of pronouncing words as they are written (as a kid I read a lot and didn't talk much). My English is otherwise completely standard midwestern American.

So, I guess what I'm looking for is a list of words often pronounced wrong by native English speakers or just some anecdotes from other people with the same problem. Thanks!
posted by pravit to Writing & Language (147 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
My Mom says "i-dear" instead of "idea". Drives me crazy!! Mother-in-law does it too. Might be an old-lady southern thing.
posted by pearlybob at 6:30 AM on December 30, 2007


"warsh" instead of "wash"
"could of" instead of "could've"
"heighth" instead of "height"
"acrosst" instead of "across"

I hear the above examples quite a lot...
posted by odi.et.amo at 6:33 AM on December 30, 2007


This is definitely a problem of people who read a lot and who operate by analogy -- as you did with "heifer." You pronounced the "ei" as you would in "stein," which is totally logical. And if English hadn't absorbed words from 4,000 different languages with different pronunciation rules, it'd be simpler for us all. Basically, any words that look as if they should follow one pronunciation convention but follow a different one are the big culprits.

My examples: until I was about 12, I thought "misled" was the past tense of the verb "to misle" and was pronounced a lot like "rifle."

A guy I knew in grad school (who was a giant pompous ass about his vocabulary) cracked me right up by pronouncing "albeit" "all-bite" -- in class, yay.

A professor used to say "EGG-uh-luh-tarian" instead of "ee-GAL-uh-tarian," and since he was a specialist in mid-to-late 19th century American literature, I have no freakin' idea how he made it into his 50s without someone correcting him, but I sure wasn't going to. He also pronounced the town where Garrison Keillor's stories are set "Lake Woe-BEG-uhn." I mean really.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:38 AM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Analrapist (it's a person who is both an analyst and a therapist)

But seriously...

I can never remember how to pronounce:

ogle
bungee
posted by KokuRyu at 6:39 AM on December 30, 2007


I was a kid who read a lot, and I have the same experience. Many other people I know are the same way. I think it comes of sounding words out to ourselves incorrectly.

I know I have a ton of these, but off the top of my head, "posthumous" is the one that to this day trips me up even though I've now heard lots of people say it the right way. I still cannot wrap my mind around pronouncing it as anything but poe-st hyoo-mus.
posted by Stacey at 6:41 AM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


disheveled - Is it "diss- sheh - vulled" or "diss - shell - ved"

Glouchester - "I used to say "glou - chester" but it's "gloss-ter"

And I've been called out a few times for saying "wiff" instead of "with"

In Alberta they say "graige" instead of "ga-rahge" for garage.
posted by furtive at 6:44 AM on December 30, 2007


North American regional accents.

Apparently the way you can tell that I'm from Oregon is that I pronounce "cot" and "caught" exactly the same, and "merry" and "marry" exactly the same. (By the way, I too say "eye-urn".)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:46 AM on December 30, 2007


Nucular vs. Nuclear
Liberry vs. Library
Reelator vs. Realtor
posted by beagle at 6:47 AM on December 30, 2007


Oh and my mother's favourite : "facey - smile" instead of facsimile.
posted by furtive at 6:47 AM on December 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


"Supposably" instead of "supposedly"

"should of" instead of "should have" (or anything that uses "of" instead of "have")

"irregardless" instead of "regardless"

Mixing up "loan" and "borrow". If you are the person taking something you are borrowing it. If you are the person giving something, you are loaning it (this may be more of a Minnesota thing though).

And the one that I always use - "hopefully". I guess you're supposed to say "I hope".

Here's a list of common English errors
posted by triggerfinger at 6:49 AM on December 30, 2007


My sister pronounces able as ave-el (v instead of b).

My mother adds the letter d to words than end with an "en" sound. (e.g. Caitlind instead of Caitlin)

I always need to run the word "gesture" through my mind before I say it out loud. For some reason, I can never remember if it's jess-ture or guess-ture. I know I pronounce "weird" incorrectly, because my friends always laugh at me and try to teach me the correct pronunciation - which sounds like what I'm saying! I don't hear the difference! I don't know how to pronounce cache. I actually just had to call tech support for my computer and said "...in the cash or cash-ay, however you pronounce it..." Seeing other comments, I don't know how to pronounce ogle. Oh, and I don't know how to pronounce hirsute.

I am a native English speaker, but I know I had articulation/pronunciation problems as a child and saw a speech therapist in elementary school. I think a lot of it also has to do with the fact that I read a lot so I learn a lot of new words without ever hearing them spoken aloud.
posted by Nickel at 6:50 AM on December 30, 2007


It's not a mispronunciation exactly but people who say pasghetti instead of spaghetti make my skin crawl.

I said Or-ee-gone instead of Or-ree-gun in front of some west coasters and they all freaked out.
posted by sully75 at 6:55 AM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think almost everyone has pronunciation quirks. There are huge regional differences in English, and since many people move around, they pick up a bit of this and a bit of that. Then there is the issue of "how do I pronounce this word I've read but never heard?" that comes up all the time in graduate classes and elsewhere. But since pretty much everyone does it, including professors, I think it's only a problem if you keep getting it wrong -- and some people really do have a tin ear for these things.

Like in your example with "iron," thinking about it, I've heard it both ways ("i-ruhn" and "i-urn"), plus the regional "tahr-ahrn." I guess I fall on the side of believing that as long as other people can understand you, things are ok; perfection can wait (and with English pronunciation, will never happen because it will always sound wrong to someone else).

I think what I am really saying is that you are conflating two different issues: some sort of regional or other accent via your parents, and the problem of pronouncing words you have only read. Both are "fixable" if you wanted to change how you talk, but the issues involved are different.
posted by Forktine at 6:58 AM on December 30, 2007


Midwest Ohio:

Samurai as "sam-yer-eye" instead of "sam-er-eye"

I was pretty sure growing up that "segue" was pronounced "seg-yoo" until I finally heard the word pronounced in college (too much reading, not enough conversation, I guess)

I'n right there with FelliniBlank about "misled". I still read it that way in my head -- as the past tense of "to misle" -- even though I always interpreted it correctly in context.

I do not pronounce cot/caught, merry/marry, or Erin/Aaron differently. The last one -- Erin/Aaron -- drives my New England boyfriend nuts because he says I'm doing it wrong, and I can hear it when he pronounces them the ways he thinks are correct, but I can't reproduce it myself.
posted by olinerd at 7:01 AM on December 30, 2007


Glouchester - "I used to say "glou - chester" but it's "gloss-ter"

English place names can be confusing, especially since the same city names are pronounced differently in the US. Generally, cities that end with -cester is pronounced as "ster" rather than "sester" (when referring to the UK):

Worcester - Worster
Leicester - Lester

Anything that ends with -burgh is pronounced "burra"

Edinburgh - Edin-burra NOT Edin-burg

I still get tripped up with place names all the time, to the amusement of everyone around me. Here is a list of British place names and how they're pronounced. You'll have to ask someone else how to pronounce Welch city names.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:01 AM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Banal pronounced to rhyme with anal was one I was embarrassed to be called out on when I was about 19. I also used to pronounce some words phonetically, such as pronouncing the w in sword and saying for-head instead of forrid. There were quite a few others, but I can't remember them now. I think this is normal for kids who read a lot.
posted by goo at 7:08 AM on December 30, 2007


Take the American Accent Quiz!
posted by chillmost at 7:09 AM on December 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


I pronounce "cure" as "keer", although I'm aware that most people pronounce it "keeyoor". And when I was a kid, I had a friend who pronounced "crayon" as "crown".
posted by mpls2 at 7:12 AM on December 30, 2007


In Queensland people tend to say pewl and skewl for pool and school - sometimes what seems an error is just regional difference.

Harris-ment is just plain wrong, though.
posted by goo at 7:12 AM on December 30, 2007


I'm not from Oregon, in fact, I'm from Texas, and I pronounced "cot" and "caught" the same, as well as "merry" and "marry" the same. I think many regions of America have these pronunciations.

To the OP- the fact that your parents are not native English speakers may be a big part of it, but everyone has those words they pronounce strangely, though usually their parents correct them when they're kids.

I remember saying the word magenta "muh-gen-tuh" instead of "muh-jen-tuh" and getting razzed by this really annoying nerdy kid in the 3rd grade.
posted by fructose at 7:16 AM on December 30, 2007


Agree that a lot of the mispronunciation is from learning new words from books. My high school boyfriend pronounced the "b" in subtle until I laughed at him when he was 17. (There were a couple of other ones as well, but I've forgotten them.)
posted by gaspode at 7:28 AM on December 30, 2007


Bear in mind that even though you may have non standard pronunciations for certain words, they're not necessarily invalid, just uncommon in your particular area. For example, pearlybob said:

My Mom says "i-dear" instead of "idea". Drives me crazy!! Mother-in-law does it too. Might be an old-lady southern thing.

As an Englishman, I'm struggling to actually find a way of saying it that isn't i-dear, but.. there are many ways to skin a cat it seems!
posted by wackybrit at 7:28 AM on December 30, 2007


How are you meant to pronounce "heifer"?

My boyfriend and I can't agree on "broccoli" and "choir".

He: Broc-co-lie (rhymes with pie)
Me: Bro-co-lee (rhymes with me)

He: koy-arr
Me: khoi-er

which is it?
posted by divabat at 7:32 AM on December 30, 2007


I pronounced "bagel" as "bag-el" (instead of "bay-gull") until I was in college. My friends tormented me about it for a while.
posted by Lucinda at 7:35 AM on December 30, 2007


I always trip up on "nemesis" (it's NEM-ih-sis, not nem-ME-sis). One of my friends says bag-el instead of bay-gel. Personally I try to avoid any word that I'm not 100% sure of, and most of the words that I am sure of besides, dodging around long words makes me think a little bit more about what I'm saying anyway, which is useful.
posted by anaelith at 7:37 AM on December 30, 2007


I knew someone in high school who pronounced "Nazi" as "Nay-zee". In his case, he had grown up with deaf parents and so he learned many words by reading them, though I would have thought that by the end of high school he would have heard the word from some other source.

When I was a kid I pronounced "shone" as "shun" by analogy with "one". Again, that was a case of learning much of my language by reading (I was a very early reader).
posted by litlnemo at 7:39 AM on December 30, 2007


I pronounced "choir" as "kwy-err".
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:41 AM on December 30, 2007


"How are you meant to pronounce "heifer"?"

heh-fer, rhyming with deafer.

"He: koy-arr
Me: khoi-er

which is it?"


Neither, I'd say. Kwy-er. Oh, and you are the one who pronounces "broccoli" correctly. :)
posted by litlnemo at 7:42 AM on December 30, 2007


I heard rabid as ray-bid the other day, from someone who learned a lot of words through reading.
posted by stopgap at 7:48 AM on December 30, 2007


As a New Zealander living in the USA, until I arrived here, I didn't know that bear and beer were pronounced differently :-) Likewise for here and hair, where and wear, and (well almost) shore and sure.
posted by tetranz at 7:50 AM on December 30, 2007


A few that come to mind:

ath-a-lete, for athlete (also tri-ath-a-lon, for triathlon)

pacifically, for specifically

kiddygarden for kindergarten

tenant, for tenet
posted by chez shoes at 7:53 AM on December 30, 2007


divabat: from dictionary.com: choir = [kwahyuhr], broccoli = [brok-uh-lee, brok-lee]. All dictionaries (I think) give phonetic transcriptions of each word at the start of the definition, if either of you can read phonetics.

For the original question: I and my siblings all do the same thing, all with words we probably picked up from reading - the funniest example was my little brother talking about arranging a [rendezvez] (rendezvous, french, should be [rondayvoo]) with friends. There's quite a lot of words that I don't really know how to pronounce on the spot, or consciously remember the pronunciation for (eg; mayor, Laos). And until I went and looked them up now, I thought cache was [kaysh], and rabid was [raybid]. Shit.
posted by jacalata at 8:00 AM on December 30, 2007


Words that I've pronounced incorrectly in my head for years:
halcyon
etcetera
banality
Arctic
espresso
forte
minuscule
respite
posted by peacheater at 8:01 AM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Pravit, it may be helpful for you to know that answers.com has audio clips of each word in its lexicon.

Divbat, there are many ways to pronounce broccoli.
(alternate link)
posted by about_time at 8:06 AM on December 30, 2007


It's been "kwy-er" all my life; I've never heard either "koy-arr" or "khoi-er".

And, goo, I think "fore-head" is right: "forrid" sounds like something Jed Clampett would say.
posted by timeistight at 8:07 AM on December 30, 2007


Here are a few that I've noticed:

Ori-en-tate instead of orient (he's "alert and oriented", not "alert and orientated", though this isn't really a pronunciation thing).

fin-nance instead of fye-nance

add-vert-iss-ment for ad-ver-tyse-ment

pro-sess-eez instead of praw-sess-is (though this can vary slightly by region and still be correct. But it's NOT PRO-SESS-EEZ!)

jew-leh-ree for jew-el-ree (this is so common it almost doesn't matter, though)
posted by Verdandi at 8:09 AM on December 30, 2007


Boatswain is [bo-sun / bos'n], not [boat-swain].
posted by Camel of Space at 8:10 AM on December 30, 2007


As another non-native English speaker I also learned most of my vocabulary from books, and routinely used words in my speech that I'd never heard out loud. I made it worse by my habit of using complicated words that most people wouldn't use when talking.

I probably don't embarrass myself as much as I used to, but still occasionally get confused by the placement of the stress in words like "homogeneous", "superfluous", "default" and am known to use a different stress each time I say the word. (Words like these crop up surprisingly often in discussions on information architecture.)

Most online dictionaries have audio pronunciation guides these days, one of the few good uses of online multimedia. So there's not really an excuse to be wrong anymore.

This thread also touched on accent, which I think is not so much an matter of right vs wrong. People shouldn't feel the need to "fix" their accent.
posted by snarfois at 8:17 AM on December 30, 2007


And, goo, I think "fore-head" is right: "forrid" sounds like something Jed Clampett would say

Heh. I forgot Americans do pronounce it for-head. Jed must be British or Australian then?

Router is another interesting one - it's rooter in England, rowter in the US and rowter in Australia, even though Australians pronounce route as root. This is because a rooter in Australia is someone actively engaged in the sex act.
posted by goo at 8:23 AM on December 30, 2007


A lot of these answers are actually the opposite of what you're looking for. If you pronounce things phonetically, you're unlikely to call spaghetti pasketti or say supposably instead of supposedly. Those are mistakes of people who talk WAY more than they read, not the other way around. Basically, it sounds like you're looking for words that don't sound like how they're spelled. The words segue and annihilate have always given me pause in reading aloud. But I mean, wow, this list is massive, just because of how the English language works.

One idea would be to start listening to the unabridged audio versions of the books you read while you're reading them. You can take a pencil and circle words that the reader pronounces differently than you would have. Of course, then you'd have to look them up and see if you were actually pronouncing it wrong, or just using a different correct pronunciation. Some examples would be more obvious than others.

Place names are tough, especially trying to explain in text form how to say them. Worcester, for instance, I think sounds more like Wooster, with the caveat that, being from New England, the "oo" in Wooster sounds more like the "oo" in book than the "oo" in doom. And in the case of Worcestershire sauce, I kind of slur the "shire" bit, making it sound sort of like Woostersherr Sauce.

Anyway if it makes you feel better, I'm a zillionth-generation native English speaker, and after only a couple of years of living with my husband, for whom English is his third language, I already make some of the same pronunciation and grammar mistakes he does. Also, keep in mind that even if you do pronounce things right, people will still laugh at your pronunciations sometimes, because people in different parts of the world speaking the same language just say things differently, and people like to point out those differences.
posted by lampoil at 8:26 AM on December 30, 2007 [5 favorites]


A lot of the answers in this thread seem to be conflating regional accents with mispronunciation. "Idear," "warsh," "ad-VUR-tis-muhnt," "PRO-sess-eez" and "fin-nance" are all regional accents and not incorrect pronunciation. "Could of" is how "could've" is pronounced, but not how it's written. Cache is pronounced like cash.

Likewise for here and hair, where and wear, and (well almost) shore and sure.

I've never heard an American distinguish between where and wear or shore and sure.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:28 AM on December 30, 2007


Verdandi: if I'm not mistaken, nearly all of your cases are correct or at least acceptable British English -- only the last one is a real mispronunciation (one which annoys me, even though you're right that it's incredibly common). I used to work with a woman from the BBC who really liked to talk about this or that pro-cess or pro-cess-eez and it mildly entertained every time even though it was certainly not wrong. Different accents are nifty.

For whatever reason, I always have to think twice about how to pronounce "wound" (as in "injure"). I love that someone upthread spelled "Welsh" as "Welch" because that is a very common way of mispronouncing the (ethnic slur) expression meaning to not make good on a bet, and I wondered if it was intentional.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 8:30 AM on December 30, 2007


A friend of mine mispronounces "bra" and says "brawl." It is by far the weirdest mispronunciation I have ever heard.
posted by Becko at 8:31 AM on December 30, 2007


Isaac Asimov used to complain, before he was dead, that lots of people mispronounced his name as "Asminov," probably because it seems more Russian.

As an Englishman, I'm struggling to actually find a way of saying it that isn't i-dear

Eye dee uh
or
Eye dee ah

Of course, the distinction between "Eye dear" and "eye dee ah" might only exist for rhotic speakers.

He: Broc-co-lie (rhymes with pie)
Me: Bro-co-lee (rhymes with me)


Broc-co-lye might be a British pronunciation. Broc-uh-lee or brah-klee is the standard pronunciation among US native speakers.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:31 AM on December 30, 2007


Actually, scratch that last bit about where and wear -- I've heard "where" pronounced with a wheezing sound on the "wh," but 99% of the time it's been done intentionally by the speaker for comedic effect.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:32 AM on December 30, 2007


I think some of what we're seeing here are regional differences. For example, Americans I know say "AD ver tize ment" while I've heard British people say "ad VERT iss ment." This difference doesn't mean one of us is wrong.

A common target among Americans is the British "al (y)oo MIN ee um" for aluminum, but they SPELL it that way, too: aluminium.

I do, however, reserve the right to snicker when the BBC says "Nick-uh-RAG-yoo-uh" for Nicaragua (nick-ah-RAH-gwah).

When I was a kid, I thought "bedraggled" was BED-raggled, since that's how you wake up in the morning, thanks to your bed (it's beh-DRAGgled).
posted by PatoPata at 8:33 AM on December 30, 2007


I think the funniest mispronunciation I ever heard was dash-hound for dachshund.
posted by stopgap at 8:34 AM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I had a teacher in high school who assuaged my embarrassment over mispronouncing "preface" as 'pre-face' (instead of 'pref-ass') by asserting that it was a sign of being well read- several words which are popular in literature are not in common speech, and so to mispronounce one simply implied that you had read the word, tried to understand it, and simply took it the wrong way.

So don't feel bad about it, when people mispronounce obscure words I consider it a sign of intelligence! English is a completely back-asswards language when it comes to phonetics.
posted by baphomet at 8:46 AM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


coif, pronounced quaff
voila is pronounced vwaLA, NOT "walla" like the city (this drives my husband up the wall)

(as you may have guess I grew up in a francophone household)

actually, stopgap, I think enough people pronounce dachshund as "dashoond" that I think it's accepted as a legit form. Maybe a regional thing?
posted by nax at 8:48 AM on December 30, 2007


When I was a kid, I thought "bedraggled" was BED-raggled

This is great.
posted by nax at 8:50 AM on December 30, 2007


This is more of a comment about accents, but my dad (who has a strong New York accent, while I have a more neutral New Englander accent) was telling me a story just the other day, of how he had gone to a pawn shop.

It took me until he started describing the contents of said shop that he was not indeed talking about a porn shop.

And the next time I heard him tell the story, he actually started it with "So I went into this p-a-w-n pawn shop..."
posted by jozxyqk at 8:51 AM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow, lots of answers!

I think some of the answers are indeed regional accents - pronouncing "cot" and "caught" the same is a common feature of standard American English accents, and all the Brits I've ever known say "idear" instead of "idea". As lampoil points out, some are also just pronunciation quirks, such as spaghetti and pasketti. I think pasketti-sayers would certainly pronounce the word properly if asked to read it out slowly.

About could of and could've - isn't that more a writing error? I can't hear the difference.

Some of the responses did reveal words that I've been pronouncing wrong - I had no idea that posthumous isn't pronounced "post - humous", or that "banal" could be pronounced as anything other than "bay-null." I also learned another one recently - I'd been pronouncing clandestine as "CLAN - dess - tyne", but apparently it's "clan - DESS - tin." Bizarre. Segue is another good one - I only learned that one after going to college; I always thought it was pronounced "seg."
posted by pravit at 8:55 AM on December 30, 2007


until I was about 12, I thought "misled" was the past tense of the verb "to misle" and was pronounced a lot like "rifle."

FelliniBlank, I had the exact same problem, right down to the age of the dread discovery (which took the form of, "Hmm, how strange, I don't think I've ever seen this verb used in the present tense. Hey, wait a second...")! And now I can also say, until I was 31 I thought I was a unique and special snowflake in this regard.

I'm another victim of learning a lot of words early through reading; I try to make a habit of looking up pronunciations for words I've never heard spoken. It's very useful to learn the basic phonetic symbols used in dictionaries.
posted by hilatron at 8:55 AM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Just last week, in the course of conversation, I mentioned quinoa. As in, "kwi-NO-ah." My sister laughed at me because it's "key-nwah."

But this thread is conflating a lot of different things: read-then-said errors (quinoa, bedraggled), regional dialects, things that get mispronounced for phonological reasons (liberry, nucular)...
posted by Jeanne at 9:00 AM on December 30, 2007


I distinctly recall a couple of friends staring at me dumbfoundedly in 10th grade when I pronounced someone (perhaps myself, ironically) 'OM-nee-sigh-ent' rather than 'om-NISH-ent'
posted by Doofus Magoo at 9:10 AM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


What language do your parents speak? Knowing that might help, because there may be some English vowel sounds/etc that they can't hear, and passed on to you.
posted by fermezporte at 9:11 AM on December 30, 2007


Ditto the "read a lot" explanation. I tend to mispronounce words I have not heard. For a long time my friends cracked up whenever I said lingerie. It is a derivative of the word "linger" after all, right?
:)
posted by Arthur Dent at 9:13 AM on December 30, 2007


PLAH-SEA-BOE vs PLACE-EE-BOO for placebo. I said the latter for the longest time. I'm also embarrassed how many words I've been corrected on in this thread alone. [sigh]
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:15 AM on December 30, 2007


I love that someone upthread spelled "Welsh" as "Welch" because that is a very common way of mispronouncing the (ethnic slur) expression meaning to not make good on a bet, and I wondered if it was intentional.

It wasn't intentional, it was an unfortunate typo, of which I make quite a few.

I will admit to never knowing how to pronounce "bedraggled" until probably the last year or so. I've read it a million times, and know what it means but I don't remember ever hearing it spoken.

I always feel a sense of wonder when I learn the correct pronunciation of a word that I previously thought I knew, like segue, subtle and Phoebe. Luckily, I generally try to not speak words that I'm not sure how to pronounce, although this didn't stop me from pronouncing the "b" in subtle when I was a teenager.

I've never heard an American distinguish between where and wear or shore and sure.

This must be a regional thing as well then, because I hear all four pronunciations quite frequently.
posted by triggerfinger at 9:27 AM on December 30, 2007


I thought "ennui" was pronounced "en-you-eye" until my early thirties. And I'm a stickler for correct pronunciation. I even pronounce "where" and "wear," and "shore" and "sure," (especially the latter two) so that you can tell the difference.

The other day I corrected my daughter's pronunciation of "hubris"–she pronounced it "hyoo-bree"–and then went home to look it up to make sure I wasn't the one who was mistaken. It's not a word you often encounter in conversation.
posted by bricoleur at 9:38 AM on December 30, 2007


until I was about 12, I thought "misled" was the past tense of the verb "to misle" and was pronounced a lot like "rifle."

FelliniBlank, I had the exact same problem, right down to the age of the dread discovery (which took the form of, "Hmm, how strange, I don't think I've ever seen this verb used in the present tense. Hey, wait a second...")! And now I can also say, until I was 31 I thought I was a unique and special snowflake in this regard.


Dude, it took me getting into an ARGUMENT about "misled", at the age of *30*, for me to learn it wasn't "MYzlld". I insisted that it was the form of the verb "to misle" (MYzuhl) which meant something akin to mislead with nefarious intent, or to chisle money from. What the fuck?
posted by tristeza at 9:50 AM on December 30, 2007


I've never heard an American distinguish between where and wear or shore and sure.

I'm a Californian-American. Shore rhymes with whore; sure with her.
posted by dame at 9:51 AM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you want to make a room full of Americans fall over laughing, ask the only Australian what a weird fart smells like.

"What? A WEE-AHD FAHT?"

Good times.

More seriously, medicine is full of these, but because they are words not used in ordinary conversation and said by Very Serious Men in white coats, it slides.

ab-DOE-man for abdomen

du-ODD-e--num, du-o-DEE-num, du-o-DEH-num, I have heard all three

My anatomy professor pronounced esophagus: ee-so-FAH-jus
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:52 AM on December 30, 2007


Sorry, you guys are right about sure and shore, I've definitely heard that one. I'm still lost about where and wear though -- anyone want to clarify that?
posted by ludwig_van at 9:53 AM on December 30, 2007



I've never heard an American distinguish between where and wear or shore and sure.

This may be a regional thing. Here in KY (and elsewhere in the Southeast) it's a very clear difference, and a class in college with a French speaking professor actually had the wh/w distinction come up (as she questioned aloud why they were written differently). There has been at least one joke that relied on on wh/w sounding the same that I saw in writing and just could not get until I asked someone, too.

Your problem does come from reading words but never hearing them spoken aloud. My SO has the same thing, and my mother did, too, to some extent.

For the SO, I think "herb" as in "herbs and spices" may have been one.
posted by dilettante at 9:55 AM on December 30, 2007


I messed up 'chaos,' pronouncing it as its spelled (SHOCK) as opposed to ka-os.

I was once reading a book for a class, while dead tired, and stopped cold. "Bl-ooo-d? What the fuck is 'blood'? ...Oh. 'Bluhd.' Right."
posted by flibbertigibbet at 9:56 AM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Years ago I was visiting a friend and met her mom. Apparently she had gone to a class at Sur la Table that day to learn how to make pie and made a "punkin" one. She kept going on about her "punkin pie" and I was dying. I've never met anyone who ACTUALLY says punkin instead of pumpkin 100% of the time. But apparently she does.

One that gets me (and no it's NOT a racist thing on my part, it's solely that bad grammar really does pain my ears sometimes, and I don't care where the bad pronunciation came from or who is saying it)... is when I lived in LA and constantly heard people say "axt" instead of "asked." It is like nails on a chalkboard for me. ASKED. ASKED. ASKED. There is no X, people.

I'll admit, I used to read "misled" as the past tense of "misle" too, though. For the longest time.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:57 AM on December 30, 2007


My favorite animals were the dangerous ("these animals are dangerous" at the zoo, which for a long time I rhymed with kangaroos).
posted by anadem at 9:57 AM on December 30, 2007


I must be the only one who can't get "armoire" and "foyer" right. OK, just 'cause I'm Texan and never took French may have something to do with it. And my Texan/Southern accent tends to reinforce stereotypical mispronunciations such as "tar" (tire) and "awl" (oil). I'm workin' on 'em, though. There is one verbal boo-boo of mine that my spouse finds funny: I call "pie" "paaaaahhhhhh."
posted by Smalltown Girl at 10:00 AM on December 30, 2007


My favourite personal mis-pronunciation is that of Hyperbole. Which is decidedly not pronounced as it is written. Explaining to someone what you mean by High-Per-Bowl is ... difficult, and rife with room for mockery.
posted by Smoosh Faced Lion at 10:03 AM on December 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


No one's mentioned hyperbole yet? Is it HYper-bowl, or high-PER-boh-lee?
posted by spaceman_spiff at 10:12 AM on December 30, 2007


Aw, I just missed it. Should've read to the end.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 10:12 AM on December 30, 2007


pravit, I also grew up as a second-generation Midwestern with non-native English speakers as parents, and also learned a lot of vocabulary from books. four words my friends always make fun of me for saying "wrong" are drawer (apparently it's supposed to be "drore") but I say "draw-er"), yolk and folk (I pronounce the l, but they say "yoke" and "foke"), and sword (again, I pronounce the w but they say it's supposed to be "sord"). on the other hand, the latter might be a Midwesternism, but I only have one data point to support it.

there are other words I supposedly say incorrectly, but I think those are regional accent differences (like route and roof).
posted by dropkick queen at 10:13 AM on December 30, 2007


All dictionaries (I think) give phonetic transcriptions of each word at the start of the definition, if either of you can read phonetics.

Keep in mind that all mainstream American dictionaries--ALL--give short shrift to regional and dialect pronunciations in the entries, though they may have a note about it in the frontmatter. There are whole swaths of Alabama where a dictionary pronunciation key is about as useless as tits on a bull.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:16 AM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Can anyone tell me the correct pronunciation of "faux anglophile" while we're at it?
posted by DarlingBri at 10:16 AM on December 30, 2007


I'd normally cite the OED for this type of question, but this link to the etymology of ask/ax will have to suffice since not everyone has free-access to the OED online.
posted by heyho at 10:19 AM on December 30, 2007


I remember being tripped up by "subsidiary" in 7th or 8th grade, which I somehow hadn't noticed had "ia" rather than "ai" in it. Until high school, I thought "causal" was the same word as "casual," making the phrase "there was no causal relationship between these events" in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy rather more portentous than Douglas Adams intended.

After these embarrassments I learned not to use words in speech if I hadn't either heard them pronounced or looked up their pronunciations.
posted by kindall at 10:20 AM on December 30, 2007


Nucular vs. Nuclear

I have it on good authority that while saying "nucular" (like GWB) makes you sound dumb, it is in fact an accepted pronunciation among some nuclear physicists, including the personnel involved in the Manhattan Project. So go figure.
posted by Camofrog at 10:25 AM on December 30, 2007


canada's main debit card system is called "Interac." probably 90% of people pronounce it "interact," even though the word is clearly spelled in bold-face on every card and bank machine from here to halifax.

it drives me up the friggin' wall.

also, my girlfriend from saskatchewan says, "somewheres," which is both adorable and cringe-inducing.
posted by klanawa at 10:29 AM on December 30, 2007


Can anyone tell me the correct pronunciation of "faux anglophile" while we're at it?

Foe an-glow-file, with the "an" sounding like the first syllable in "angle."
posted by ludwig_van at 10:30 AM on December 30, 2007


And "forte" is actually pronounced "fort," not "fort-ay," but if you say "fort" everyone thinks you're a tool. Not fair!
posted by Camofrog at 10:31 AM on December 30, 2007


While we're at it, can someone tell me where the "eye-talian" prononunciation of "italian" comes from? Because that's another one that I hear once in a while, usually when a waitress is naming off salad dressings.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:31 AM on December 30, 2007


There's a Philly suburb Chichester and for some reason they all pronounce the "CHI" as if it rhymed with "EYE".

There's a Wycombe, too - and you guessed it- they all say WHY'-comb.

There's another suburb called Lancaster and for some reason they all say "LUN-custer". Irritating.
posted by wfc123 at 10:42 AM on December 30, 2007


But it's NOT PRO-SESS-EEZ! Certainly not, but it still surprises me at the number of people in the sciences who mispronounce it - as though it's the plural of procesis
posted by Neiltupper at 10:42 AM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I used to think that horizon was pronounced like the first three syllables of horizontal, and that hearth rhymed with earth.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 10:45 AM on December 30, 2007


Primer is pronounced with a short "I" (PRIM-ur) rather than a long "I" (PRIME-ur) when you're referring to a basic book (as opposed to say, a base coat of paint.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:49 AM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


forte

1648, from Fr. fort "strong point (of a sword blade)," also "fort," from M.Fr. fort (see fort); final -e- added 18c. in imitation of It. forte "strong." Meaning "strong point of a person" is from 1682.

The OED lists the pronunciation of forte as fawh-tee and fawh-tay first, then fawht. Just sayin.

(Of course, most Americans go a bit heavier with the R, but ... you get it. And pardon the weak "translation" of IPA pronunciation; my keyboard couldn't handle it.)
posted by heyho at 10:50 AM on December 30, 2007


Freer
posted by Jabberwocky at 11:05 AM on December 30, 2007


"Foilage"

/me shudders.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:21 AM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


odi.et.amo, how do you hear a difference between "could of" and "could've? I can see it in writing, but the sound pretty much the same to me.

Of course, everyone laughs at me when I say "iron" too, so I may be at a disadvantage. Pravit, are you parents immigrants? Mine are, which I've finally concluded is the reason behind my pronouncing certain words "wrong."
posted by Lillitatiana at 11:24 AM on December 30, 2007


As-far-as I know, I don't mispronounce many words, but people have accused me of misplacing emphasis. For instance, when I say "cottage cheese," I say "COTtage cheese." Several people have thrown up their arms in exasperation and told me, "It's cottage CHEESE, dammit!"

My mother grew up in New York and my father was a London cockney. I was an only child (until I was 12) who spent more time around my parents than my peers.
posted by grumblebee at 11:25 AM on December 30, 2007


Like someone said upthread, segue. It was only a couple of years ago that I realized it was the entire word, instead of a shortening of segueway. Not that I had ever seen it written that way. It comes, I'm sure, from reading words instead of learning them in conversation.

Oh, and once I said dee-treus instead of de-tri-tus for detritus -- the first time I'd ever said it out loud -- and an acquaintance very condescendingly corrected me. It's why I rarely correct people unless I'm close enough to them to want to make sure they aren't embarrassed in the future.
posted by sugarfish at 11:29 AM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


This thread prompted me to look up my personal stumbling block, February. (I pronounce both "R" sounds, and feel like I'm in the minority.) The usage note on why it's often pronounced fĕb'yū-ĕr'ē is quite interesting!
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:29 AM on December 30, 2007


Template.
posted by stopgap at 11:45 AM on December 30, 2007


If it makes you feel any better I bet the majority of Americans pronounce ukulele as u-ke-lae-lee when it's really pronounced oo-ke-lae-lee. (Sorry if my pronunciation spelling is off. The first syllable is OO, not U.)
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 11:58 AM on December 30, 2007


BTW, Steve, I'm from California and I pronounce "cot" and "caught" identically as well. I think it's more that my parents came from the Midwest. Accents on the West Coast are often reflective of where people's families came from before they migrated west.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 12:00 PM on December 30, 2007


My best friend (very well-read, English major) says "thee-ALL-uh-juhn" instead of "thee-uh-LOH-juhn," and I've never felt up to correcting her. Her way would make more sense, because it's "theology" with "ian" instead of "y" at the end... but she's just wrong.
I nth the "segue" thing - I thought it was "seg," a friend's sister insisted it was "seg-yoo," we were both wrong. It's definitely an issue of reading too much and not having conversations/watching tv. There are easily hundreds of these words that I've had trouble with and just can't think of right now.
posted by naoko at 12:25 PM on December 30, 2007


Pious—and by extension Piety—continue to plague me. I always want to say "pee-us," but of course it's "pie-us."

I am inherently impious myself, and was only introduced to the word in high school when translating the Aeneid. One of Aeneas' epithets is "Pius Aeneas," which you'd rhymingly pronounce as "Peeoos Ayeneeoos" in Latin. Hence my eternal confusion, since in English you'd really have to mangle Aeneas' name in order to get it to rhyme with pious.
posted by mumkin at 12:29 PM on December 30, 2007


Nucular vs. Nuclear

I have it on good authority that while saying "nucular" (like GWB) makes you sound dumb, it is in fact an accepted pronunciation among some nuclear physicists, including the personnel involved in the Manhattan Project. So go figure.


Which only proves that even nucular scientists can mispronounce nuclear.

I can imagine Laura Bush (a librarian, after all) saying to GWB, "It's pronounced nu-klee-er, dear," and he says "That's what I said."

Missing from this discussion is the phenomenon that people who consistently mispronounce something, even though, like GWB, they obviously hear the correct pronunciation all around them, actually just don't hear the difference (except passing reference by Nickel), in the same way that, allegedly, the Japanese can't hear the difference between our l's and r's.
posted by beagle at 1:00 PM on December 30, 2007


This has got me wondering -- do Spanish speakers have this sort of problem (with their native tongue)? With the same frequency?
posted by ludwig_van at 1:01 PM on December 30, 2007


It could also be a factor of where you grew up. My boyfriend grew up in Philadelphia, and since moving to Alaska was teased for his pronunciations of certain words until they were shamed out of him. Like woo-der instead of wah-ter for water; egg-sit instead of ex-sit for exit. He still says urr for error, and it drives me nuts.
posted by rhapsodie at 1:05 PM on December 30, 2007


Segue I somehow thought was pronounced like "seeg", and didn't connect it with the spoken word until the Segway came out. Similarly, I had a friend who thought naïve was pronounced like "nave", and didn't connect it with the spoken word.

Genre as "GEEN-er" by analogy with metre, quay as "kway", gamut as "GAM-it" (which I still catch myself at). Also, the "b" in subtle. I misread Behemoth as "bo-HEE-muth" at an early age, and it stuck. Nth-ing misled. And I didn't even know boatswain equaled bosun until this thread!
posted by Kwirq at 1:23 PM on December 30, 2007


For years, I read anxious as anoxious. For some reason I never connected them as the same word- I heard people say anxious and read anoxious for years before I realized they were the same word and I was an idiot. I'm still half-convinced that the word anoxious *does* exist and it's just not very popular. Except in every book I read as a child.
posted by MadamM at 1:57 PM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


About 90% of people who say the word "Frustrated" drop the first R and say "fustrated." THAT one drives me crazy.
posted by TomMelee at 1:58 PM on December 30, 2007


The OED lists the pronunciation of forte as fawh-tee and fawh-tay first, then fawht. Just sayin.

That might be the British way. My trusty American Webster's clearly prefers the "fort" pronunciation, and if you google "how do you pronounce forte" you'll see lots of support for this, though most places also agree that the "fort-ay" pronunciation is so widespread that it's pretty much "right" by now. That's how languages evolve I guess.
posted by Camofrog at 2:10 PM on December 30, 2007


Born and raised in Los Angeles. The first time I ever saw the word "cajole", I pronounced it /ca-HO-lay/ for obvious reasons.
posted by wanderingmind at 2:19 PM on December 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Metafilter has some answers. And more on accents. There's another thread that discusses the idear/idea thing with sound bites. (I thought I said idear until I heard an American say it.) but I can't find it. Yes, I can - here it is.
posted by b33j at 2:34 PM on December 30, 2007


Before I work where I work now (a place that does a lot of reproductive health research) I used to pronounce epididymus as epi-did- EYE-mus.

Frankly I kind of like it like that. Sounds like a number from "The Music Man." One researcher promised to start a meme to promote it he thought it was so funny.

FYI It is supposed to be pronouned Epi-DID-uh-mus
posted by xetere at 2:55 PM on December 30, 2007


our words my friends always make fun of me for saying "wrong" are drawer (apparently it's supposed to be "drore") but I say "draw-er"), yolk and folk (I pronounce the l, but they say "yoke" and "foke")

Wow! I say draw-er, yolk, and folk, too, and I never knew it was incorrect until you mentioned it just now!! It's exactly this kind of thing I'm looking for - some basic word you just know to be right, and then one day it turns out you've been pronouncing it wrong your entire life. I listened to some sound clips on m-w, and it really does seem like the correct pronunciation is "dror", but I think I can still hear a slight l in the yolk and folk. However, their vowels are different - they're pronouncing it with an o as in open, whereas I pronounce both of those like "yulk" and "fulk."

To clarify, I'm not looking for differences in accents, or peculiarities that come up from rapid informal spoken language.
posted by pravit at 3:06 PM on December 30, 2007


My family has long made fun of me for mispronouncing the word hanger. I guess I say hang-her with a long a sound; for the life of me I can't pronounce it any other way. Actually, I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong but they think it's absolutely funny.
posted by tamitang at 3:47 PM on December 30, 2007


I just discovered (thanks to my beloved BF) that I say "rampage" incorrectly. I say "ram-paj" and it's supposed to be closer to "ram-payge." I should have sent a sound file to languagehat for him to interpret my pronunciation, ha ha.
posted by Liosliath at 3:50 PM on December 30, 2007


Can anyone tell me the correct pronunciation of "faux anglophile" while we're at it?

Foe an-glow-file, with the "an" sounding like the first syllable in "angle."


I was actually being snarky about some of the pronunciation suggestions (not the errors, though) in this thread. Clearly I failed to bring the funny, so never mind. Plus, bad me. Bad!

FWIW it wasn't until I heard someone pronounce the word "quay" whilst standing below a sign that actually read Heron's Quay they I realised it wasn't pronounced kway. I believe I was 30 at the time. Ouch.

Also I stil have to mentally check Thames before I open my mouth. Every single time. Still.

Personal pet peeve: ambi-yance, as though ambiance rhymes with dance. A certain romance there, but sadly, no.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:54 PM on December 30, 2007


pravit, I always assumed my mispronunciation of those words was a Midwestern thing until my friend from Chicago started making fun of me, too! Maybe other Midwesterners can chime in here.
posted by dropkick queen at 3:59 PM on December 30, 2007


I also had a long-running problem with "misled" which I pronounced in my head as "mizzled" but which I spoke correctly -- I just never put the written word together with the spoken one - thought they were two different words.

For the life of me I can't pronounce "mirror" - it always comes out as "murr"

My parents are English but I was raised in Western Canada -- my friends tease me about some words such as "sexuality" (I say "sex-yoo-allity", they claim it is "sex-shoe-allity") and tissue (vs tish-yoo), but I assume that is an accent thing.

I only really got "segue" when the Segway came out.
posted by Rumple at 4:43 PM on December 30, 2007


a lot of people who read read read and don't use the "read words" in conversation tend to mispronounce. i certainly have. a good resource is the m-w online dictionary, which pronounces words for you! and then you don't mess up.

i find regional accents totally fascinating.
posted by sdn at 5:09 PM on December 30, 2007


goo - 'router' is an interesting one. It's something of a minor personal crusade of mine because the 'row-ter' pronunciation a) misrepresents the purpose of the device, and b) really annoys the shit out of me.

'Rout' and 'route' are two different words, with two different meanings, and two different pronunciations - the first, pronounced 'rowt', means 'to turn aside; disperse in complete disorder'; the second, pronounced 'root' (and I offer as empirical evidence in support the fact that Nat King Cole et al never sang about 'Rowt 66'), means 'a course or path for travel to a destination'.

Now, leaving aside homophonic distaste, which of those does a router do?

Ergo, it's pronounced 'root-er' ;-)
posted by Pinback at 5:11 PM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


e-PIT-oh-me is the epitome of these kinds of words. I was also very keen on the German poet go-ETH, and had never read any "Gerta."

Now my five-year-old daughter's doing it. She rhymes flood with food and mood.
posted by rdc at 5:30 PM on December 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


I say mirror and doll wrong respectively, (I mean I still lapse sometimes) as myrrh and dull. Also I apparently pronounce pen as pin. No one else in my extended family does, and I've always been a veracious reader who was not taught phonics, but rather sight reading.
Dad says 'Dram ah' for drama, William Cow per for William Cowper (pronounced Cooper).
As an ESL teacher I've heard lots of zingers, but in my mind that doesn't count. 'Spanglish', for example, is one of many legitimate form of English.
What you are seeking are words native speakers mispronounce in any standard English form.
I do recall my disillusionment many years ago when I discovered that solitude is not pronounced as so/lit/ta/tude.
posted by dawson at 5:42 PM on December 30, 2007


An old girlfriend in college used to give me grief about the way I pronounced "water". Apparently the correct way to pronounce it, according to her, was "watt-er", and my "wau-ter" was all wrong.
posted by emelenjr at 5:45 PM on December 30, 2007


emelenjr. Watt-er or waut-er depends on where you're from. I bet she is from the west or midwest and you are from the Northeast. Both are absolutely correct. If you were British you'd probaly say something close to Waw-tuh. But I had a girlfriend from Missouri and used to drive her crazy saying "Mary, Merry Marry, can't you hear the &$^#$% difference?" Chances are you're old girlfriend couldn't.
posted by xetere at 6:25 PM on December 30, 2007


Everyone knows "tire iron" is pronounced "tarrarn."
posted by booth at 8:25 PM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Actually, the third pronunciation of quay in the dictionary IS qwey, if you click on the icon to hear it.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:07 PM on December 30, 2007


'router' is an interesting one. It's something of a minor personal crusade of mine because the 'row-ter' pronunciation a) misrepresents the purpose of the device, and b) really annoys the shit out of me.

'Rout' and 'route' are two different words, with two different meanings, and two different pronunciations - the first, pronounced 'rowt', means 'to turn aside; disperse in complete disorder'; the second, pronounced 'root' (and I offer as empirical evidence in support the fact that Nat King Cole et al never sang about 'Rowt 66'), means 'a course or path for travel to a destination'.

Now, leaving aside homophonic distaste, which of those does a router do?

Ergo, it's pronounced 'root-er' ;-)


Not according to my dictionary or the OED. The basic dictionary on my computer gives one of the definitions for "rout" (pronounced "rowt" not "root") as the verb "to cut a groove..." as in a plank. So "router" comes from "rout," not from "route," and hence the logical pronunciation is "rowter." The OED agrees (with lots more detail, of course) about the etymology of the word, and if I am puzzling my way correctly through their pronunciation guide, they agree that it is "rowter" not "rooter."
posted by Forktine at 9:19 PM on December 30, 2007


This is definitely a "read a lot as a child " phenomenon. Throw in regional pronunciations and exposure to non-native speakers as in your case, and voila. I myself have reasonably well educated native english speaking parents and until I was about 13 or 14 I believed the word "horizon" was pronounced "whore is on", like the beginning of the word horizontal. Then I said it aloud in front of my mother one day and she nearly died laughing. I also say "Eye-run", so I think that may be a regional thing as most people I grew up with in central New York said it the same way. I also say "Room" kind of like "rum". And then I can't seem to produce that very subtle nasal sound when the letters ng appear in a word as in "hanger" or "sung". I pronounce them "haner" and "sun". Having studied linguistics a bit in college I know that for the most part I speak the "Inland Northern/General American" dialect and here in North Carolina I often receive comments on how precise and "proper" my speech is. I had one person refer to it as "like how they talk in old movies".
posted by katyggls at 11:39 PM on December 30, 2007


Speaking of whore, I always read it as "war" - I knew what it meant but not a word commonly spoken in our family growing up.

Another word my daughter teases me about is "diaper" -- I pronounce it dye-a-per, while she says it is dye-per. Insolent brat.
posted by Rumple at 12:18 AM on December 31, 2007


I may be a bit late to the game, but I learned a lot of interesting things from this page. Some of the more interesting corrections:

* The "lived" in "short-lived" and "long-lived" rhymes with "five", not "give"

* "Lambast" is pronounced "lam-BASED", not "LAM-bast"

* It's "spit and image", not "spitting image".

* The word "forte" (as in "math is not my forte") is pronounced "fort", not "for-TAY".

* February is pronounced "FEB-ru-ary," not "FEB-u-ary".

* The city of Tijuana is pronounced "tee-HWA-na," not "tee-a-WA-na".
posted by Rhaomi at 1:45 AM on December 31, 2007


Aunt (ant vs ont)
Carribean (KARE-a BE-an vs kah-RIB-e-an)
posted by artdrectr at 2:18 AM on December 31, 2007


Oh yes, I've been mispronouncing sword too. Forgot about that one. And also bury. No matter how much I try to convince my brain that it's pronounced like berry, I can't get myself to stop saying BUH-ry.
posted by peacheater at 2:29 AM on December 31, 2007


"'Rout' and 'route' are two different words, with two different meanings, and two different pronunciations - the first, pronounced 'rowt', means 'to turn aside; disperse in complete disorder'; the second, pronounced 'root' (and I offer as empirical evidence in support the fact that Nat King Cole et al never sang about 'Rowt 66'), means 'a course or path for travel to a destination'."

That's regional. In some areas 'rowt' is used for 'route'. I grew up in Seattle, and kids who delivered newspapers had "paper 'rowts'", not "paper 'roots'". But I think that pronunciation is dying out.
posted by litlnemo at 3:21 AM on December 31, 2007


"Lambast" is pronounced "lam-BASED", not "LAM-bast"
The word "forte" (as in "math is not my forte") is pronounced "fort", not "for-TAY".


While thats how they're originally pronounced, like all good languages, things have evolved, and both pronunciations are acceptable now, if you're prepared to believe merriam-webster (and probably the OED).

Certainly, I've never heard anyone say lamb-baste or fort, which is, I suppose, a sign of the times.
posted by Smoosh Faced Lion at 5:13 AM on December 31, 2007


Indict has a silent C (in - dite).
posted by DanSachs at 9:10 AM on December 31, 2007


A guy I used to work with pronounced aspartame to rhyme with lobotomy.
posted by evariste at 9:28 AM on December 31, 2007


Fan-a-tic instead of fa-na-tic. I still read the word as fan-a-tic, but have to remember to be careful when speaking.

Also mishapen. I thought it was pronounced miss-happen, but it's miss-shapen.
posted by cass at 9:33 AM on December 31, 2007


"inter-dooce" for introduce.
"crick" for creek.
"bolth" for both.
posted by seiryuu at 11:49 AM on December 31, 2007


Maybe not as relevant, but also, you can't roll "one dice." Dice is a plural noun, "die" being its singular form. So, if you're playing D&D you often roll a twenty sided die.
posted by seiryuu at 11:52 AM on December 31, 2007


Until today I had NO idea it was "cardsharp" not "card shark." So is it "poolsharp" and not "pool shark?"

Also... I've said "forte" instead of pronouncing it "fort" and "spitting image" instead of "spit and image." This is interesting.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:14 PM on December 31, 2007


* It's "spit and image", not "spitting image".


Maybe not- at any rate, the phrase "spitting image" has been in use for over a hundred years, and it's not incorrect.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:18 PM on December 31, 2007


"Indict" (I said "in-DICKT" instead of "in-DITE") and "manure" ("MAN-you're" instead of "ma-NEW-er" or "ma-NYUER") tripped me up when I was a kid. I used to be one of those people who rhymed "aspartame" with "lobotomy," too. I still don't know whether "via" is "VYE-ah" or "VEE-ah," so I use them interchangeably.

"Forte" is tricky if you're used to reading it off of sheet music.

Also, this thread is great! I laughed my way through the whole thing as I read each pronunciation out loud.
posted by Drop Daedalus at 10:30 PM on December 31, 2007


FWIW, I've heard the OP's problem called "the dangers of a reading vocabulary", and it seems very common in those who read a lot more than they interact with other humans.

One gets so familiar with a word before ever speaking it... and hilarity ensues.
posted by rokusan at 10:52 PM on December 31, 2007


Almost all the errors in this thread that can be chalked up to 'pronouncing as it reads' I've made and still make. I blame it on never learning to read by 'phonics' (although I have no idea that it would've made any difference). I also tend to add syllables where none exist -- for example, I always have to think before I say 'insomniac' because there's a high likelihood I will try and say 'inso-maniac'.

Some other hilarious (to other people) errors I've made and still make:

pronouncing 'plaid' as 'played' (I actually think about it every time, and decide upon 'played' instead of 'pladd' -- the latter just sounds totally wrong).
'crocheted' as 'crotch-et-ted', to everyone's amusement.

usually I just avoid words I know I am unable to pronounce. I also did speech therapy for many years in elementary school, although I'm pretty sure my problems were more related to a misunderstanding about how words were pronounced than any real speech issue (most of the other people who joined me in that class had real, physical disabilities that made speech difficult for them).
posted by fishfucker at 12:30 PM on January 2, 2008


Niche - is it "nitch" or "neesh." I alternate, and I always feel wrong.

In college English, I had a professor who insisted on saying "Don Kwik-zote" instead of "Don Kee-hote" or "Kee-hote-ay," which are the pronounciations I had previously heard for "Don Quixote."

I am constitutionally incapable of saying "free throws" and especially "three free throws." It comes out "Free free frows." Instead, I say "foul shots."
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:50 AM on January 8, 2008


'router' is an interesting one. It's something of a minor personal crusade of mine because the 'row-ter' pronunciation a) misrepresents the purpose of the device, and b) really annoys the shit out of me.

'Rout' and 'route' are two different words, with two different meanings, and two different pronunciations - the first, pronounced 'rowt', means 'to turn aside; disperse in complete disorder'; the second, pronounced 'root' (and I offer as empirical evidence in support the fact that Nat King Cole et al never sang about 'Rowt 66'), means 'a course or path for travel to a destination'.

Now, leaving aside homophonic distaste, which of those does a router do?

Ergo, it's pronounced 'root-er' ;-)
posted by Pinback at 5:11 PM on December 30 [+] [!]


Pinback must have spent many hours contemplating and then carefully structuring and articulating this theory. What a waste -- it has nothing to do with reality. The fact that Nat King Cole sang "root 66" is irrelevant when millions and millions of midwesterners would say "rowt 66" for the same highway.
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:30 AM on January 8, 2008


Due to how English adapts to how it is actually used, is there any guesses for how long some of these items remain mispronunciations?
posted by mmascolino at 12:16 PM on January 8, 2008


The fact that Nat King Cole sang "root 66" is irrelevant when millions and millions of midwesterners would say "rowt 66" for the same highway.

Its even more complicated then that. I tend to use "root #" pronounciation strickly for 66 and 1 but the "rowt #" for everything else.
posted by mmascolino at 12:20 PM on January 8, 2008


I'm definitely not a native English speaker, I learned English at a young age, while living In New Zealand. I also read a lot, quite an early reader and in addition to English, I also speak Indonesian (my mother tongue), French and a bit of Dutch.

I think there are many words in English with French origin i.e. Egalitarian, from the word Egal (Egg-ul) which means Equal, thus explains why that one professor pronounces it Egg-ul-uh-tarian.
The same goes for route pronounced as root and cache --> kash.

As for Oriented and Orientated, I googled it once and apparently both are correct. Oriented is American while Orientated is mostly used among the British.

What bothers me though is lingerie pronounced as lawn-je-ray instead of the correct pronunciation lung-je-ree (in lung, the ng is very subtle) .. and a lot of Asian people (not asian-american) pronounce surface as sur-face and advantage as ad-van-tayge and portable as port-table.. which drive me nuts! (spelling mishaps such as your vs you're and were vs we're also drives me completely insane..)

and thanks to this forum, I now know how to correctly pronounce short-lived and other very, very useful things. ;)
posted by jakartaninbxl at 7:52 AM on February 1, 2008


Valentimes is the mark of a particular sort of thicky.

Oh, and paticular and patickler? Ouch.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:44 AM on April 27, 2008


Wow, this is still open? Well then, one I just realized in the last few months: askance is not ASK-ance, but rather a-SKANCE. When you look askance at someone, you are, sadly, not giving them a questioning glance, but rather merely looking at them sideways.
posted by kindall at 4:26 PM on August 28, 2008


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