50 Incorrect Pronunciations That You Should Avoid

By Maeve Maddox

Fred Astaire drew laughs back in the Thirties with his song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” in which the lovers can’t agree on the pronunciation of words like either, neither, and tomato.

incorrect pronunciations

On a personal level, I cringe when I hear someone sound the “t” in often or pronounce pecan with a short “a,” but I have to acknowledge that both these pronunciations are widely accepted alternate pronunciations that can be justified by the spelling.

Alternate pronunciations, however, are a different matter from out-and-out mispronunciations. The latter, no matter how common, are incorrect, either because of the spelling that indicates another pronunciation, or because of what is widely agreed upon to be conventional usage. Word of caution: I’m writing from an American perspective.

Here are 50 frequently mispronounced words. The list is by no means exhaustive, but provides a good start.

1. aegis – The ae in this word is pronounced /ee/. Say EE-JIS/, not /ay-jis/. In mythology the “aegis” is associated especially with the goddess Athene. It is her shield with the Gorgon’s head on it.

2. anyway – The problem with this word is not so much pronunciation as the addition of an unnecessary sound. Don’t add an s to make it “anyways.” The word is ANYWAY.

3. archipelago – Because the word is from Greek, the ch is pronounced with a /k/ sound. Say /AR-KI-PEL-A-GO/, not /arch-i-pel-a-go/.

4. arctic – Note the C after the R. Say /ARK-TIK/, not /ar-tik/.

5. accessory – the first C has a “hard” sound. Say /AK-SESS-OR-Y/, not /ass-ess-or-y/.

6. ask – The S comes before the K. Say /ASK/ not /aks/.

7. asterisk – Notice the second S. Say /AS-TER-ISK/, not /as-ter-ik/.

8. athlete – The word has two syllables, not three. Say /ATH-LETE/, not /ath-uh-lete/.

9. barbed wire- Notice the AR in the first syllable. Say /BARBD/, not /bob/.

10. cache – The word is of French origin, but it does not end with an accented syllable. A cache is a hiding place or something that is being hidden: a cache of supplies; a cache of money; a cache of drugs. Say /KASH/, not /ka-shay/.

11. candidate – Notice the first d. Say /KAN-DI-DATE/, not /kan-i-date/.

12. cavalry – This word refers to troops that fight on horseback. Say /KAV-UL-RY/, not /kal-vuh-ry/. NOTE: Calvary refers the place where Jesus was crucified and IS pronounced /kal-vuh-ry/.)

13. chaos – The spelling ch can represent three different sounds in English: /tch/ as in church, /k/ as in Christmas, and /sh/ as in chef. The first sound is heard in words of English origin and is the most common. The second sound of ch, /k/, is heard in words of Greek origin. The third and least common of the three ch sounds is heard in words adopted from modern French. Chaos is a Greek word. Say /KAY-OS/, not /tchay-os/.

14. clothes – Notice the TH spelling and sound. Say /KLOTHZ/, not /kloz/.

15. daïs – A daïs is a raised platform. The pronunciation fault is to reverse the vowel sounds. The word is often misspelled as well as mispronounced. Say /DAY-IS/ not /dī-is/.

16. dilate – The word has two syllables, not three. Say /DI-LATE/, not /di-a-late/.

17. drowned – This is the past participle form of the verb drown. Notice that there is no D on drown. Don’t add one when using the word in its past form. Say /DROWND/, not /drown-ded/.

18. et cetera – This Latin term is often mispronounced and its abbreviation is frequently misspelled. Say /ET CET-ER-A/, not /ex cet-er-a/. For the abbreviation, write ETC., not ect.

19. February – Just about everyone I know drops the first r in February. The spelling calls for /FEB-ROO-AR-Y/, not /feb-u-ar-y/.

20. foliage – The word has three syllables. Say /FO-LI-UJ/, not /fol-uj/.

21. forte – English has two words spelled this way. One comes from Italian and the other from French. The Italian word, a musical term meaning “loud,” is pronounced with two syllables: /FOR-TAY/. The French word, an adjective meaning “strength” or “strong point,” is pronounced with one syllable: /FORT/.

22. Halloween – The word for the holiday Americans celebrate with such enthusiasm on October 31 derives from “Hallowed Evening,” meaning “evening that has been made holy.” The word “hallow” comes from Old English halig, meaning “holy.” Notice the a in the first syllable and say /HAL-O-WEEN/, not /hol-lo-ween/.

23. height – The word ends in a /T/ sound, not a /TH/ sound. Say /HITE/, not /hith/.

24. heinous – People unfamiliar with the TV show Law and Order: S.V.U. may not know that heinous has two syllables. (The show begins with this sentence: “In the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous.”) Say /HAY-NUS/, not /heen-i-us/.

25. hierarchy – The word has four syllables. Say /HI -ER-AR-KY,/ not /hi-ar-ky/.

26. Illinois – As with Arkansas, the final “s” in Illinois is not pronounced. Say /IL-I-NOY/ (and /Ar-kan-saw/, not /il-li-noiz/ or /ar-kan-sas/). NOTE: Some unknowledgeable folks may still be trying to pronounce Arkansas as if it had something to do with Kansas. The pronunciation /ar-kan-zuz/ is waaay off base.

27. interpret – The word has three syllables. Don’t add one! Say /IN-TER-PRET/, not /in-ter-pre-tate/.

28. incident – Something that happens is an “incident.” Don’t say “incidence” when you mean a specific event. There IS a word “incidence,” but it has a different meaning.

29. “irregardless” – See the real word, regardless.

30. jewelry – The word has three syllables. Say /JEW-EL-RY/, not /jew-el-er-y/. The pronunciation /jewl-ry/ is common but not correct, as it removes one syllable from the word.

31. library – Notice where the R comes in the word. Say /LI-BRAR-Y/, not /li-ber-ry/.

32. medieval – The word has four syllables. The first E may be pronounced either short [med] or long [meed]. Say /MED-EE-EEVAL/ or /MEE-DEE-EEVAL/, not /meed-eval/.

33. miniature – The word has four syllables. Say /MIN-I-A-TURE/, not /min-a-ture/.

34. Mischievous – This is the adjective form of mischief whose meaning is “calamity” or “harm.” Mischievous is now associated with harmless fun so that the expression “malicious mischief” has been coined as another term for vandalism. Mischievous has three syllables with the accent on the first syllable: /MIS-CHI-VUS/. Don’t say /mis-chee-vee-us/.

35. niche – The word is from the French and, though many words of French origin have been anglicized in standard usage, this is one that cries out to retain a long “e” sound and a /SH/ sound for the che. Say /NEESH/, not /nitch/.

36. orient – This word has three syllables. As a verb it means to place something in its proper position in relation to something else. It comes from a word meaning “east” and originally meant positioning something in relation to the east. Now it is used with a more general meaning. Say /OR-I-ENT/, not /or-i-en-tate/.

37. old-fashioned – This adjective is formed from a past-participle: “fashioned.” Don’t leave off the ED. Say /OLD-FASHIOND/, not /old-fashion/.

38. picture – There’s a K sound in picture. Don’t confuse picture with pitcher. Say /PIK-TURE/, not /pitch-er/. Pitcher is a different word. A pitcher is a serving vessel with a handle.

39. precipitation – This is a noun that refers to rain or snow, or anything else that normally falls from the sky. As with prescription (below), the prefix is PRE-. Say /PRE-CIP-I-TA-TION/, not /per-cip–i-ta-tion/.

40. prescription – Note the prefix PRE- in this word. Say /PRE-SCRIP-TION/, not /per- scrip-tion/ or /pro-scrip-tion/.

41. preventive – The word has three syllables. A common fault is to add a syllable. Say PRE-VEN-TIVE/, not /pre-ven-ta-tive.

42. pronunciation – This word is a noun. It comes from the verb pronounce, BUT it is not pronounced like the verb. Say /PRO-NUN-CI-A-TION/, not /pro-nounce-i-a-tion/.

43. prostate – This word for a male gland is often mispronounced. There is an adjective prostrate which means to be stretched out facedown on the ground. When speaking of the gland, however, say /PROS-TATE/, not /pros-trate/.

44. Realtor – The word has three syllables. Say /RE-AL-TOR/, not /re-a-la-tor/.

45. regardless – The word has three syllables. Please don’t add an IR to make it into the abomination “irregardless”.

46. sherbet – The word has only one r in it. Say /SHER-BET/ not /sher-bert/.

47. spayed – This is a one-syllable word, the past participle form of the verb to spay, meaning to remove the ovaries from an animal. Like the verb drown (above) the verb spay does not have a D in its infinitive form. Don’t add one to the past participle. Say /SPADE/, not /spay-ded/.

48. ticklish – The word has two syllables. Say /TIK-LISH/, not /tik-i-lish/.

49. tract – Religious evangelists often hand out long printed statements of belief called “tracts.” That’s one kind of “tract.” Houses are built on “tracts.” Then there’s the word “track.” Athletes run on “tracks.” Animals leave “tracks.” Don’t say /TRAKT/ when you mean /TRAK/, and vice-versa.

50. vehicle – Although there is an H in the word, to pronounce it is to sound hicky. Say /VEE-IKL/, not /vee-Hikl/.

51. wintry – Here’s another weather word often mispronounced, even by the weather person. The word has two syllables. Say /WIN-TRY/, not /win-ter-y/.

Got any to add to the list?

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1,197 Responses to “50 Incorrect Pronunciations That You Should Avoid”

  • Kerry

    An additional mistake for foliage is to pronounce it “foy-lage”. There is no “i” next to that “o”!

    Another one I cringe at is “EX-presso” instead of “espresso”. If you can’t say it right, just order “coffee”. :)

  • Bernadette

    I have a co-worker who pronounces obese “o-beast”… but that may be filed under a different topic…

  • Jared Stein

    I lean toward a descriptivist philosophy of linguistics, and so except in cases where a pronunciation is merely ignorant (e.g. one read a word and used it without figuring out how it’s supposed to be pronounced), I put little stock in such corrections.

    When a population pronounces a word in a non-standard way, it may be dialect, or it may be linguistic change in action. Neither is sufficient cause for correction.

  • One Night Stanzas

    This makes bizarre reading for a British person! It got off on the wrong foot with me, because in Britain, no one says “offen” – I’m sorry?! It’s “often” – pronounced “off-tenn.” End of.

    And not to sound snobby, but I think most of these are not common among British people. We never use “anyways,” which seems to be common in Canada and the States – similarly we don’t miss out random letters (see “often”) as in “accessory,” “arctic”, “cavalry”, etc. “Asterisk” sometimes becomes “asterix” over here, but that’s the comic book’s fault… and “ask” becoming “aks” annoys the heck out of me too. But this really did point out to me that, for all we might be morons with grammar, we Brits are pretty good with our punctuation!

  • Sara

    I grew up in the Mid-west and when I was younger my parents, babysitter, etc. used the word ornery to describe my behavior. However, they dropped the initial “r” so it came out sounding like /ON-REE/ (2 syllables instead of 3). I thought it was an entirely different word and didn’t figure out they were just butchering it the whole time.

    Also people in the Mid-west like to say /MELK/ instead of milk. Gah!

  • temp-

    what about: it ain’t no something

    is that correct?

  • sl

    I agree wholly with all of the above, but just wanted to point out that “forte” in Italian does also mean “strong”. It is used as a musical term, and is mostly interpreted to mean “Loud”, in a relative way, but it really means that the player should convey a strong sound.

  • John Gordon

    I notice this in Chaucer’s “The Knight’s Tale” at line 3147:

    Yow loveres axe I now this questioun:

    While it may betray a lack of education today, the pronunciation of “ask” as “aks” seems to have a long history.

    BTW: The story also uses “aske” for first person singular in another spot. I don’t know why Chaucer switches back and forth.

  • Metroknow

    Oh, one of the worst: “nuclear” – not nuc-u-lar.

  • Robert V

    True, but you Brits need work on your Rs. You add them to the end of words that don’t end with one, like drama, and you ignore them in words that do, like mother. And I’m tired of you Brits calling me Robet!

  • Maeve

    John,
    “Ask” is not the only word in which letters and sounds have switched positions over time. “Girl” used to be “gril” and “whale” was “hwale.”

    Disclaimer: I didn’t put the word “dumb” in the headline. I don’t equate “uneducated” with “dumb.” And I don’t equate the quest for a standard pronunciation with “elitism.” With so many people from so many backgrounds communicating in English, a standard pronunciation is desirable. Of course, we all prefer our own pronunciations so there’s going to be plenty of room for disagreement as to what the standard should be.

    As for “February,” I only noted the spelling. While we’re waving degrees, I have one from the University of London and I say “feb u ary.”

    :-)

  • Adrienne

    Nuclear!!

  • Catherine @ Sharp Words

    I’m with One Night Stanzas on a lot of this – it seems very specifically American and doesn’t take into account other variations. (I didn’t know how to pronounce Arkansas into well into my mid-20s!) Brits would almost always pronounce the ‘t’ in ‘often’, and would slur other words that might not be that way in American English.
    Actually, I was more baffled why you didn’t like the ‘t’ sounded in ‘often’ when most of the other incorrect pronunciations involved letters not being pronounced…

    I’m forever correcting my husband on ‘calvary’/’cavalry’ though! And one pronunciation you missed is ‘Wednesday’. I love hearing BBC newsreaders say ‘Wed-uns-day’ while the rest of us just say ‘Wensday’.

    I do think a lot of mis-pronunciations happen that way simply because they’re easier to say, though, particularly in quick speech. Trying to get those extra Rs into February and library is something I admit I rarely do unless I’m consciously trying.

  • grippingyarn

    This article rubbed me the wrong way and smacks of elitism because it is too localized and doesn’t account for international or even cultural differences in pronunciation.

    I would prefer not to read any more of this kind of thing in my daily blogs. I like Daily Writing Tips, but topics with a mean spirited voice will have to go. It’s a legitimate article if it explores mispronunciation from the specific perspective of a localized custom, but the attitude is derisive.

    In a climate where people are struggling just to get by, the last thing on my mind is snubbing my neighbors over their choice of pronunciation. This is particularly true for me since I reside in a household with a speaker who is well educated, but English is his second language.

    Blah.

  • Anand

    Wednesday?

  • SteveGray

    Versus. Two syllable word indicating comparison or contest. The word “verse” is a reference to poetry.

    District. Note the “T” at the end. Please include it, rather than saying “districk”.

    Tossed salad. It’s called that because traditionally, the ingredients are mixed, or “tossed.” It is NOT a “toss salad.”

    Iced tea. See above. It’s tea that has ice added to it. The tea itself is not ice. Please don’t call it “ice tea.”

    Nuclear. Nuke-lee-ur. Not nuke-you-lur.

    You really have me on a roll…I’d better stop now before my head explodes.

  • Doug Rosbury

    my pet peeve is people who pronounce comfortable as
    comfterbul. It drives me crazy that they can’t just as easily pronounce
    it( com for ta ble ) in 4 sylables (!!!) Please publicize this for me.
    thank you ——Doug

  • joe c

    It’s not common, but i hate it when people mispronounce “zoological” or “zoologist”: the first O is a long O, so it’s not supposed to sound like the word “zoo.”

  • Lori

    How about “asphalt”? This one makes me crazy. I know many people who pronounce it “ash-fault”.

  • joe c

    Elitist? And I thought I had heard it all when someone told me using “curly quotes” was elitist. This article wasn’t mean-spirited at all. (I sure can’t speak for myself, though.)

  • Lori

    Another one that gets me is “escape” prounced “ex-kape” instead of es-cape. Argh!

  • Al

    I have to chime in on nuclear. /noo’-klee-uhr/ It drives me bonkers that our elected officials can’t pronounce it correctly.

  • Joshua

    The matter of “often” is really more of a toss-up, or personal preference. The ‘t’ sound was dropped around the 15th Century to make the word easier to say (kind of like the first ‘t’ in “chestnut” or the ‘p’ in “raspberry”). As education spread and more people learned to write, though, the sound came into use more frequently as people attempted to match the pronunciation to the spelling. So, one could regard the ‘t’ as silent, but it isn’t necessarily wrong not to do so.

  • jennifer

    grippingyarn, i agree. this article is helpful in some respects but also really classist and ignorant. pronouncing a word a certain way makes you sound ‘hicky’? do you really think that’s not an offensive phrase? just because someone doesn’t speak standard english doesn’t mean they’re dumb; it just means they don’t speak standard english.

  • Xander

    Disagree with “jewelry.” It has 2 syllables, not 3.

    It is /JULE-REE/.

    Nobody pronounces jewel /JEW-ELL/, it’s /JULE/, hence /JULE-REE/.

  • aravah

    Are people who say preventative mispronouncing preventive or are they correctly using and pronouncing the word preventative?

  • Euthyphro

    Nice bit overall, but I have to agree that it does come off as regional.

    One problem with the “Realtor” pronunciation, though, the term is a trademark of the NRA (National Realtor Association) according to their own pronunciation and documentation it is a two syllable word “REEL-TOR” not a three syllable word.

    Cheers

  • Clare Lynch

    I have to say, some of these do seem overly prescriptive and a bit snooty to me.

    One example that sticks out is February. For a start, since when has spelling been a helpful guide to correct pronunciation? And the fact that, as you acknowledge, everyone says it without the “r” suggests that the “r”-less pronunciation is now standard. Neither I nor anyone I know pronounces the “r” (and I have three degrees, including one from the University of Cambridge, so there!) If I came across anyone consciously trying to pronounce the “r” I’d think them socially insecure and affected. Like an American trying to be a bit too English and getting it wrong, in fact.

    And as for your comments on place names – unfair, very US-centric and definitely reminiscent of pots, kettles and the colour black. Next time you come to London, try asking a native for directions to Leicester Square, Streatham or even the River Thames. And don’t be surprised when they snigger.

    These points aside, I do have prejudices of my own. I automatically assume that anyone who vocalises the “h” when pronouncing “h” (the letter aitch) is illiterate, and that English people who pronounce “privacy” the US way are dimwits who live on a diet of American culture.

    Thanks for such a contentious post, though – it makes for much more interesting reading than some of the bland stuff you find on so many writing blogs.

  • aravah

    It’s not common, but i hate it when people mispronounce “zoological” or “zoologist”: the first O is a long O, so it’s not supposed to sound like the word “zoo.”

    It is common and perfectly correct to pronounce it like ‘zoo’ in the UK.

    Neither I nor anyone I know pronounces the “r” (and I have three degrees, including one from the University of Cambridge, so there!) If I came across anyone consciously trying to pronounce the “r” I’d think them socially insecure and affected.

    I am the only person I know who pronounces February with the r, and people do look at me like I’m a bit weird! ;) I can confirm that I’m neither socially insecure or affected, but I do only have two degrees, and neither of them were from Cambridge, so maybe that’s it. ;-)

  • Eric

    Thank you so much. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people mispronounce cache. It’s like nails on a chalkboard.

  • Julian Perrera

    I had a teacher that used to say across’d instead of across. My mom still says ideal instead of idea.

    We could get into racist territory with this list… some people just can’t pronounce certain letters. Lots of black people pronounce mad as mat, basically most d’s at the end of words become t’s.

    Anyhow, I don’t really subscribe to the proper grammer or pronunciation school… if I don’t understand you I will ask for clarification. Don’t care if you speak well or good.

  • PurpleCar

    Library! Did I miss it on the list? It’s lye-brare-ee not lye-berry.

    Others’ mispronunciations of words do tend to be pet-peevey, as we are truly just cringing inside at others’ potential embarrassment of seeming uneducated. I tend to agree with Jared Stein in comment #3: Language changes. Some pronunciations, like “joo -lur -ee” for jewelry are so widely adopted they become the norm. (“joo well ree” is too difficult for me).

    That being said, I don’t think this is a mean-spirited list. This is a writing tips site. The point is: use words wisely. Track down the accents of your character’s region. Avoid words that have varied pronunciation if you want all readers to get the same impression of your character. If you are writing words for performance, like plays or other entertainment art, take special notice on what different pronunciations say about a character. A little bit of dialect goes a long way.

  • Declan

    You omitted George W. Bush’s two most favorite words.

    Nuclear, which he pronounces New-cue-ler instead of NEW-KLEE-ER

    Terrorist, which he pronounces Te-rist instead of TE-RO-RIST

  • PurpleCar

    Oh I also wanted to add a bit from Merriam-Webster.com (a paid subscription service). They say that forte (pronounced for tay) meaning a strong point or talent, can be pronounced either fort or for tay. here’s a quote (I edited the special symbols):

    “””””””””””””””””””””””””
    2 : one’s strong point
    usage In forte we have a word derived from French that in its “strong point” sense has no entirely satisfactory pronunciation. Usage writers have denigrated \’for-tay\ and \’for-tee\ because they reflect the influence of the Italian-derived 2. forte (loud). Their recommended pronunciation \’fort\, however, does not exactly reflect French either: the French would write the word “le fort” and would rhyme it with English “for.” So you can take your choice, knowing that someone somewhere will dislike whichever variant you choose. All are standard, however. In British English \fo-tay\ and \fot\ predominate; \FOR-tay\ and \for-TAY\ are probably the most frequent pronunciations in American English.
    “””””””””””””””””””””””

  • Lmparks

    I’m from the South, so we have many incorrect pronunciations, but the one that wreaks havoc in my bones is really a matter of using the wrong word. People say “Ideal” instead of “idea”. For example, if I was to suggest seeing a movie, someone might respond, “what a great ideal!” ARGH…no. please. It’s a great IDEA!

  • Buttoned-Up.com

    I hate it when people say “duck” tape instead of “duct” tape.

  • Charlotte Xi

    I agree with Jared Stein and “grippingyarn” on this one. You’re obviously not referring to pronunciations with regional significance. If you were, than I’ll be damned – I must be an idiot!

    I’ve never in my life heard anyone pronounce the first “r” of February, nor medieval with four syllables.

    On a side note – you should probably not insult people by the way they pronounce words. I would say that’s borderline prejudice. A lot of those “mispronunciations” are accepted in a wide region, even if they are *technically* wrong.

    Once I see your degree in linguistics I may forgive you, but until then – this article is just rude.

    PS: What is the “proper” way to pronounce “zoological”? I’ve always said “zoo-o-logical”.

  • Maeve

    Catherine,
    My preference for “offen” instead of “often” has nothing to do with logic. It’s the way I was taught to say it. Pronouncing the “t” makes more sense since 1) it’s there, and 2) the word derives from OE “oft.” But then, the “r” is in “February” and you can see from the comments what most people think about the necessity to pronounce it after the “b.”

    I prefer “offen” because it sounds right to me and pronouncing the “t” doesn’t. However, I recognize “often” as a perfectly acceptable alternate pronunciation. I even acknowledge the certainty that as my generation dies off “offen” will cease to be heard.

    For the fun of it, look up what H.W. Fowler has to say about the “t” in “often” in the 1926 edition of Modern English Usage. I’d quote it here, but talk about snotty!

  • chris

    Honestly, I learned the /FOR-TAY/ vs. /FORT/ pronunciation when I was young, but after constantly being “corrected” when I would say “that’s not my forte” the proper way by educated people who should know better, I gave up on the word in spoken English.

  • Joe

    I’m surprised that “nuclear” didn’t make the list– not nuc-U-lar…..

  • WordPorn

    Ah, frak. Here I was thinking I was all smarts and edumacated, and I miss a few of these. Then I also realized how my boyfriend’s somewhat-Southern accent is ruining my remnants of good pronunciation – the-ATE-er instead of THE-a-ter, ruin as one syllable instead of two, and so many more…

  • Grace

    It bothers me when people pronounce the word ‘crayon’ like ‘crown.’

  • Courtney

    Realtor is actually is a two syllable word. Say/Reel-tor, not Re-al-tor. N.A.R has really hammered this pronunciation into the brains of every Realtor in the U.S!

  • Zach

    i know someone that says marine corps as how its spelled not (core)

  • PurpleCar

    A friend just linked me to this brit thing online:
    http://www.tiscali.co.uk/reference/dictionaries/english/data/d0082632.html
    preventive or preventative
    The words are often used interchangeably to denote whatever prevents something else happening or occurring, especially when it is undesirable. However, preventative is often applied to an actual object, especially in noun form, while preventive is mostly reserved for an abstract concept, and remains an adjective: Preventive medicine regards vitamin C as an effective preventative against colds.

  • Greg

    Preventive and preventative are interchangeable words, preventative is generally used to refer to a direct object (used as a noun), whereas preventive is used when discussing the abstract concept of prevention.

    http://www.tiscali.co.uk/reference/dictionaries/english/data/d0082632.html

  • Greg

    buttonedup.com

    duct tape is the generic name for the type of type. “Duck” tape is a brand of duct tape.

    It is the tape equivalent of calling an adhesive strip a band-aid, or a tissue a kleenex.

  • GoingLikeSixty

    Niche: Neesh is too hoity-toity.

  • –Deb

    Amen.

    (And, in fact, that’s one of them … AH-men, please, not long-A-men.)

    My best friend’s family always used to look at themselves in the “mirrow” and it used to drive me nuts. I finally pointed out to her (but not her parents or brothers) that the word had an R on the end, and she actually changed that–such a relief!

    Lately? Both my parents are flattening the “-er” in things like “drawer” ane “error.” I don’t know where this came from, but suddenly we’re keeping things in “draws” and making “eras” when we’re careless … grrr!

    Of course, they’re thrilled to point out that I used to mispronounce “museum” all the time when I was little … but at least I outgrew it.

  • Scribbler

    This article seems to have generated some mixed feedback!

    A common difference in pronuncation I hear is with the word, ‘philanthropist’. I pronounce this word with a long ‘a’ and a ‘u’ for the ‘o’. Does that make sense? Many pronunciation websites say it this way too with their ‘soundclips’. But I have heard many pronounce it with a short ‘a’ and short ‘o’. The latest Bond movie pronounces the word in the latter fashion.

    Are both right?

  • Rachel

    I am one of those people who are rather well read, meaning that I do read quite a lot, various things from newspapers, magazines, books, you name it. I am also one of those people who have, on occasion butchered words because, while I understand the meaning of the word, I may have only read it, not heard it. Additionally, I wear hearing aids and thus may miss hearing some of the nuances of correct language pronounciation.

    However, it is also quite true that “correct” pronounciation of language is quite dependent on locale, or origin of the person(s) speaking. I know, I have experienced this when as a HS graduate I spent several years overseas, befriending people of various countries, the UK included — and the misunderstandings that occurred between people who THOUGHT they were speaking the same language were numerous.

    The most interesting thing, though, that I noticed, was the disparity in pronounciation of the word “herb”. In the US, the “h” is silent and the word is pronounced “erb”. In the UK, however, the “h” is not silent — it is pronounced, the same as in the word “house”. I wonder too, now, about the word “honest”. In the US, the “h” is silent. How is that pronounced in the UK?

  • Candice

    Well god forbid language ever, oh, I don’t know … CHANGE?

  • Sexy Cheese

    With all the other problems in the world why worry about someone pronouncing something right? Me personally, I think that butchering the language makes someone sound dumb. Everyone messes it up a little.

    My $0.02

  • GoingLikeSixty

    May I? Here’s my post using all your words. If I had the ambition, I would have used them alphabetically…
    http://goinglikesixty.com/2008/12/02/a-tail-in-witch-ewe-will-mispronounce-at-least-one-word-if-red-allowed/

  • Buck

    Pecan is always pronounced with a short “a” as part of dialect subsets in the South (mainly North and South Carolina). Were you to pronounce it with a long “a” there you would be laughed at for the mispronunciation.

    One that you missed is “Iced Tea” – It is often pronounced “Ice Tea” and even has gained acceptance being written that way which is not only a mispronunciation but also a grammatical error.

  • Ryan Malm

    I must agree with the people on the “you’re being a bit snooty” side of the fence. Especially cases in which the so-called mispronunciation is simply a matter of where you’re at. Like Halloween. I’ve always said it /hol-lo-ween/, and quite frankly have never thought about it that hard.

  • kevin

    Several people I know pronounce the word “WHILE” like “why” – it completely blows my mind and irritates me. This is really the only mispronunciation that consistently makes me angry. “I’m going to type this letter why you dictate it to me” – ARGHH!!

    On the other hand, I am guilty of saying “preven-TA-tive”, but only because I use the word so rarely and have never noticed the spelling. Now I will be more careful with this word, thanks.

  • Charlie

    You missed my favorite mispronunciation, New-cu-lar. Don’t you just love the extra syllable in Nuclear? It’s New-Clear! Get it? Now just say it correctly Mr. Bush!

  • onscrn

    I agree on most of these, including softening often. But I’m not going to change the way I say clothes or vehicle.

  • mike

    How could you leave out MOOT/MUTE? (as in, a moot or mute point). That’s the bastardization I hear most often at the office.

    Also, I agree with Claire Lynch about February. Words don’t always sound like they are spelled, so your argument for that is weak, especially since you agree that everyone says it that way. Webster acknowledges both pronunciations as correct, so that’s good enough for me.

    Also, to buttoned-up.com, “Duck” tape is actually part of the etymology of the stuff… check it out on Wikipedia. Interesting stuff.

  • birdfarm

    Elitist tone is too much for me. It can be *extremely* useful to know how to talk like an Ivy League grad (I know, I am one). It opens many doors. BUT it is very…. stupid, for lack of a better word…. not to see that the whole idea of “correct” pronunciation (not to mention grammar and spelling) is utterly useless except for one purpose: to identify an “in group” (old-money establishment wealth, i.e., the ruling class) and an “out group” (everyone else). “She walk to table” or “she be walking to the table” are both perfectly understandable; they do, however, identify the speaker as “out group.” It is useful to be able to talk like “in group” because they hold the reins and have the power. But one should never fall under the delusion that the “in group” is “smart,” or that the “out group” is “dumb” (as the title of the list implies)……… in short……….. useful list, bad attitude.

  • Maeve

    GoingLikeSixty,

    COOL.

  • Michelle Hartz

    Some of these are valid, and some come off a bit snooty. But with that being said, the one that gets to me the most isn’t here: There is no “Q” in coupon.

  • Cyrus

    haha I made a blog entry about the, “anyway’s’,” problem. I agree with most your your observations, but there agreeably must be some leeway with certain words. One example would simply be, “asterisk.” (I just picked some of the top couple) Some patience for people like me, who when they try to pronounce the second “s”, slur it and sadly transform it into a small, “cat hiss,” if you may. It’s not a lisp, but I’ve noticed many people with tongue quivers. Great commentaries, though! Good research! You’re a credit to the grammatical culture of our apathetic world!

  • Eric TF Bat

    I consider myself a practicing peddant (watch as other peddan’ts brains explode on reading that statement) but perhaps the fact that I’m Australian explains the several discrepancies I can see in your list:

    10 – /KAYSH/, not /KASH/ — I think that’s a US-vs-UK thing
    21 – /FORT-ay/ is correct for both meanings
    24 – /HEE-nuss/ is much more common
    25 – /HI-rar-kee/ is quite normal
    30 – /JOOL-ree/ is common and acceptable
    41 – preventative is a word
    48 – /TICK-uh-lish/ is common and acceptable
    50 – /VIHR-kl/ (the -IHR rhymes with beer)

    Of those, #21 is the only one I’m uncertain enough about to check in a dictionary, but I don’t have one with me that I trust, so I’ll just have to wing it.

    And as for “elitism”: thankfully, the eight years of celebrating mediocrity in the US are now over. “Elite” means “better”, not “snooty”, and if there’s one thing the world needs it’s more elites, not fewer.

  • Skeetgun

    I think it’s a good ideal to have this discussion.

  • Neil

    I hear Ser-stiff-i-cate for certificate an awful lot, where they get the second ‘s’ sound from I have no idea!!

  • Neil

    ..oh and ‘Haitch’ for the letter ‘H’! It’s AITCH, not Haitch! People drop the letter so often, they feel it should be pronounced when talking about the letter itself.

  • Paul Russell

    aravah asks: I am the only person I know who pronounces February with the r, and people do look at me like I’m a bit weird!

    You’re not the only person as I always pronounce the ‘r’. But I don’t know if if people look at you a bit weird, or even if they think I’m a bit weird.

    As for the ‘t’ in often… I don’t pronounce it and yet my wife does. We are both Canadian of British origin, so I suspect there may be regional differences within the UK. I’m from the West Midlands whereas my wife is from London.

    Now though we live in Malaysia, where a common mistake is the pronunciation of the word southern. Everyone assumes it sounds like south and says south-ern, rather than suthern. Come to think of it, they drop the ‘r’ too, so it sounds like south-un.

    –paul

    P.S. Interesting topic. Can’t think why people would write things like “This article rubbed me the wrong way and smacks of elitism.” If you don’t like it, don’t read it.

  • Rete

    I have a co-worker who speaks of office etiquette – pronouncing the q like ‘etiquit’ instead of ‘etikut’ and it drives me nuts. She can hear everyone else say it correctly and still she persists.

  • Doug Rosbury

    I’m not sure its worthwhile trying to correct peoples speech.
    they seem to carry their pronounciations like a badge of honor.
    However, if I had a blog, I might insist on correct usage as a condition of membership.——Doug

  • Vince Winkler

    I’ve decided that the people who cry “Elitist!” when they read this found out that they were pronouncing things incorrectly.

    I myself found a handful of mistakes that I make, yet I’ve known for a long time that I was pronouncing it oddly.

    Now I actually know how to pronounce it, though. :)

  • Seo Co

    I hate it when people say FUSTRATED instead of frustrated. Or they add an S on the end of verbs like,

    So I goeS down to the store.

    But my biggest pet peave you mentioned that is

    AXED for asked
    Drives me nuts ;-0

  • Brad K.

    I learned that when you are in Nebraska, “Norfolk” is pronounced “NorthFork”, just like Chuck Connor did in the Rifleman. When in Virginia (Vuh-Jin-yuh), it is “Nau-fuhk”.

    “The pronunciation /ar-kan-zuz/ is waaay off base.” Since I moved here to Ponca City, OK, I have been amazed. The Arkansas (AR-ken-saw) river runs from Kansas (KAN-zuz) through Arkansas City (ar-KAN-zuz SIT-ee) through Kaw Lake, east of Ponca City, and on down to the state of Arkansas (AR-kun-saw). I bow to the good people of Arkansas City, about the correct pronunciation of the name of their fair town. No one around here seems bothered by the variety of pronunciations for what seems like the same word.

    35. Niche
    I gotta challenge that one. This should sound like the fiche in microfiche. Well, almost. I say fiche (FEESH) and niche (NITCH). For me, niche is almost like notch. In fact, a notch could become a niche (a small indention to hold something). But a notch (a nick or dent, or cut) would not always be suitable as a niche. Natcherly. Uh, ‘naturally’. Sorry.

    Nuclear – President Jimmy Carter was the first that I recall making me cringe with this one. Despite his service in the US Navy Nuclear Power program, he persisted in parading “NUK-lee-uhr” in public.

  • jipi

    @ Kerry -

    ES-presso is the Italian way.
    EX-presso is the french way.

    Both are acceptable ( http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/espresso ) . Just make sure to pick the more elitist one.

  • Alison Daugherty

    I love you forever for this. My mother was an English teacher I always correct peoples’ errors without thinking.

    One thing to note (you’ve done nothing wrong): Et cetera can also be pronounced et-KET-er-a if you learned Latin with an ecclesiastic accent.

  • CannedAm

    Hey, Paul, I’ve only ever heard southern pronounced like south – ern in Canada! Many, many variations on pronunciations from one side of the border to the other. Up here I hear “bean” for been as opposed to our ‘bin’ and ‘a’ is taught and pronounced like apple’s a instead of ape’s a. So when my son asks for a pencil my brain does a somersault.

    This is rather regional. You’ll have very different pronunciations from one part of the country to the next. And the whole rest of the English speaking world thinks we’re a bit slack jawed in our pronunciations.

    I enjoy differences in pronunciations. It lets me know where a person’s from. I hear so many accents and dialects, I begin to wonder what’s actually correct. So long as we understand each other, I don’t think it’s necessary to point out when someone pronounces something differently than I would. Also, hop across the pond or over the border and suddenly you’re wrong in many of your pronunciations that you don’t have listed here.

    I definitely do not think one’s pronunciation is indicative of either his intelligence or education. I’ve heard poorly educated people speak more properly than well educated people. I’ve heard professors of English speak with such thick dialect that I could barely understand them. It didn’t make them sound stupid. Just made me listen more closely.

    I have never heard /vee-ikle/. The ‘h’ sound is very soft and barely audible, but it’s definitely there. Even listening to the /vee-ikle/ pronunciation at dictionary.com I can still hear it.

  • Metroknow

    Oh, and one more for you non-Oregonians: It is not OR-eh-GAWN. OR-eh-gun.

  • ash

    While I agree that words have correct pronunciations vs non, I do think it is distasteful to say someone is “dumb” or “uneducated.” You use both of those words in this article.

    Words like “ask,” may have a correct prono., but I think have become part of some people groups. In the U.S., it is common for the black community to use it that way and it should be noted!

    There are others here that I realize I have said wrong or may say wrong, and perhaps as a writer, I should be more aware. But it does not make me uneducated. There are cultural norms, as you quickly referenced in the beginning, that are important to consider.

    Overall, I think this is an EXCELLENT list and certainly I will pass it on.

    Gracious!

  • hank101

    I think I will trust merriam webster on these, rather than you. Simply, you are wrong many times here.

  • Sheila

    In the early years of my marriage I corrected my husband’s grammar and pronunciation a lot. But I’ve changed my perspective through the years.

    First, I’ve learned about multiple intelligences and don’t judge intelligent/unintelligent by verbal skills.

    I’ve also realized that a lot of the things I used to make fun of in some people are merely the result of which country their ancestors were from. My husband’s Polish grandparents didn’t speak English, and his father didn’t speak English until he went to school. So he says tree instead of three and haich instead of aich. I never am unsure of his meaning when he speaks to me. And he’s bilingual, for heaven’s sake! A lot of the people I know who would make fun of him for his little pronunciation “mistakes” would love to be bilingual.

    And so his son has picked up on the haich. It’s okay. It has nothing to do with his intelligence and everything to do with his heritage. These differences in pronunciation give our language a wider, richer variety.

  • Patrick

    It is a curiosity — When my daughter was learning to speak and used words like “poink” (to poke with a pointed object or a pointy object) or “comfordy” (comfortable) I thought these were wonderful words. When I hear an adult say “chesterdrawers” (chest of drawers) or “pregnate” (pregnant) I cringe. I wish I had the same sense of wonder and delight for the adults’ innovative words that I had for my daughter’s — one great thing about English is that there is no Academy telling us we are doing it wrong — it is free to evolve and we can observe it happening.

  • Maeve

    ash,
    Upon reflection, I have to agree that “uneducated” was an unfortunate word choice and I’ve amended the sentence. As I wrote in a previous comment, “dumb” was not in my original headline. I would think, however, that the headline was written in a spirit of fun and was never intended to be offensive.

    The comments sparked by this post are entertaining and thought-provoking. Thanks to everyone who has commented. It’s great to have such a lively, passionate readership!

  • Brad K.

    About “elitist”. To those that are concerned about hoity-toity and “I speak *correctly*, and those that don’t are stupid” concerns – look again at the title of this article, and at the specific list.

    This is not a list of words that are commonly mispronounced. It isn’t nearly complete.

    Remember the dictum, “Hate the sin, not the sinner?” That is what is going on here. The particular words chosen make the speaker *sound* less aware, less careful, less respectful of themselves and others. We all know about dialect. And no one is using this list to call names – unlike a couple of comments.

    That is – using these mispronunciations may make the speaker *sound* dumb. No one is implying that using these mispronunciations means that the speaker *is* stupid.

    Notice how “dumb” in the title is deliberately used incorrectly, to convey the colloquial meaning of “kinda stupid”, rather than the “correct” meaning of “incapable of speech”? The point of this particular list is to avoid these dialect or colloquial usages and common mistakes, when correct speech is important,.

    For those that do understand about correct usage, and understand when it is appropriate to stress correct usage – say at a public speaking engagement with a mixed crowd – some of these common mistakes will detract from the respect your listener pays to you and to your words.

    When trying to persuade a boss, a co-worker, or a group, the onus on the speaker is to *be heard*. There is a responsibility there.

    You cannot affect what your listener hears. Your listener may or may not be paying attention, and will hear through filters – from hearing aids to dialects to background noises to distracting thoughts they are trying to wait for an opportunity to state. What we call “correct” speech is a dialect, that most people can understand. So if you break into this strange, weird, stuffy dialect – more people are more likely to understand what you are saying.

    We only have control over what we say – not what our listener hears.

  • Quiet Mr. T

    Auxiliary – There is a second I. It is not: AUX-il-ery.

    And of course – warsher. ug.

  • bad tim

    i think many of the words in your list are prejudiced toward the dialect i refer to as brokawese; the generic american speech pattern exemplified by tom brokaw and other mainstream journalists before they jumped on the dropped-verb bandwagon.

    i take particular issue with fussy words like ‘february’. the only people around here who say it your way are pretentious academics. ‘caramel’ is another example of regional dialects dropping a fussy syllable, and the english language abounds with dropped sounds.

    one you missed that really bugs me is the incursion of spanish on words of french origin. ‘cadre’, which i know as kay-der, has somehow become kah-dray. i remember hearing someone say ‘gen-ray’ recently, too.

    i have an issue with standardization of dialects. regional speech patterns should be encouraged. they enrich the language. brokawese is fine for national broadcasts, but i don’t go to places like savannah to listen to midwesterners.

  • Edward F. Gumnick

    If anyone’s keeping score, count me with the descriptivists on this debate, rather than the prescriptivists. And I enthusiastically concur with those who’ve noted the narrow regionalism reflected in the list.

    The only fresh thing I have to add: How does a list of pronunciation pet peeves qualify as a “Daily Writing Tip”?

  • Brad K.

    bad tim – nuh-uh. Letting the language drift invites divisiveness – and allows communication differences to become communication difficulties. Inability to communicate easily and clearly, as, say from inner city to city hall, invites violent confrontation.

    Look what the difference in dialect means to Israel and Palestine, or Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Look what the drift in language meant in our own Civil War.

    Letting dialects drift unchecked allows those that remain conversant with the dominant languages elsewhere control and manipulate the flow of information for often personal and petty ends.

    I was taught “Feb-roo-ary” in Junior High, about 1964. It was an unpopular pronunciation then, too. And I find myself, most often, slurring the first r into a y – Feb-yoo-airee. Mostly because I don’t use many “roo” words, so the consonant before “ru” feels odd to me. But I do recognize the word when correctly used.

    And that is the point. We all need to remain aware of both “correct” usage and how it relates to our community, family, and personal dialects. So we can share in a “Common” dialect.

  • Clayton

    I hear meme mispronounced frequently.

  • Ray

    As long as the dialect is in English, we’ll be fine. But bless the brave like Bill Cosby.

    One of my favorite quotes is still…….
    “If you can read this, thank a teacher. If it is in English, thank a Soldier”

    Now, feel free to flame me. LOL

  • Doug Rosbury

    I have run into conflict with certain indiviuals whos english usage
    creates confusion and resistance for me, the reader. they will invariably defend their usage and obfuscate the critical importance
    of correct usage. This points up a problem with those from another country who may wish to feel that they belong in the american society. What’s my point ? A pressing need for education. Well
    anyway, so it is.——-Doug Rosbury

    such an individual will invariably defend their usage especially whem I

  • Doug Rosbury

    I have run into conflict with certain indiviuals whos english usage
    creates confusion and resistance for me, the reader. they will invariably defend their usage and obfuscate the critical importance
    of correct usage. This points up a problem with those from another country who may wish to feel that they belong in the american society. What’s my point ? A pressing need for education. Well
    anyway, so it is.——-Doug Rosbury

  • Brandon

    At least two handfuls of words listed in the author’s pronunciation corrections are not putatively incorrect. Neither are they just American pronunciations; I glanced at dictionary.com, which includes the American Heritage dictionary, to verify this. Although certain of the variant pronunciations don’t reflect the spelling of the word, if they are common in educated speech, they are considered acceptable. For instance, glancing at dictionary.com on each of these, one finds:

    [ar-tik] for ‘arctic’ is okay
    [dee-is],[dey-is],[dahy-is],and [deys] for ‘dais’ are all okay depending on whether you’re Brit or American
    [kloz] for ‘clothes’ is okay
    [feb-yoo-ary] for ‘February’ is okay
    [hol-uh-ween] for ‘Halloween’ is okay
    [il-uh-noiz] for ‘Illinois’ is okay
    [med-ee-vuhl] or [mid-ee-vuhl] for ‘medieval’ is certainly okay!
    [min-uh-cher] for ‘miniature’ is okay
    [nich] for ‘niche’ is okay
    ‘preventive’ and ‘preventative’ are both words and they are synonymous

    Also, the [barb] in ‘barbwire’ could easily be heard as [bob]. Barbwire is a standard word and means the same thing as ‘barbed wire’.

  • Jesse

    Yes, I have something to add. It really bothers me when people say aink-chent instead of ain-chent for ancient.

  • saphira

    For me, the problem with this list isn’t so much the spirit in which it’s offered (though I do find it offensive, even as an English teacher!), but the fact that so many of the things on this list, which purports to be giving me the True and Proper way of saying things, are just wrong!

    For instance, “orient.” How does one get “orientate” out of “orient”? Simple–you don’t. “Orientate” is an actual word (if one I don’t especially like), according to the fine folks at Merriam-Webster, and people who say the word that way are undoubtedly not so ignorant that they look at “orient” and imagine a whole extra syllable on the end.

    “Realtor” is another case–and your “correct” pronunciation isn’t vaguely right (or even pronouncable, as far as I can tell–/re-a-la-tor/? Really??), as has already been mentioned here. As for “medieval,” is your issue with the vowel sounds or the number of syllables? Please make up your mind (and I have to add that I have never in my life heard “MEED-eval”, while “MID-eval” is quite common). “Old-fashioned” is a problem in print, and the result of indistinct pronunciation of the final “ed.” It’s a vicious circle.

    I’m especially offended by “vehicle.” M-W acknowledges that both pronunciations are correct, and to say that one makes you sound “hicky” is just snotty and rude.

    Do mispronunciations bother me? Yes. But my mother taught me that if I don’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. This article feels like someone taking out their own ill-informed frustrations on those who are different, and that’s just bashing, not intelligent discussion.

    You’ve lost a lot of credibility with me today. I used to recommend your site to my students, but I don’t think I will anymore. I want them getting unbiased, relevant information–and I still haven’t figured out why an article on pronunciation is relevant to good writing practices.

  • One Night Stanzas

    *applauds saphira*

  • Grace S.

    I believe, Brad K., that you have expressed quite clearly the advantage of having a dialect that most speakers of a language can understand. I was going to comment, bad tim, that while I have been “accused” of having a Midwestern accent when I have lived in other parts of the U.S., it seems that most national newscasters’ pronunciations match mine pretty closely, even when you’d expect a regionally influenced difference. (Although Peter Jennings, Canadian by birth, did pronounce “out” more like a combination of OAT and OOT, as do many in the UP of Michigan.) I had not, however, thought to call it “Brokawese.” I don’t believe this is “elitism” or “stuffiness,” but rather a move to be understood across the nation. When I listen to BBC reporters, I expect that they will drop certain words that Americans use (e.g., “in hospital” rather than “in the hospital,” or “prevent disaster happening” rather than “prevent disaster from happening,” because that is the British use of the language. While Henry Higgins certainly was snobbish in his study of pronunciation and education of Eliza Doolittle, the point remains that her use of language DID say a lot to him about where she had been raised and the people who had influenced her ear and tongue. His deplorable attitude does not invalidate what is fact.

    Having been raised in the Midwest by parents who very consciously taught us the difference between colloquial and more universally accepted speech, and teachers who often were heard to say things like, “Kids are baby goats–you are children,” the pronunciations I use mostly agree with “the list.” I do often check a dictionary for accepted pronunciation(s) when I hear a new one. My Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary allows both “preventative” and “orientate” (they are actual entry words), though they are considered variations of “preventive” and “orient.” And I am among those who pronounce the first “r” in “February,” though farther forward in my mouth than the second, so not so predominantly. (This awareness of placement of the sound probably comes from an excellent high school choir director who taught us how pronunciation of a word when sung may differ from the spoken word, and particularly in a large group as opposed to a solo.)

    Brad K., I do remember Jimmy Carter pronouncing “nuclear” as NOO-key-yer (no L at all); several Presidents since then have said NOO-ku-ler; and I remember observing that both Obama and Palin in the recent election run pronounced both NOO-ku-ler and NOO-klee-er, sometimes in the same section of a speech or answer. It appears to be a hard word for many people to pronounce as it is spelled; TV just allows us to hear and sit in judgment as it happens, and over and over. Yet we understand what these leaders are saying.

  • sharon

    Nuclear is another word I hate to hear George Bush (and many others who should know better) say. I have even heard nuclear scientists who don’t know how to pronounce their chosen profession. It’s noo-cle-ar NOT noo-cu-lar GW BUSH – get a clue!!

  • Covarr

    One that really bugs me is cliché. Cliché is a noun and a verb, not an adjective. Something can be “a cliché” or it can be “clichéd”, but not “cliché”.

    CORRECT:
    X is a cliché.
    X is clichéd.

    INCORRECT:
    X is cliché.

    I’ve noticed that quite a few people have corrected my pronunciation of the word “often”, regardless of whether or not I pronounce the T. So many people seem to think that only one way or the other is correct.

  • Steve Orris

    Next time choose a topic that people will respond to, no one is interested in this anyway. (ha-ha)

    I have heard garage pronounced gar-rooshj. I could do that with audio but I probably don’t know how to write the sound I’ve heard.

  • BradyDale

    awry: uh-rye
    Not: are-ee or ah-ree

  • Andrew Mores

    I also prefer the descriptive approach to linguistic “correctness,” which is almost oxymoronic that as a self-proclaimed “descriptive linguist” I would have anything to say about correctness (note that I say *almost* oxymoronic), but I’m sure some still see my point; still, you took the time to write it, and here I am just criticizing it.

    My point is ultimately that some of this just feels like priggery.

  • Steve M

    I have one addition and two variations.

    One of my pet peeves is REALTOR. I can tolerate REEL-TER but no reading of the word supports being pronounced RE-LA-TER.

    Second is JEWELRY being pronounced JEW-luh-ry.

    The third is the word CENTIMETER. Many in the medical profession incorrectly pronounce the initial “e” as a short “o”, as in SONT-i-mee-ter. The correct pronunciation is with a short “e”: SENT-i-mee-ter.

  • Lisa

    How about this one guys: Supposedly. NOT Supposably. That drives me nuts!

  • Emily

    Some of these aren’t really fair to those who just pronounce things differently, or who have an accent. English is a hard enough language to learn as it is without critiquing pronunciations and accents. Everyone I know pronounces February like Feb-yoo-ary. The extra ‘r’ just feels weird on the tongue. I personally don’t like how it sounds when I say the extra ‘r’, so I don’t pronounce it that way.

    As for the pronunciation of “nuclear”, it’s really pronounced as NOO-klee-er because of the base word “nucleus”. I think when you have a nuclear reaction, it involves the splitting of the nucleus. I love chemistry. :D

    I definitely agree with Saphira on this one. The tone of this article is pretty harsh and unforgiving. I myself don’t like it when people say “melk” rather than “milk”, but I know they know how to spell it. They’re not going to spell it with an ‘e’ because that WOULD be wrong. But telling them that they way they’re saying it is wrong is kind of rude and seems like you’re insulting their intelligence. I don’t think one can really blame someone if they think you’re haughty when you critique the way they say things.

    P.S. Don’t come to Chicago if you hate the short ‘a’ sound in pecan. My family is Southern AND lives in Chicago. There are a lot of short ‘a’ sounds when we speak. ;)

  • Krilu

    I’m really surprised at all the accusations of elitism. English is my second language, but the words on this list are very basic; the only ones I pronounce incorrectly are Illinois and Arkansas (and I am glad to have learned the proper pronunciation), as well as “Wednesday”, but this last one is from the comments.

  • Elizabeth

    As someone from Illinois, it is actually quite annoying to hear the “s” at the end pronounced. I have never heard anyone from Illinois say it. The “s” is silent. That tends to happen sometimes in the English language.

    I also disagree with the generalities made towards African-Americans concerning the word “ask” in particular, but pronunciation in general. It is not as if African-Americans are the only people mispronouncing words–I am African-American, I know people who aren’t African-American that pronounce ask as axe, and I am made fun of by African-Americans because I say axe and they don’t.

    In the end, I agree that pronunciation is relative to where you live, and the dialects spoken there. I feel that the bigger issue with standard English is not pronunciation, but proper grammar. Regardless of how you pronounce the word, if you are using proper grammar you will be understood.

  • Brad K.

    I understand and believe that “innovative” is meant to sound as /INN-oh-vay-tiv/. But I want to say, and often do, /ih-NAH-va-tiv/.

    I find the rotor at the top of my TV antennae quite understandable. A stepping motor that rotates the antennae. Yet if I order one, the part is called a “rotater”. I have to call it rotater or they won’t order the right gizmo.

    Brandon, 40 years ago dictionaries started including “ain’t.” The word had been in use, but my school held that it couldn’t be used in homework assignments, because it wasn’t a “proper” word. It wasn’t accepted by scholars as proper English, and was not included in dictionaries. Then it cropped up in the dictionary, and which refuted one of the English teacher’s arguments. But we still could not use the word “ain’t” in our homework.

    The dictionaries I use contain snippets of information, describing whether a word is slang, or colloquial. For a public statement, a resume, a business document, you would want to weigh carefully any words that are considered slang or colloquial. In other contexts, using words not found in a list of “proper” English words might save your life. Any tool can be misused.

    Saphira, Any tool can be misused, including English class and this web site, and this post. Students about the fourth grade need to be aware of this, and begin making considered judgements when they use words that aren’t on the spelling lists, references not called out in class or in the school library, and at times even the material in the text books.

    Experiments with Whole Language reading, Ebonics, Sight Reading, and other approaches that denigrate the existence and performance of “proper” English accomplish many goals – but cheat the student of respect for standards, and for ethics in communication. Remember – the speaker and writer are the only ones that can determine how well they will communicate with a reader or listener.

    What textbooks instruct as “true” and “information” changes from publisher to publisher, from year to year – and from administration to administration in the US Department of Education. Emphasis changes, different research is referenced, and different political agendas are prescribed or proscribed.

    I had to laugh this evening. While shopping in Wal-Mart in Ponca City, OK, I heard an announcement, “Mr. Potter, your vehicle is ready in in the automotive department.” With a definite, pronounced “aitch” sound, /VEE-hick-el/.

    Grace S., I think part of the ‘flat’ Midwest accent is due to the planning that went into development on the prairie. Compulsory education was being implemented at the same time homesteads were created and counties and territories were forming. Textbooks were common and consistent across the region. In other areas, there was too much tradition in education and especially in dialects before the imposition of compulsory education. The Midwest was too new, the traditions not as entrenched, and better expectations of “book learning” let the language of Daniel Webster replace other interpretations. The people in the Midwest were as smart as anywhere, but their *culture* was naive and malleable. I think. (I grew up in rural NW Iowa.) Then, too, the greatest part of the population of the Midwest lived on farms – and the school provided a greater degree of language stability through lack of competing social contact. So the “proper” English of the text books had a larger impact on unifying the language usage for the region. Many of the non-English speaking families relied on the school to define the dialect they learned.

  • chris

    dictionarys and hence language are dynamic changing over time.
    the meaning of words and spelling changes over time depending mainly on how the population use them and pronounce them.
    words and sentence stucture must be considered de facto standards as dictionaries are simply a record of what the current meaning, spelling and prononciation of words are.
    probably why they came up with a US dictionary with words like center, organize, color…

    i believe its just evoulution of a language, some changes will get accepted in to popular use and become added to dictionaries. good or bad.

  • Konraden

    I’m taking all this with a grain of salt. Most of the mispronunciations are just dialect and natural linguistic change. The only one I seriously have a problem with was “aks.” It just sounds ignorant.

  • ART

    English is not a phonetic language – it is not driven by the sounds that the alphabets produce consistently! Keeping that in mind, having ‘rules’ about how words should be pronounced as to not cause embarrassment is ridiculous!!

  • Noel Pautsky

    I hate it when people take it upon themselves to correct other peoples speech. Does obnoxious have three or four syllables?

  • Minimart

    entrepreneur– definitely should be added.

  • brad

    “35. niche – The word is from the French and, though many words of French origin have been anglicized in standard usage, this is one that cries out to retain a long “i” sound and a /SH/ sound for the che. Say /NEESH/, not /nitch/. ”

    Or how about when condescending blog posts focused on correct pronunciation don’t know what a long “i” sound is. Are you saying I should say it with the “i” pronounced like the word “eye”? /N-eye sh/? somehow that seems wrong.

    Perhaps you meant the long “e”, but then that relegates the preceding portion of that sentence into the realm of nonsense.

    I wonder if this comment will be deleted before or after you correct the error.

  • Nestor

    “aegis” isn’t exactly a household word…

  • Chris

    Just a comment to all those who believe jewellery is spelt jewelry.

    It is the product of the labours of a jeweller, thus jewellery.

    Just like stationers and stationery, confectioners and confectionery.

  • skeetgun

    I have lived in SW Indiana for the last twenty years and before that in central Illinois (NO noise)/St. Louis the other 29 years. The language issue I found most disturbing in this part of Indiana is the lazy use of words like mail, sale, retail, jail. They are pronounced as mayl, sayl, retayl and jayl folks, not mell, sell, retell, and jell. Also a biggie here is to drop the “l” in shoulder, holder, holding. In many cases here these words are pronounced showed-er, hoe-der, and hoe-ding. There is a 100 year old plus bank here called Old National Bank and I have heard this on their automated answering system. “Thanks for calling Owed National Bank, please continue hoe-ding while we redirect your call.” Drives me nuts. Don’t be LAZY.

  • Bill Fenstermaker

    You missed “accurate,” often said as “accruate.”

    Of all the words to “pernounce” “percsicely.”

  • Brad K.

    Skeetgun, I grew up in Iowa /EYE-oh-wa/, and lived a year in Des Moines /dee MOYN/. I have heard both mispronounced.

  • saphira

    Brad K, I don’t know why you think I teach 4th grade, but I don’t. I agree that students need to learn to differentiate, but my ESL students don’t have the background to do that where pronunciation is concerned. (I also just noticed that this pronunciation entry is tagged as “spelling,” which makes me wonder if our author knows the difference.)

    brad 115: thank you for pointing out something I meant to include yesterday but forgot. The “pecan” issue really made me raise my eyebrows, as the “long” A sound, as in “ape,” obviously does not apply.

    As my mother also often said, you shouldn’t spout off your mouth if you don’t know what you’re talking about. She did not point out that doing so simply makes you look like an idiot and weakens your argument (and reputation) tremendously, but the author of this post might do well to consider those repercussions, as well as the level of her own expertise–real and perceived.

  • Calvin

    Don’t forget the notorious city in baja california commonly referred to as Tia Juana. It’s THREE syllables TEE-HWA-NA.

    Tijuana is a city… tia juana is my long lost mexican aunt

  • John

    The word ‘deteriorate’ is often pronounced ‘de-teer-e-ate’ by people who should know better. There are two r’s, people!

    And I know we’re discussing pronunciation, but if I hear one more person say ‘between five to ten’ instead of ‘from five to ten’ or ‘between five and ten’, I’ll scream.

    I’ve even heard someone say ‘between one and two people’. Does that mean one and a half people?

  • discontinuuity

    Of course it’s correct to say “anyways.” It’s just the plural of “anyway”!

    Seriously though, I agree with most of the comments that this it is a bit elitist. As we’ve discussed, even people who speak the “Queen’s English” don’t always pronounce every word as it is spelled. Regional variation is one of the things that make English such a rich and interesting language.

    One thing that does bother me is when people mispronounce loan words from other languages improperly, such as “espresso” or “Rio Grande.”

    Anyways, I never have discovered what the proper pronunciation of “realtor” is. I’ve always pronounced it “real it er” but I don’t know what is standard.

  • Nash

    May I add some other words?

    - Lettuce : /`letIs/
    - Legal : /lee`gol/not /leg all/
    - Debt : dett
    - Gear : /gee/ not /jee/

    And many others. Anyway as an English teacher I encourage you to speak English spontaneously, freely and unconsciously. Conveying meaning is the most important thing in any communication. In daily and casual interactions don`t be too much obsessive with your pronunciation. Everybody apts to mistake even native speakers! Take your time…

  • Sam

    I think Maeve makes it pretty clear that this is the American English ideal. Regional dialect is not incorrect in the context of the given region, but it also isn’t the prescribed Midland “accent-less” speech.

    The idea behind this post isn’t elitist, I don’t think. It’s worth knowing how the word ideally sounds; pronouncing it another way is not always wrong (/nuk-yoo-lur/ is incorrect, for example, but /bob wire/ comes from an accent, not a misunderstanding of the word), but quite frankly, language is massive part of how people perceive you–speaking “correctly” is almost a necessity if you’re in a prominent position within your field. Take a look at the reception of Bush’s /nuk-yoo-lur/, for example.

  • Erin

    Chimney, not Chim-in-ney,

  • Mattress

    Great, awesome tips here!! I really am going to start saying accessory (/AK-SESS-OR-Y/) the correct way for now on. I am a woman for crying out loud =D

  • Diana

    I know people who say Drawring instead of Drawing

    Queue

    volatil /volaTYLE

    same with versatile

  • Chelsea

    dais- two pronunciations accepted by Merriam Webster, one of which you discredited
    February- again, M-W says not saying the first r is acceptable.
    It is acceptable to pronounce the h in vehicle.
    Wintry can be spelled and pronounced wintery.
    Niche goes either way.
    Again with mischievous.

    Basically I think you need to recognize that YOUR way of saying it isn’t necessarily the only way. English is a tricky language, and you can’t just go by phonetics.

  • AvidR

    I’d like to point out that correct language use and pronounciation pertaining to a word clarifies the meaning of the word, and its etymological connection to other words. This applies in particular to those who learn English as a second, third, or fourth language. Could you imagine trying to learn a language, or understand someone speaking it, when each person pronounces the word how they feel it should be pronounced. For this reason, some standard is absolutely necessary; I can’t fathom how a language could evolve gracefully without upholding some semblance of proper pronounciation.

    As a student of the French language, I listen carefully to all native speakers for their pronounciation of words. While I understand and appreciate the differences between Québécois French and Parisian French, I’d like to think that I could trust one Quebecker’s pronouciation to be extremely similar to everyone else’s, if not identical. If not, I would shudder at my chances of ever being fluent in the language.

    I admit that different dialects are fun to hear. Personally, I love to listen to southerners speaking, simply BECAUSE of their tendency to softer consonants and harder vowels. The music of language is in the variations- the different words, dialects, and cultures through which people speak. This applies to Australians and Brits, in my opinion. The differences in pronounciation, and their native expressions, are what makes listening to them so enjoyable.

    However, there is a difference between accepted dialogue in a given region, which is perhaps different than another region, and pronounciation of a word as you see fit, simply because that it how you feel it should be pronouced.

    Speaking correctly does allude to a better education, whether or not this is fair. If you want to sound educated, you should learn to speak properly. It’s that simple.

    For all of the older generation who’ve written here in dismay of the apathy of youths’ pronounciation and grammar, perhaps this will cheer you up. I am a fourteen-year-old, in the public school system, who really and truly cares about pronouciation and grammar. Though our schools may not be igniting this spark in every student today, or even most students, the flame will not die out. There are, and likely always will be, those who care. I intend to instill in my children the love of language, not just their own, but all language, in all its complexity and variations.

    Wow, when I scrolled up I realized how long I’d allowed this to become. I hope that you will all forgive me.

  • kaylee

    this is cool but something that really gets me is recognize (rec og nize)

    some people say recanize(rec-a-nize)

  • Chuck

    I work with a hillbilly from Pennsylvania, and she always talks about..
    This is myan idea on the project and that is your’in idea.

    My mind immediately wonders to… I wonder how Myan Urine compares to My Your’n.

    It drives me a bit crazy.

  • nrb

    As a former English teacher (and a Kansan), I found many of the mistakes noted in the text and in the notes familiar (and annoying as ever). I admit to being a stickler and perhaps even a prig about language. Nonetheless, I find it endearing that my mother says “wash” as /warsh/ and that the city of Du Bois, Nebraska is pronounced /doo boys/. I guess how offensive a mistake or eccentricity is depends on the context.

  • Megan Clendaniel

    White people love correcting grammar. It’s pretty obnoxious. Isn’t there something else that you can devote your empty time with? Try not being a stereotype.

  • SRS

    Some of those spelling ones matter to me. Speaking depends on company and one ought to have enough finesse to speak well or speak colloquially.

  • ..

    I like misproducing cache. saying CASH makes me happy.

  • jake

    Some have mentioned issues with considering a certain pronunciation correct and others incorrect. The link (on my name) has my short take on it, as a translation student.

  • Adam Steer, Better Is Better

    You can’t imagine how happy I was to see the word niche included in your list. When I hear someone say “nitch,” it feels like nails being dragged down a chalkboard! :)

    And why do you Americans say zee instead of zed…? ;)

    Cheers,
    Adam

  • Rodnei Reis

    Thank you for the tips. I’m from Brazil and I’m learning English, so this is very helpful.

    To Megan Clendaniel: Are you kidding?

  • wisp

    White people? Hahahaha! Who’s being a stereotype?

    I love correcting grammar. I’m a dark skinned guy from Argentina. Don’t waste your filled time posting bs.

    What i hate the most is the use of the word “then” instead of “than” in chatrooms and MMORPG.

    “Your not better then me!” >_<

  • bobrick

    i’ve never actually heard anyone say most of these. perhaps the author simply associates with some dim people who can’t speak english. or perhaps americans.

  • Nim

    In the UK jewellery is spelt that way’ jewellery … as such it is correct to pronounce it with four syllables.

    Apart from that … you made me smile many times :)

  • Chris

    I would agree – many of these are annoying. One I find particularly annoying is “aks”. I have a coworker who simply is incapable of saying “ask” – and I’ve tried to get him to say it. “Nucular” is another that really bugs me. Oh yeah, and “kil-AW-mitter” vs “KIL-oh-mee-ter”.

    But I think some in your list are a bit nit picky. Like “offen” vs “often”. Also, “preventative” IS a valid word though “preventive” is more common.

    I wonder if Megan noticed the irony in her comment about stereotyping.

  • carouselle

    Get a life for pete’s sake!

  • Tina

    Quit being a baby.

  • corajudd

    I find that most well-read people have a vast vocabulary that they use correctly but have rarely heard spoken and simply guess at the pronunciation. Keep that in mind when judging a speaker ignorant. If that doesn’t help, viewing language as a living, evolving entity might.

  • Nuria

    I have one to add. It drives me crazy when people say “library” as “li-berry.”

  • Amanda

    I have to disagree with #6 and the various responses to it. While “aks” may not be correct for Standard American English, it is acceptable in African-American Vernacular English (more commonly known, unfortunately, as Ebonics). It does not bely a lack of education or refinement– it is part of an accepted dialect of the English language. I would suggest an addendum to #6 that explains the difference, and maybe even leads the reader to some source of information about AAVE. The more you know… :)

  • Bill Vincent

    Thank you for this. Over the last 15 years or so, I’ve watched the average American’s grasp of their own language go to hell in the proverbial hand basket. Even major publications like the New York Times is sending out articles with 3rd grade level spelling and grammar errors, and many people seem to think this de-evolution is acceptable, and should even be embraced as “normal”.
    The ability to communicate in a clear and concise manner is the single most important facet of modern civilization, and the fact that people defend the slaughtering of language and refer to people that try to fix errors with derogatory terms like “grammar Nazi” disturbs me to the core. If I hear one more person say “woof” when they mean “wolf” I’m going to freak the hell out.

  • DrS

    I find it ironic that your first sentence talks about how you accept alternate pronunciations of words; however you still go ahead and ramble off this condescending list. How do you think words took on alternate pronunciations, popular usage. Love or hate it, it happens. Grammar and language are not confined to set rules, they change all the time. Deal with it.

  • Shoni

    No one mentioned converse/conversate?

  • John

    OK after reading your intro I was all ready to be a good little linguist and say that there’s no such thing as “correct” pronunciation, only standard pronunciation, and that the standards can change depending on where you live and who you talk to (which is how dialects appear in the first place). But after reading a few of the examples… people actually *say* these things? Not being American I’m exposed to a whole different spectrum of errors than you, and some of these ones blow my mind. I mean, “tchaos”, seriously?

    PS I love reading these kinds of articles’ comments board just for all the self styled pedants (or “peddan’ts”, thank you Eric) making stupid mistakes regardless.

    PPS Megan^ is a dick, I’d rather be a stereotype than come up with the damn things.

  • Jim

    What about the question words like when, what, where, and why?

    I remember I had an English teacher in elementary school who always used to pronounced an the H sound before the words.

  • CJ

    While I do understand the frustration of mispronunciation (I cringe when I hear aks instead of ask), I can only describe much of this list as pretentious.
    Before anyone starts ripping on other people’s pronunciation, he or she should take into consideration accents (the reason why I never actually say anything about those irritating pronunciations) and, oh yeah, dipthongs. Medieval, eh?
    And while, yes, you did have some fair points on additions/deletion of syllables, I really don’t know how to take “to pronounce [the h in vehicle] is to sound hicky” as pretentious and ridiculous since “hicky” isn’t even a word.

    Regarding the last comment about “white people,” who the hell do you think you are? I would LOVE for you to tell me what race I am. Oh, wait. You would have no idea sitting at your computer feeling all offended that there are people who value the ability communicate well.
    Everyone has his or her pet peeves and I bet you vocalize yours every chance you get (maybe one being white people correcting grammar?).

  • Azri

    “tempe*r*ature,” not “tempitchur”

  • susie

    i have a co-worker who misuses words on purpose, she thinks its cute! UGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    i hate her

  • Frosty

    @ Megan

    You devote time TO something, not with.

  • amy

    being austrailan i know it may be somewhat hypocritical of me to comment on this subject but a lot of the corrections in the other comments here seem to be people complaining about accents, at least as far as vowel pronunciation is concerned, most of the time this is something i make allowances for when i hear other people say things wrong, my problem is people who continue to mispronounce words specific to a locality when they have heard the correct form, amongst other aussies things like ‘nasi goreng’ indonesian for fried rice, its a phonetic language that doesn’t have a hard s sound, i have a similar problem with americans using a soft s to pronounce ‘aussie’ in australian slang ‘ss’ is always ‘z’, no australians say it otherwise so i don’t know how this variation has occurred. other pet peeves have to be antarctica is said how its spelled, people who drop the first t always make me cringe, another common error is people saying pronounciation instead of pronunciation, and the phrase “i could care less” to mean i don’t care, it’s “coudn’t” or it doesn’t make sense. anyway, i’m going to have to take your word for it on those mispronunciations mentioned, because i’ve never heard most of them, i suppose americans make different mistakes, but thanks for an interesting read :)

  • Charles

    I would HAVE to add:

    Government which has an “n” there in the middle and should be pronounced Gov-ern-ment not gover-ment.

    Vegetable which should be Veg-et-able not veg-table

    And Probably which should be pro-ba-bly not pro-bly
    (interesting side note to that one. My sister, when she was young, wrote the word “proi” on a school paper. When questioned about the word it was discovered that it was the word “probably” but she wrote it as she said it (prah-ee.) Hooked on phonics definitely would not have worked for her)

    I’m proud to say that I scored 48 out of 51 from the list. And Sherbet I actually thought was spelled with an “r” as I seldom order or eat the stuff I had just taken the common pronunciation for granted. I’ll have to start getting myself some extra funky looks for pronouncing it correctly now. I already get them for such things as Aluminium, Comfortable, February, Government, Vegetable, etc.

  • amy

    megan which is worse: playing to a stereo type or making certain assumptions despite the knowledge that what they are based on is in fact a stereo type, even by your own admission?

  • Charles

    I just HAD to write this, whether it gets approved or not.

    To Megan (comment number 135):

    It’s not that those who are correcting grammar are stereotyping their ethnicity but rather their intellectual stature. It’s not that we are white, we’re SMART. I know a LOT of “White” people who desperately and repeatedly need their grammar corrected. I also know of a number of “Black” and “Yellow” people who are first to speak up when such corrections are needed.

    Those of advanced intellect are not constrained to a single ethnic background or geographical origin any more than those of substandard comprehension are.

  • John

    As an Australian I am very surprised by the similarities in pronuounciation. Almost every (the exceptions being heinous: HEE-NUS and often: OFFEN) word is described as how Australians are taught to speak. From reading the postings I think pronunciation is (should be) ruffly the same everywhere; it is the accent that differs.

  • Beth Barton

    May I congratulate AvidR for a very well written opinion.
    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the previous 136 entries and even though I am a 67 year old Australian, I managed to get the gist of what everyone had to offer as their opinion or suggestion.
    I have always been a stickler for pronunciation and correct grammar and I would say that it all boils down to what we were taught.
    I do feel that TV writers have a lot to answer for also, as they want to be perceived as being current but do not realise that they are projecting bad influences to young people.

  • Robert

    “Arctic” was actually borrowed into English from the Latin word “articus” (note the lack of a ‘c’ before the ‘t’). The Latin word, however, comes from the Greek word “arktikos”. At some point, the powers that be decided to add a silent ‘c’ to the spelling to be more etymologically accurate. Following the change, people spent decades complaining (such as you are here) about all those stupid people pronouncing the silent ‘c’. In fact, /ah-tick/ is the only pronunciation the OED gives for this word (that being the british “r-less” pronunciation)

    I tend to be a descriptivist, and feel that, linguistically speaking, it’s pointless to enforce all these little rules that people feel are so important. From a stylistic point of view, yes, there are things that sound better than others, there are pronunciations that sound “uneducated”, and there probably is some value in people knowing what the “correct” way to say something is. What I get really annoyed with is people claiming that all the mispronunciations and slips in grammar are indicative of an overall decline in language, and pretty soon we will be reduced to gibberish. This is simply not held up by the evidence. People have been saying the same thing for 1000 years or more, and language changes, but it never degrades.

    Sorry for the length of the comment

  • mike

    niche is pronounced nitch accept it, check proper dictionaries

  • Gabrielle

    ARCHIPELAGO:
    In my dictionary it states that the English word was influenced in the 16th century by the Italian word ARCIPELAGO (which is definitely pronounced “AR-CHI-PE-LA GO” CH as in CHANGE). It does however also state that the correct pronunciation is with a K sound and not a CH sound.

    The origin may be Greek but in my opinion they should both be accepted. It just sounds so strange to say it with a K, maybe it’s because I live in Italy and I hear it so often with a CH sound.

  • not-chad

    Jared Stein: That’s very democratic of you. It’s very PC and nice of you to say let’s let’s all hold hands and love each other, maaan. However, some people – you know, the ones who bothered to go to school to try to communicate effectively – actually do lose respect for those who can’t be bothered to speak correctly. Sure, people will do what they want to do, but that doesn’t make it right. For example, George Bush, who is widely-perceived to be an idiot, was voted into office. Twice. Change is natural, but it’s not always for the better.

  • Asher

    If everybody spoke in the same way, nobody would have anything to say.

    Embrace the quirks of your language and enjoy when people speak differently from you. Language is dynamic, it doesn’t exist in a dictionary or prescriptive grammar.

    All the same, I wince at a couple of these =P

  • Mel

    I stopped reading this when I got to “February”. It’s widely accepted that the first “r” is silent. As with most English words, the spelling doesn’t necessarily tell you how the word is pronounced.

    And “pecan”? Well – sorry if this annoys you, but no Brit is going to say pe-caaayn. We have different accents. You sound strange to us too, but we’re generally quite polite about it.

  • Nazreel

    Robert V come to Scotland. We don’t use intrusive rs here. We also know how to pronounce “ch” properly. Loch not lock!

  • Doug Rosburyh

    Please include (comfortable) in your list. This needs urgent attention.
    Thanks——-Doug Rosbury

  • Shan

    Another one to point out – Merriam Webster accepts “sherbert” as an alternative spelling to “sherbet.” Which is honestly the only way I have ever seen it. Thus, that pronunciation could be considered as correct.

    The way in which words are pronounced does change over time. Without that trend, a language becomes dead. Is that not what happened to Latin? It was in use for a millennium after the fall of Rome, but Renaissance humanists made the decision to standardize and perfect the language. From that point on, it became unchanging. Certainly, English is not a dead language. Pronunciation-elitists may just have to accept that.

  • Will

    The ‘H’ at the start of the words herb is not silent. Honest. It’s a herb, not an erb. Similarly, Bernard is pronounced bUrn-ud, not bur-nArd (I used capitals to show emphasis). American culture has a habit of pronouncing these words in a slight French accent, which is weird. Granted, the words may be of French origin, but many many English words originate from other languaegs, and we rarely overpronounce them in these accents.

  • Rooty

    19. February – Just about everyone I know drops the first r in February. The spelling calls for /FEB-ROO-AR-Y/, not /feb-u-ar-y/.

    -I pronounce this Feb-ro-ee and I’m not going to change.

    24. heinous – People unfamiliar with the TV show Law and Order: S.V.U. may not know that heinous has two syllables. (The show begins with this sentence: “In the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous.”) Say /HAY-NUS/, not /heen-i-us/.

    -Heen-us.

    30. jewelry – The word has three syllables. Say /JEW-EL-RY/, not /jew-el-er-y/. The pronunciation /jew-ry/ is common but not correct, as it removes one syllable from the word.

    -Jool-ry.

    31. library – Notice where the R comes in the word. Say /LI-BRAR-Y/, not /li-ber-ry/.

    -Lib-ry.

    33. miniature – The word has four syllables. Say /MIN-I-A-TURE/, not /min-a-ture/.

    -I say min-a-ture. I don’t care.

    46. sherbet – The word has only one r in it. Say /SHER-BET/ not /sher-bert/.

    -A standard British variation is sher-bert.

    48. ticklish – The word has two syllables. Say /TIK-LISH/, not /tik-i-lish/.

    -I say tick-i-lish. Always have, always will.

    50. vehicle – Although there is an H in the word, to pronounce it is to sound hicky. Say /VEE-IKL/, not /vee-Hikl/.

    -I sometimes say ve-hikl for comedy purposes. Many British people do.

    So, to conclude, no. All the ones I highlighted above are standard British variations on English words. And guess what? Britain is where English comes from.

  • Rooty

    Also, can Americans PLEASE stop calling British people “Brits”. If you must, call us “Britons”. “Brit” is an awful word.

  • Ryan

    Prescriptivism for the lolz. Some of these are legitimate complaints, but “vehicle” has a slight h sound. Also, considering how demanding and precise you’re being about how things are pronounced, it escapes me why you wouldn’t want to use something a little more nuanced with your transcriptions of the “proper” way to say words like hierarchy or daïs (for instance IPA or X-SAMPA), especially when the same combination of letters represents two very different sounds (ay represents /æɪ/ in daïs but /eɪ/ in heinous). Also, “foliage” has 2 syllables, no one I know gives the i a full beat. It’s slurred into a diphthong and/or palatalizes the l preceding it.

  • a humble linguist

    Clearly who ever wrote this is not a linguist and is not aware of acceptable dialectal differences. Just because it may not be the IPA pronunciation given in the dictionary doesn’t mean it’s wrong. If that were the case, everything said by Americans would be wrong because we don’t speak with RP, which I would assume would be the prescriptivist norm in terms of English Phonology.

  • Nobody

    Dear Xander,
    Guess I’m nobody. My lips make the “w” in jewels.

  • Kendra

    All of this stuff does really bother me for whatever reason, though I admit I’ve always said KASH-AY instead of KASH.

    It really bugs me when people say “crown” instead of “CRAY-on.”

  • jezebel

    wow… an instruction manual on punctuation! pompous twat.

  • James

    AAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! Bloody yanks!! No one says mini-a-ture!!! How dare you American idiots tell people how to pronounce English words properly!! Your accents and pronunciations are a mish-mash of other countries and cultures! I hate the American pronunciation. It’s a pox upon this Earth. What a waste of time this website is. You make me sick.

    Thanks,

    James

  • The Dude

    Lemme aks you sompn! Why do people talk? I think that it is to convey a message and hope that message is received and understood, maybe even also felt by the receiver. So if you understand the message being delivered why do some pretentious bastards insist on correcting it? It seems like it would be pretty dull if every English speaker in the world had the same accent, dialect, vernacular, etc. Language is not stagnant, it is a constantly evolving and changing thing, building upon itself through itself and it’s users. My advise is to learn to enjoy the funny quirks of language that annoy some of you so much.

  • Bill Vincent

    Jim: I’ve also known many people who pronounced “wh” with an audible “h” preceding it. Simply put, it’s a regional mispronunciation. As is the case with a great many things, the fact that many people believe something to be true or correct, this does not MAKE it true or correct.
    200 years ago most everyone thought the earth was flat. Their assurance didn’t flatten the earth. It stayed roundish regardless. :)

  • captaincrank

    I disagree with your pronunciation of “et cetera”. I know the t in “et” is not pronounced, but others might not. So, when you’re telling people to pronounce it correctly, I think you should spell it “AY CETERA” or something like that.

  • legbamel

    If Realtor has three syllables, then does real, as in real estate, have two? I agree that real-uh-tor is incorrect, but reel-tor is the proper pronunciation of the word in question.

  • mohan

    I think there is lot more words than this we are,still pronouncing them wrong.I have seen many people pronouncing even the common words,wrong

  • Pauline Waggoner

    I often hear and read the word “tack” misused, as in “they’re going to take a different tack.” The word tack relates to the direction one turns in sailing. I often see it written or hear it spoken as “tact.”

  • Luke

    It seems that all of you have forgotten why humans have language: to communicate. It really doesn’t matter HOW something is pronounced as long as it’s understood by the listener and speaker.The entire notion of grammatical and vocalic “correctness” is really a redundant one.

    Given the divergence of English into different dialects which will probably end up eventually as different languages its a little unfair for everyone to speak the same way. For example most of the American dialects are rhotic (for non-linguists: they pronounce post-vocalic r’s e.g. /robeRt/ or /loRd/) and Commonwealth English is non-rhotic (we’d say something more like /lod/ or /robet/

    I’m sick to death of my fellow Kiwis feeling like hicks because they feel they don’t speak proper English.Dialectation is a valid part of linguistic evolution: DEAL WITH IT!!!

  • Sadie

    The writer of this article has clearly never studied any form of language study. Sure, some of the words mentioned are frequently pronounced incorrectly and there are definitely some mispronounced words that drive me up the wall (my mother says fustrated, libary, and resterount) but fact of the matter is different areas have different ways of pronouncing different words. Have you ever heard of an accent? The complaint of the word “halloween” was the one of the worst on the list, in my opinion. It’s like saying “aunt” is pronounced ant. Sure, it’s pronounced “ant” in certain regions but many people say “awnt” it just depends on where you are from.

    This article is calling all sorts of people ignorant, but fact of the matter is the writer of this article is extremely ignorant and elitist. Get over yourself. There are many ways to say many words. The beauty of the English language (any language for that matter) is that it changes and has many different colours. We adopt words from different languages and adapt them to our accents and speech patterns. That’s the way language works!

    Also, to the person who commented on espresso vs expresso. This word also bothers me, and I was insistent on espresso being right, but I live in a predominantly French speaking Province and many people here say expresso, the Italians included. It’s spelled expresso sometimes too.

    Also, think about this. My mom calls gas “gaz” this is due to the fact that although she is an Anglophone, she grew up in Quebec. In Quebecois gas is “gaz” so she was clearly influenced by her surroundings. Most Anglos who grew up in Quebec will say gaz. They also say “close the lights” which sounds pretty strange until you notice that the French way to ask to turn out the lights is the direct translation.

    I guess what I’m saying is that proper pronunciation isn’t so black and white. There is almost no such thing as the right way and the wrong way to say thing. If you disagree you should check into some sociolinguistic studies. Some great sociolinguists include: Labov (can’t remember his first name) and Charles Boberg.
    Please educate yourselves about linguistics before you decide what’s “right” and “wrong” in language. What makes you the authority anyway?

  • Dylan

    I really don’t like the presumption there’s an absolutely correct way to pronounce. As anyone who’s listened to older movies and radio shows will realise, even ‘correct’ pronunciations differ. Those objecting to difference are being, at best, Canute-esque.

    Fortunately, the article defeats itself with its numerous errors, as many have pointed out. Here’s another…

    Only three sounds for CH in English, huh (see chaos)? That forces you to mispronounce words like LOCH, which use a fourth. It’s not spelt LOCK because it’s not pronounced LOCK; it’s correctly pronounced using the CH very similar to the Flemish (not Dutch) CH.

  • Rogier

    How about Aluminum (A-LU-MI-NUM) apposed to Aluminium (A-LU-MI-NI-UM)? Many Americans pronounce this word incorrect. But then again, perhaps the metal is just called that way in the USA.

  • Stephanie

    Working in a Starbucks for the last 2 years has given me some insight into how many people just simply cannot read.

    Its not so much the incorrect way people say drink names as much as it is when people add an “x” to Espresso. Even my co-workers do it.

    Its not eXpresso, its eSpresso.

    That’s it for me…

  • rusty shackleford

    This really bothers you that much? Most people don’t mispronounce most of these words anyways….

    You don’t seem like a fun person to hangout with.

  • Fish

    On nuclear:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nucular

    read it before you make any comments about the origins of the word defining the pronunciation of it.

  • Jenny

    When I started reading this, I was like, okay, yeah, I agree with a lot of this… then you started tearing into dialect.

  • Elodie

    Realtor has two syllables. REAL – tor. (REEL-tor)

  • Fink

    Jim,

    Your teacher was probably using a voiceless labiovelar approximant in her pronunciation of these words [ʍ], not an [hw]. If she was Scottish or from the South, this would be genuine. Otherwise, she was likely hypercorrecting a bit.

    Most dialects don’t have [ʍ] in words like when, what, and why (or whip or whale or wheat), and [w] is the sound used in its place. So however your peers talk…that’s ‘correct’.

  • Merrick

    dialects are what make this world unique. sure it might not be ‘proper’ english but dialects what bring diversity to this world.

    cheers

  • Paul

    Hloy crap! Get a grip! I bet you get so hung up on how people talk that you don’t even hear what they say.

  • Passenger

    I was just stumbling bye… I thought I would correct you, by telling you about “ask”. You are complaining about how people pronounce ask. However, “aks” was the latin word, and pronunciation. So, when your telling everyone not to say it that way… Your the mistaken one…

  • dania

    I hate it when people say “car-mull” for caramel. I live in Quebec and grew up speaking english and french and I know for a fact that caramel has three syllables due to its etymology. Cah-rah-mell.

    Dialects only come into play when there’s a different accent, not when the word sounds completely different (i.e., has a different number of syllables or different letters), imho. Route is a good example. I say it like roof but my dad says it like rowt. Both are legitimate. Saying that “axe” for “ask” is dialect is just allowing sloppy pronunciation. Though I must say there’s a weird phenomenon here: people say “left-tenant” for lieutenant. I find that really odd.

    Also I hate it when people say supposably. AGH! suppoSEDly, dammit.

  • Kelli

    Well I am definitely one of those people who says February without the R because I think it sounds kind of silly with it, but other than that I totally agree with all of these. I’d also add Wednesday to the list. I also hate when people put H’s in front of words, like Hwhip, or Hwhere, that drives me nuts along with the whole aks thing. I also find that people sometimes say the word soldier as shouldier….

  • Kelli

    Also the error of saying Ongion instead of onion.

  • Spicky

    I think it’s fine to say Feb-u-ar-y. After all, we don’t say Wed-nes-day

  • James

    Some of these pronouncaitions will make you sound like an ass, not to mention that some of them are incorrect, for example the word preventative does exist and is more generally used than preventive (preventive is applied mainly to abstract ideas, while preventative refers to real life situations)

  • John Hawklyn

    ‘interesting’ – contains a pair of T’s – yet I’ll hear folks comment that an item is ‘inneresting’ …

  • mere

    It drives me crazy when people pronounce the “re” on the end of “macabre” – it’s muh-COBB, NOT muh-cobb-ruh!!!

  • ucchie~

    First of all, WTF. If you think people are mispronouncing words now, wait till you go to the UK, or any other English speaking country for that matter (besides the US, obviously). You’ll cringe to your death.

    The fact of the matter is, this is a dialectal situation at best, and English teachers should have little to say about it. This is something we should leave in the hands of English language linguists. And even they don’t discriminate when it comes to how people speak English because they understand that no country owns the English language at the moment.

    Anyways, if English is to even exist hereon out, we need to be accepting of dialects and all these innovative ways of how people say things. Otherwise, be it too rigid it’ll die out (just like any civilization).

    I’m not saying we should allow English to be “pidginized” or anything, I’m just saying that, as far as spoken English goes, we should be accepting of the different varieties it comes in.

    BTW, “ad-” suffixed words like…say adventure, never used to have the “d” in them. It was added sometime before modern English (I think). I would say its all thanks to those incompetent lazy mouthed nimwits of back in the day who would’ve probably favored “assessory” to “akcessory”. But its whatevs. :-)

  • ucchie~

    I meant “prefixed”. I know what I’m talking about, I promise. Hehe.

  • Ali

    Gosh some of the people commenting – Americans, typical (including the writer of this article) – thinking you’re all right about everything! There is such a thing as British English and Australian English, with different spelling and pronunciation of different words

    Last time I checked, the English language originated from Britain. I don’t think it’s fair to say what is the right pronunciation of certain words when it’s so different in each country

  • Maple

    I don’t want to get into the debate of what’s “proper” and what is not. I’m just happy to have a place where I can share my pet peeve word – exit.

    My experience is that most people say “egg-zit”, which is like nails on a blackboard to my ears. Personally I prefer “ex-sit”, but I don’t generally say anything about it because it no one really cares!

    Thanks for letting me vent though!

  • Matt

    I like it, but I need to know is the word coupon koo-pon, or que-pon?
    thanks

  • Ryan

    Dania, “aks” is a feature of African-American Vernacular English. It has its own standard grammatical and phonological rules, and to dismiss it as “sloppy pronunciation” is really quite stupid. In the context of this discussion it indicates to me that you’re not a terribly valuable contributor.

  • Brandon

    Brad K., that would work, but any good dictionary will note whether the usage of a word is Standard or Nonstandard. I didn’t add the pronunciation for ‘athlete’, for instance, even though [ath-uh-leet] is listed. It’s nonstandard. Along with ‘ain’t.’

  • Curtis

    Also, some medical terms are frequently mispronounced.

    First, the word “barbiturate” is pronounced /bar-BIT-choo-rate/, not /bar-BIT-choo-ate/

    And, “ophthalmologist” is said /off-thuhl-mo-la-jist/, not /op-tha-mo-la-jist/

    An “infarction” is not the same as an “infraction” either.

  • Curtis

    ucchie~, what do you mean no country owns English at the moment? I suppose no country owns German either?

    The language started in England, and it’s pronunciations are still considered correct. And spellings mind you – “colour” not “color”, “neighbour”, not “neighbor”, and “doughnut”, not “donut” … lazy americans…

  • PurpleCar

    The Etymology of “Ask” according to Merriam Webster:

    Etymology: Middle English asken, axen, from Old English amacrscian, amacrcsian to ask, demand; akin to Old Frisian amacrskia to demand, Old Saxon emacronscon, Old High German eiscomacrn to ask, Latin aeruscare to beg, Greek himeros longing, Sanskrit icchati he seeks, desires

    Middle English had the ‘axe’ sound. The Latin aeruscare would have been pronounced air-oooo-SCAR-ay, with the ‘are’ at the end being the part that conjugated (changed with different tense and person).

    I’ve also heard from some linguists that african languages never have an ‘sk’ sound together. The pronunciation rules dictate that the k would always come first and the s to follow. If this is true, then it makes sense why the ‘axe’ pronunciation would stick. 200 years is but a blip in time when it comes to cultural habits.

  • Texas Butterfly

    I’m surprised not to see “similar” (mispronounced as “sim-U-lar”)

    BTW, I’m an African-American born in Chicago but living in Texas. I pronounce the “r” in February, the “w” in “jewel” though I do so softly in both cases. Also, I DETEST the pronunciations “aks” and “conversate.” As for the regional dialect consideration: there is a difference between regional nuances and outright mispronunciations.

    Thanks.

  • Rachel

    @Covarr:
    Actually, you’re the one that has it wrong. It is a noun and an adjective, but NOT a verb. “Clichéd” is not a verb. In your sentence, “X is clichéd,” the verb is “is” not “clichéd.”

  • Charles

    I have seen in several of the recent posts that people are claiming that language is used to convey an idea or feeling and as long as the person receiving the message understands it that it doesn’t matter how the words are pronounced. I have to agree that as long as the person hearing you understands you that the purpose of language is achieved. However, being understood does rely strongly on being understandable.

    I hear the word any pronounced inny and I hear the word our pronounced “are” rather than “hour”. I’ll grant you that in MOST context the meaning of these words can be derived but there is a vast difference between the meanings of “our | hour” and “are”. Another set that is not always as easy to distinguish through context is the “pen”, “pin” set.

    Along similar lines are the contractions that I have seen expanded on the internet. Those that bother me the most are the contractions Could’ve and Should’ve which people don’t even REALIZE are contractions. They write them as “could of” and “should of” because their meaning is not being received correctly.

    It is of vital importance that we learn to communicate properly and uniformly or there is the real chance that our messages and intentions will not be clearly received and understood.

  • Mr. Man

    The one I love to hate: pro-cess-ēz

    “a bungled affectation”

    A nice quote from http://www.answers.com/topic/process

    “In recent years there has been a tendency to pronounce the plural ending –es of processes as (-ēz), perhaps by analogy with words of Greek origin such as analysis and neurosis. But process is not of Greek origin, and there is no etymological justification for this pronunciation of its plural. However, because this pronunciation is not uncommon even in educated speech, it is generally considered an acceptable variant, although it still strikes some listeners as a bungled affectation. In a recent survey 79 percent of the Usage Panel preferred the standard pronunciation (-ĭz) for the plural ending –es and 15 percent preferred the pronunciation (-ēz).”

    Warning: Sample contains 15% Pompous Ass.

  • Harv

    Wow. OK.

    First, I just have to say I am English. This may explain or excuse a lot of the pedantry which follows. I hope…

    Jewellery – it’s what you get from a Jeweller.
    Stationery – from a Stationer.
    Cutlery (US silverware?) – from a Cutler.

    So, yes, it does have 4 syllables, but they’ve been allowed to run together over time.

    The “et” in “Et cetera” is LATIN. It’s the same as in “et al”, or, “Et tu, Brute?” There’s an audible “t” at the end. It’s NOT French – “Moet et Chandon” is properly pronounced “ay”.

    On a related note, the superbug that’s been so popular over here recently “Clostridium difficile” is NOT French – it’s Latin too! So “Di-ffi-chi-lay”, not “Di-fi-seal”.

    Oh, and a personal bugbear of mine – Noah Webster MADE STUFF UP! Completely. Out of whole cloth, as the saying goes.
    He deliberately altered the English language to his own taste, and dropped vital clues to the origin and usage of words in the process. It’s his fault that AluminIum lost its second I. The incorrect pronunciation followed logically from the incorrect spelling.

    And I agree that the form Aks is an older, re-discovered usage. However, I doubt very much that it was introduced by a scholar of Middle English. Two wrongs just happened to make a right, that’s all.

  • ucchie~

    @Curtis. Maybe I should have said English is on the verge of becoming a lingua franca..? Hmm like if you put a Dutchman, a Nigerian, and a Japanese in one room, what language are they gonna converse in? English, right?…only because English has become such a global language. Like if you were to go to Oruwhorun, Nigeria or Tokyo, Japan, you’ll see street advertisements (advert-is-ment or adver-tyz-ment, your pick, ;-)), road signs, billboards, etc all in English. Sometimes English is even mandated as part of their education by their government.

    Basically, the use of English is promoted everywhere. I’m sure they have to stick to the rules established by the UK, and sometimes the US, of proper usage of the English language, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t or couldn’t follow some of them as far as pronunciation is concerned. They in a sense will develop a dialect different from what we have now and who knows, it might affect our own dialect someday or maybe it is now.

    Anyways, had this been an argument on written English I would have taken sides with the author, but its one on spoken English and I simply must beg to differ. Your dialect defines who you are and where you’re from, if you can’t take pride in that, then I don’t know what is or isn’t wrong.

    Besides, we can’t all be robots, geeze…

  • Deanna

    Hey One Night Stanzas – You Brits are good with your punctuation, or your pronunciation?

  • Ian

    Espresso:
    The word has an S not an X its ess-press-o not ex-press-o

  • a.d.

    Bill Vincent said:
    “Thank you for this. Over the last 15 years or so, I’ve watched the average American’s grasp of their own language go to hell in the proverbial hand basket. Even major publications like the New York Times is sending out articles with 3rd grade level spelling and grammar errors, and many people seem to think this de-evolution is acceptable, and should even be embraced as “normal”.
    The ability to communicate in a clear and concise manner is the single most important facet of modern civilization, and the fact that people defend the slaughtering of language and refer to people that try to fix errors with derogatory terms like “grammar Nazi” disturbs me to the core…”

    Beautifully said!

    P.S. Which is correct: Heart-rending or heart-rendering? I thought it was ‘rendering’ but lately I’ve seen ‘rending’.

  • ailaG

    See, that’s the nice thing about using a phonetic (?) language like Hebrew.
    (I speak Hebrew as my first language)

    We have consonants and we have vowels. We don’t usually write most of the vowels but we know what they are. And if a word is written with an “a”, you’ll pronounce an “a”. If it has a “u”, you’ll pronounce “oo”. And so on.

    (there are very few exceptions, I can only think of one atm)

    So, for example, in Hebrew “Halloween” would be written “Hlowin” without vowels, “Halowin” with, and the pronunciation is clear.
    Or, “Arkansas” would be written “Arknso”(normal) / “Arkenso”(full) and once again, the pronunciation is clear.
    The language doesn’t rely on diphtongs as much either, diphtongs are hard to write sometimes.

    Weird English speakers.. :-)

    Re: February, at least with my semi-accent (American-wannabe accent) that R would get me stuck on the word. “FebRRRRRRRR-y-u..huh?”
    With a rolling (?) R it’s easier though.

  • Jason

    Drives me crazy when people add an “r” to “wash.” I finally broke a friend of saying “warsh,” by mocking her constantly.

  • Shauna

    Just a question here: “50 Incorrect Pronunciations That you Should Avoid,” but WHEN do you avoid them?

    In business transactions? What if I’m only dealing with local persons who speak the same way I do?

    Medical terminology frequently is mispronounced by those not in the medical/health professions, and often by those who are. As a nurse, part of my job in communicating with patients and their families is to make sure they understand what I’m telling them. If they are not familiar with the words, they’re not going to follow directions very well. “Plain english, please.” I will still use some medical words, but I try to re-explain them.

    In the long run, does it really matter?

    As a reformed perfectionist, I’ve realized sometimes you just have to let it go. People are not going to change how they say something just because someone they view as a snot or a prig is correcting them.

  • spacedinosaur

    There is a difference between correct pronunciation and speaking with a dialect. There is nothing wrong with speaking with a dialect but if you follow the rules of English pronunciation (as strange as some of those rules can sometimes be) there is a correct way to pronounce words.

  • SapphireMind

    I feel the need to point out that some of these are grammar mistakes more than pronunciation mistakes. And some things you are mentioning are less mistakes, more regional dialect, as much as hate some dialects.

  • Pete

    Interesting article (not inneresting, which I hear a lot and driver me crazy). Another one that makes me cringe is the phrase “whole nother thing” … umm, what’s a nother?

    Elitist or not, I don’t see what pronunciation has to do with writing? Are you suppose to spell out for your audience the proper way to read your writing?

  • Doug Rosburyh

    To number 22 (jd) Get off (YOUR) high horse and watch your language
    I was never taught to use the “F” word in school and neither were you. At least that’s one word you can’t make a mistake pronouncing.
    ——Doug

  • Kitsune

    One word that people pronounce wrong that really ticks me off, is Crayons.

    It has TWO syllables, not one. It’s pronounced “CRAY-ONS” not “CROWNS” or “CRANS”

    Also, washing. It has NO “r” in it. It’s pronounced “WASH-ING” not “WARSH-ING”

  • Sinéad

    Sorry, but prevantative is also a word, not a mispronunciation. Also, again with the word “Sherbert”.
    Really, Americans steal a language and then decide they know how best to use it. I’m not from England, and my English is excellent but I’m not ignorant enough to close myself off to another person’s way of pronunciation, just because they’re from another part of the world. It sometimes annoys me that Americans say Aluminum while we says Aluminium, but I haven’t made a blog about it.
    This just shows the typical elitist attitude of the whole American population. Way to make your country look closed-minded. Well done.

  • ailaG

    What is it with the F word? It seems that some Americans consider it worse than death. It’s a word describing a joyful process, in the end of which children may come into the world.

    The problem with the F word is its CONTEXT. If you call another person “a f***ing idiot” or “a friggin’ idiot” – both are violent. So why did I have to censor (so that I won’t offend anyone) only the first one, if both are equally bad?

    It seems that many people forgot just why they were told not to use the F-word. The sole combination of these 4 letters isn’t as satanic as some treat it.

  • ailaG

    233 Pete: some of these changes come from pronunciation limits.

    Take an example from Hebrew – it’s my first language, and this example is taught in middle school in Israel.
    The word for “to run” is “la-rutz” and its 1st person past form is “ratz-ti”
    The word for “to die” is “la-mut” and its 1st person past form is.. supposed to be “mat-ti”, because it’s of a similar structure.
    Try saying “mat-ti” three times fast.

    So the word is “mati” (with an emphasis on the “t”) despite the fact that linguistic rules lead otherwise. “Mati” is the correct form. That’s because a language changes to accomodate the speakers.
    Some pronounce it “mateti”. Nobody says “mat-ti”.

    Try saying “Whole a-nother” three times fast. At least with my accent it sounds goofy and makes the phrase drag too much.
    So the language adapts.

    (this isn’t true in all cases. some mistakes are bad imho – those without a proper reason)

    “Are you suppose to spell out for your audience the proper way to read your writing?” – well, isn’t that why humankind started writing in the first place?

  • Bons

    I’m a Canadian living in Scotland and for the first 6 months my colleagues thought I was simple! Turns out they were speaking English after all, it just took a bit of time for me to attune to the accents.

    My two pet peeves here are the words medium (mee-dee-um) which many pronounce as meejum and Houston which most pronounce as Hoo-ston not H-you-ston. Cringe, cringe, cringe!

  • Sadie

    “I know for a fact that caramel has three syllables due to its etymology. Cah-rah-mell.”

    You do not know for a fact that caramel is pronounced cah-rah-mell. Perhaps you say it this way, but that does not make it correct everywhere. I too live in Quebec and speak French and English. I also studied linguistics as my minor in university (in Quebec!) and I say “care-a-mel” Heck, I even make the damn stuff for a living (I’m a pastry chef) and although the pronunciation “carmel” irks me, I understand that my way is not the only/correct way to say a word, it’s how I say it due to the region and socio-economics that effect my dialect.

    Another example is bay-zil vs bah-zil. I’m guessing that the poster who posted about caramel says bah-zil b/c she’s a bilingual Quebecker. I say bay-zil, and find that bah-zil bugs, but guess what? Neither is right or wrong! Quebeckers likely say “bah-zil” b/c in French it’s called “bah-zil-ic” and the Anglos have adopted this pronunciation to their dialect.
    We all speak dialects of English. There is no such thing as wrong and right. Furthermore, dialects are constantly evolving. Someone up thread recommended watching old movies/television shows or listening to old radio shows to prove this FACT.

    I love that there people who actually know things about language posted here. I don’t claim to be a linguist–I’m not. I just took many classes in university many years ago. It really bothers me when people insist that their ways of speaking are “correct”. GET OVER YOURSELVES. Stop harassing your friends for speaking differently than you. Instead, embrace your differences! Learn from each other!

  • Ann Gowens

    That last comment, “suppose” should be “supposed”. Part of the problem right there!

  • Andrew

    What about foyer?
    Say FOY-YAY, not FOY-EHR!!!

  • Eliot

    My English teacher criticized the meter in a sonnet I wrote because she thought foliage was two syllable. A high school English teacher!

    The cavalry one really pisses me off, too. It’s not that hard to say! Calvary is a hill, not a soldier or horseback!

    A lot of common pronunciations (not proNOUNciations!) here in Texas really annoy me. I despise the words “ya’ll” and “ain’t”, too.

  • Nikki Negele

    I thoroughly enjoyed the list! Words, English words regardless of international or cultural differences in pronunciation have a proper pronunciation. I think with the exception of words such as offen verses often, as you say that can be attributed to their spelling, they should be pronounced correctly. Dropping or rearranging letters to make up speed is unacceptable and frankly it does sound quite hickish!

  • fozzie

    I stopped reading at the word “Hierarchy”, but i’m glad for your attempt. But yes, you do seem to be fixated on a pronunciation particular to the US East Coast. Are you trying to portray the mid-Atlantic accent, perhaps? (I’m deducing from your patterns of stressings and clippings).

    I’d rather read the list as written by the commenter “One Night Stanzas” becuase at least they would have had a legitimate education in the language. Goofy accent, but the English do know how they meant to use the words as written.

    And here let me hypothesize: The English language is fairly distinct in its use of the long vowels (the historic vowel shift). And what that did subtly transform the spoken language with an added layer of slightly more articulated sounds.

    But, as people have drifted in distance from the birthplace of the language, the same instinct has pushed certain speakers to draw out their vowels to the point of oddly alternate pronunciation. There’s a bland history paper in social spread and dialectic diversity in there.

    So i would recommend that if you were to attempt to write an article such as this, you should at least judge “proper” pronunciation on a criteria such as geographic prevalence of pronunciations, preferring (where possible) those which stick closer to earlier (yet post-vowel-shift). Of course, that pretty much dispenses with American pronunciation, and a great deal of Canadian pronunciation as well.

    Hmm. What is “proper”?

    And since someone will point it out, yes, i’m aware that my punctuation is “wrong”, but i’m obliged by work habit to use a British style guide, and follow their rules. Ironically enough, i will be lambasted for being “wrong” by most of the people who will read this article anyhow

  • Chiron613

    The “correct” pronunciation is the way that people say it, regardless of how scholars or pedants might wish it were said.

    Language constantly changes. One reason why our spelling is so bizarre is that we no longer speak the way we did when the words were originally spelled out. Once upon a time, “knight” actually was pronounced with a ‘k’ sound, and with the ‘gh’ forming a guttural sound.

    Arguing over whether one “should” pronounce words one way or another are as senseless as complaining that people confuse words like for, fore, and four, or to, too, and two. Why should we have different spellings for the same sounds?

    Why do laughter and slaughter sound so different, when they are spelled nearly identically?

    There is no good reason for any of these things. It’s simply custom, and customs change. Go with the flow.

  • dgrb

    I’d be more impressed if you knew the difference between “alternate” and “alternative”.

    The abbreviation etc. should not be capitalised.

    I have never heard anyone in Britain (where I grew up) pronounce the first ‘r’ in February.

    The Concise Oxford Dictionary has ‘fort’ as the *third* pronunciation of forte in the sense of strong point. Again I’ve never heard anyone pronounce it that way.

    Catherine: I am not now, nor have I ever been a BBC newsreader, but I have always said “Wedunsday”.

  • Jason

    You don’t pronounce the “w” in sword. You pronounce it Sord.

  • auralai

    Ha, come on people a little healthy debate never hurt anyone. I would agree with Sadie’s conclusion but not her method. Learn from each other, yes, but there’s nothing wrong with pointing out differences in other people’s dialects. How else do you expect us to learn?

    Personally, I find dialects fascinating and I do not think there’s anything wrong in pronouncing some things differently. It gives us linguists (or in my case, amateur linguists) something to live for, so why the heck not? Pick them apart, point them out, have fun with it. If you find it offensive or elitist, then maybe you’ve lost what makes linguistics fun, which is a little sad. I wish everyone could lighten up and not take offense from learning. That’s why the best books get banned…but don’t even get me started on that.

    That being said, here are a few dialectic variations I love:
    -/WARSH-ing-ton/ as opposed to /WASH-ing-ton/ (Although, I will admit, while entertaining, it’s one of my few pet peeves. There honestly is no “r” in Washington, so I find it a bit silly)
    -/WUH-ter/ as opposed to /WAH-ter/ (And no, I’m not referencing the British pronunciation so don’t get upset. I hear my friend from Jersey say it al the time, but I don’t know exactly where it comes from)
    -/RUM/ instead of /ROOM/ (One of my favorites. Last heard from a native Maine-er)

    And I always get a giggle out of Boston accents for some reason. With all those dropped r’s, you’d think people would be tripping over them. Ahhhh I love it. I would never want people to say things the same. That would be boring. By the way, if you like listening to accents, here’s a link to the speech accent archive, conveniently located for me, just as this website was, thanks to the glory that is stumbleupon:

    http://accent.gmu.edu/

    Go bananas!

  • Monte Asbury

    14. Clothes: actually, the preferred pronunciation in the USA is kloz

    26. Arkansas: As any Wichitan will tell you, the Arkansas river flows through Kansas, and there it is, properly and universally, said just as it’s spelled.

    35. Niche: NITCH is the preferred American pronunciation, though NEESH is acceptable.

    And to Doug, preferred American pronunciation of comfortable is, in fact, comf-ter-bul.

    Friends, having to say words the way they are spelled suggests we’re not getting out enough. Spelling, like written “music,” is just the starting place.

  • Zero

    Katana – A sword used by samurai.

    Pronounced: Kah-tah-nah.
    Not Pronounced: Kit-ah-nah, Kit-ay-nah, Kih-teen-ah, Kit-ayn-yah, or really anything else.

  • Colin Clarke

    Very enjoyable!

    One word that really gets my goat here in the Uk, and we hear it almost daily from the BBC of all people, is “secketry” for secretary!! I’m sick of hearing reporters on the news say that, “the Home Secketry has said…”

    Just avoided rant mode then.

  • Asher

    re: “a nother”:
    The word “orange” came into English from the Spanish naranja. English people said “a naranja”, but the a(n) got confused so people thought they were talking about “an aranja” hence orange … It is futile to class these language variations as errors; the whole language is the product of errors over time.

    A language is merely an average of the different ways a given group of people speak. The average is only useful to ensure that those using the “language” can understand one another. Language is DYNAMIC and whatever your attitudes to it may be they’re most likely irrelevant to the language itself.

    Additionally, if you want to pronounce “dificile” as it is in Latin, then don’t pronounce it like an Italian word, but as “di-FI-ki-lay” – as it’s Latin. Any pronunciation of it’s hardly going to stop you from being understood in an English-speaking context, however.

    And Jason (247)? Maybe the people you’re talking about are saying sward not sword …

    All of this wash/”warsh” discussion is just like “off” vs “awf” – it’s a matter of regional and social dialectology, not of mistakes.

  • sasha

    1. aegis – EEjis, although if i was pronouncing it the Greek way I’d say aigis.
    2. anyway – (not a pronunciation thing)
    4. arctic – ahktic. my Collins dictionary says both c’s are pronounced.
    9. barbed wire – (not a pronunciation thing)
    10. cache – cash. I don’t know much about French pronunciation so I’ll not argue.
    13. chaos – kayoss. never heard it with the tch sound, but i can believe it.
    15. daïs – dace, but only coz i’ve only ever heard the word once. i heard it pronounced dayiss btw.
    16. dilate – quibbling.
    17. drowned – (not a pronunciation thing)
    18. et cetera – et setera. i’m aware it could also be et ketera.
    19. February – febree. not febyuary, but not February unless I’m concentrating.
    20. foliage – 3 syllables. never heard it with two, unless the person was saying foilage.
    21. forte – fortay.
    22. Halloween – quibbling.
    23. height – never heard height pronounced heighth, only spelt that way.
    24. heinous – probably quibbling.
    25. hierarchy – hi-rahky. 3 syllables, but not hi-arky.
    26. Illinois – Illinoi. I always wondered about Arkansas though, thanks for clearing that up.
    27. interpret – (not a pronunciation thing)
    28. incident – (not a pronunciation thing)
    29. “irregardless” – (not a pronunciation thing)
    30. jewelry – I spell the word jewellery. Hence, my pronunciation is joolery. because I don’t pronounce the w in jewel.
    31. library – li-bree. NOT li-berry, but also not library unless i’m concentrating.
    32. medieval – sometimes mi-DEE-vil, sometimes medi-evil. I’ve never heard it MEE-deval.
    33. miniature – MIN-acha, but I don’t defend it. I wouldn’t be looked at strangely if I used 4 syllables, but I’m never corrected for my 3 either.
    34. Mischievous – 4 syllables, but I could use the two pronunciations interchangeably without anyone thinking me strange.
    35. niche – neesh. i don’t know much about French pronunciation, but nitch sounds wrong for the e on the end.
    36. orient – (not a pronunciation thing)
    37. old-fashioned – this is a new one to me..
    41. preventive – (not a pronunciation thing)
    43. prostate – (not a pronunciation thing)
    45. regardless – (not a pronunciation thing)
    46. sherbet – probably quibbling.
    47. spayed – (not a pronunciation thing)
    48. ticklish – it takes real concentration to condense this word into two syllables.
    50. vehicle – i say VEE-ikil, but i also say veeHIcular for vehicular. I infer that the dropped h is the corruption.

  • Jason

    Not really a distinction between sward and sword …, more the distinction between AN-SWER and AN-SER. The silent w should not be pronounced.

  • Dave

    Processes:

    College professors and other people who like to try to sound erudite have adopted the abomination “pro-suh-SEEZ”. Despite the fact that organizations full of similarly pretentious folks have approved “prah-suh-SEEZ” as an acceptable pronunciation, etymologically speaking the only way to pronounce the word is “PRO-cess-es.”

  • Kristina

    I really can’t get my tounge around “Worchestershire sauce”. But maybe that is just my mistake? Any tips?

  • Samuel Wright

    Thanks for this… love it. I occasionally feel that I need to beat my Father-in-law in the head with a Thesaurus and Dictionary… He uses “irregardless” and “subtle” (pronouncing the “b”) all the time, along with many other infractions of the English language.

  • Chachi

    One incorrect pronunciation that almost everybody makes a mistake about is with the word “bruschetta”. Too many people say bru-shetta, when the correct pronunciation is Bru-sketta.

  • Katie

    I’ve noticed that several native English speakers outside of North America (ie Ali, # 211 or James, #182) have some problems with the US & Canadian English accent as well as Americans “thinking (they’re) all right about everything.”

    I’m an American, but I live in east Asia and teach English. When my students ask me if they should pronounce coffee KAH-fee (with that nasally American ah) or KO-fee (which they learned in elementary school but they never hear me say because it sounds much more British to me & I’m not British), I tell them that both ways of pronouncing it are correct in different native-English-speaking parts of the world and that they can pronounce it either way. However, when they pronounce she like the shr in shrimp (and believe me, a lot of them do), well, yeah, I tell them they need to fix it, because there are no native speakers that pronounce “she” like that.

    That said, I have had students here who learned American English, tested very well on IELTS, went to England to study high school or uni and were scolded by their teachers for having “poor English.” I myself have been scolded by a man from England for pronouncing his name STOO-wert instead of the correct British pronunciation of STYOO-wert. He angrily told me I said it wrong (even though I say it like almost everyone else in my native country, including my parents, my teachers, as well as academic and political leaders-so I’m wrong because I say it the proper way in my country?).

    I don’t say this to get down on people from England. I simply want to remind you that one know-it-all cannot represent an entire population of hundreds of millions of people. That guy Stewart is one guy, just like the guy who wrote this article. And it shows as much ignorance on your part to lump all Americans in with this author as it would be for me to say all Britons are linguistic snobs based on my experience with Stewart or my students’ experience with a few British teachers.

    Finally, Ali, you said that the last time you checked, the English language originated from England. And James, you deride American accents and pronunciations for being a mish-mash of other countries and cultures. I would remind both of you that the English language does not originate solely from the British Isles, but is a combination of old English, German and French (which is, for example, why we say beef instead of cow meat-many languages don’t have a totally different word and just say “cow meat”). A large portion of the language did not, in fact, originate in England. And, as British English has been affected by these various cultures throughout time, it is as much a mish-mash of accents as any other native English accent.

    Every language has hundreds of stories to tell about its history and
    origins. Please don’t belittle our shared language with stereotypes and insults.

  • denise

    My pet peeve is the word “addicting.” the word is “addictive.” it always has been and always will be.

  • stickler

    need you have regardless on there twice?

  • Zack!

    I’m hip to most of this, but here in Kansas, it’s “Arrrr-Kansas,” when referring to any landmark or street that is in our beautiful state. We’ll concede the more frenchy pronunciation if we’re talking about the actual state, but otherwise, we say it like it’s spelled.
    We’re straightforward that way.
    Smiles!
    Zack!

  • Monica

    drives me nuts when people mispronounce SALMON.

  • mandy

    please please this one drives me crazy Iraq is pronounced ir-ak NOT
    eye-rak.

  • Leana

    Supposedly vs “SUPPOSABLY” (ew!)

    Probably vs “prolly” or “probly”

    Familiar vs “fermiliar” (even smart people do this!)

  • Peter

    Re: barbed wire – I so often see the “-ed” dropped: you have “barb wire” and “Fox News is bias” and so on. Gah! (Your pronunciation guide reminds me of something else: many years ago, in an episode of Diagnosis: Murder on TV, Dick van Dyke was looking after someone’s dog, which was named /bɑ:b/ – it wasn’t until the end of the episode that I realized he was saying “Bob” (/bɒb/)…I didn’t think it could be named “Barb”, but couldn’t figure out what it was :))

    i know someone that says marine corps as how its spelled not (core)
    Perhaps he’s only talking about dead Marines? :(

    Both my parents are flattening the “-er” in things like “drawer” ane “error.” I don’t know where this came from, but suddenly we’re keeping things in “draws” and making “eras” when we’re careless … grrr!
    I can’t distinguish between “drawers” and “draws” (/drɔ:z/). Surely you don’t say something like /drɔ:rə:z/, do you?

    (I do distinguish “errors” – /ɛrəz/ – and “eras” – /ɪərəz/ – but that’s only the initial vowel)

    A common difference in pronuncation I hear is with the word, ‘philanthropist’. I pronounce this word with a long ‘a’ and a ‘u’ for the ‘o’. Does that make sense? Many pronunciation websites say it this way too with their ’soundclips’. But I have heard many pronounce it with a short ‘a’ and short ‘o’.

    It should have a short ‘a’ and either a short ‘o’ or a schwa…I suspect your ‘u’ is actually a schwa, but when you say “long ‘a’”, do you mean long-as-in-length (i.e., what are called “long vowels” in sensible languages, like Latin and Greek – /a:/) or long as in what English speakers for some inexplicable reason call “long” vowels (which are completely different vowels and dipthongs – /eɪ/)? I’d find it hard to say with either…

    “Arctic” was actually borrowed into English from the Latin word “articus” (note the lack of a ‘c’ before the ‘t’). The Latin word, however, comes from the Greek word “arktikos”. At some point, the powers that be decided to add a silent ‘c’ to the spelling to be more etymologically accurate. Following the change, people spent decades complaining (such as you are here) about all those stupid people pronouncing the silent ‘c’. In fact, /ah-tick/ is the only pronunciation the OED gives for this word (that being the british “r-less” pronunciation)

    Hmm…I just looked it up in the OED, on your say-so, and the single pronunciation given is /ɑ:rktɪk/ – with the k. (There’s also a c in the Latin, by the way)

    Similarly, Bernard is pronounced bUrn-ud, not bur-nArd (I used capitals to show emphasis).

    And Maurice is pronounced like Morris, not more-EEce.

    sherbet – The word has only one r in it. Say /SHER-BET/ not /sher-bert/.

    -A standard British variation is sher-bert.

    Sure, but it’s pronounced the same – no rhotic syllable.

    I disagree with your pronunciation of “et cetera”. I know the t in “et” is not pronounced, but others might not.

    Hehe…you know that, do you?

    I’m sick to death of my fellow Kiwis feeling like hicks because they feel they don’t speak proper English.

    Wəll, Nə Zələndəs thət speak lək thəs do tənd tə sənd like hicks.

    On a related note, the superbug that’s been so popular over here recently “Clostridium difficile” is NOT French – it’s Latin too! So “Di-ffi-chi-lay”, not “Di-fi-seal”.

    Bah. ‘c’ is always /k/ in proper Latin. Don’t listen to that Italian eedjits.

    P.S. Which is correct: Heart-rending or heart-rendering? I thought it was ‘rendering’ but lately I’ve seen ‘rending’.

    Rending – as in tearing – is correct. (What would “heart-rendering” mean? Boiling the fats out of it?)

    My two pet peeves here are the words medium (mee-dee-um) which many pronounce as meejum and Houston which most pronounce as Hoo-ston not H-you-ston. Cringe, cringe, cringe!

    Yes; my father always says “hooston”; makes me cringe, too. (But note that the New York street that gives SoHo its name is correctly pronounced “house-ton”)

  • Kris

    I’m not sure if it’s been said or not, but Oregon, like the state is pronounced OR-EGG-IN not OR-EE-GON or OR-GON. My girlfriend is from there, and she corrected all of our friends and me, and now it just drives me nuts when I hear it wrong.

  • Ryan

    Finally someone uses an intelligible and geographically neutral system of rendering pronunciations! Thank you, Peter!

  • Grace S.

    Katie (260), your ultimate point is well spoken and understood. However, when the name of an individual is being pronounced, it is always best to pronounce it as closely as possible to the way the individual prefers. It’s a very personal matter at that point, and not always subject to regional dialect. If the pronunciation is quite different from what one would expect (or as in the case of Stewart, what you had learned where you lived), however, the individual with that name must be prepared to correct many people with much patience (not being offended or pompous) throughout his/her life . . . and blame parents or his/her own expectations!

  • heather

    What about “woof” instead of wolf? I think that’s Midwest U.S. dialect, but I cringe every time.
    My pet peeves are orientate, cashay-not cache, and the use of the word ambiguous when the person means ambivalent.

  • James

    My pet peeve?

    When people act as if they are superior to other because of the way they speak.

    If someone prounounces these words, or any other words in an incorrect manner, it doesn’t make you better. That’s the air you give off. In addition, the person who pronounces the word incorrectly could be new to the language. How are they to improve if you and others like yourself are so discouraging?

  • Mike Ellis

    How very close minded of you. Language is a dynamic phenomenon, forever changing and morphing. Phonological change often drives morphological change and can change the lexicon for ever.
    Speakers have an instinct to make their communication system as efficient as possible, and this extends to speech sounds. There is no reason why ‘arctic’ cannot be pronounced /a:tIk/ (i’m a little sketchy on my IPA vowels sorry) providing there is not a similar lexeme blocking it. The speaker is understood, and has saved the effort of making the plosive /k/.
    Admittedly, there are some in here that are ‘wrong’ or rather ‘non-standard’ but to prescribe pronunciations that you (presumably) take to be universal across the myriad of accents, dialects and creoles that make up global englishes is rather arrogant.
    I am english and not even I claim to have authority over such things, as an american, you have even less – your dialect is a deviation from standard english too. If you want to know how to pronounce words ‘correctly’ listen to the queen, or trevor macdonald, or even better, language afficianados such as Stephen Fry. They speak ‘properly’.

  • Orlin

    What about threshold?
    Some pronounce it TRA-S-HOULD or TRA-SH-OULD
    even TRA-S-HOLD or TRA-SH-OLD

  • Eeden

    What a great debate! I can be a grammar pedant, but not so much for pronunciation. Don’t like ‘Nookle-ar’, though someone once told me they saw the word as being spelled nucle/ar rather than nu/clear, so I understand that, even if I don’t like to hear it. A friend of mine also pluralizes the word ‘pants’ as ‘pantses’, as in, ‘I’ve got lots of pantses that would go with that top’. Surprising how frequently she can bring that word into the conversation. I don’t like it, but would never correct her.

    Having grown up in the US (mid-west, melk and vanella and ‘jest’ for ‘just’) but having longer lived in Ireland, there are huge differences. Who can say whether the pronunciation for garage as ‘gar-AHJ’ is better or worse than ‘GAR-aj’? All Irish kids say ‘haitch’ instea of ‘aitch’. There are plenty of other examples, too.

    The Irish also soften the T at the end (and sometimes in the middle) of a word, often (offen or often, both) saying ‘Whass’ instead of ‘What’, for example. That can be annoying, especially in a word such as ‘motorists’ (by which we mean drivers), or meteor, which is quite regularly pronounced ‘mee-see-or’.

    I can also jar a bit when some Americans call us ‘immatoor’ instead of ‘immachure’, or tell us we’re being ‘hostel’ instead of ‘hostile’. However, without these differences, we’d never be able to figure out where the person we’re talking to is from!

    I think all the differences are fascinating. As the world gets smaller, many of them will probably disappear.

  • dr phil

    What about Noo-cue-lar

  • dizit

    My ex-mother-in-law (whom I still love 26 years into ex-dom!), always pronounced wash as WARSH. It hurt my ears. I never could bring myself to correct her, but I always wondered where that nonexistent “R” came from.

  • Cathrine

    As for number 21. The italian word “forte” is not pronounced /FOR-TAY/ , the correct pronounciation is /FOR-TEH/. You Americans obviously like to make your vowels sound like two vowels put next to each other.

  • Willa Jabir

    Duck tape? If you have been in an Ace Hardware store, there is “DUCK” tape for sale(even has a picture of a duck on it). If you go to Lowes, there is Duct tape for sale.

    Has anyone compared simple words like “not” in current versions of dictionaries and those of 50 years ago??

    Words, definitions, spellings and pronunciation have changed over time. When the next generation alters words a tittle, I’ll continue my own slang and local talk when I’m conversing with the locals. When I go to China, I use Chinglish. When I go to Argentina, I use Spanglish. When I talk to me Canadian neighbors, I’ll question everything you say, eh?

    I studid my Anglish in school, but then I learnt ta talk so folks cud understan me in the places I be visitin.

    I also studied communication (verbal and gestures) at UAB. Sometime you have to choose between being correct and being understood. There is a rich history of mispronunciation in linguistics.

    As a side note: You think this is big time errors in the English language? The Chinese have 80 different Mandarin dialects. Learning one doesn’t mean you can communicate in another. But the written language is the same in most of the dialects of Mandarin.

  • jeri

    sher·bet (shûr’bĭt) n.
    1. also sher·bert (-bûrt’) A frozen dessert made primarily of fruit juice, sugar, and water, and also containing milk, egg white, or gelatin.
    (from dictionary.com)

    in 8th grade i had a debate with a classmate as to whether it was shur-bet or shur-burt, and it turned out we were both right. the word was listed (in a print dictionary, mind you) as being pronounced both ways. it’s a matter of preference.

  • MTS

    This list was useful, but like others I did not appreciate the tone. There were two words on the list that I’ve butchered in the past, and as somebody else has stated, I’m well read and may know what a given word means but do not use it in conversation regularly enough to get the pronunciation right every time.

    As an aside, a friend of mine from Texas has a doctorate in aerospace engineering and has had a very successful career spanning four decades. He is probably guilty of mangling at least eighty percent of the words on the list above, yet his net worth and standing in his profession is enough to make an unemployed liberal arts major cry. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  • Sven Monk

    Hi, an actual linguist here, just reiterating what Mike Ellis has so eloquently expressed. If you’re going to claim that there’s a “correct” pronunciation of each word, then tell me how many syllables there are in ‘aluminium’, because Standard English and Standard American English disagree….which one is “correct”? How many syllables in “buoy”? There’s no such thing as “correct” pronunciation in a language like English which has many, many dialects, many accents, and has been changing continuously for many hundreds of years. Some of the “mistakes” listed above will doubtlessly become the standard form in the future, for ease of articulation and numerous other reasons. Do you pronounce the final /t/ in ‘trait’? That was a heinous error not too long ago.
    You might sound educated and knowing to amateurs, but this sort of prescriptivist nonsense makes you a joke to linguists.

  • Colton

    One that bothers the crap out of me seems to be prevalent only around here – the Midwest…

    And that’s pronouncing “creek” like “crick”. I don’t understand it! Grr!

  • Mark S

    “Primer”, when talking about an introductory class, should rhyme with “trimmer”.

  • blue john

    My two biggest hates (for what it’s worth)

    Omega and Controversy

    Oh-megg-a NOT oh-meeg-a (I blame the similaritity to a certain old computer for this one)
    CON’-trov-er-see NOT cn-TROV-er-see (erm, that looks wrong – anyway, one way of pronouncing is sounds just plain wrong – it’s an emphasis thing).

    minor comment – someone said that they could not think of how medieval has 4 syllables – I am trying (and failing) to think of how to pronounce it in less than 4. Med-ee + ee-val (like 2 words)

    Also, everybody can mispronounce words that they may never have heard (and by the time they do hear them it’s too late to change). English place names are good examples (I live failry close to a town called Alcester and even this close some people mispronounce the name as AL-SES-TER, instead of AL-STER – I’m sure you Americans must have spotted how all of these place names should be pronounced by now so I won’t explian it (clue – break the place name before the ‘ster’ and then pronounce what you have infront plus the ‘ster’ part).

    Ooh. One more word LICHEN

    LI-KEN and not Lit-chen

    that’s all – see ya

  • LJ

    This mispronunciation of “orient” drives me batty. I had a boss whose favorite word seemed to be “orientate”. She would work it into just about every conversation. Ugh. I would want to jump up and scream, “That’s not a word!”.

    I never did, though. Perhaps I should have. :)

  • Cookie

    It makes me sad to think that people in England think Americans can’t talk. Yes, some of us are idiots, but most of us are pretty decent.

    I wish Americans talked like Syd Barrett and David Gilmour. I feel like people in England have a much more interesting way of talking.

    The end.

  • Estey

    However, do not forget that there is a city in Kansas called Arkansas City and it is pronounced Ar-kansas City. So, there is one exception.

  • pp

    when people pronounce prerogative, per-rog-a-tive.
    Philadelphia as Philadelthia.
    youse instead of you.

  • Peter

    There is no reason why ‘arctic’ cannot be pronounced /a:tIk/ (i’m a little sketchy on my IPA vowels sorry)

    “a” is the high front vowel in “cat”; you need “ɑ” here (unless it’s supposed to sound like “attic”). Of course there’s no reason it can’t be pronounced that way – there’s no reason “good morning” can’t be pronounced “gord moaning”, either (as a certain character in a TV show was wont to do) – but it sounds silly.

    Having grown up in the US (mid-west, melk and vanella and ‘jest’ for ‘just’)

    That’s different from actual mispronunciation, though – like the NZer I was poking fun at for shifting all their unstressed vowels to schwa.

    tell me how many syllables there are in ‘aluminium’, because Standard English and Standard American English disagree….which one is “correct”?

    The English one is correct, obviously: IUPAC defines the names of chemicals. (Besides, it was spelled that way even in American dictionaries until the 1920s, and Americans don’t drop the “i” in the names of other elements – “helum”, “lithum”, “sodum”, “uranum”, etc.)

  • Socrates

    I need to chime in on this “duck tape” vs. “duct tape” debate:

    The word “duct” ends with a T.

    The word “tape” begins with a T.

    When you put the words to together, you get two T’s right next two eachother.

    You do not need to pronounce them both. You can run them together: ductape.

    Add to that the fact that anyone who actually uses duct tape would never be caught saying “ducT-Tape”

  • Jehu

    What about misuse of the verb “to note?”

    You do not notate something, you NOTE something. The result called is a notation.

    This bugs the hell out of me regularly.

  • Jehu

    *facepalm* “called is a notation”

    IS CALLED a notation.

  • Yoda

    Understand you I did!

  • Peter

    When you put the words to together, you get two T’s right next two eachother.

    You do not need to pronounce them both. You can run them together: ductape.

    Is /pɛnʌɪf/ an acceptable pronunciation of “pen-knife” in your neck of the woods?

  • RSD

    I didn’t realise till recently that WEDNESDAY should be pronounced
    Wens’day and not Wed’ns’day! I had to check it in a dictionary to confirm it! Now that I know I still get it wrong most of the time! BTW it was a UK dictionary and the pronunciation may vary in other countries?

  • Ryan

    Peter, I don’t know anyone that releases each /t/ in “duct tape”. Most (if not all) speakers I’ve encountered geminate the t. Same with pen knife.

  • Grace S.

    Interesting comments; at the very least, we should all have been sent to our dictionaries or reference works of choice once again.

    Jehu (292), “notate” is a word with a more specific meaning than “note:” it also means to put down in writing, but using special characters, as with musical notation or mathematical characters.

    LJ (286), “orientate” is a word with a more specific meaning than “orient” (as a verb): it can be a variation of “orient,” but more clearly means to situate facing the east.

    I believe that careful pronunciation becomes more important when the “mistakes” one hears are carried over into written communication. An example of this has already been shared concerning contractions (“could of” rather than “could’ve”), where the “mistake” does not exist as a word (or phrase, in this case). More potentially embarrassing are mispronunciations that lead to use of the wrong word which IS a word (think Archie Bunker). Two examples which come to mind are “perspective” in place of “prospective” and “verses” in place of “versus.” Using the wrong word can lead to a complete change in the meaning of the sentence in which it’s used, and communication suffers.

  • Peter

    English place names are good examples

    Berkeley – as in Berkeley Square!

    Peter, I don’t know anyone that releases each /t/ in “duct tape”. Most (if not all) speakers I’ve encountered geminate the t. Same with pen knife.

    Yes, exactly – I didn’t mean to suggest it should be pronounced /tt/ (or /tət/, since you can’t say /tt/, with two distinct plosives), just that it’s not /t/ (in fact, I guess it’s really /?t/ where ? represents an alveolar stop; I don’t know the IPA for that)

  • SGSidekick

    Wow. I read this article and thought the author sounded a bit snooty, with an almost “holier-than-thou” attitude. I’ve lived on the east coast, in the plains states, out west, and finally the Pacific coast. I’ve heard many, many pronunciations, and never thought anyone was uneducated, unless it was someone using “axe” instead of “ask”. That is a peeve.

    The “pecan issue”. I don’t care if you say peh-can or peh-cawn, but PEE-can really, really drives me nuts!

    My mom comes from hillbilly stock, and puts r’s in words like “warsh” and “Warshington”. She is an intelligent woman, and as long as we both know what she’s talking about, I don’t care.

    As far as duct/duck tape, I agreed with the analogy that using either is like using “Band-Aid” for medical adhesives, and “Kleenex” for facial tissues. Or even “Xerox” for copiers.

    As for locations, I worked in Oregon. Not Or-re-gone, but Ore-gun/Ore-gin.

  • Ryan

    I think /t:/ is what Socrates was going for, and it is what I meant. /t̚/ is what you were looking for, I think. Hopefully that displays, it’s a t with a superscript upper right corner diacritic. I’m not sure /tt/ is quite the right transcription, because it indicates to me that both consonants are released. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen /t:/ in a similar situation, though if you want to be specific about it /t̚t/ is the way to go, I guess. Any phoneticians want to give a professional opinion?

  • Dan

    I like the fact the author is pointing out valuable lessons about the English language – too many of us slip on on common words all the time. but I do have to protests several of them. While there may be a technically correct way to pronounce many of these words, something that must be taken into account is regional dialect.

    I live in Minnesota. If anyone here pronounced “Halloween” with like HAL-O-WEEN, and not HOL-O-WEEN, they would probably get punched.

    Its important to bring to light many of the most commonly mis-spoken words, but they must all be taken with a grain of salt, knowing that what you say and how you say it, greatly varies on where you are residing…weather you, or the English language likes it or not.

  • Grace S.

    Sorry, Dan (302); I live in Minnesota and I say Halloween (not Holloween)–and haven’t been punched so far! :) I hear it both ways, which is OK with me–unless I’m trying to teach someone how to spell it! (Sometimes, when I was teaching, I would exaggerate the pronunciation very much according to the spelling to make the point about how a word was spelled, even though at all other times we’d pronounce the word with less precise attention to letter order–Wednesday is a good example.)

  • Cherilyn

    I know someone who pronounces batteries “bat-trees”. As a child I thought there were actual bat trees and it scared me to death. That is the stuff that nightmares are made of. He also mispronounced roof as ‘ruff’, it drove me nuts.

    I have a friend from Indiana who moved to New England who still says she’s going to warsh her clothes instead of wash them. She’s cute so she can get away with it.

  • TheDude

    Actually, “vehicle” can be pronounced either way. Look it up.

  • Paula

    I say February, pronouncing the first r because I was taught that it’s brrr cold in Febrrruary. And it’s my birth month so I make a special point to say it “correctly.”

    My sisters and mom say digikal instead of digital. Not sure where that came from. Only one has corrected herself after I said something.

    Being from Wisconsin, I don’t like to hear “Wes-consin” or “Ellinois” instead of “Wisconsin” or “Illinois”…the short e instead of short i sound.

    But life’s too short to worry about this stuff.

  • Jeff Davis

    Nuclear. Pronounced ‘noo-clee-ar, Not ‘noo-cu-lar’. Extremely common.

  • beth johnstone

    ok…to pronounce worcestershire sauce …..say…wuster shire …or shur.Pointsettia….4 syllables…point sett E AH. PLEASE prounounce SCHISM…..SIZZ EM. Keith Olbermann mispronounces that almost nightly!! I hate when people say … I look at myself in the MIR….it’s MIRR OR. I always pronounce FEBRUARY with both R’s ….FEb Ruh EREE….what’s so hard? besides…it’s my birthday month and my grandson’s as well…so it’s important and it’s a really short month so give it its due please. Hopefully is NOT a word. I am hopeful….or i’m hoping …but not hopefully. DOUR…is pronounced like poor.
    My husband hoping to trounce me and my parents in scrabble put down ……QUIETEN …..when we got through laughing at him for being such a hick….we looked it up and …..darn….IT IS A WORD!!

  • Ren

    The pronunciation, “axe” for the word “ask”, is not a mispronunciation. Rather, it is the standard and preferred pronunciation in AAVE dialect. See the works of linguists like John Rickford and Theresa Perry.

  • Joshua

    OK, so you can write, but can you count? You tout 50 mispronounced words, when you have actually included 51 bullets, and have paired some mispronunciations together. If you’re going to be elitist toward the commoners, at least have the respect not to insult our mathematical skills.

  • Charles Hannan

    Re Hallowe’en:

    The name derives not from “hallowed evening”, but rather from the fact that October 31 is the eve of All Hallows Day on November 1, or All Saints’ Day as we say nowadays.

    Note also the correct spelling above, in which the “v” of “evening” is elided.

  • OneNightStanzas

    @ beth — yes, quieten is a word, and er, I’m afraid hopefully is too. Perhaps you should spend a bit more time with your dictionary… and think twice about calling OTHER people “hicks”.

  • Chris S

    Many English pronunciations depend upon where the speaker is from. For instance, in Kansas, they pronounce the name of the state to their southeast AR-KAN-SAW, but they pronounce the river of the same name as AR-KAN-SAS.

  • beeurd

    You should probably put a note next to “jewelry” about the English spelling of the word; “jewellery”. This spelling makes it a perfectly acceptable four syllable word.

  • Deb

    Nuptial=nup-chul, not nup-choo-ul

    Or at least that is how I think it is pronounced! :)

  • Jenni C

    Personally, I don’t find this elitist at all. What is wrong with speaking properly?

    There is one that I would love to add to the list :

    especially – I have heard so many people say “exspecially” – just a pet peeve that makes me crazy when I hear it, lol

  • Being the Change I Wish to See – Sherri

    I’m from South Louisiana, y’all. “Aks” is how New Orleans natives pronounce “ask”. It’s from the time of slavery and is an embedded part of the local dialect. The local dialect is a mixture of French, African, Caribbean, Spanish, Native American and English.

    “New Orleans” is pronounced [New Orluns], the ea is not a long e sound. Although, Orleans Parish is pronounced with a long e sound.

    The Cajun dialect is nothing like the South East Louisiana dialect. It is made up of French, English, Native American and Spanish. It is mostly French but broken with words from the other languages, hence the name, broken French.

    As I’ve spent more time on the web, I’ve learned there are different dialects of English: American English, Canadian English, The Queen’s English and Australian English, to name the main ones. Each one has some of its own peculiarities, and I don’t believe American English should be the world-wide standard for English. If you’re American, speak American English, but if you’re Australian, I have no problem with you using “learnt” instead of “learned”. Spell according to your native English as well: colour instead of color, for example. We Americans get too prideful about our English being the correct English. We came from the U.K., so our form of the language is bastardized, not the U.K.’s.

    Bonafides is a word most people mispronounce. It is the plural of bonafide. Bonafides is pronounced [boe-na-fee-daze].

    Bonafide may be pronounced either [boe-na-fide] or [boe-na-fee-day]. The first is the more common pronunciation.

    My 2 cents,
    Sherri

  • Shopwalker

    Dour may be pronounced like poor, but according to Merriam-Webster, it’s also acceptable to pronounce it like dower.

    There are many words I read when I was a child, and while I understood the meaning of the word from the context, I didn’t know the correct pronounciation. One that comes to mind is the word ‘awry’, which I used to pronounce “Aw-ree”, until my brother pointed out my verbal faux pas.

    It’s my preference to be kindly and gently corrected if I mispronounce a work, however, when dealing with people who are not close friends or family, that may be ill-advised. After all, as the responses above indicate, it’s entirely possible you’re wrong that there is only one correct pronounciation.

    As it’s been said, it’s better to keep your mouth shut and let people assume you’re a fool than to open it and remove any doubt.

  • Val

    I hate when my husband says “being have” (long “a” sound there) instead of behaving. he says that it is 2 separate words, be and have (not to be confused with having something) and does not listen to me when I tell him otherwise.

  • Rogerscott

    I’ve heard Charley Rose say
    “dizzern” for ‘discern’.

    We don’t say ‘Zience’, we say
    SI-yence.

    Discern is “Dissern”

    Or does he say “Dizzy GEL-EZZpy”?

  • jane

    I am will admit that ‘short’ a’s in words like grass bugs me, but that does not mean i impose my opinion on everyone. My opinions are purely cultural. There is no right or wrong. The way people pronouce things are never ‘wrong’ because by saying wrong you are saying your version is ‘right’, but your version is just another dialect. English (like most languages) is thought to be right when spoken in standard english, yet it is only standard when the ‘big’ people say it is. In english, the release of a dictionary was based upon one of the london dialects. You get where i’m comming from. It is very arrogant and egotistical to say you are right.

  • Bee

    I keep getting emails with comments from this article by mistakenly ticking the little box. Please make them stop!
    Fascinating as the subject might be, after 100 emails I think it’s safe to say that there is no right or wrong when it comes to English. Speak and let speak, I say.

  • Danny

    What about the play Macbeth, which many pronounce “Mc-Beth”, instead of the correct pronunciation, “Mac-Beth”

    Or Pumpkin, which is pronounced “Pump-kin” not, “Pun-kin”

  • Kim

    I once had a boss who said “subsid-u-ary” instead of “subsid-i-ary”.

    He also emphasized the ‘d’ in “adhesive”, saying “ah-DEE-sive”.

    It drove me bananas.

  • NJMark

    Can people have the courtesy to read the comments before posting, so we don’t have 50 people saying “you forgot nucular/nuclear”?

    Yes, we know already!!

    And Mr. Obama, it’s “country” and “security,” not “countruh” and “securituh.”

  • Kim

    “And Mr. Obama, it’s “country” and “security,” not “countruh” and “securituh.””

    Does that mean we have to call him “Obamy?”

  • Lisa Burgess

    Flaccid. When I say it correctly people feel the need to CORRECT me, which is rude.
    It has two acceptable pronunciations :ˈ”flæksɪd,” ˈ”flæsɪd” (the more common)–think of how one says “acceptable” and consider “flaccid” with its double-c and then understand my gripe.
    Empire dresses–”ɒmˈpɪər” is the pronunciation for the adjective referenced here.

  • Sara

    FebRuary is how it is spelled, NOT how it is pronounced, look it up in Merriam-Webster if you don’t believe me. It will also tell you what someone else has, that SherbeRt is an accepted variation.

    There are reasons why words aren’t always pronounced perfectly and that has to do with regional accents. And some of your “mispronunciations” didn’t take into account the fact that they might be words.

    For example, “anyways” is correct! Its root word from Old English is “anywise”. Saying “anyway” is actually a relatively recent pronunciation.

    Also, if you’re nitpicking, at least get it right:

    Pre-vent-a-tive IS a word. From the English Dictionary:

    Preventive and Preventative. The words are often used interchangeably to denote whatever prevents something else happening or occurring, especially when it is undesirable. However, preventative is often applied to an actual object, especially in noun form, while preventive is mostly reserved for an abstract concept, and remains an adjective: Preventive medicine regards vitamin C as an effective preventative against colds.

    If you’re going to put together a post like this, you really need to do research and not just use your pronunciation opinion.

  • jdub

    Who cares if it is elitist? The fact is, most misprounounciations are the result of lack of education, either directly or indirectly. It doesn’t matter if its the local dialect or not. OfTen misprounounciations become accepted and cease smacking of low class when they are universally common but until then, it does sound stupid when people say eXpresso and cUpuccio and FUstrated.
    Having said that, I’m not sure your whole list is correct: Medieval, often, vehicle… I will have to look them up.

    Lastly, isn’t “aks” a Ubonics thang?

  • Katie

    Im in New Zealand where the English language has turned to mush anyway, but the one I hate the most here (and there are SO many) is Woman, plural Women. Both here are pronounced WOO MUN.

    Drives me nuts.

    I say WOO MAN and WI MIN.

    Let me know if I am wrong.

  • Kim

    This can drive me cuckoo; dropping the ‘n’ from “government” or “environment”. It’s not “guvver-mint” or “enviyer-mint”!

    Also on my peeve list are pronouncing “Christmas” as “kris-miss”; “Caribbean” as “ka-RIH-bee-an”, “harass” as “HAiR-uss”, and the letter “W” as “dubby-U”.

    However, the current list-topper for me is saying words rhyming with “ail” as “ell”: e.g. “e-mell”, “fell” (for “feel”), “cocktell”, “sellsman”, etc.

    It’s “AYL”, not “ELL”!!

    Okay, my rant ends for now.

  • Anon

    Kim — pretty much all British people say “Cah-RI-be-an” rather than “Carribb-ian.” I think you’ll find that people FROM the Caribbean also pronounce it that way.

    This list gets more snobby and ignorant with every comment… OK, so it annoys you. That doesn’t mean you’re RIGHT, people!

  • mo-z

    I hear TV news people pronounce the name of that city in Nevada as ‘Loss Vegas.’ Shouldn’t it be pronounced ‘Las Vegas’ with an ‘A’ and not with an ‘O’? I wonder if they’re basing the pronunciation on Los Angeles?

  • Parth

    education

    I’ve heard many people say /eju-cation/, but the original pronounciation is /ed-u-cation/

    pronounciation

    Many of us say /pro-noun-ciation/ but it’s actually /pr-nun-ciation/.

  • regularfknguy

    <>

    THANK YOU, I was working my way down the list to say just that.
    And I am sorry for those of you who believe that Duck (brand) tape is the same thing as Kleenex or Bandaid. Duck tape is not one of the original brands, and it does not have market share and not many people realize that there is even a duck on the label. Its Duct tape, but if you pronounce the first T, you should buy some rejecT Tape and put it over your mouth.

  • regularfknguy

    Ooops I accidentally HTML’d the original text in my post…
    This was it…
    Socrates

    The word “duct” ends with a T.

    The word “tape” begins with a T.

    When you put the words to together, you get two T’s right next two eachother.

    You do not need to pronounce them both. You can run them together: ductape.

    Add to that the fact that anyone who actually uses duct tape would never be caught saying “ducT-Tape”

  • Geoffrey Nolan

    If standards in grammar and pronunciation are too relaxed then we have an exceedingly difficult time trying to say what we mean and mean what we say. If standards are too strict, creativity and expansion are stifled. Me, I like establishing my street cred with poetic license but then I’m not a banker or physician. ‘Course Robert Madoff was well spoken…hmmm. Mark Twain woulda been a big bore if he hadn’t strayed off the reservation.

    Hey howcome Brits deride us Yanks for saying Nicaragwa but themselves pronounce the name of that country’s capital Managwa and not Manag-U-a?

  • Simon

    I think the Anglo Saxon word for “ask” was pronounced “aks”, an example of a word reverting to its original form?

  • Pete

    new englander, college grad, “nuther” is my favorite word. :)

    personal survey results:
    1. ?
    2. anyways is a word.
    3. i say arKipelago
    4. i say artik
    5. i say both. i use the hard c to connote fancy accessories.
    6. it’s ask.
    7. it’s asterisk.
    8. it’s ath-lete
    9. i say barb-dwire.
    10. i say cash.
    11. i say caNidate with a slighlty sharper n than cannibal.
    12. it’s cavalry.
    13. it’s kayos.
    14. i say clothes and close the same.
    15. i say dI-us.
    16. i say dI-late but dI-uhl-ated.
    17. drownded is a fun word, like brung. ;)
    18. i say eh-tsetera.
    19. i say febyooary
    20. i say foley-edge.
    21. i say fortay.
    22. i say both. holl==hall and is just a relaxed version of Hal.
    23. it’s heighT.
    24. it’s haynus.
    25. i say hi-rar-kee or hi-er-ark-ee
    26. it’s illinoy.
    27. never heard “interpretate.”
    28. it’s incident.
    29. i never use irregardless or regardless. i say anyways. :) i’m willing to accept this one on the flammable/inflammable principle.
    30. i say jool-ry
    31. i say library and libry depending on speed. never liberry.
    32. i say mid-eevuhl and midee-eevuhl, the latter to sound more formal.
    33. i say minuhcher for the adjective and mineeuhchers for the noun. most of the time.
    34. i say mis-chiv-us
    35. i say neesh.
    36. i say or-ee-yent.
    37. i say old-fashioned when speaking cleary.
    38. it’s pik-cher. you might catch me saying pitcher quickly. i cringe at piksher.
    39. i say pruh-sipitation or prss-sipitation.
    40. i say pruh-scription or prss-scription.
    41. never heard ‘preventive’. preventative is the word i use.
    42. it’s pro-nun-ciation
    43. it’s prostate.
    44. i say reel-ter. the ads say reel-tor and sound reel funny.
    45. i say anyways.
    46. i say both sherbet and sherbert, and always wish i has said the other.
    47. never heard ‘spayded’. it’s spade.
    48. i say both tiklish and tick-le-ish
    49. i use the word tract correctly but sometimes the second t is lost.
    50. i say vee-yik-le
    51. i say both words, wintry and wintery, but wintry seems too poetic.

  • stephen lewis

    I think that was an excellent article. I learned it all in Mrs. Rhoades ‘ class in 8th grade. She made a “difference” in me saying “differnce”. Born and raised in Dixie- I’ve heard it all. Ever heard this word -”Iapeeonye!” ? It’s actually a warning to all from a three-year-old backed into a corner by aggravating, but loving, siblings. It is pronounced “I-will-pee-on-you” in proper English.

  • Adam

    CAUTION! This source does not seem to be trustworthy. For example, the word “height.” Yes, the majority of Americans do pronounce this word with a final -t. This pronunciation is considered standard and acceptable. However, to pronounce it with a final -th is absolutely not incorrect. In fact, it is the older and more conservative pronunciation (preferred). Here, the final -t pronunciation is simply a mispronunciation that occurred for so long that it eventually became accepted alongside the true pronunciation with -th. This sound shift (from -t to -th in this case) is similar to the whine-wine merger (e.g. “which,” where the less common pronunciation wh- is preferable and the more common w- acceptable).
    -Source: English teacher, Linguist

  • Count Ludwig

    If ‘dificile’ is to be pronounced ‘difikilay’ then should ‘et cetera’ be pronounced ‘et ketera’?
    In every romance language: Portuguese, Spanish, French, Romantsch, Italian, Romanian and even the relevant English (e.g. in Roman place names in Britain), an ‘i’ or ‘e’ following a ‘c’ or ‘g’ softens it, whereas ‘o’, ‘u’ and ‘a’ do not. These languages are all independently derived from Latin, and the simplest explanation is that Latin had the same rule.
    So I will continue to believe that Julius Caesar said “veni vidi vitchi” until I see compelling evidence is to the contrary.

  • Ryan

    Count Ludwig, through a diachronic analysis of the Romance languages, and study of ancient scripts, it’s pretty clear that in Classical Latin, C and G always represented velar stops. One major indication is that the Romance languages have “softened” the letters differently. So, which rule did Latin have? The answer is that there was originally only a hard C/G, and they were softened in the various Romance languages through a process called palatalization. To illustrate another major indication of the velar C/G, let’s look at the word Celt. It’s properly pronounced with the velar C, and the Celts were called Κελτοί (Κeltoi) by the Greeks, indicating the proper pronunciation pretty clearly.

  • Sarah

    You forgot Tourniquet. American’s say it as TORN-I-KET while the French and English say it TORN-I-KAY.

  • jen b

    Can we add the annoying way some people say EEE-taly for Italy??

  • Mick Grantham

    The pronunciation of words with a “u”, or “oo” sound as an “ee” sound makes me cringe. There’s a broadcaster on BBC World called Sue Broom. She pronounces her own name as “Sea Bream” – which is a fish! Recently I heard a broadcaster refer to the appointment of a “security expert” for MI5 as ” the nee kee” ( the new “Q”, Q – as in James Bond movies) and ask the question, “what exactly will the nee kee dee……? ” Anyone else irritated by this sort of thing or am I just far too pedantic?

  • Mick Grantham

    What about the use by so many broadcasters of “phenomena” when they mean “phenomenon”?

  • Philip

    Sherbet comes from “sorbet,” but can also be spelled “sherbert,” with the extra r. So…yeah.

  • minky boodle

    actually, the french word “Cache” has an accent over the E, so techinically, it IS pronounced “cash-AY” ;oP

  • joe

    Preventative is a correct pronunciation.

    pre⋅ven⋅tive
      /prɪˈvɛntɪv/ [pri-ven-tiv]
    –adjective
    1.Medicine/Medical. of or noting a drug, vaccine, etc., for preventing disease; prophylactic.
    2.serving to prevent or hinder: preventive measures.
    –noun
    3.Medicine/Medical. a drug or other substance for preventing disease.
    4.a preventive agent or measure.
    Also, pre⋅vent⋅a⋅tive  /prɪˈvɛntətɪv/ [pri-ven-tuh-tiv] Show IPA (for defs. 2, 4).

  • thegnu

    I, like some other commentors, take a descriptive view of language. I do think that this list is good for people to be aware of, especially in the case where mispronunciation results in pronunciation of another word. However, I also know that people pronounce February Feb-yoo-ary, and it’s no big deal, since language evolves.

    Plenty of things we say are incorrect by standards 100 years old.

  • Philip Dragonetti

    I just came across your “mispronunciations” list—so I’ll belatedly give you a pet peeve of mine, one that particularly annoys me because I am a classical pianist.

    A pianist (PYA-nist) plays the piano.
    A PEE-nist plays the Peenis.

  • Don

    This refers to a 4-word phrase rather than a single word, but it is very widely misspoken by people referring to or someone or something that is very unimportant to them. “I could care less” meaning I have the ability to care less about the matter.
    What people really mean to say is “I couldn’t care less” meaning I care so little about the matter, that I am incapable of caring less than I do.

  • Lucien

    An important name is not yet mentioned. Last name: Christensen, as in Helena, the famous Danish model or a few dozen others with the same name. Most American pronounce “Christiansen”, but the name has 3, not 4 syllables. It’s Chris-ten-sen. It annoys me to no end when it’s pronounced wrong.

  • jo

    An interesting debate. As a Native British English speaker I used to find the American way of speaking annoying. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t pronounce everything correctly. Then I grew up!

    American English is different to British English. They are evolving. But, evolution is a good thing. We can understand each other, and that’s what matters.

    I don’t think the article is elitist. For people learning a language these types of articles are very important. I am learning Dutch and I find any information on pronounciation very helpful.

  • Patricia

    People sometimes confuse cache with cachet, but I’d be thrilled if no one ever uttered ‘sherbert’ again.

  • Jenna

    When someone sneezes, most people say “BLESH YOU”. It’s “Bless you”.

  • Cliff Hathcock

    I cringe to hear “strenth” in place of “streNGth.”

  • Kim

    “On a personal level, I cringe when I hear someone sound the “t” in often or pronounce pecan with a short “a,” but I have to acknowledge that both these pronunciations are widely accepted alternate pronunciations that can be justified by the spelling.”

    Actually, most Americans pronounce these words that way. You must be from some hick state like North Carolina.

  • Andrew

    As a student of linguistics it saddens me every time I hear or read an argument like this. It is extremely derisive towards other English varieties and assumes that written language is inherently linked with spoken word; which it is most certainly not, just look at all the non-literate societies, and most of the languages in the world are unwritten. Varieties (dialects) develop their own pronunciations based on cultural and historical influences and it is opinions like the one in this article that perpetuate inequalities and discrimination against stigmatized minority groups like AAE speakers.

    Please explore more about the social and psychological aspects of language before pronouncing your judgment.

  • another linguistics student

    if “almost everyone you know” says feb-u-ary instead of feb-ru-ary, perhaps the former is truly the more standard form, at least according to “what is widely agreed upon to be the conventional usage.”

    there are so many things i’d love to comment on, but i’ll focus on number 6: ask vs. aks. the modern switching of the /s/ and /k/ phonemes can be explained by a perfectly natural process called “metathesis” (pronounced, if you care, met-AH-thuh-sis). every language and dialect of a language has a particular syntactical and phonetic structure, and in many dialects, the phoneme structure /sk/ is a very unnatural one. thus the letters are switched to the more natural /ks/.

    however, the original metathesis was actually the switching of /ks/ to the now more standard /sk/. the old english form of “ask” was “acsian” or “axian.” thus, when america was colonized, the pronunciation “aks” was standard. while the word shifted almost solely to “ask” in the northern states by the 1950s or so, it is still common to hear “aks” in southern US states.

    so, if you want to get technical, “aks” speakers are actually closer to the original pronunciation of the english word.

  • carol

    Hi, i find this post very interesting. I have always believed that a public speaker must, at all times, send a clear message and a clear pronunciation of words is a very essential part to make it happen. some pronunciation the writer pointed out, i find weird but yes, some public speakers do need to straighten up their pronunciation of difficult words to avoid miscommunication between the speaker and his or her audience.

  • louie jerome

    I agree with One Nights Stanza and a few others. This is really geared to American English.

  • Mick Grantham

    Why have American broadcasters begun to pronounce the definite article “the” before vowel sounds as though it came before a consonant sound e.g. “thu eye”, thu only one”? And, to compound the error, British broadcasters are also doing it!
    I’ve also noticed British broadcasters coming out with “right now”.
    On the positive side, it appears that Sue Broom(e) from BBC World Service is no longer a fish.
    Am I pedantic? Yes, I bloody well am!

  • Jamie

    Behemoth. I consistently hear it pronounced BO-HE-MOTH. And a huge one is Muslim. It is pronounced: Muss-lim (like the Puss in Puss-in-Boots) not Muss-lim (like you mussed your hair) or Moz-lem, or Muz-lim.
    And while we’re in that part of the world, it’s EER-AHK (for Iraq) not EYE-RAK or variations thereof. It’s also EER-AHN for Iran.

    Also, golf (the sport) being pronounced as “gulf” like Gulf of Mexico.

  • Kim

    When people say “x presso” for espresso.

  • WizeChik

    Just a note I’m not the same Kim who commented on August 15 2009. I’ll go by WizeChik then, to differentiate.
    :-)

  • WizeChik

    Okay … how about saying “x presso” for espresso?

    Also, when did the word “behaviour” become countable? It used to just be in the psychology field but now so many people are saying that.
    I just always thought of “behaviour” as a collective word for actions and types of conduct.

  • Stylas

    Who cares if people pronounce words differently because of their regional accent!?! – I can’t believe anyone would cringe when they here a T in often – surely it can be pronounced with or without a T.

    People from Newcastle pronounce the L in film so it sounds almost like fil um – is that wrong? Southern English people pronounce castle as car sul whereas northerners pronounce it cas ul. Either way, no one seems to be pronouncing the T but like Joshua (December 2, 2008 7:04 pm) wrote the T was dropped from many words a long time ago.

    I am sure I’ve never heard anyone pronounce the first R in February, just as I’ve never heard anyone pronounce the first D or N in Wednesday.

    I do agree that some of the 50 words are mispronounced e.g. adding an extra syllable to interpret to make it interpretate. This is almost as ridiculous as when Bush said ‘they misunderestimated me’ in Arkansas in 2000.

    The following list is of words that I have heard mispronounced – whatever the accent of the person saying them. (WARNING: If you read on, you may cringe to death):

    Specific pronounced Pacific
    Priority pronounced Piratey
    Use pronounced Nuse
    Chimney pronounced Chimley
    Little pronounced likkle
    Capital pronounced Capikal
    Children pronounced Trildren
    Remember pronounced Renember
    Skeleton pronounced Skellington

  • S. Greenberg

    I don’t think mispronunciations should be avoided at all costs necessarily. Dialects and colloquialisms are part of what makes reading, writing, and the english language fun and interesting. If Mark Twain had avoided mispronunciation, some of the greatest works of American literature would have been lost forever.

    Bottom line is that language is based around the way people talk. When we stress to make our language “correct,” we can sometimes lose part of what it was we were saying in the first place.

    I’m not advocating poor speech by any means. Specifically, it’s really important to have good communication skills in the workplace, or in academics. Conversationally and in the field of creative writing, I say anything goes. when fictional characters sound like real people, writing is just more interesting.

  • Shallan

    I would agree that for the most part, a person’s pronunciation and dialect are derived from the region in which they grew up.
    I am from British Columbia and find that we pronounce words very similar to the way they are pronounced in Britain.
    I generally forgive most mispronunciations, but I’ll never be able to tolerate “axe”. I’m sorry, but that’s just ignorant and anyone who doesn’t know the correct way to pronounce the word “ask” correctly should be sterilized before they pass on that particular trait.
    “Realtor” is also another pet peeve of mine. Sound it out people… it’s “re-al-tor”. It’s terrifying when even the hosts on HGTV (who should know better) pronounce it “re-la-tor”.

  • robb

    huhuhu i’ve got half of these wrong.

  • Fiona

    Anyone mentioned ‘specific’?

    I feel my skin itch when people say ‘pacific’ instead of specific!

  • Desi

    some of my peeves include

    than and then
    I don’t understand how people can get them mixed up, they aren’t they same word, and they aren’t said the same!! THAAAN and THEEEN.

    Also, specific and pacific. NO.

    Our and are. Our is not said are.

    Tooken instead of taken. I know adults who say this. I don’t even know what to think when I hear that.

  • stuart

    trait – French, the final t is not pronounced, say tray, not trate.

  • Sharon

    I knew some folks in the mountains of Pennsylvannia who used to say “bedroom suit” vs. “bedroom suite” — they knew it was spelled “suite” and still said “suit.” I just couldn’t figure out how that happened.

  • Sharon

    Yep – Pennsylvania…typo…ironic.

  • Richard

    For years I would say “seeg” instead of SEG-WAY for the word segue. I am now an example to others.

  • Scott

    Excusing bad English by brushing it off as a dialect is highly incorrect. I remember a column in my university newspaper in which the writer (who was Black, by the way) made the following observation: “Jive is a dialect. Ebonics is just bad English.”
    While the word “ask” may have an interesting history, the fact is this: it is spelled A S K. It’s not polysyllabic, nor in any other way does it lend itself to slurring or anything like that.

  • Yankee transplant

    All I can say is, Maeve, don’t move to northwest Arkansas. (Though that is one word they do pronounce correctly here.)

    Nearly every word you list is pronounced the “incorrect” way here, on a regular basis, by everyone, as well as a few other pronunciations like “gub-ment” for government.

    I cringe all the time, having had an English teacher for a father, but I’ve also learned to pronounce some of these words colloquially in order to “get along.”

  • Justin

    Irrespective of local dialect and custom, the term REALTOR® has but one pronunciation:
    REAL’ tor

  • yitzk

    For the record, though I don’t know if anyone’s mentioned this yet:

    Your description of ‘aegis’ says that we ought pronounce it as ee-jis. But in the original Ancient Greek it begins with an eta (which becomes ae in English for some reason), a long ‘e’ sound. The eta isn’t quite an ei dipthong, it’s more like a short ‘e’ pronounced twice as long. aegis might sound something like eh-gis in the original Greek. There is no ee sound. So, to be fair, pronouncing it ay-jis is actually more accurate than ee-jis. But, hey, to each their own.

  • Monte

    I’m constantly amazed at realtors on HGTV saying they are “real-a-tors”. Reminds me of the old joke “Six munts ago I couldn’t even spell ingenur and now I are one”.

  • Loretta Hocking

    My number one pet hate (word-wise) is when my fellow Australians say, “bought” when they mean, “brought”. (I don’t hear people from other English speaking countries mis-use this word). We also cannot seem to pronounce, “polka dot”. It comes out as, “poker dot”.

    When I have corrected people with the use of bought and brought, I received blank stares. One friend, who is aged in her mid sixties asked me, “what’s the difference?” She honestly thought bought and brought meant the same.

  • Barry

    The pronunciation which annoys me is “schedule” with a hard ‘ch’ – ‘sKedule’ rather than ‘SHedule’

    I do understand both are acceptable, but ‘sKedule’ sounds vulgar and should be banned.

    On a serious note, thought provoking article and comments; interesting to see the different repsonses!

  • Vicki

    The word is “forward”, not “foward.” There’s an “r” in there. I hear it pronounced incorrectly all the time on tv. Especially cable news reporters. It drives me crazy.

  • Mick Grantham

    Here I am again going on about the pronunciation of broadcasters, especially American, and it’s spreading to the British. I really want to know why. I live in Thailand and, unfortunately, have to endure the Asian version of CNN with its interminably repeated commercials and trails. Same goes for BBC World. But why oh why do these people insist on using glottal stops, e.g. “a x-ray”, “in the blink of a eye”, “a architect”, and, “thu exact reason”, etc? Does anyone else care? Really, I’d just appreciate “a explanation”, or even that somebody’s noticed.

  • George in Savannah

    A friend once mocked my pronunciation of theater. I said “thee AY ter” instead of “THEE a ter”. What is the difference between theatre and theater and how do you pronounce each?

  • ailaG

    AFAIK, “theatre” is the British spelling, “theater” is the American one.

    If you’re talking about which syllable is longer (like the difference between “shopping” and the composer “Chopin”) I only heard people pronounce “THEE atr”.
    But maybe it’s pronounced that way in another English accent.. There are plenty of different English accents even for native speakers.

    BTW, if you have a Mac, run the application called “Terminal” and type: “say theater”.

  • Nick

    Temperature [Temp-er-uh-cher] not [Temp-uh-cher]

    I hear the Weatherman/Meteorologists say this on the news and it drives me nuts.

  • abby

    the reason the medical profession pronounces centimeter “sontimeter” is because it is the French pronunciation. They’re not stupid…it’s medical tradition. A lot of medical words are pronounced differently than phonetics would prescribe.

  • abby

    yitzk “But in the original Ancient Greek it begins with an eta (which becomes ae in English for some reason), a long ‘e’ sound. ”

    I haven’t looked the word up in the Greek, but if it begins with eta, you don’t know that it has a long ‘e’ sound. You only know that that is the sound that Erasmus gave to the eta.

    Although no one can know exactly how the ancient Greeks pronounced their language, consider that the New Testament of the Bible was written in Greek, and even though individual Greeks didn’t own their own Bibles in ancient times, the priests read from the Bible, and the Greeks heard it spoken in the churches.

    Because of the continuity of the usage of the language, I would have to suppose that the pronunciation of a Greek word by a modern Greek would be much closer to the original than the pronunciation that Erasmus came up with.

    The eta, in modern Greek, has an “i” sound, like the “i” in “machine,” same as a Spanish “i.” Transliterated, it would be spelled “ita,” not “eta.”

    Despite the Roman or Greek sound of his name, Erasmus was a Dutchman who lived in the 15th/16th centuries.

    He chose an “ay” sound for the “ita” to differentiate it from the several other “i” sounds in Greek, to try to mitigate confusion among scholars. That doesn’t mean it’s correct!

  • PamB

    Come to Australia and hear “pitcher” for “picture”, “cock-a-roach” for “cockroach”, “haitch” (constantly) for “aitch”, “filum” for “film” (although now not so often), “Feb-u-ary” for “February” (I do say Feb-roo-ry. English is hard enough to spell without pronunciation making it even more difficult. Standardising language makes it that much easier for kids to learn to spell. In learning another language, you learn a “standard” form – why can’t we accept some standard of English. I think most mis-pronunciation is simply laziness. When corrected, the defence then is, as I’ve read in so many of the comments, “you’re elitist” etc. What rot. Imagine if we approached science or maths with the same attitude!

  • ailaG

    PamB, people will always pronounce words differently in different places. It’s just like how words are different in different countries. It depends on the society and the area itself.

    If, for example, there’s a certain way to pronounce the name of some common type of snow in Alaska, I still won’t use it because it never snows in my country. I’ll use the word snow for every type and I won’t pronounce it like Alaskans may because I won’t hear it said enough times to imitate it.

    People also often try to make common words efficient. So if you can skip a vowel on a common word you probably will. And if that word isn’t so common where I live, I probably won’t.

    And you can’t force it on people.. not even through the education system.

  • Highheels

    My pet peev is when I hear someone say, “It’s in the frigerator” instead of , “it is in the re-frigerator.”

    I am curious about whether it is correct to say, I am going down Maine vs. up Maine when you live in MA.

    I was told a long time ago it was correct to say, down Maine.

  • abby

    Highheels,

    Oops….I’ve almost always said “It’s in the frig (pronounced”fridge”)… even though I have plenty of pet peeves myself, this has never been one of them.

    I’m originally from San Francisco, and although I don’t mind if someone refers to that fair city as San Fran …. it really grates when someone calls it “Frisco.”

  • graham

    I have a feeling you grew up in the south, because I hear all these words mispronounced just like this. (Maryland, but a hick part, not a fun part) I bet the list would be different if you lived in New York :)

  • umber

    Re

    333.mo-z on January 31, 2009 4:35 pm
    I hear TV news people pronounce the name of that city in Nevada as ‘Loss Vegas.’ Shouldn’t it be pronounced ‘Las Vegas’ with an ‘A’ and not with an ‘O’? I wonder if they’re basing the pronunciation on Los Angeles?

    Funny enough, “Loss” Vegas is closer to correct and “LOHS”, rhymes with dose, Angeles would be closer to correct for LA. That is, of course, if you are trying to speak Spanish for some reason. The cities have been in the US for over 160 years so pronouncing them both “loss” is English and fine. We don’t say Amareeyo, Texas, either (Amarillo). Or Lohs Ang-hay-lees, for that matter.

  • al

    English don’t pronunciate equally as write… that’s is because all of this errors and explain how can be so many dyslexic people speak english….

    caos ártico en caché medieval

    very funny. seems to bad joke…hahaha

    p.d. if my comment has got grammatic or sintaxis faults…. well, you don’t write three languages isn’t?

  • umber

    Very good topic and list. General observations:

    1. aegis and 5. accessory –Here are two examples where simple knowledge of the rules (which, granted, schools won’t teach anymore) would eliminate the issue. “Ae” when preserved in modern spelling is pronounced like a long e (ee). It’s also EESOP’s Fables, not AYSOP’s. In a CC formation, the first is pronounced as a K. The second is pronounced as either a K or an S depending upon what letter follows it, just like the rule for any other C pronunciation. So, aKSelerate, oKSidentel, suKSess, and, properly, flaKSid. (not flassid). And oKKupy, aKKredit, etc. If the rules were known, a lot of mispronunciation would never exist to begin with. As it is, the “semi-literate” just see something spelled, and guess. OFFen badly (there’s a rule there too. Would you pronounce the F in “soften”?)

    14. clothes – Not so sure on this one. A couple of authorities actually assert CLOHZ, same as close, as correct, not just preferable to pronouncing the TH. The proper pronunciations of asthma and isthmus (definitely AZ-MA and IZ-MUS) might be relevant here as a general rule specific to THs. Merriam and another place CLOHZ first before CLOHTHZ.

    26. Illinois and Arkansas–NOTE: Some unknowledgeable folks may still be trying to pronounce Arkansas as if it had something to do with Kansas. The pronunciation /ar-kan-zuz/ is waaay off base.

    Actually, not so off-base. The RIVER, as opposed to the state, is properly pronounced AR-KANZUS
    in Kansas and Colorado. The river is the Arkansaw in Arkansas.

    35. niche – Sorry, I don’t hear the crying out. This fits well with the “many words of French origin that have been anglicized” and should be pronounced NITCH. Likewise EN-velope and EN-voy, not ON-velope or ON-voy, GILL-a-teen, not GEE-o-teen. (GUEE-o-teen, I guess).

    37. old-fashioned – This adjective is formed from a past-participle: “fashioned.” Don’t leave off the ED. Say /OLD-FASHIOND/, not /old-fashion/.

    Not necessarily. The cocktail, I will agree, is always an old-fashioned. But just like a teenage boy and a teenaged boy are equally annoying and grammatically correct (though spellchecks will often ding the –ED version in this case) it’s fine to describe something as “old fashion” in most cases. Just because something is used as an adjective does not mean it always needs an –ED tag. Yellow-fin tuna, Big-mouth bass, are swimming though not perfect examples.

  • Hollis

    Mostly with younger people:
    Ex. Clayton = Cla N (with some weird breath halt in between syllables)
    Milton = Mil N
    cotton= cot n

  • bah

    my teacher AL-WAYS says A-WAYS its really annoying to me. wow like nails on a chalkboard

  • Kelly

    Great list (plus great comments that follow it). Note: there is an acceptable spelling “preventative” (in addition to “preventive”) that obviously would allow the pronunciation that you disallow.

    You really should provide the reference for your corrections since not all sources agree.

  • Cecily

    Regarding “orientate” and “preventative”, several people have pointed out that they are in Merriam-Webster. More to the point, they are the more normal forms in British English – though we are broad minded enough to accept both.

    Regarding “cache”, whilst I agree with the pronunciation you recommend, it would be helpful to compare it with “cachet”, which IS pronounced “cash-ay”.

    A good one to add would be “clique” which in BrE should be pronounced “cleek”, but is often mispronounced as “click”.

    Finally, I wonder why the list isn’t alphabetical; that would have been far more useful.

  • umber

    I agree that Br vs. Am standards need to be considered. E.g. “orientate” is simply wrong in AE (wouldn’t say “tranportate” either), but is the standard in BE. Likewise the comment above by someone re pronouncing sKedule– which is standared AE– as opposed to BE SHedule. In that case AE is more consistent with sch’s as sk’s (Ams also say skism for schism, but Brits don’t say SHool for school). Brits, OTOH, are much more consistent with enunciating the ILE endings, whereas Ams are lawless– always saying miss’l, but can’t seem to decide between frag’l and fragILE, or jueven’l and juvenILE. I don’t necessarily agree about clique. Yes, the French pronunciation is cleek, but we aren’t speaking French and the word has been in English for a long time. Brits say fillET, rhymes with skillet, after all, not fillAY,– and Ams should too, for that matter.

  • grrrrr

    Orientate is normal in the UK!!!!!!!

  • umber

    If you are referring to me, grrrr that is the same as what I said: ““orientate” is simply wrong in AE (wouldn’t say “tranportate” either), but is the standard in BE.” I assume they speak BE in the UK. A question would be, tho, WHY Brits say this. The verb which creates the word, after all, is “to orient”. Why the unnecessary elongation? Likewise preventative ( or do Brits say “preventate”, too?).

  • Cecily

    @Umber: No, we don’t say “preventate”. LOL

    As to why we Brits add an extra syllable to make “orientate” and “preventative”, I have no idea, but if you’re looking for logic and consistency in language, English may not be the best one to look at.

  • umber

    LOL Cecily. You are right, English isn’t an exemplar of consistency in much of anything. There are rules, tho. More than most people realize. My point is that if people knew them, many of these problems wouldn’t exist. And BE and AE have some different rules, and that’s fine. I would only say, Don’t say ‘orientate’ if you are an American. Just like an Am shouldn’t say aluminium, jewellery, or speciality. If you are a Brit, then fine. No different from spelling, color/colour, center/centre. If you are British and say orientate, it means nothing. If you are American and say orientate, you’re illiterate or you have an affectation.

  • amy

    i didn’t read all the comments, so someone may have already suggested these, but I HATE when people say

    “Exspecially” instead of especially
    “Expresso” instead of espresso
    “Supposebly” instead of supposedly

    and you got all the others. good post.

  • Peter

    @abby: Although no one can know exactly how the ancient Greeks pronounced their language, consider that the New Testament of the Bible was written in Greek, and even though individual Greeks didn’t own their own Bibles in ancient times, the priests read from the Bible, and the Greeks heard it spoken in the churches.

    Because of the continuity of the usage of the language, I would have to suppose that the pronunciation of a Greek word by a modern Greek would be much closer to the original than the pronunciation that Erasmus came up with.

    That would be a bad supposition. The specific sound shifts in Greek leading from the classical to the modern pronunciations can be traced fairly accurately (by looking at, e.g., the kinds of spelling errors people made, and how Greek words were represented in other languages): the change from a mid open /e/-ish eta to the modern /i/ sound can be dated to around AD150.

    He chose an “ay” sound for the “ita” to differentiate it from the several other “i” sounds in Greek, to try to mitigate confusion among scholars. That doesn’t mean it’s correct!

    That wasn’t the reason; he was trying to reconstruct the pronunciation of ancient Greek as well as he was able…though the common English pronunciation of Greek isn’t actually based on Erasmus at all, but a couple of Cambridge men, John Cheke and Thomas Smith, a couple of decades later…and they didn’t do a bad job, in fact, except that it got caught in up the “Great Vowel Shift”, and the sounds of Greek got shifted too, making English Greek rather weird.

    @Hollis: Ex. Clayton = Cla N (with some weird breath halt in between syllables)

    The “weird breath halt” is called a “glottal stop”, and is normal in some dialects.

    @Cecily: As to why we Brits add an extra syllable to make “orientate” and “preventative”

    Something that fixes is a fixative; something that causes is causative; something that demonstrates is demonstrative; something that evokes is evocative …. Following the obvious rule, something that prevents is preventative. The question is why Americans don’t say “fixive”, “causive”, “evocive”, etc. :)

  • Cecily

    @Peter: I don’t know if your answer to my question is based on fact, but it’s certainly ingenious and plausible. Thanks.

  • Peter

    umber: Just like an Am shouldn’t say aluminium

    IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry), which defines the standard names of chemicals, says that “aluminium” is the proper name of that particular element; it was called “aluminium” in American English until the 1920s; and Americans don’t drop the “i” in any other element names: it’s still “helium” not “helum”; “lithium” not “lithum”, “beryllium” not “beryllum”, “titanium” not “titanum”, and so on…I think Americans should start saying and writing “aluminium” correctly again :)

  • Lexi

    So you might not have meant to do this but this was the most pretentious article I have ever read. You sound really snobby and condescending.

    In today’s society, what is considered “proper English” isn’t used in casual conversation. The English language continues to grow and change. So when people start using different pronunciations, they generally become alternate pronunciations. Most regions have their own way of saying different words. It’s not wrong, it’s just what happens.

    In 100 years, the English language might be unrecognizable from how it is today, in the same way that English 100 years ago is very different.

  • Böb

    Could have missed it but has anyone mentioned “err”, often heard as “ayr”, though I know both are acceptable acc. to Websters.

    Also, there’s TET-ni-cal, sometimes heard for technical, and “BUTT naked” for buck naked.

    These are all pronunciations that are termed sub-standard just as there are massive numbers of substandard usages: for example, the much misused “…for you and I.” Can’t we honestly insist that prepositions call for objective pronoun objects, or is that being too elitist as well?

    I also have a pet peeve about certain proper names like Carnegie. Andrew Carnegie pronounced his name Car-NEGG-ee, and that is how many of us say it. But in NYC and many other places it’s KAAH-nuhg-ee.

  • umber

    Peter, good points. All I can say is the answer is idiom: as far as aluminum goes (and I guess if it “goes” 8 or 9 letters is the question!) I’d say once that spelling became standard in AE, the pronunciation was permanently fixed. Likewise prevent-(at)ive, altho, preventative is not “wrong” in AE, just not preferred by most scources (maybe a false comparison to conservatism vs. conservativism– the last being unacceptable in AE). Orient is, however, a verb that stands on its own (and is simply idiomatic so far as “direction” generally goes, as well, I would guess. Couldn’t we occident or occidentate just as accurately? I’m just guessing at etymology). Two pet peeves of mine I’ve not seen addressed here are species, which should be speSHies by the rules of AE, and is nearly universally mispronounced speSSies anymore. Why it is a speSSial case, at least on this side of the oSSean I don’t know. altho negoSSiating things that are controverSSial are becoming more and more commonplace, too amongst those who only parSSially (?) know the rules. I know that this iSHue may be a different iSSYue for Brits.

  • umber

    Lexi, why should standard pronunciation be treated any differently from standard spelling? Should that be regionalized and personalized, too? Whair aim frum, its oekae tu rite like thiss? Learning standard pronunciations is more “snobbish” than literacy is “elitist”. When writing informally, we make less of formal rules of grammar and of spelling. How r u is typical text-ese nowdays. But when we are writing in a more erudite context or a professional forum, we would not do that– unless we just didnt’ know the proper rules. Why shouldn’t speaking be the same? It’s one thing to speak informally in an informa context, another to not know the difference.

    Bob– I sympathize, tho (informal spelling alert!) in cases likr “butt naked” I don’t think you have pronunciation errors, really, but simply ignorance of what the words ARE. I doubt many think the word buck is pronounced butt. But I’ll bet a lot don’t know what “buck” naked would mean. Likewise, “tow the line”, “anchors away”, “a wolf in cheap clothing”, “if you want to that, it’s your purgative”, cuz it’s a “doggy dog world”, etc.

  • Ryu Darragh

    #51, Wintry has the pronounciation as “Win-try” and this is also not quite right. Its normal pronounciation is “wint-re” with “wint” pronounced like “mint”. The root word is, after all, “wint-er”.

  • umber

    ryu, I’m not sure I know what distinction you are making. Just the matter of where the syllables should be divided as a point of lexicography? What would the substantive difference in pronunciation be between win.try and wint.ry?

  • Skippy

    Count me with the prescriptivists on this one! What’s wrong with trying to be more accurate? Good lord.

    Those of you claiming to be offended that this doesn’t take into account your goofy “regional” or “folksy” pronunciations are simply making (poor and transparent) excuses for your lack of education.

    On the other hand, some of you claiming to be university-educated linguists should simply be ashamed of yourselves. Just because your hippie prof told you it’s “politically correct” to automatically accept any and all pronunciations just because some idiot once decided to say it that way doesn’t mean we’re not allowed to point out that it’s wrong! Nobody’s forcing you to pronounce things the way they were intended. You’re free to sound like a moron if you want. Just don’t throw a hissy fit just because someone has the gall to point out some common mistakes and wants to help you improve.

    Seriously, people! Just bite the bullet and accept that you’re not only wrong, but most likely inbred. And be sure raise your hand before you speak.

  • umber

    By inbred, you mean like royalty, right? I agree. As an American, I notice that royals mispronounce practically everything! LOL

  • Kim

    Oh, Skippy and umber; you’re just proving each other’s point! What does it accomplish?

    On another note, something which drives me nuts is when I hear “I miss not being with you.”
    Does that mean it would be better if I left?

  • umber

    Kim

    Good one. I could care less, irregardless, LOL. I wasn’t trying to make a point with Skippy???

    But I do agree that there is nothing wrong at all in asking for a proper, standard pronunciation of the language in more “formal” contexts. Regional pronunciations and accents are just that– non-standard. They aren’t “wrong” but they shouldn’t be used by educated people in formal settings if they want to be taken seriously. E.g., THEE-AY-ter, as opposed to THE-ater. And most of what is raised here are not regional variations, but just lazy or ignorant mispeaking. E.g.,”Nucular” is not a regional-variant pronunciation; it is simply wrong. There is no context, except the comical, where it is acceptable.

  • umber

    Interesting bit from Elster, who is somewhat of a maven re American English pronunciation, relative to the original 50 List:

    Niche NICH.

    “French no longer,” says Holt (1937). “Rhyme it with ditch.”

    OED 2 (1989) traces niche back to 1611. Since at least the mid-18th century the anglicized NICH has been preferred in cultivated speech. Walker (1791) preferred NICH, and it is the only pronunciation countenanced by Worcester (1860), Funk & Wagnalls Standard (1897), the Century (1914), OED 1 (1928), Webster 2 (1934), American College (1952), and RHWC (1997). Orthoepists who prefer NICH include Ayres (1894), Phyfe (1926), Vizetelly (1929), Opdycke (1939), Kenyon and Knott (1949), Lass & Lass (1976), WNW Guide (1984), and the NBC Handbook (1984). Need I say more?

    Yes. This word’s long history has yielded two alternative pronunciations, NEESH and NISH. The latter is eccentric, the former is pseudo-French, and both are best avoided. NISH, which arose sometime in the 19th century, was stigmatized by Ayres and Opdycke and ignored by other authorities. Webster 3 (1961) lists it, labeling it infrequent, but it does not appear in any current dictionaries. WNW 3 (1997) calls NEESH British (OED 2 does list it after NICH), but I have heard many un-British speakers use it—for example, Ed Koch, the former New York City mayor turned TV judge.* American Heritage 3 (1992) sanctions NEESH as an alternative, but careful speakers would be wise to heed M-W 10 (1993), which gives priority to NICH and labels NEESH with an obelus [÷], indicating that it “is considered by some to be objectionable.” I would argue that those “some” are in fact many, and those many are cultivated speakers who defend their traditional NICH.

  • umber

    Also, (Elster) citing other authorities on the OF-TEN vs OF-EN question. Well researched:

    Often AWF-in or AHF-in. Do not pronounce the t.

    Before I give you my two cents on the t in often, let’s take a look at what various authorities have said about it since the late 18th century.

    John Walker (1791), whose Critical Pronouncing Dictionary was one of the most respected and popular references both in England and America well into the 19th century, declared that “in often and soften the t is silent.”

    “The sounding of the t,” proclaims the legendary H.W. Fowler in Modern English Usage (1926), “which as the OED says is ‘not recognized by the dictionaries,’ is practised by two oddly consorted classes—the academic speakers who affect a more precise enunciation than their neighbours…& the uneasy half-literates who like to prove that they can spell….”

    “The t in glisten is silent, even as it is in castle and often,” says Frank H. Vizetelly (1929), editor of Funk & Wagnalls New Standard (1913), “yet one occasionally hears pedants and provincials pronounce them [GLIS-ten] and [AWF-ten]. No pronouncing dictionary with a reputation to lose ever sounds the t in these words.”

    “You don’t want a t in here any more than in soften,” advises Alfred H. Holt (1937).

    Webster 2 (1934), which sanctions only AWF-in, notes that “the pronunciation [AWF-tin], until recently generally considered as more or less illiterate, is not uncommon among the educated in some sections, and is often used in singing.”

    According to Random House II (1987),

    OFTEN was pronounced with a t- sound until the 17th century, when a pronunciation without the (t) came to predominate in the speech of the educated, in both North America and Great Britain, and the earlier pronunciation fell into disfavor. Common use of a spelling pronunciation has since restored the (t) for many speakers, and today [AWF-in] and [AWF-tin]…exist side by side. Although it is still sometimes criticized, OFTEN with a (t) is now so widely heard from educated speakers that it has become fully standard once again.
    “Nowadays,” says R.W. Burchfield (1996), editor of the OED 2 (1989), “many standard speakers use both [AWF-in] and [AWF-tin], but the former pronunciation is the more common of the two.

    What is going on here? After two hundred years of censure, has the t in often scratched and clawed its way back into acceptability? I would caution those who might be consoled by the comments of Random House II and Burchfield to heed the admonitions of the past and avoid pronouncing the t. Current dictionaries, including Random House II, do not give priority to AWF-tin, and it is much less common in educated speech and far more often disapproved of by cultivated speakers—particularly teachers of English, drama, and speech—than Random House II makes it appear. In 1932 the English lexicographer Henry Cecil Wyld called AWF-tin “vulgar” and “sham-refined,” and today the bad odor of class-conscious affectation still clings to it as persistently as ever. As if that were not enough, analogy is entirely unsupportive: no one pronounces the t in soften, listen, fasten, moisten, hasten, chaste, christen, and Christmas—so, once and for all, let’s do away with the eccentric AWF-tin.

  • Kimberly

    I so frequently hear “the thing is, is”.
    Why say ‘is’ twice? Isn’t it enough to say “the thing is”, then what that thing is?
    “The thing is, I want to move.”
    What’s the extra ‘is’ for?

  • Howard Hartig

    1.) Chipotle is chip-ot-lee, not chip-ol-tee!

  • Howard Hartig

    Chipotle is chip-ot-lee, not chip-ol-tee.
    Iron is I-ron, not I-orn.
    Mascarpone is mas-car-pone, not mar-sca-pone.

  • Howard Hartig

    Chipotle is chip-ot-lee, not chip-ol-tee.
    Iron is I-ron, not I-orn.
    Mascarpone is mas-car-pone, not mar-sca-pone.
    Mirror is mirr-or, not mirrrrrrrrrrrrr…and, finally is three syllables, not fine-ly!

  • umber

    HH, coming from the Sw I am especially bugged by the CHIPOLTEE metathesis, too. Likewise SEPLICHER instead of SEP-UL- CHER for sepulchre, and KUMBER-BUN for KUMMER-BUND, I just put these down to semi-literacy. If attention was paid to how the word is spelled, it would, in these cases, fix the issue. Never mind BAD MITTON for BAT MINTON or, the ominpresent NUKYULAR.

    I have to disagree, tho, re IRON. While irorny is EYE-RON- EE, iron is indeed EYE-ERN (I earn). Spelling is not always the best guide (e.g. the OFF- EN issue above).

  • umber

    Clarification: meant SEP-UL-KER. for sepulchre,

  • abby

    Kimberly, re: “What’s the extra ‘is’ for?”

    The first time I ever heard this was from ex-president Clinton when he was testifying during his impeachment trial.

  • abby

    umber: re: “If attention was paid to how the word is spelled,”

    Your sentence is conditional (“if”). It should read “If attention WERE paid…” not “WAS paid.”

  • umber

    True. In my defense, I am a long-time advocate of abolishing the subjunctive altogether. Likewise 86ing the who/whom horror. AND I promise I PRONOUNCE were and was correctly. Would it were so with all.

  • hz

    JD – whilst many have an issue with this article, they all successfully made their points with thoughtful rebuttals and legitimate concerns.

    In your case I guess you used expletives and a personal attack on the author because you had nothing intelligent to say…

  • Peter

    As if that were not enough, analogy is entirely unsupportive: no one pronounces the t in soften, listen, fasten, moisten, hasten, chaste, christen, and Christmas—so, once and for all, let’s do away with the eccentric AWF-tin.

    Umm…I pronounce “chaste” with a /t/….how you you pronounce it??

  • venqax

    Good point, Peter. I suspect chasten was what was intended.

  • Jennie Olson

    I am in the medical field. I have another mispronunciation that bothers me….larynx, pronounced (LAR INKS) is often mispronounced lair niks.

  • Mikhael

    I’m not sure where everyone is getting these pronunciations for aegis. In English “ay-gis” is probably best because of how many vowels become lengthened for convenience at the start of a word. Someone was saying about the “ae” in English having the same sound as a “ee”. There is no rule for this. In Old English the “ae” was between a short “a” and short “e”. In modern English “ae” can sound “ay” “eh” or “ee”; “ay” is easiest for “aegis”.

    The Greek word is αιγίς, which in modern Greek is pronounced “eh-YIS” or maybe “eh-GHIS” if you really want that “g” sound. The αι diphthong in modern Demotic is pronounced like “ε” which in all forms are Greek is pronounced like a short “e” by itself.

    In ancient Greek the αι is pronounced like a long “i” (“eye”), so the word would sound like “ai-GHIS”.

    There is no eta (long “e” in modern or long “a” in several ancient dialects) in this word.

  • Tony Hearn

    I know this is an old posting, but coming across it and re-reading raises some interesting and important issues and reflections that I’d like to share.

    Maeve must have known she was attempting an afternoon’s stroll through a minefield!

    The court of acceptability in English comprises its users. We have no standardizing academy.

    By virtue of its transnational nature we do not have one national standard. Maeve was wise to state her American standpoint. Nonetheless, we do have ad hoc ‘standard’ dialects and in some cases accents too, though these shift with time and fashion. Here in Britain we have traditionally looked to the BBC as a safe guide, though it reflects southern English more often than northern. That said, perhaps a majority of speakers ignore it! Spoken language, therefore, is most governed by acceptability within the social group (from national level down to peer group) or circumstance. This is to some extent reflected in the foregoing postings. There do, even so, seem to be some words the pronunciations of which occasion more or less censure; where, I assume, the members of a majority of the likely social fora and strata find the pronunciation unacceptable. This can be at a national or transnational level. The more general the rejection, the more reason we have to consider such a pronunciation as ‘wrong’, i.e., not conforming to the accepted pattern, or just idiosyncratic.

    English as much as any language is replete with accent and dialect, and for that matter register – governing levels of formality. Most of us fight for what we know, not because it is ‘right’ but because it is familiar and part of our group identity.

    Our dictionaries are no more than descriptive. They record what we say and write. In using then as a court of appeal we do well to remember this.

    The abusive responses of a minority of correspondents while reflecting rudeness and ignorance, also show the limitations of attempts to be prescriptive, as well as the need for education to encourage people to be sensitive to the language they use and how they use it.

    With all this in mind, might I indulge you and your readers a little more with a few reflections on the 50 words, without, I hope, covering afresh ground already well-trodden in the foregoing posts?

    1. aegis: what you say should go for other words with the Latin-derived ‘ae’ pronounced as ‘ee’. Thus larvae (plural of larva): say ‘larv-ee’

    6. ask – The S comes before the K. Say /ASK/ not /aks/.

    Though note that ‘aks’ is widespread and ancient in a number of dialects.

    13. chaos – The spelling ch can represent three different sounds in English: /tch/ as in church, /k/ as in Christmas, and /sh/ as in chef. The first sound is heard in words of English origin and is the most common. The second sound of ch, /k/, is heard in words of Greek origin. The third and least common of the three ch sounds is heard in words adopted from modern French. Chaos is a Greek word. Say /KAY-OS/, not /tchay-os/.

    So also: lichen (say ‘liken’ not litchen’)

    14. clothes – Notice the TH spelling and sound. Say /KLOTHZ/, not /kloz/.

    Here we differ. The ‘t’ has surely been silent in this word for a long time. Poetry and rhyme consistently reflects this. remember your nursery rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence? ‘ The maid was in the garden, hanging out the clothes, When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose.’ The reintroduction of the ‘t’ is under the influence of the spelling.

    15. daïs – A daïs is a raised platform. The pronunciation fault is to reverse the vowel sounds. The word is often misspelled as well as mispronounced. Say /DAY-IS/ not /dī-is/.

    And what about ‘naïve’, with or without its diaerisis? NA-EEVE, not ‘NAVE’, please.

    17. drowned – This is the past participle form of the verb drown. Notice that there is no D on drown. Don’t add one when using the word in its past form. Say /DROWND/, not /drown-ded/.

    Though this is widespread in dialect, and therefore non-standard and not per se substandard.

    19. February – Just about everyone I know drops the first r in February. The spelling calls for /FEB-ROO-AR-Y/, not /feb-u-ar-y/.

    If just about everyone you know says it, that points to widespread acceptability!

    21. forte – English has two words spelled this way. One comes from Italian and the other from French. The Italian word, a musical term meaning “loud,” is pronounced with two syllables: /FOR-TAY/. The French word, an adjective meaning “strength” or “strong point,” is pronounced with one syllable: /FORT/.

    British English dictionaries allow both pronunciations in the second instance, and ‘FOR-TAY is by far the more common pronunciation here.

    22. Halloween – The word for the holiday Americans celebrate with such enthusiasm on October 31 derives from “Hallowed Evening,” meaning “evening that has been made holy.” The word “hallow” comes from Old English halig, meaning “holy.” Notice the a in the first syllable and say /HAL-O-WEEN/, not /hol-lo-ween/.

    Agreed. And it is as often spelt ‘Hallowe’en’ here in Britain.

    23. height – The word ends in a /T/ sound, not a /TH/ sound. Say /HITE/, not /hith/.

    Again this reflects non-standard dialect (both in America and Britain) rather than error.

    24. heinous – People unfamiliar with the TV show Law and Order: S.V.U. may not know that heinous has two syllables. (The show begins with this sentence: “In the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous.”) Say /HAY-NUS/, not /heen-i-us/.

    ‘HAY-NUS’ is regarded as an error here in Britain. ‘HEE-NUS’ is normal.

    31. library – Notice where the R comes in the word. Say /LI-BRAR-Y/, not /li-ber-ry/.

    Much the same problem as with February!

    32. medieval – The word has four syllables. The first E may be pronounced either short [med] or long [meed]. Say /MED-EE-EEVAL/ or /MEE-DEE-EEVAL/, not /meed-eval/.

    This must be predominantly an American problem. And here in Britain MEEDI- is not an option.

    35. niche – The word is from the French and, though many words of French origin have been anglicized in standard usage, this is one that cries out to retain a long “e” sound and a /SH/ sound for the che. Say /NEESH/, not /nitch/.

    Then there’s ‘trait’ (TRAY or TRAIT?) .

    To which I’d add ‘route’ and ‘router’. OW? OO? OO is usual here in Britain We say ROWT for rout, ROOT (as in French) for ‘route’, and disagree among ourselves about ‘router’, though to be consistent we should say ROOTER! There is a preference for ROWTER for the carpentry tool and ROOTER for the computer device, but not unanimously.

    50. vehicle – Although there is an H in the word, to pronounce it is to sound hicky. Say /VEE-IKL/, not /vee-Hikl/.

    The ‘h’ is always silent in Britain.

  • venqax

    Mikhael, I have to reiterate and go with Tony Hearn on aegis as with the ae in general.

    1. aegis: what you say should go for other words with the Latin-derived ‘ae’ pronounced as ‘ee’. Thus larvae (plural of larva): say ‘larv-ee’.

    Likewise the plural vertaBREE not vertaBRAY which irritates the stuffing out of me.

  • venqax

    Tony Hearn, mostly agree. E.g.
    14. clothes – I agree that pronouncing the TH is at least suspect. KLOHZ has an old and strong case.

    Disagree on 35. niche. Have to go with Elster’s cite, at least for Americans: “French no longer,” says Holt (1937). “Rhyme it with ditch.”

    19. February – Disagree here too. Dropping the R just seems lazy to me, and all the CAREFUL speakers I know– a few– do very consciously pronounce it. I think this is one in particularsomething of a shibboleth (sp) in the US for educated vs. semi-literate speakers. Even more so than OFTEN which is pronounced without the T by the “illuminated”. LOL Looks like it’s different in the UK.

  • LB

    I have always said February with 4 syllables. I cannot believe so many say that incorrectly. It sounds like hickville talk to me to say it “FebUary’ – sorry, but that is just WRONG. Pronounce it correctly people.

  • LB

    Oh please, the mispronunciation of foliage drives me nuts too.

  • venqax

    I think everyone pronounces February with 4 syllables, don’t they? The question is the R in the send one. I’m ambivalent about foliage being 3 or 2 syllables. FOHL-EE-IJ is argued for by many, but FOH-LIJ
    seems like a normal elision– just like VEJ-TAB’L, and INT-REST. VEJ-ET-ABL and IN-TER-EST sound affected. Maybe why I never liked Paul Harvey.

  • hz

    Response to LB: “I have always said February with 4 syllables….”

    LB even incorrectly pronounced FebUary, the word still has four syllables.

  • Emme

    English is a tricky language, especially when spoken. A single letter can be pronounced countless ways, and many words contain silent letters. You seem to have the most problem with these silent letters – so much so I’m surprised you didn’t try to put “knight” on your list, pronounced “kuh-niGt”

    A few of your corrections stood out:

    First of all, the only time I don’t pronounce “often” as “of-tin” is when it is in the word “oftentimes.” And the idea that “of-tin” is cringe-worthy just seems overly ridiculous. I imagine the “pecan” part means you prefer “pee-can” to “pih-cawn.” I honestly could not tell.

    4. arctic: this word can be pronounced two ways, the “arK-tik” you ask for and the “ar-Tik” you dislike.

    8. athlete: now, I’m not saying that “athlete” should be pronounced with a long, stressed “uh” between the “ath” and the “lete.” I am saying that there are certain consonant combinations that don’t really exist in English, like “ms” or “lr” – at least not without changing the basic sound of the consonants. Likewise, “thl” is rather strange on the tongue, and requires either a space between the “ath” and “lete” or a very slight “uh.” The “uh” actually makes more sense, because “ath-lete” just plain sounds disjointed.

    11. candidate: same as “arctic,” though you left out the other alternative pronunciations with the “-date” pronounced “dint”

    13. clothes: like “thl” in “athlete,” “ths” is also awkward. Plus, the Merriam-Webster dictionary lists “kloz” as the pronunciation, with “klothz” off to the side past an italicized “also.” So “clothes” pronounced “klothz” is actually less accepted as the correct pronunciation. Remember, not all letters are pronounced.

    19. February: this word is where 90% (statistic not guaranteed) of children first encounter silent letters. Anyone who goes out of their way to pronounce “February” as “feb-roo-air-ee” sounds like a pedantic douchebag.

    21. forte: first of all, the two foreign words you gave mean the same thing and are actually one of the English definitions. Second of all, the French word “forte” is not a base word, instead it is the feminine form of “fort” – which is pronounce “for.” The feminine “e” adds only the slightest hint of a “t” at the end. And finally, the second definition of “forte” is a part of a sword’s hilt (thought this “forte” is pronounced “fort”)

    22. Halloween: the vowel “a” has many sounds, including the nasal “a” (think “apple” or “can”) and the short “a” (think “ha ha ha”). So your correct pronunciation actually includes the “incorrect” pronunciation.

    25. hierarchy: whether it should be “hi-er-ar-ky” or “hi-ar-ky” is debatable, and both are accepted as alternate pronunciations of the same word.

    30. jewelry: No. There is, in no way, shape, and/or form, nothing wrong with pronouncing “jewelry” as “jool-ree.”

    32. medieval: first off, kudos for spelling “medieval” correctly. Secondly, “meed-eev-uhl” is a more accepted pronunciation than “mee-dee-ee-vuhl,” which sounds like you’re stuttering.

    36. orient: “orientate” is a word. Not a mispronunciation of “orient”

    39: precipitation: nothing is wrong with the pronunciation; however, the prefix “pre-” has nothing to do with this word. That is pure coincidence.

    41. preventive: like “orientate,” “preventative” is also a real word.

    44. realtor: realtors deal in realty. Note that “realty” is not “reality.” “Realty” is pronounced “reel-tee.” “Reality” is pronounced “ree-al-ih-tee.” “Realtor” is pronounced like “realty” and not “reality”

    46. sherbet: can also be spelled “sherbert,” which is pronounced “sher-bert”

    50. vehicle: I can’t tell if you’re trying to use a pun here or not with the “hick-y” bit, but the softness of an “h” is such that there isn’t much difference with “vee-ick-uhl” and “vee-hih-kuhl.” And both are perfectly acceptable. And, by the way, the “h” in “vehicle” should be the least of your “hick-y” problems, what with how you apparently say “pecan,” “jewelry,” “medieval,” “realtor,” “February,” &c.

    Now, I’m not trying to say that pronunciation is always cut-and-dry – in fact, I’m trying to point out that it oftentimes is not. And we all have our quirks, whether it be an accent (which does change pronunciation quite a bit) or a slur or extreme enunciation.

  • ross

    is this an article telling people how to speak? should people with access to the internet not know how to do that by now?

  • Beetle

    Hello everyone.
    I am an Englishman. Here in central southern England;

    February is pronounced FEB RU AIRY
    Wednesday is pronounced WED UNS DAY
    Athlete ATH LEET
    Jewel JEW EL
    Jewelry JEW EL REE
    Brewery BREW ER EE
    Vehicle VEE I KHUL
    Mediæval MED EE EEVAL

    In addition, words such as ‘Which’ and ‘Where’ have a ‘WH’ sound pronounced. They are NOT pronounced Witch and Wear. These are different words with different meanings.

    These pronunciations are quite normal in this region of the country. However, myself and my ilk DO NOT look down on peoples with dialects that differ from ours. Dialects and colloquialisms are beautiful aspects of our language.

    I do appreciate as well that these pronunciations may not be RP in America.

  • Robert

    When did the British start pronouncing the ‘t’ in often?

    Pronouncing the ‘t’ ruins the elaborate joke in The Pirates of Penzance which depends on often and orphan being pronounced similarly.

  • Peter

    1. aegis: what you say should go for other words with the Latin-derived ‘ae’ pronounced as ‘ee’. Thus larvae (plural of larva): say ‘larv-ee’.

    And when you get married, you talk of walking down the eel? :)

    Latin “ae”, like Greek “αι”, was pronounce like “eye”.

    niche. Have to go with Elster’s cite, at least for Americans: “French no longer,” says Holt (1937). “Rhyme it with ditch.”

    Then start spelling it “nitch”! (Or at least find another word in English ending in “iche” that’s pronounced “itch”. (micro)-fiche? corniche? pastiche? quiche? AFAIK, there are only French-derived words ending in “-eesh” and maybe a few German-derived technical terms ending in “-ik” (or “-iχ” if you distinguish those). Oh, and I guess “eeshay”, too (cliche). But not a one in “-itch”!)

  • Smita Menon

    A very common mistake Indians make is to pronounce the word ‘says’ as ‘se-ys’ when it should be ‘sez’.
    Nowadays I find a lot of people saying ‘Onvalope’ for Envelope while the dictionary still tells us to pronounce it as en-ve-lope

  • rishi.k.iyengar

    Iam happy to correct myself through this Incorrect pronunciations….i welcome more words which many of us doesnot know how to pronunce it….

  • Lorethiel

    ==Quote from==
    # regularfknguy posted on February 12, 2009 9:56 pm

    “The word “duct” ends with a T.
    The word “tape” begins with a T.
    When you put the words to together, you get two T’s right next two eachother.
    You do not need to pronounce them both. You can run them together: ductape.

    Add to that the fact that anyone who actually uses duct tape would never be caught saying “ducT-Tape”
    ==End Quote==

    I heartily disagree! Those who use duct tape, know what a duct is, and that there is a special tape you use for for installing it. They will be the first to correct and/or laugh at you if you mispronounce it. I grew up with 5 blue-collar brothers and learned very early what a duct was, and why it needed to be taped. In their world, “Duc-tape” is only acceptable from a 5 year old, unless said in a hurry while trying to save yourself from imminent injury….

    Recently I’ve noticed that the word sugar seems to be changing. I’ve always pronounced it as “SHU-GER” but on America’s Test Kitchen and also on Canadian television they are calling it “SHERR-GER”. I don’t know if that’s a sea-change or just that I never noticed it.

    I like to go on Tours and I (now) say: “TWO-ERS”, yet here in my home state everyone else goes on “TIRRS”. It’s the same with Tourist becoming “TIRR-IST. The interesting part is that I never noticed that Californian’s did this until I lived in Louisville, Kentucky and someone pointed it out to me.

    I wonder that I live in an age when I can quote to a post made a year ago, in a conversation that started two years ago. I am somewhat surprised that I sat here for 2 hours on a Sunday night pouring over not only the original post, but all the awesome replies… and I’m not a linguist or even a college graduate. Maybe that also speaks to the information age and the ability to gain a free education we have right now.

    In my experience, trying to learn ‘tricks” to sound more educated is simply a waste of time. Those who aren’t educated find you to be a bore and snob with all your “big words” (personal experience) while those who will listen with a certain knowing grin that you just don’t know quite as much as you like to think you do.

    An alternative title to this blog post could have been:
    “50 Ways to Sound Like an Educated American or a Network Anchor”. Most of the recommended pronunciations are the accepted pronunciation on news programs, in schools, as well as corporate America and public television.

    When my mom told me to go down to the “crick”, I knew what she meant, and I knew she knew how it was spelled. Yet with her mid-western 1920′s upbringing saying it any different sounded pretentious to her (much like the FebRUHary discussion) However, I use the more acceptable “creek” because it simply makes more sense to say a word as close as possible to how it’s spelled, and well ….that’s how we say it in California. I sure don’t want to sound like a hick

  • Heather Kizewski

    I love this topic!

    Not because I’m snooty or because I think anyone else here is, but because this is so interesting! It cracks me up and I could talk about this for hours! Personally, I appreciate being corrected if I’m saying it wrong – for instance I had been walking around all summer saying aphid with a short ‘a’ like ‘apple’ until someone corrected me at a ball game (I was so grateful!).

    But here’s one I’ll never understand: Length. Why do some people leave out the ‘g’ as though it’s silent – were they taught the ‘g’ was silent? Lenth?? I hear people say this quite often.

    Or…

    Measure…some were taught to say mayzjure?

    I’d also like to know who threw the ‘r’ in wash. As though someone said, ‘Even though there’s no ‘r’…pretend like there is.’ I’ll never understand ‘warsh.’ But lots of people say it.

    Some people say ‘gooms’ for ‘gums’ and I instantly think of a severely decayed mouth with missing teeth when I hear ‘gooms’. I don’t know why – it’s just where my mind goes.

  • venqax

    emme,

    I think you are a pronunciation anarchist. You seem to bristle at the very idea of proper vs. improper when it comes to how to pronounce English. Just because a lot of people say something a certain way doesn’t mean it’s an acceptable– in a formal sense– way to say it. There are a lot of words people regularly misspell, too [that being two of them]. That, by itself, does not change or make irrelevant the concept of proper spelling. Some are debatable, but artic? Hi-arky? Athalete? Come on. The subtext here is avoiding mispronunciations so bad that they just “make you sound stupid”– or at best illiterate.

  • venqax

    “When did the British start pronouncing the ‘t’ in often?”

    I wondered that, too. The authority for the silent “t” is pretty old, and I actually figured it was an Americanism– like actually saying FOR-CASTLE and BOAT-SWAYN, and BLAK-GARD. But I guess it’s the Brits who’ve gotten [there's that Yank-ism again] sloppy. [j/k]

    Similarly, “jewelry”. I thought that was an American word– like specialty, or aluminum– and that the British word was “jewellery”. ?

  • Cecily

    Not all Brits pronounce the “t” in “often”.

    In fact in RP (received pronunciation, i.e. what most would think of as “correct”), it is NOT pronounced.

    And yes, “jewellery” is BrE, along with “speciality”, “aluminium”, “orientate” and many others.

  • umber

    Peter

    But we aren’t speaking Latin or Greek, we are speaking English. On the US side of the ocean, at least, the rule is pretty well established that ae is equal to ee. In most of the cases where the British ae is maintained and is pronounced otherwise, the Am has changed the spelling: faeries/fairies, aeroplane/airplane, paedophile/pedophile etc. The only exception that pops to mind is the “aero” prefix still used in aerospace, or aeronautics.

    As for niche, you can see that the nitch pronunciation is not new. It has been common and in the language far long enough to be de-gallicized. Like GILL-ATEEN. and EN (not ON)velope. The spelling would be pronounced “nitch” in English, so there is really no need to change it. I’ve always admired the Brits for saying DON KWIKSIT, and FILET (not FILAY) and SARAJEVO (not YEVO), etc. A word adopted into English should be anglicized. I keep trying to get Am’s to say JOONTA (not HOONTA) and JALAPEENO (not HALAPENYO) for the same reasons. In those cases, I would agree that if you want to keep the foreign sound, then change the spelling. Military hunta, halapenyo peppers, gueotine, onvoy, onvelope, cleeshay, valay, debyoo, etc.

    niche. Have to go with Elster’s cite, at least for Americans: “French no longer,” says Holt (1937). “Rhyme it with ditch.”

  • Cecily

    “Don Kwiksit”? Is that the alleged British pronunciation of Don Quixote? If so, as a lifelong Brit (who has read the book), it’s not a pronunciation I have ever heard.

    Also, Sarajavo is usually pronounced with a Y sound here, not a J.

  • Anna

    A very Australian focus:
    I am sooooo sick of hearing my fellow countrymen and women saying that we live in Austraya. This even extends to our newly-elected (just) female PM.

    We are Australians – not Austrayans!!!!!!

  • umber

    That’s the way my British profs said it was said. They also said DON JOO-AN was the traditional pronunciation of Don Juan (cited someone like Byron as an example) altho they didn’t say it that way. SaraJevo was I always heard watching the HofCommons debates about Bosnia.

  • venqax

    Loretheil
    Are you really saying that you, or anyone, would say “duct tape” enunciating the 2 t’s with a stop in between? How would you even do that without simply sounding like your are stuttering? I’m the first jerk to criticize those who don’t pronounce all the letters in “texts” or “lists” or “asks”, but even I wouldn’t suggest something that sounds so unnatural (pronouning both n’s there).

  • Harris

    It sounds weird when some people pronounce asterisk without the “s”.

    Anyway, some of the words mentioned can be pronounced in two ways according to Merriam-Webster.com

  • Sandra Bignell

    Please could you explain the difference in pronunciation of the past tense of the word ‘eat’?
    I pronounce it ‘et’ with a short e sound, as in ‘egg’ but people in Canada often laugh at me, and take the Mickey. You can tell that I am English.
    In the Oxford Dictionary it is pronounced in this way – et.
    Canadians say ate, rhyming with Kate.
    I would love to have your opinion on this.
    Sandra

  • venqax

    In AmE and CanE as far I have ever heard, the proper pronunciation is AYT just like the number, and rhyming with Kate. I know ET is a common dialectal pronunciation in parts of the US, tho, and I would guess also in parts of the UK. I think it is AYT in RP, too, isn’t it? Every British– or at least English– person I know says it the same way we do. ET is definitely colloquial and non-standard in the US.

  • venqax

    Harris

    More often I hear ASTERIKS, just like AKS the question. For some reason people find the KS combination overly challenging. (please no more about how it used to be spelled aks or ax. It isn’t anymore, hasn’t been for a long long time, and those who mispronounce it don’t misspell it– so can’t use that excuse anyway.)

    Anna

    Likewise problems with the L sound in some words. We get the same thing in the US with the dialectical Dubya, instead of Double You. And people who say WIYUM instead of WIL-YUM. I know the Japanese have problems with Ls. Don’t know what the issue with people in Texas is.

  • umber

    merriam webster and most dictionaries report how words ARE said, not how they SHOULD be said. Most are quite clear about that. Just because it is in the dictionary does not mean it is a proper or formally acceptable pronunciation. You need to dig deeper into othoepist–sources like Fowler and Partridge if you are really interested. If you don’t care, fine, why even look in the dictionary, just repeat what you hear or say it like it looks on paper. KOL-ONEL, SAL-MON, KA-NEE, SAYD, WAZ, HWOH, NOOK-YALER (it is in some dictionaries, too).

  • Tyler

    I already posted this comment, but I can’t find it now so I am going to post it again. You can’t say a pronunciation is wrong because then everything we say is wrong. Pronunciation had to CHANGE to get from Old English to English in Great Britian to the English we speak today in America. Changes in pronunciation are just the first signs of a new accent and eventually a new language.

  • Andy

    I disagree with some of the pronunciation corrections here:

    #14 – Clothes. The direct pronunciation of the TH in this word isn’t necessarily the standard. In colloquial speech, many pronounced words drop the TH sound, not because the speakers actually think that the word doesn’t contain the letters (or even the sound), but just that conversational pronunciation doesn’t require the drawn out annunciation of every sound.

    #33 – Miniature. It seems to me that the “min-uh-ture” pronunciation is the most often used, and is perfectly acceptable. The middle syllable is actually a schwa sound, which combines the “i” and “a” into a single sound. I’m not sure any official body would back up your contention that you must pronounce both letters separately.

    #35 – Niche. As you said yourself, plenty of French borrowed words have had their pronunciations altered to fit into English more easily. I don’t know of anyone who says “Neesh” without sounding dumb. Nitch is clearly the appropriate pronunciation in American English.

    #41 – Preventive. Preventative is also a real word. In fact, it means the exact same thing preventive. It’s just a variant.

    #48 – Ticklish. Aren’t the two pronunciations you have there actually the same in practice? No one really says tick-i-lish. They say “Tickle-ish”. The dipthong is pretty much accepted in practice.

    You really should concentrate on pronunciation mistakes that aren’t up for debate. Otherwise, it just comes across as what YOU think is the right pronunciation, not any actual mistake people are making. I do, however, applaud your post on Halloween and mischievous.

    You might also add:
    Nevada: People from there call it Ne-vadd-uh, not Ne-vawd-uh
    Colorado: Again, they call it colo-radd-oh, not colo-rawd-oh
    Oregon: The last syllable should be a schwa, orygun, not ore-gone

  • Cecily

    @Andy: “No one really says tick-i-lish”
    Er yes, some people do. (I’m one of them.)

    @Andy: I won’t argue with “Nitch is clearly the appropriate pronunciation in American English.” However, in England, the more Gallic pronunciation is still widespread and and “nitch” is probably viewed as the non standard variant.

  • Andy

    Cecily, where are you from that you developed the “tick-i-lish” pronunciation? I’ve never heard it before.

    And the pronunciations on this page are predominantly American English, right?

  • umber

    So Tyler, are you saying that if you are getting to ready to speak to a group of people about Italian food, and you say spisgehtti– you don’t want anyone to correct you? You are just “changing” the pronunciation in search of a new language?>

  • Cecily

    Andy, I’m in SE England, and I’m not the only one round here who says “tick-i-lish”, in fact, it’s probably the norm. However, the “i” is more of an “uh” or “er”.

  • Tyler

    @Umber

    Never once did I say that you are searching for a new language when you use “incorrect” pronunciation, just that it is a new accent, dialect, and/or language starting to develop, and your sentence “You are just “changing” the pronunciation in search of a new language?” is implying that when people use “incorrect” pronunciation they are purposely making up these pronunciations. In many instances this is not the case and not what I advertised in my comment. And I don’t mind if anyone “corrects” me if I say spisghetti because that is just the way I say it and I don’t mind if others have a problem with it (Also my original post was more directed at pronunciations that is more widespread than just one person because most of the pronunciations in this article are widespread “mispronunciations”). Something else to consider is that people change the way they speak depending on who they speak to. If that group of people I am speaking to is made up of my friends then I will be more than willing to say spisghetti, if it is made up of a whole bunch of foreigners who need to hear the most typical pronunciation in order to understand then I will say spaghetti, and if it is made up of a whole bunch of natives who I do not know I will most likely say spaghetti unless I am willing to answer some questions about why I say spisghetti.

    And to answer any future questions no I do not say spisghetti… that was all theoretical.

  • Anna

    I have noted that the Australian speech and accent is a neat melange of American and British English in terms of both pronunciation and vocabulary. As the population was originally British (convict) in origin, it couldn’t help but being British English – and up until the 1940s or so, the Aussie accent had a distinct British twang to it.

    However, following the massive US involvement in WW2 (Battle of the Coral Sea etc), Australia has become more and more a part of the ‘Pacific Rim’ and as such our accent and speech patterns has developed a more cosmopolitan (read American) influence.

    Queenslanders are a different kettle of fish though! Broad broad Aussie accents up there!

    @Cecily

    Aussies (well at least Melbournians) tend to say tick-i-lish too. Remnant of our British English beginnings perhaps…..

    @Andy

    Like Cecily, I say that ‘nitch’ is certainly NOT the common pronunication of niche in Australia. I would say that it’s seldom referenced in this country. ‘Neesh’ is far and away the most common pronunciation.

  • umber

    But tyler, you seem to be saying there is no such thing as an incorrect pronunciation. That is absurd. Just like spelling, pronunciation has some standardization. If someone says spisghetti, they don’t get a pass from sounding illiterate. That isn’t a dialect or variation– it’s just plain wrong.

  • Tyler

    There is standardization, but that doesn’t mean anything that isn’t standard is incorrect. No, spisghetti is not a dialect if only one person uses that pronunciation, but if a significant amount of people do then yes it is. But either way that doesn’t make it incorrect. It is just the way a person says it, and anyone can understand it unless they are just learning the language or have a lack of ability to relate different words together. Also sounding illiterate (which is an opinion) doesn’t make what you say incorrect. Some people think ain’t sounds illiterate, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is a word…

    So if there are incorrect pronunciations, words, etc. then what and who determines that? What makes anyways incorrect but anyway correct? What makes /FO-LI-UJ/ correct and /fol-uj/ incorrect?

  • Peter

    I’ve never heard of “Don Kwiksit”, either. “Kwiksowt” would make more sense (though I’ve never heard that either. Quixotic is pronounced that way, though). Mostly I hear the Americanized pronunciation (“Don Key-hotey”. I don’t know how modern Spanish speakers pronounce it; I assume the American version is copying Mexicans or something. The “x” should be pronounced “sh”)

    ——

    In the Oxford Dictionary it is pronounced in this way – et.

    No it isn’t. The OED gives both pronunciations, with “et” marked “obsolete, except Scot. and dial.”

    ——

    In colloquial speech, many pronounced words drop the TH sound

    Such as??

  • Graig

    21. While the French adjective for ‘strong’ is indeed pronounced /fort/, /for-TAY/ is how you pronounce the Middle French word meaning ‘strength’, as in “French is not your strength”.

    30. As far as I know, ‘Jewellery’ is universally accepted outside of the US.

    32. I tried saying /MEE-DEE-EEVAL/ and /MEED-EEVAL/ aloud, and they sounded the same.

    It’s an interesting discussion, I wish you had put more thought into it.

  • Kevin

    “Irregardless” is a real word. Check it out on the Merriam-Webster website. They call it nonstandard, but not fake.

  • Susanne

    Hyperbole. It’s not HYPER-BOWL it’s HY-PER-BO-LEE. That always makes me cringe.

  • Kim

    To Kevin –
    ““Irregardless” is a real word. Check it out on the Merriam-Webster website. They call it nonstandard, but not fake.”
    ———
    While that’s true, break down the word:
    First let’s use the word “irrespective”. The ‘ir’ part of it means ‘not’, so you’re saying you are not not respective of something = “irrespective of ___”, etc.

    Now the word “irregardless”.
    If the word was “irregarding”, that would make sense since you’re saying you’re not regarding something, but the ‘less’ at the end is out of place.

    What you end up with now is a double negative, as if saying “I don’t have none”.

    “Ir – regard – less”
    essentially means
    “not with less regard”,

    So I guess you DO have regard!

    That’s why “irregardless” is, while a word, not a correctly formed one.
    ———————————————————————————-
    This reminds me of a phrase that drives me nuts:
    “I could care less”.
    It’s supposed to mean someone doesn’t care at all, but to break it down, you get the idea someone has room to care less –
    “I could care less than I do”, but if you don’t care at all, you COULDN’T care less than you do.

    Don’t just say ‘oh, a word exists, so there’, make sure it makes SENSE when you use it!

    Of course, many people couldn’t care less, regardless.

  • venqax

    Kevin– just because something is in MW doesn’t make it standard or acceptable. As they note– they only claim to reflect speech as it is being used, they are not claiming to be authorities on orthoepy (proper pronunciation). “Irregardless” is an illiteracy. And, as pointed out, if it WAS a word it would mean the opposite of what users intend. Not without regard.

  • venqax

    Graig
    You must not be enunciating very clearly. Three syllabbles vs. 2 should be a pretty obvious difference ??? That said, I am not convinced on the 3 syllable version, because I see no reason for it. MED-EEVAL would seem to be fine, but I am open to evidence. MED-EE-EEVAL sounds unpleastantly like stuttering. MIN-OO-SHEE-EE (minutiae) has a similar problem, sort of, but there the reasoning pretty straightforward.

  • Tyler

    @Venqax

    “And, as pointed out, if it WAS a word it would mean the opposite of what users intend. Not without regard.”

    It is used by people and has a meaning so it IS a word.

  • Kim

    OH brother ~ yes, “irregardless” is a word that is used by people.

    Evidently the fact that this ‘word’ contradicts itself is of no consequence; as long as there are people who say it, the heck with its meaning!

    *Sheeesh*.

  • Graig

    To those who argue that there is no correct or incorrect way to use language, there are no correct or incorrect musical notes either, but you still distinguish between good singers and bad singers. It is possible to butcher a language, just as it is possible to butcher a song, take a bad photograph, or botch a joke. There is no correct way to dance either, but there are good dancers and bad dancers. There is room for variation, evolution and creativity, but, to continue the music analogy, a musician ad libing, and a Neanderthal hitting the keys on a piano randomly, are not the same. Learn the rules first, then you can know how and when to break them.

  • venqax

    No, Tyler, it doesn’t work that way. But it is an illiterate colloquialism. Like the aforementioned spsghetti, or any of Jeff Foxworthy’s reckneckisms like “jeet” and “jontoo”.

    “Jeet yet?”
    “No, but am hungry?”
    “Jontoo?”
    “Sure”

  • venqax

    Well sayed, Graig. :)

  • Tyler

    @ Graig – all of those are opinions and opinions can and probably will change, but either way you proved my point. There are no such things as words not being words just words that people consider bad and words that people consider good (which are again opinions). On that same note there are no such things as incorrect pronunciations… just pronunciations people consider “illiterate” or “stupid sounding” and those that sound literate (opinions…)

    @ venqax – you never proved your point. You just said it doesn’t work that way and then said they are illiterate colloquialisms which doesn’t mean incorrect. If it doesn’t work that way then why/how doesn’t it?

  • venqax

    tyler: The lead at the top of the postings does a very good job of addressing your question:

    “Alternate pronunciations, however, are a different matter from out-and-out mispronunciations. The latter, no matter how common, are incorrect, either because of the spelling that indicates another pronunciation, or because of what is widely agreed upon to be conventional usage.”

    There is a whole field of the study of language devoted to issues of proper pronunciation– Fowler, Elster, etc. Some are cited on here. Graig makes a good analogy as well. No, there is no Academy of Standards for English, but there are rules above the chaos of any pronunciation being an acceptable one or any form of a word being sound. Pronunciation is no different from spelling or grammar. And why would it be?

  • Tyler

    @venqax – That a terrible quote to use because firstly what makes a pronunciation an alternate one, and what makes a pronunciation an incorrect one? Secondly, spelling does not determine how a word is “suppose” to be pronounced. There are so many words that are not pronounced how they are spelled and spelling needs to be/should changed based upon how people speak. Take for example how Americans changed some of the spellings of the English to match the way words are spoken Theatre – Theater, Colour – Color, etc. So why did they change those if according to the spelling their correct pronunciations are Thee-truh or Kuh-loh-oor? Thirdly, I am sick of people saying well the majority of people think this way so that makes it correct. That is just absolute crap, and I’m not going to follow the majorities conjectured way of thinking. Fourthly, yes pronunciation is no different from spelling or grammar because they all change/should change, and you can’t stop it. That is how new languages develop. Our spelling system isn’t that of the Chinese where symbols stand for words. Our spelling system is based on pronunciation with each letter having a sound or a few sounds. Therefore we have to change it so it matches those sounds, and the Chinese don’t because they can keep that one symbol representing that word forever no matter if at one point that word is no longer used or if the meaning changes slightly.

  • Lulu

    What about “supposedBly” for supposeDly?

    I could not believe it when I first heard it. I thought I was having hearing problems. However, I’ve noticed it’s a common mispronunciation even though supposedly is easier to pronounce than the commonly mispronouced sup-po-sed-bly.

  • abby

    re: “I could not believe it when I first heard it” Lulu, that’s probably because you didn’t hear “supposedbly.” People usually just drop the “d” sound and say “supposably.” It’s lazy listening and lazy speaking. Also “pacific” instead of “specific.” I hear it all the time, here in the South.

  • Mahi

    First Class article. Very Very Important “anyway” is not a noun to have a plural “anyways”. anyways is WRONG and sooner the people accept it the better. Together we are all spoiling a language by not giving a thought. It is really SAD that a person in an English forum is so much ignorant to the basic rules of grammar enough to say that anyways is a plural of anyway!!!!

  • venqax

    Tyler: I am sorry you think it is a terrible quote, but it is obviously the premise of the whole posting site that there are right ways and wrong ways to say words, just like there are right ways and wrong ways to spell them, and right and wrong ways to put words together in a sentence. Why would there be agreed upon rules for grammar and spelling and all other areas of language EXCEPT pronunciation? Of course there are variations– like in spelling, too. But you seem to think pronunciation is anarchic, “anything goes”. I don’t think you have any rationale for that.

    “spelling does not determine how a word is “suppose”[sic] to be pronounced.” To some degree it does. In fact, in most cases it does. And the word in your sentence should be “supposed”. Grammar has rules, too. Not being snide, it’s just a convenient example.

    “There are so many words that are not pronounced how they are spelled”. That is true. And knowing which ones are and which one are not is part of being an educated person. You don’t have to be educated if you don’t want to be. But you don’t get to say their is no such thing as erudition just because you don’t like it.

    “I’m not going to follow the majorities conjectured way of thinking.” That is up to you. And that is not what conjectured means.

    “Fourthly, yes pronunciation is no different from spelling or grammar because they all change/should change, and you can’t stop it.” No you can’t. Be we are talking about where we are now, not speculating on what may be standard some day.

  • venqax

    Should be “you don’t get to say THERE is no such thing…”. Dang rules! LOL

  • Tyler

    I never once said there are agreed upon rules for spelling and grammar but not pronunciation. Actually pretty much everything I have said has been the opposite of that. All three of those change.

    And again what makes a certain spelling a variation and another an incorrect spelling?

    “To some degree it does. In fact, in most cases it does.”
    How so? Spelling shows how the word is pronounced not the way it is suppose to be pronounced. Spelling is based upon pronunciation not the other way around.

    “I don’t think you have any rationale for that.”
    “But you don’t get to say their is no such thing as erudition just because you don’t like it.”
    If you could explain these more please that would be great because I don’t know where you are getting these ideas from….

    Before I make my point please tell me the meaning of conjectured and how you know that. Thanks.

    “No you can’t. Be we are talking about where we are now, not speculating on what may be standard some day.”
    Maybe you are talking about where we are now, but where we will be in the future has been part of my argument. Everything you have been saying has been disagreeing with my thoughts on change, and you have been all about standard language and being intelligent. Grammar, spelling, and pronunciation have to change from the standard in order for a new language to develop and that is happening now. Where we are now there are words changing, and that means they aren’t standard anymore. Then when enough change has ocurred what is standard today won’t be standard anymore.

  • Bill

    No such list is complete with “birfday”.

    And before anyone calls me a racist, I’ve heard plenty of white folks say this.

  • Tyler

    A great video everyone should watch: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/3l8JhY/lifehacker.com/5684111/forget-about-perfect-grammar-and-just-write-well

  • Sally

    Someone should make sure news and sportscasters have this list. I hear entirely too much incorrect pronunciation on television and radio from so-called professionals. Unfortunately, people tend to pick up grammar and usage from media.

  • lose weight

    Thank you. Great website you got here. Have some extra websites to point to with more information?

  • gilli

    This is so silly. Growing up in Rhode Island, I’ve heard plenty of mispronunciations that drive me insane! I’m sure many “errors” in pronunciation have a lot to do with accents, though.
    This is not to say that I am at all a fan of the Rhode Island accent, thankfully my speech therapist eliminated my accent when I was little. Yikes.
    One great example… My aunt (an English teacher, mind you) pronounces “idea” as “idear” and “parmesan” as “par-me-zee-en”
    And some classic Rhode Island speech, for all:
    “Pah-k the cah.”
    “I hit da bawl wickett haad outtada pah-k.”

  • marx

    Here in Brazil it is spread the pronunciation of country in the same way as county or count… Even professional speakers of the media makes that mistake! By the way; they are to blame the pronunciation by the people for the people only repeat the way they listen to…

  • marx

    In adition to my saying about pronunciation of country in Brazil:
    english is not the national language! But, the media would help, in a positive way, if they paid attention to the responsability of influencing the people culture.

  • Bradlee TheDawg

    Please never erase or move this post !
    I have a few to add

    Wal-mart : wal-mart NOT “Wall-mark” (a Northern PA faux pas)
    Masonry : may-son-ree NOT may-son-air-ee
    Elementary: ends in “tary” not “tree”
    Voilà : French… vhah-la NOT WAH-LA (some folks actually write “wah-la” because they’ve never been exposed to French anything other than French Fries
    Saw : It’s definitely NOT “Saw-er” as is common in New England

    And “irregardless” is absolutely, definitely NOT proper English, any more than the Palin-speak “irreputable” is.

    Yes, they can both be called “words” – any combination of letters technically is a word if it can be pronounced and given some kind of meaning, and every human is free to coin (or is it quoin?…hmmm) whatever new words they’d like. That’s what jargon is all about. But those two are nonsense words at this point in time – no different than something you might see featured in a Dr. Seuss book.

  • abby

    I have a new pet peeve. Has anyone else noticed this a lot lately?

    Allusion vs illusion: people pronouncing the word “illusion” as if it began with an “a.” There is already a word (allusion) that begins with that “a,” and if you SAY “allusion,” but MEAN “illusion,” the listeners have to do a double-take and try to figure out what you really meant!

    The pronunciation key for “illusion” is [ih-loo-zhuhn]; “ih,” not “uh”!

    allusion: [uh-loo-zhuhn]

  • Kim

    I agree on the ‘allusion’ vs ‘illusion’.

    An ‘allusion’ is a reference to something, as in “he alluded to a commercial he had seen”.

    An ‘illusion’ is an image of something that isn’t really there.

    Here’s a peeve of mine: saying ‘then’ when one means ‘than’. The other one is saying ‘of’ instead of ‘have’: e.g. “they should of”. I know that’s because the ear perceives the ‘of’ in ‘should’ve’, rather than the whole word ‘have’.

    It’s in the way people hear words and don’t bother to learn the proper spelling.

  • umber

    I agree about “then” for “than” and “of” for “have”. They are mispoken so regularly that you see them more and more in print. Another is “why” for “while”, e.g. “You just wait why I go in the store.”

    Tyler- Are you saying you don’t think there are standard or “correct” spelling and grammar, either? So if I wrote, “Whair frum du yue gett that an aydea?”, it would be just as correct as any other spelling or grammatical construction? Not sure I follow you.

  • Peter

    Allusion vs illusion: people pronouncing the word “illusion” as if it began with an “a.”

    The stress is on the second syllable, so the initial unstressed vowel quite naturally moves to schwa…nothing wrong with that.

  • Another Peter

    jd on December 2, 2008 6:54 pm got very cross, didn’t he (or she)?

    I just came accross this sight by accident when researching apostrophe’s and find it quite delightfull.

    My pet hates are “ungyons” for onions, (remarkably widespread)and “cutelry” for “cutlery” (Anne Robinson on the telly).

    And, of course the English dropping there R’s, and if not dropping them then giving them the silent pronunciation treatment. Even a Scots lass I know who lives in Formby calls it Fomby. Don’t you, Kitten? Been there too long you see. As Robert V says near the start of this discourse, they also add R’s where none exist, (Dramar, Sawr) silly boys and girls!

  • Kimberly

    I’m so sorry but I have to present some corrections here!

    –> Another Peter: (edits mine)
    “I just came across this site by accident when researching apostrophes, and find it quite delightful.

    My pet hates are “ungyons” for onions, (remarkably widespread)and “cutelry” for “cutlery” (Anne Robinson on the telly).

    Also, of course, the English dropping their R’s and, if not dropping them, giving them the silent pronunciation treatment. Even a Scots lass I know who lives in Formby calls it Fomby. Don’t you, Kitten? Been there too long, you see. As Robert V says near the start of this discourse, “they also add R’s where none exist, (Dramar, Sawr) silly boys and girls!”
    ——————————
    Feel free to correct my corrections, although I’m fairly sure I covered most of them accurately.

  • Charles Kratz

    Your assertion about the origin of the word “Halloween” is, unfortunately, incorrect. It is derived from the fact that Halloween is celebrated on the eve of All Hallows (or All Saints) day, an important feast day in the liturgical calendar. You may find some sources to support your theory, but they are incorrect.

  • Charles Kratz

    Another comment, this time having nothing to do with pronunciation but everything to do with maintaining sanity in the face of an English-speaking world hell-bent on reducing everything to the lowest common denominator. The feeling now evidently seems to be that it is better to bring speakers of proper English down to the level of cretins who do not know their own language and communicate vitually in grunts and jibberish than vice versa. Chief among what is so wrong with the sloppy usage of English today (only because it is so widespread) is the inability of even educated people to distinguish between the proper use of “to lie” and “to lay.” Look it up, people! The rules may be the teeniest bit complicated, but if your brain contains more than two cells, you ought to be able to figure it out. Stop claiming to be educated when you say things like “the book is laying on the table.” If you run into me and say it, it may be you “laying” on the floor after I hit you. Thank you.

  • Mae Lu

    This is the best shit I’ve read all day.

    However, you did forget one particularly egregious mispronunciation: “Acrosst”. Way too many people say this where I live.

    Also, “Whole Nother Thing.”

  • Sally

    This morning, on NPR (of all stations!) I heard the broadcaster say ‘anyways’. This is the second time I’ve heard this person say ‘anyways’ on the air.

    Quite pathetic, and sad. No wonder kids don’t speak so gooder no more ;-)

  • Bablu Thapa

    What’s the correct pronunciation of the word, “tertiary”.

  • Sally

    ‘tertiary’ would be pronounced tur-shee-er-ee

  • Peter

    No. tur-shə-ree (tɜ:ʃəri), with three syllables, or even tur-shree (tɜ:ʃri), with two — not four.

  • venqax

    Actually, that one presents a problem. Does the TI combination make an SH sound, as presumeably in STATION, so TER SHER EE? Or does the I get pronounced– thereby assuming the T by itself makes an SH sound, as in NEGOTIATE, so TER SHEE AIR EE. I don’t know of any rules/guidelines in this area. I think 2 syllable TER SHREE would be a British affectation– I mea pronunciation. LOL j/k

  • venqax

    My current “makes me squirmer” is not so much bad pronunciation, but bad grammar in the form of complete ignorance of the past participle vs the past. I am constantly hearing,
    “I had ran all the way down the street”
    “I knew I had drank way too much”
    “I’ve bit my lip!”
    “I’ve broke my finger!”
    “He’s went to school every day”
    “I had spoke to the teacher, and she thinks I’m a barbarian. Now I’ve saw she’s right. I can’t believe it’s came to this”

  • Charles Kratz

    venqax, you are 100 percent correct. The people who speak like this are idiots or uneducated dolts, so best just to forget the whole thing. Not easy to do, I know. It is sandpaper over your teeth, fingernails over a chalkboard, but these people are mostly beyond help if they are over 12 years old.

  • Peter

    I think 2 syllable TER SHREE would be a British affectation– I mea pronunciation.

    Well, again, the first syllable has the accent, so the vowel in the second syllable becomes a schwa and the surrounding consonants are both more fronted than the vowel, so it’s more natural to elide it if you say it quickly; hence a two syllable pronunciation.

  • venqax

    I see what you mean, Peter, regarding the 2 from 3 syllable pronunciation. In the US, among educated speakers the 4 syllable TER she air ee, still with the main emphasis on the first syllable, seems most common. Compare to ben a FISH ee air ee, and joo DISH ee air ee, which prevail over ben a FISH er ee and joo DISH er ee, as well. The exception seems to be in the southern US.

  • G.

    Yes, I do believe that words should be spoken correctly; however, it depends upon what part of the world inwhich one lives. Yes, it can depend upon what group of people is in your habitat. I believe the key is to be aware of your surroundings (people). If you want to be correct, know how to speak accordingly and adapt if you choose. If I am in a remote part of the world where there is little or no education, I don’t believe that I will spend my visit explaining to the people as to what the Oxford Dictionary says. I would simply dull my language in order to communicate.

    I do live in the United States; therefore, I believe that other citizens as well should learn how to speak properly. This country is full of education, there is no need to speak incorrectly if you live here. AND, if you just moved here, get with the program and undull your language to adapt.

  • Michael

    Incredible! A two year conversation on pronunciation. Damn! Wish I’d come in earlier. Especially on the complaint about the pronunciation of ‘lieutenant’ more than two years ago. Such fun!

  • Karl H. Eggestad

    Mispronunciation of jaguar (car and animal) is another pet peeve of mine; can we PLEASE not pronounce it jag-wire?

  • Charles Kratz

    It would have been helpful had you provided your preferred pronunciation of jaguar. As it is, we can only guess. If you are saying that the correct pronunciation would be jag-war, I would agree. If you are saying, however, that the correct pronunciation is jag-u-war, that would probably be an affectation, unless of course you live in the British Isles or the Commonwealth.

  • Michael

    OK, I can’t resist. I’ve innumerable pet peeves, but I shall bore those who care to read this with but a few (bearing in mind that I live in Melbourne, pronounced ‘Mel-b’n’ not ‘Mel-born’):

    Leave ‘lootenants’ on American cop shows. This pronunciation of ‘lieutenant’ is simply and thoroughly incorrect in the standard English of Australia, Britain and most other Commonwealth countries. The Royal Australian Navy might traditionally say ‘L’tenant’ (though the Royal Navy dispensed with this decades ago), but in all other uses it is ‘leftenant’. If you think this doesn’t make phonetic sense, consider …oooh… umpteen squillion other English words that aren’t spoken as they’re written, e.g., ‘colonel’ which Americans pronounce ‘kern’l’ and we say ‘kuhn’l’. No one says ‘coll-o-nell’. English is not, by and large, a phonetic language. ‘Lieutenant’ has been pronounced and written something like ‘lef-’ for centuries. Americans are welcome to say ‘loo-’ to their heart’s content.

    ‘PronOUnciation’!!! Ye Gods!

    ‘ungy’n’… Oh dear lord!

    ‘Waw-da’ for ‘water’… ‘waw-tuh’ or ‘waw-ter’. No wonder North Americans think we talk funny.

    ‘shtyoopid’….arrrgh! Mine ears! The word is ‘styoopid’. ssssssss not shhhhh.

    Right. Crawling back into my corner now having vented my spleen in the full and certain knowledge that speech is a dynamic thing and that I probably sound pompous, blah, blah, blah.

  • Anna

    Michael, spot on! I’m a Melburnian too, in the technical writing game.

    I was very impressed to hear Oprah pronounce our city the right way in her shows, though she originally pronounced Aussie as ‘ohhhh-see’ rather than ‘Ozzy’ at first. Fair play to Oprah.

  • Michael

    Dear Kimberley,

    Non-rhotic speakers (such as my good self) do not ‘drop their R’s’. This assumes that rhotic speakers (presumably, such as your good self) speak ‘properly’ and the rest of us have some sort of speech impediment. Nor is it really a case of ‘giving them the silent treatment’; we simply don’t register them in the way you might. But I know what you’re driving at.

    It does make me think of common stuff-up to which even some of the most well-educated non-rhotic speakers are sometimes prone: linking or intrusive r’s, e.g., ‘drawring’ (‘drawing’) and ‘lawrandorder’ (‘law and order’).

  • Doug

    Firstly, I don’t believe that encouraging people to learn a “standard” version of their language is racist, elitist or snobby in the least. I personally know, from a career in HR at a regional corporation, of literally thousands of people who were not hired due to the way in which they spoke.

    I also know a young lady who was fired from a real estate broker’s office due to her inability (or unwillingness) to stop pronouncing “Realtor” as “RILL-uh-terr” even after numerous tutoring sessions and finally 2 written warnings.

    As you can see from the plethora of laments above, gratuitously-poor language and pronunciation drives MANY people crazy. What business in their right mind wants to hire people who will drive a large percentage of their customers crazy?

    I believe that poor or abnormal (compared to “standard business English”) spoken and written language dooms many an intelligent (but not too intelligent or they’d fix it) person to a career of “Would you like fries with that?”

    I think that most of those who see this attitude as discriminatory are simply taking the easy way out: “I believe that you are all just elitist grammar nazis and your attitude offends me. So I feel no need to better myself by actually learning my native language. Me and him should of went to the movies anyways.”

    For those of you who think we’re elitist, racist, classist or snobs, please go look up “Pygmalion,” or if heavy reading’s not your thing, at least go rent Rex Harrison’s “My Fair Lady,” wherein you will hear the immortal truth “With every word you utter, you condemn yourself to the gutter.”

    True dat.

  • Doug

    “Niche” is pronounced “neesh” because it’s a French word. “Nitch” sounds like something you need foot powder to cure.

    Pet peeves:

    Nuclear pronounced “nook-you-lerr” instead of “nook-lee-err.”

    “Chaise lounge” instead of chaise longue.

    Brett FARVE???? NO! It’s not FARVE it’s FAVRE!!!!!! Sheesh!

    Using “fillet” (an aerodynamic fairing) to denote a boneless cut of meat when in fact the word is “filet.”

    Pronouncing “palette” (an array of colors) as “PAL-utt” the same as pallet and palate when it should be pronounced “puh-LETT.”

    Pronouncing “nuptials” as “NUP-chew-uhls” when it’s really “NUP-chuls.”

    Saying “people that [verb]” instead of “people WHO [verb]” and “things THAT [verb].”

    Referring to “many mediums” to denote radio, TV, newsprint, etc. when in fact the plural of “medium” is “media.” Conversely, I’ve also cringed at “my favorite media is TV” when the singular form of “media” is (ta-daaa!) “medium.”

    Transmogrifying “undoubtedly” into “undoubtably” for no apparent reason.

    Saying “If only I WOULD HAVE KNOWN then what I know now” instead of “If only I HAD KNOWN then what I know now.” Where does this widespread garbage-speak come from???

    Seeing people write “Wa-La” when they mean “Voilà”

    Hearing redundant and inane verbal contrivances such as “The reason being is that it’s raining” when the correct usage for “reason being” is “The reason being that it’s raining.” (“Is” and “being” are different forms of the SAME VERB: to be. Therefore, once you have “being” you already have the sense of “is” and should NOT add “is” into the sentence.)

    Department of Redundancy Dept.: “ATM Machine.” “PIN Number.” “VIN Number.” “SSN Number.”

    And finally (not that I’m out, or anything, just gone too long already): the utterly nonsensical “try and [verb]” in place of the time-tested and straightforward “try to [verb].”

    I’ll stop now. My monitor is out of ink.

    :)

  • Doug

    More on “niche” pronounced “neesh:” think of “Quiche.” You pronounce it “keesh” without even thinking about it. I have never heard anyone pronounce it “kitch” or “kwitch.”

    The “iche” sound in French is “eesh” (actually, it’s more like “EESH-euh” in actual French, but in English we don’t pronounce the final “e” so we make do with “eesh.”

    Accordingly, if you know that “quiche” is “keesh,” then it’s not much of a leap to know that “niche” must be “neesh.”

    Illegitimus non Carborundum.

    :)

  • Doug

    Michael from Melbourne cites “lieutenant” and tries to justify the absurd British and Commonwealth insertion of an “f” sound into it, then goes on to say that English isn’t a phonetic language. Well, I guess not when you pronounce lieutenant as “leftenant.” :)

    The word “lieutenant” is from the French “lieu” (place) and “tenant” (holding.) Thus, it literally means “placeholder” in the sense that lieutenants represent, and administer the orders of, superior officers (generals, colonels, etc.) IN PLACE OF THOSE HIGHER OFFICERS being there personally with the troops.

    The French “lieu” is pronounced “lyeuh” and “tenant” is pronounced “tuh-NAhNT.” So the U.S. version “loo-tenant” is arguably MUCH closer to the actual French word than any version of it with an F sound in it.

    Michael also cited “shtyoopid” and reminded me of one of the great mysteries of life:

    How, when and why did “licorice” (LIH-kor-iss) become “licorish?” How can anyone get the “-ish” sound from “-ice?” Oh wait- the same way one can get an “f” sound into “lieutenant…”

    And I respectfully disagree with the contention that English is not, by and large, a phonetic language.

    As the immortal George Carlin once said, “Au contraire, mon frère; spare hair is fair!”

    English is, indeed, by and large, a phonetic language. At least, it is when spoken correctly. Citing any number of exceptions (Colonel, trough, through, etc.) in no way diminishes the overwhelming weight of the thousands and thousands of English words that are more or less true to their phonics.

    The entire premise of “Hooked on Phonics” is to teach kids what sounds various letters and letter combinations make in written English, with the net effect that those kids can then go on to read ANYTHING in English with a minimum of pronunciation errors- even new words for which they don’t know the meaning. This simply could not be if English were not a mostly-phonetic language.

    Somebody stop me before I post again! aiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeee

  • Doug

    “she originally pronounced Aussie as ‘ohhhh-see’ rather than ‘Ozzy’ ”

    The pronunciation of “Aussie” as “Ozzy” has always baffled me. Phonetically, a single “s” can have either a hard sibilant sound (as in “song” and “bus”) or a softer “z” or “zh” sound as in “fuse” and “phrase.” The “z”: sound is signaled by the following “e.”

    However, I can’t think of any word beside “Aussie” where double “ss” has the soft “z” sound. It seems to me that double-esses invariably have the hard sibilant (brass, sassy, messy, dresser, tossing) or, in a minority of cases, the softer “sh” sound (session- the “sh” sound signaled by the following “ion” letter group).

    I even want to go so far as adding an “s” when I pluralize “bus” because “buses” looks to me as though it should rhyme with “fuses” so I want to write it as “busses” so there’s no mistake.

    Can you folks living where it’s already tomorrow, upside-down and about to fall off the planet (I saw that happen on a Tasmanian Devil cartoon featuring Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam and Wile E. Coyote… Bugs “should have tooken a left in Albuquerque”) cite any common words other than the beloved “Aussie” where “ss” is pronounced like the “zz” in “snazzy?”

    Thanks for this most interesting discussion, btw. I’m addicted.

    PS: In your defense, if English were a phonetic language, “phonics” would be spelled “fonix.”

    :)

  • Doug

    Here’s a pop quiz to prove Michael’s point that English isn’t a phonetic language:

    What well-known, simple, basic English word can be phonetically spelled “ghoti?”

    BWAAAaaahahahahahahahaaaaaaaaa……….

  • Doug

    “[Halloween] is derived from the fact that Halloween is celebrated on the eve of All Hallows (or All Saints) day, an important feast day in the liturgical calendar.”

    As you say, the word started out as “All Hallows Evening” and devolved into an abbreviation/contraction of “All Hallows Eve[ning].”

    As far as I know the word should still have an apostrophe in it- it should be spelled “Hallowe’en”- although it has been commercialized to such an extent in the U.S. that I’m sure the apostrophe is lying, broken and bleeding, in a gutter somewhere in Lower Manhattan, having been rudely tossed out of a Madison Avenue limousine’s rear window.

    One hopes it’s not at the bottom of the East River…

    ;(

  • Doug

    More than 2 years ago, a.d. asked “P.S. Which is correct: Heart-rending or heart-rendering? I thought it was ‘rendering’ but lately I’ve seen ‘rending’.”

    I searched and didn’t see a response, so I’ll answer. I’m sure a.d. is checking back here daily awaiting a response. :)

    The expression you’re thinking of is supposed to be a stronger form of “heart-breaking.”

    To rend is to tear apart, to break, to rip into pieces, to sever, to sunder.

    To render is to give (“the judge rendered an opinion”), to surrender, to relinquish, to make or cause to become (“the sudden downpour rendered the baseball rivalry moot”) and several other senses, none of which involves the breaking, tearing or maiming of anything (although one sense of rendering is “to boil a carcass down for its tallow…” eewwwww)

    Clearly, “heart-rendering” is nonsensical, while “heart-rending” means, roughly, heart-breaking.

    Unless you’re a cow contemplating a huge kettle at the end of a funny-smelling hall…

  • Doug

    About two months ago, in local TV news coverage of Christmas preparations by various and sundry, a particular anchorman pronounced “poinsettia” as “poinsetta” (with no 2nd i at the end).

    In my capacity as resident Grammar Nazi, I fired off an email to him, gently suggesting that “poinsettia” ends the same way as genitalia, memorabilia, Pennsylvania, pyromania, etc.- in an “ee-yah” sound, not just an “ah” sound.

    The next evening, he mentioned that many viewers had taken him to task over this controversial issue (ROFL), so he played a clip of a stringer interviewing the manager of the Nursery where they had bought their poinsettias.

    Based on his speech, this man never met a 4th grade teacher. Even bearing in mind that I live in a semi-rural Southern U.S. area, this individual was exceptionally limited (and most illiterate-sounding) in his speech.

    However, he assured the news folks that the correct pronunciation was “Poinsetta” and even obtained on-camera corroboration from (wait for it) the fork-lift driver as he plunked a pallet of Poinsettias into a pick-em-up truck: “Yup, them there’s Poinsettas, all right. Been that way since before Mama’s time.”

    So back to the news anchor, who smugly announced that he was glad *that* was settled and “irregardless” of how everyone chose to pronounce it personally, the *correct* pronunciation had at long last been established by a Poinsettia expert.

    I just turned off the TV and cried a little. I truly do not understand how so many people can be so tenacious in clinging, not only to their ignorance, but to utter indifference about, and even belligerence and animosity toward, curing it.

  • Michael

    Dear Doug,

    I admire your staying power.

    Re the pronunciations of lieutenant: Non-Americans haven’t ‘inserted’ an ‘f’ sound. Rather, the pronunciation is etymological. The OED points out that the u and v may have been confused (as appears to have many the case in days of long ago), but then says this probably doesn’t explain it. It may have been misheard; an Old French form of ‘lieu’ was ‘luef’; or it could be related to ‘leave’. It was even sometimes spelt with a ‘f’ or ‘v’ sound, and sometimes with a ‘w’ or ‘u’; the latter spelling won out but former pronunciation held sway until recently. It has been pronounced ‘lef-’ (or something like it) for centuries.

    I presume your preference is to use standard American English(?), in which case the ‘loo-’ pronunciation is correct—for you. In most if not all Commonwealth Englishes, however, the syllable is sounded ‘lef-’ and ‘lootenant’ is a mispronunciation or, at best, an American loan. You may be interested to note that ‘leftenant’ was reasonably commonplace in the spoken English of the United States until the second half of the nineteenth century.

    The use of ‘s’ for the ‘z’ sound abounds. In British English, a standard variant of the ‘-ize’ suffix is ‘-ise’, as in ‘organise’, but even in American English you have ‘enterprise’, ‘surprise’, ‘improvise’, ‘chastise’, ‘surmise’, and so on. Yes, ‘Aussie’ has two, but… well, you’ll just have to trust us on this one.

    In British and Australian English, a ‘fillet’ of fish would be pronounced with a hard ‘t’ sound. A ‘fillay’ of fish (or ‘ghoti’ if you prefer) is, again, incorrect outside of US English (maybe the Canadians, I don’t know). Of the tens of thousands of English words derived from French (which was derived from Latin before that), most pronounciations bare precious little resemblance to the originals.

    English was largely phonetic, once upon a time, in Shakespeare’s day.

    It’s a funny old tongue is English. ‘We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.’ (Oscar Wilde)

  • venqax

    Doug, agreed in the overwhelming majority of your points. ESPECIALLY regarding the attitude that somehow pronunciation, unlike any other part of the language—spelling, grammar, etc.— is a lawless frontier where any imposition of standards is somehow fascist. Those who make the complaint, and call guardians of orthoepy “grammar” nazis make the best arguments against taking their assertions seriously. Undemocratic? Hardly. Dictionaries and pronunciation guides are in no way the secrets of some initiated elite. They are readily available to anyone with one working ear and the DESIRE not to sound like an unschooled rube. So, to begin:
    When someone cannot hear the difference between ree-al-tor and ree-la-tor I don’t think anything in writing is going to help.
    “Would you like fries with that?” Which you hardly EVER hear. “Do you want fries with that?” is common. A fancy auxiliary construction of the “would” type is usually learned by wrote if at all.
    Niche- have to disagree pointedly. I adhere to the Anglicization school—see the reference to no less an authority than Fowler in above post. And he was writing in the 20’s, FGS! “French no more”— We aren’t speaking French. Niche, by English standards, rhymes with itch, at least because it’s been in the language for so long. I don’t pronounce Paris pa-ree, either. And yes, I’d proudly say kwitch—at least in a few years. I mean really, how long does a word have to wait until it is assimilated into the family? The British are actually much better about this than we Americans are. Probably because they’re more aware that most things French are improved by de-gallicization.  Likewise guillotine with a gill, not a “ghee”. Valet with a T. Relics like ballet, debut, depot, etc.; we’ll have to live with. You dieu what you can. I am still fighting jal-a-peeno over “halapenyo” , tor-tila over “tor-tee-ya” and ta-mail over “ta-mollay” The food is not just in May-hee-ko anymore. The clock is up!
    “nook-you-ler” – of course, but remarkable because of how many educated speakers say it. Even those in the field (realtors don’t have this problem. Are they smarter than nukyular engineers like Jimmy Carter? Probably). Chaise lounge, really not a pronunciation mistake as much as mistaken vocabulary. If the word WERE “lounge” then that would be how you’d say it. Likewise, “take it for granite”, and “a wolf in cheap clothing”. And those homophones that are mistaken in writing, “tow the line”, “anchors away”, “hair-brained”, etc.
    Brett FARVE? Well, yeah. It’s the guy’s NAME after all. The Beecham Beauchamps and the Chumlee Chomondeleys aren’t much better. OK, they are better. They are easements, they aren’t WARDSBACK. Farv for Favre is illiterate, but illiteracy reflected by names inherited is more historical relic than condemnable, isn’t it? Then again, most Favres in anglophonia either have changed the spelling or pronounce it something like “Fave” or even “Fever”. Better. Now don’t get me started on Eggs-aviers or Wye-vettes. What burns me is that so few people even notice the problem with Favre. I think lazy or ignorant reading is the root of 80% of mispronunciations.

  • abby

    Doug, Basic “English” IS pretty much a phonetic language. But it has lots and lots (and lots) of exceptions. Unfortunately for the rules of phonics (but fortunately for linguists and word lovers) half (or more) of the English language is not English, but Greek, Latin and other.

    When a dictionary tells you that the etymology of a word is French, look further, and it will be Latin, or even Greek. Many Latin words go back further, to Greek (the Romans were great borrowers).

    Maybe this will lighten some of your angst: listen to the comedy routine by Brian Regan called “Hooked on Phonics.” He says “Hook – edd on P- honix work – edd for meh” – quite funny! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTvhhXqpf0A&NR=1

    And as for ghoti, I sincerely hope you know that it is a fake spelling constructed from combinations that will never be found in that order, just to support someone’s (supposedly George Bernard Shaw’s) attempt at promoting spelling reform. The “f” sound of gh is never found at the beginning of a word, and the “sh” sound of tion is never pronounced that way without the “on” after it….but I’m sure you know that….

  • venqax

    Abby, well said. The “ghoti” counter-exemplar has always given me fits because what it ACTUALLY demonstrates is that English DOES have rules regarding the relationship between spelling and pronunciation. Some of those rule, however, are not well known because they are not taught. GH never makes an F sound at the beginning of a word, TI never SH’s at the end of one, without a tailing construction like ON or IN, etc.

    And phonetic is a somewhat relative and misused term. “TI” DOES make an SH sound in a TION or TIAL combination, e.g. So “station” and “spatial” ARE spelled phonetically. Albeit not in the simplest phonetic scheme, where single letters are linked exclusively to single phonemes as much as possible. Relatively few words are actually spelled contrary to their pronunciation—colonel, e.g. Or words with silent letters that are sometimes spelling relics from past or foreign pronunctiations—listen, mortgage, knife, etc.

    My pet peeve word that is genuinely non-phonetic in its spelling is COMPTROLLER, which is pronounced, CONTROLLER, just like its alternative phonetic spelling. Off hand, I know of no other example of an MP pronounced as an N, (compte, kind of) but every time I hear someone—at a university, no less—say comp-troller, rhyming with stomp-roller, it makes me want to pumpch them in the mpose.

  • Michael

    Venqax: Chuckle! (It’s beneath me to write ‘LOL’ unless I’m actually laughing out loud and spitting my coffee all over the screen.) The Oxford Dictionary of English and New American Oxford Dictionary list the ‘kɒmp-’ or ‘käm(p)-’ sounds as secondary, but legitimate pronunciations of ‘comptroller’, but as käm(p)ˈtrōlə(r) just sounds silly (a purely objective and informed assessment on my part) I’ll nail my colours to your mast.

  • abby

    venqax, I came across that very mispronunciation (coMptroller) on NPR a couple of days ago while in the car. I made a mental note of the perpetrator’s name and the time of the broadcast.

    I was going to email them about it…but I decided to look it up first, as the dictionaries keep adding “alternate” spellings and pronunciations that are now considered acceptable by the “authorities.”

    Unfortunately, some dictionaries are now giving the “phonetic,” but incorrect, pronunciation as an alternate. So…I didn’t email them about it.

    I DID email a newswoman on a local news station one time when she said “phenomenons” instead phenomena for the plural. She responded to my email quite contritely and politely.

  • Michael

    Wow, I see how someone can pick up bad pronunciations. I have lived in several states and the language, the approach to language has varied in each state. I definitely have picked up some of these bad habits. In Boston, most people never say route (rout) but say route (root). It’s funny when I hear people outside of Massachusetts mispronounce Worcester (Wister) as war-ches-tar.

  • venqax

    Well, that’s a problem with dictionaries, especially the “populist” ones that track usage rather than propriety. In their defense, they say so up front. Some in the US are, in the same spirit of chaos, listing noo-kyoo-ler and “irregardless” as “alternative” pronunciation as well. Usually with a mild admonition like “often considered non-standard” or “colloquial”, like it’s dialectical thing. So everyone gets an A and no one feels inferior.

    Let’s do structural engineering that way too! I have some really interesting bridge and tunnel designs, and I haven’t been corrupted by those snobbish, elitist, math and physics nazis who try to tell everyone else that THEIR ideas of gravity and stress llimitations and such are better than ordianary folks’.

    I think you need to look further into more authoritative scholarly, sources, not just ones aimed at a popular, lay audience. Like you would for sophisticated knowledge on any subject. That’s something I admire about Elster, Bernstein, Fowler, etc. They do make that effort. Theirs’ isn’t simply an unfounded opinion or a report of what they hear.

    abby: Funny you should mention it. Lately what I have noticed is seemingly random use of phenomenon and phenomena as singular and plural, as if they were interchangeable. And yes, from relatively high sources like documentary narrators. “What could be behind such strange phenomenon?” “Scientists say its a phenomena that is poorly understood”. Talk about a double on tender, LOL. Chuckle for Michael

  • Tony Hearn

    Sorry, One Night Stanzas, I’m with Maeve. As a Briton ‘off-ten’ makes me want to hit someone. The ‘t’ is silent in often, soften, fasten, listen etc. Pronouncing the ‘t’ shows one guilty of the solecism called a ‘spelling pronunciation’. End.

  • venqax

    I have nothing at all against regionalisms and accents. It’s just the difference between jeans and T-shirt, and a business suit. Use formal, or “standard” language, including pronunciation, when you are in a formal public setting. If you are ignorant of or incapable of that, it is really your own fault nowadays, and no different from showing up to a CEO interview in a track suit and complaining you didn’t get the job because they are “clothes snobs”. If you are a Bostonians in a casual setting, go ahead and pak ya rass in a chaya in the back yad. Or whatever they say. Or, far up y’alls vee-hicles with ray-id and yeller straps own em fer the NASCAR races with your Confederate reenactors’ group. That’s fan ith me. Those are quite different from flat-out mispronunciations. “Nukyular” is not an accent, it is illiterate. Likewise aminal, excape, and com-PAIR-able (you can com-PAIR, but only when things are COMP-rab’l).

    And there are cases of altnernate standard pronunciations. I don’t know of any authority preferring route rhyming shoot or route rhytmes with shout. Or HAIR-is vs. ha-RASS, when harassing someone about their pronunciation, though one or the other is more common by region. And HAIR-is sounds ridiculous.

    Local names are a whole nuther bag of worms. American English does have a propensity to pronounce as spelled, not recognizing traditional British elisions—like Wooster for Worcester. With an oo as in “book”. Where I am from, e.g. Worchester is pronounced just like that—war chester. Likewise they say green-witch for the town where they are, but know it is gren-itch in Conn, UK, etc. It is fine that the city in Texas is Hyoo-ston, while the street in NYC is House-ton. But it’s not Hoze-ton anywhere that I know of.

    National standards differ, too. It is Edin-b’ra Scotland. It is also Edin-berg, Virginia. All fine. And yes, I have met many British and Aussie leftenants, but never an American or Canadian one. To the first two I would say, “hello”. To the second two ,if so ID’ed, I’d say, “get a clef you lefser, or I’ll beat you black and blef”.

  • abby

    How many of you share this pet peeve of mine? – people who say “mature” as ma – tour.

    I have heard enough educated people say this, and dictionaries DO list both pronunciations, so it is evidently considered a “correct” pronunciation. But it’s not the way I am used to, and to me, it sounds like an affectation.

    After all, how many of you would pronounce the following words with the “tour” ending instead of a ”choor” ending?

    adventure
    architecture
    capture
    creature
    culture
    denture
    departure
    expenditure
    feature
    fixture
    fracture
    furniture
    future
    gesture
    lecture
    legislature
    literature
    manufacture
    miniature
    mixture
    moisture
    nature
    nurture
    overture
    pasture
    picture
    posture
    puncture
    scripture
    sculpture
    signature
    stature
    structure
    suture
    texture
    torture
    vulture

  • Michael

    Tony Learn: The Oxford Dictionary of English says the t in ‘often’ can be silent or pronounced. It may not be easy on your ear but its legitimate.

  • Michael

    Tony Hearn: The Oxford Dictionary of English says the t in ‘often’ can be silent or pronounced. It may not be easy on your ear but its legitimate.

    abby: Not sure I’m with you entirely. Some on your list would receive a somewhat more crisp pronunciation from yours truly. At least, I wouldn’t say the full ‘ch’ sound but somewhere between there and a ‘t’.

    venqax: My colours are still flying from your mast.

  • Michael

    Apologies for the repetition. ‘Smart’ phone.

  • Michael

    Venqax: I’ve encountered more than a few of Canadian ‘leftenants’. Seems to be standard pronunciation for ‘lieutenant’ in the Canadian Forces.

  • Michael

    Tony Hearn: And apologies to you for the unfortunate misspelling of your surname. Again: smart phone, stupid user. Sorry.

  • venqax

    Good point abby. I think it falls under the general rule, again, that English has rules, people just don’t know or use them. A T before a –ure is pronounced like a CH or an SH. So MA-CHER, etc. or PIK-SHER. Some of the CH/SH distinctions probably get dicey. PIK-CHER would sound wrong and overpronounced to me. But just T’ ing it? Unless it’s Matt Tour who lives down the street, no way no how.

    I have two similar bugaboos with the crowd who claim there are no rules because they don’t know them and can’t bother to learn. Species is SPEE-SHEEZ, not SPEE-SSEES. A C before an i-leading vowel pair is pronounced as an SH. There is nothing spess-al about a species. even if it lives in the o-ssan. Neg-o-SEE-ate is similarly prissy and affected, I think. It’is downright anti-sossal to assault the ears like this, and I don’t know whence this spessies feshes is coming from. It’s everywhere.

    The other is plantain– the disappointing thing you thought was a banana– being said plan-TAIN. How do you pronounce captain? Certain? Mountain? Curtain? TAIN is unstressed—T’N. The exception is maintain, and there reasons for that. Maybe if all said PLANT’N they’d taste better, too. Maybe.

  • Melty

    Mobile, virile, etc. should always be pronounced with EYE-L (like “isle”) at the end, not “ul”. Americans mangle these words so that even “missile” becomes “missel”. Try “infantile” on for size with an American pronunciation — so ugly.

  • venqax

    Sorry melty, but you are as wrong as the Americans who try to lose the leftenants. In American Standard English, the -ile ending you point to is unstressed, pronounced like other -le endings (candle, bundle, handle, e.g.). It should be pronounced MISS’L. Likewise Americans should say INF’NT’L, JOOVEN’L, FRAJ’L, HOST’L, even MERK’NT’L, tho rarely will you hear any so consistent. I wouldn’t accuse you of mangling these with your over-enunciations– just a dialectical difference.

  • abby

    Couldn’t resist sounding out on this one…

    Melty, “…American pronunciation — so ugly.”

    If you haven’t noticed, over the 2+ years that people have been commenting here, there hasn’t been such a rude remark as yours. I don’t mean to be just as rude ….I’d just like to encourage you to be less vehement (and no, please don’t pronounce the “h” — it’s more of a schwa – vee-uh-muhnt.)

    venqax – In my world, the primary pronunciation for mercantile is mur-kuhn-teel and for infantile is in-fuhn-tile. I have NEVER heard anyone say mur-kuhn-t’l or infant’l. “Til” with a short “i” are listed as additional pronunciations, but only as second (infantile) or third (mercantile) choices…but no “t’l”

  • venqax

    abby: The pronunciation mer-kun-TEEL is a rather folksy creation, so far as I know, and is common for the noun– a feed/general store. Mer-kun-TILE is more common for the adjective, things having to do with merchants, trade etc. (a mercantile economic system, e.g.). I’ve never heard anyone SAY mer-ken-t’l either! LOL. Or infint’l for that matter. The theory is that that these are how the words SHOULD be pronounced, arguing from consistency and the long establishment of missile, fragile, versatile, juvenile, hostile, etc in all other cases of Standard American pronunciation. Those dang rules again! These are the arguments of the Fowlers and Elsters and others of the world who actualy study this stuff academically. You certainly won’t get funny looks if you say mer-ken-TILE or TEEL.

  • Stephanie

    How about “tortoise”? As an Amercian living in Scotland, I had no idea to what my friend was referring, as he was pronouncing the word as it is spelled. We laughed–good-naturedly–at our differences in spelling and pronunciation. Language evolves. Let’s celebrate the richness of it rather than let it confine us or even divide us as English-speakers. No matter what, we still manage to communicate, which is the whole idea.

  • Anna

    Tee hee! My fiance is from Aberdeen and he and his family also say tortoise the way it’s spelt! In fact, we often discuss differences in pronunciation and vocabulary between Scottish English and Australian English. Love it!

    Great post Stephanie, particularly the last sentence regarding communication.

  • venqax

    I completely agree that national standards, or actual “dialects” have different rules. I think that is great and I, too, think it really makes the language interesting. My criticisms are never aimed at speakers of a different English, but those who speak whatever English incorrectly or ignorantly. Especially when they are educated and should know better. An educated speaker from anywhere in Anglophonia who says nukuylar deserves public embarrassment. I wouldn’t mock someone who lacked the educational opportunity to learn “proper” speech, nor do I presume to “correct” people speaking another dialect. If the Scots say TOR-TOIS like More Toys, or something, then that’s interesting and certainly not wrong. Same way “colour” is NOT a misspelling if you are British. It is if you are American. If an American looks at that word and says TOR-TOIS then a correction is warranted. As much as it is fun and interesting to have difference, it is necessary and helpful to have standards, too.

  • Sally

    venqax summed it up quite well – I don’t expect everyone to have impeccable pronunciation or grammar, but I do expect it of those who ‘should know better’ including television newscasters and teachers. Too many professionals lack a good grip on grammar, pronunciation and overall usage, and that scares me for the generation listening to their example.

  • Charles Kratz

    And what about “lie,” “lay,” “lay,” “laid” ?! This one drives me crazy precisely because people who claim to have a good education misuse these words with abandon. The use of “lie” in the sense to rest upon something has almost totally vanished from the English language. Yes, the rules in this case may be the teeniest bit complicated, but is that any reason for so-called educated people to abandon the correct use of their language? I hear this constantly, not only in face-to-face conversation, but on television from news presenters, people in high positions, even educators. When I hear this misuse, I automatically discount the substance of what the speaker is trying to communicate. Just thinking of this makes me ill. I have to go lay down.

  • venqax

    I hear you, Charles, and that ain’t no lay. A similar one that drives me up the wall is the almost universal misuse of the term “begs the question”, which I think is dealt with elsewhere on this same site (Can’t we just ASK the question?). I honestly cannot recall EVER hearing it used correctly in ordinary speech, by anyone.

    In the US (don’t know about the anywhere else), the pop-originated term “Catch 22″ is also regularly used as if it means any kind of problem. “I can’t open the can, because I don’t have a can opener. That’s the Catch 22.” Makes me want to look for another kind of 22…

  • Charles Kratz

    I am begging all the idiots in the world who are constantly saying, “that begs the question,” when they mean it raises the question to stop it, please. Just stop it. If you don’t know what “begging the question” means, for heaven’s sake, look it up! I’m begging you.

  • Michael

    Charles Kratz: Do you really mean to call people who might not know any better ‘idiots’?

  • Susan H

    This was an interesting article with too many comments to read but I thought that I would add my tuppence worth anyway.

    Pronunciation shouldn’t matter as long as the meaning is clear but certain things grate. I used to wonder who “Laura Norder” was when listening to the news (law and order). Why was the bird on “Playbus” called “Y”? (I think it should have been “Why”)

    A personal bugbear is “an hotel”. I was taught that “an” is only used before a vowel and the aitch in hotel is pronounced.

    I always say ofTen and FebRUary and used to live near a place called Milngavie (pronounced Mill-guy)

  • venqax

    Interesting Susan H. Those “intrusive” Rs are a British thing that they will have to deal with, LOL! Tho we have the same phenomenon with non-rhotic American regionalisms, like in New England. “I have a feah of that arear”.

    The disintegration of the HW sound represented by the WH spelling into a simple W sound is gaining rapid ground and acceptance even from authorities that has infuriated as well as befuddled me. I don’t know where, when, and why so many now accept white/wight, wear/where, whale/wail as homophones, but it’s spreading like an aggressive cancer. Haven’t found any authoritativs discussion of it.

    You are correct about the sounding of an intial H governing the use of A or AN. I chuckle when people say “AN historical” such and susc, thinking they are being erudite.

    I think, however, your correct to sound the S in February, but incorrect to sound the T in often– for reasons given above.

    Place names are always interesting and quirky. I know of the town of Piqua, pronounced pik-WAY; Humble, pronounced Umble (silent H), Palestine pronounced pal-e-STEEN, and to old-timers it is still Cincinnat-A, Ohio.

  • venqax

    Correction: The R in Feburary. But I guess I could say as long as you know what I mean, when I write Febsuary, then it’s correct, right? That is the rule for pronunciation that the anarchists argue for, so why not spelling? Or spellling– you know wut I meen.

  • abby

    venqax,

    Maybe you’re ahead of your time with that Fickle S in Febsuary…..LOL

    Your example of whale/wail reminds me of the time I visited a cavern in Alabama. The tour guide had a heavy southern accent and she was telling us that the Confederates used the cave to hide out in during the Civil War.

    She said “They had their own water source, rightcheer (sic) in this Confederate whale.” Needless to say (yet I say it…), I looked around for a whale. A Southerner had to explain to me that she meant “well.”

  • abby

    This is not on the subject of pronunciation, but when I posted my last comment, I noticed that it posted at 7:41 pm. However, it was only 5:41 pm where I am (on the East Coast)…so where is the server that it would post two hours later? Newfoundland?

  • Peter

    Using “fillet” (an aerodynamic fairing) to denote a boneless cut of meat when in fact the word is “filet.”

    You’re obviously American: it is indeed “fillet” in proper English, as used by the other 93% of the planet :)

    Pronouncing “palette” (an array of colors) as “PAL-utt” the same as pallet and palate when it should be pronounced “puh-LETT.”

    Must be another American thing. Again, “PAL-utt” (or “PAL-it”, rather) is the (sole) correct pronunciation in English. But I suspect you’re simply wrong: dictionary.com (based on US dictionaries) lists only “PAL-it”, too.

    Pronouncing “nuptials” as “NUP-chew-uhls” when it’s really “NUP-chuls.”

    Make that “NUP-shuls”

    Niche- have to disagree pointedly. I adhere to the Anglicization school—see the reference to no less an authority than Fowler in above post. And he was writing in the 20’s, FGS! “French no more”— We aren’t speaking French. Niche, by English standards, rhymes with itch, at least because it’s been in the language for so long.

    What’s that got to do with the price of tea? There are a lot of other English words ending in “iche”…and in not one of ‘em is it pronounced “itch”!

    In Boston, most people never say route (rout) but say route (root). It’s funny when I hear people outside of Massachusetts mispronounce Worcester (Wister) as war-ches-tar.

    I, too, think it’s funny when people say “rout” when they mean “route”; two very different words! (And I’d expect English-speakers to pronounce “Worcester” as “wuster”, not “wister”, but at least “war-ches-tar” makes some sort of sense if you don’t know any better)

    I don’t know of any authority preferring route rhyming shoot or route rhytmes with shout.

    OED.

    The use of “lie” in the sense to rest upon something has almost totally vanished from the English language.

    Only American English; I’ve never heard that from anyone else…though I was quite shocked when watching TV a few weeks ago when an actor said it — I can’t remember what it was I was watching, or who the actor was, but I know he was a New Zealander or Australian (playing an American, but still…surely he knew better!?! I don’t think anyone would do that deliberately just to “sound American”, would they?!)

  • venqax

    Good question abby. 5:41 on the East Coast would only be 7:41 in Brazil or Argentina. In the right-side-up world the only place would be Greenland. I think Newfoundland is Atlantic Time, or on some 1/2 hour quircky thing.

  • venqax

    — Using “fillet” (an aerodynamic fairing) to denote a boneless cut of meat when in fact the word is “filet.”
    …You’re obviously American: it is indeed “fillet” in proper English, as used by the other 93% of the planet

    “Proper”? LOL. Filet is the French spelling of fillet for the cut of meat, a la filet mignon. That alone may be the source of confusion that the single L spelling applies to the meat, or cutting technique, in English too. Similar to wrongly assuming the blue cheese in salad dressing is spelled BLEU in English as well. According to OED on “proper” American English, the meat/cutting sense in American English is only pronounced FIL-AY. No alternative is given. The other meanings, including the mechanical, are given as either FIL-AY or FI-LET. Personally, I prefer FI-LET for all purposes, even as an American, based on my Anglicization principle. I WISH 93% of the planet spoke English of some kind. Make things a lot easier.

    —— Pronouncing “palette” (an array of colors) as “PAL-utt” the same as pallet and palate when it should be pronounced “puh-LETT.”
    …Must be another American thing.

    I’m American, but have to agree the Peter. I’ve never heard pa-LET, except maybe as a mangled attempt at a French chicken. That’s not recognized anywhere so far as I’ve found.

    ——–when it’s really “NUP-chuls.”
    ….Make that “NUP-shuls”

    Agree again. The SH sound wins out over a CH here.

    ———-Niche- have to disagree pointedly. “French no more”— We aren’t speaking French
    ….What’s that got to do with the price of tea? There are a lot of other English words ending in “iche”…and in not one of ‘em is it pronounced “itch”!

    Here I disagree, pointedly again, and simply refer my argument to experts who have better credentials than I do—Fowler, etc., again. And he was writing over 80 years ago. Let the French speak French. Actually, the I being pronounced like an EE irritates me more than the SH vs. CH thing. I’s being pronounced like I’s is one of the characteristics of English as opposed to those continental languages that can’t get their vowels straight! I is E, E is A, LOL! My OED gives both NICH and NEESH, with NICH first, though I don’t think that means preferred.

    ———I don’t know of any authority preferring route rhyming shoot or route rhytmes with shout.
    …OED.

    My OED gives 4 pronunciations, including ROOT and ROWT, with no expressed preference. If the first given—ROOT—is taken as preferred, then we have a “nitch” too (above). Other sources I’ve seen for American English put this in the EE-THER EYE-THER camp without authoritative preference. In America, I do mostly hear ROOT for a road, but someone might easily go up ROOT 44 on their delivery ROWT in the same sentence. And traffic is always re-ROWT-ed, it seems.

    ——–The use of “lie” in the sense to rest upon something has almost totally vanished from the English language.

    Don’t not hear that. In America we lie on the bed all the time.

  • Peter

    “Proper”? LOL.

    As opposed to American, yes :)

    Filet is the French spelling of fillet for the cut of meat,

    I know. We’re talking about English, not French.

    According to OED on “proper” American English, the meat/cutting sense in American English is only pronounced FIL-AY. No alternative is given.

    The fifth edition Shorter OED gives both pronunciations for “filet” with one L, and two definitions: the first is “= fillet, chiefly in phrases below” (the “phrases below” being French: filet de boeuf and filet mignon), and the second is “a kind of net or lace with a square mesh”. Only the “fil-it” pronunciation is given for “fillet” with two Ls. No mention is made of American usage.

    (Oh, and “filet” is considerably more recent in English usage than “fillet”…mid 19th century, versus Middle English)

    I WISH 93% of the planet spoke English of some kind.

    I didn’t mean to imply that 93% of the planet spoke English. I meant that some variant of “British” English is what passes for English over 93% of the planet. (That’s not the same thing: most people in India, for example, don’t actually speak English. But the standard English used in India (“Indian English”) is based on British English. About 93% of the world’s population live in places where this is true, whether or not they actually speak English.)

    Here I disagree, pointedly again, and simply refer my argument to experts who have better credentials than I do—Fowler, etc., again.

    Given there is no other word in English where “iche” is pronounced “itch”, it doesn’t make sense to me to make this a unique case. If someone can find another word, I’ll change my opinion, but for now, I’ll just say Fowler screwed up on this one :)

    My OED gives 4 pronunciations, including ROOT and ROWT, with no expressed preference.

    Mine gives two: “ROOT” as the standard, and “ROWT” marked “US and mil.” (Oxford online gives only “root”, for non-subscribed users).

    What are the other two?

  • Michael

    I feel the need for a little rant:

    I find the incessant squabbling over which standards of English (British of US) is better or proper a little tiresome. The realization by the various combatants that variants other their own actually exist would be a refreshing first step towards a more constructive discussion. (Of course, there are many standards beyond British and US, even if they’re seldom recognized, but these are a the great global ones.) Moreover, as lines on maps are to the real biophysical landscape, English standards are constructs rather than real features of the language as it’s used by people in their daily lives and vocations.

    This isn’t to say that standards don’t matter. On the contrary, they enable speakers of sometimes radically different dialects to talk to one another. Ignorance of standards isn’t a crime; it doesn’t make a person a fool. It simply reveals their ignorance and that can be irritating to those of us for whom it matters. But no standard is inherently better than any other, and both BrE and AmE have their charms. As a British-Australian, I cringe when I hear Brits or Aussies arrogantly (and often ignorantly give how many American words and pronunciations are now part of BrE) slander American English. For my part, I prefer to speak British English, albeit with my Australian twang certainly, but I don’t look down on Americans for their usage. (Differences can be the source of good, healthy poking fun, but that’s another kettle of fish.) Sure, I get grumpy when some Americans reveal their ignorance of the rest of the world, and I would rather not have their speech imposed on me via Microsoft and Hollywood, but the American standard is every bit as legitimate as any other. Similarly, I hope that those who display what can only be described as bigotry towards nonstandard dialects within their own country will give it a second thought next time. There is a fine but important line between celebrating linguistic identity and passionate defence of standards on the one paw, and sheer chauvinism on the other.

    Here endeth the rant.

  • venqax

    Michael:

    I am with you. I try always to distinguish between “different” standard Englishes and sub-standard speech. I don’t think I have ever characterized AmE as superior to BrE or any other. Haven’t meant to if I did. I might say that for an AMERICAN to say MISS-ILE is wrong, but not for a Britisher (I don’t know about Britons. They’ve been gone for nearly 2k years and didn’t even speak English LOL).

    I do say that for ANYONE to say EXSPECIALLY is wrong. Dialect vs. illiteracy. So as far as bigotry toward “nonstandard” dialects, I am not sure if I run afoul of your rant. Regionalism or colloquialisms are fine with me, so long as they are recognized as such. Again, EXSPECIALLY or AKS for ASK do not get that credit from me. Those aren’t nonstandard dialectal matters, they are wrong.

    I DO have an agenda, which I think I have been open about, which is anglicized pronunciation. So I say IMO, we SHOULD say FIL-ET or NICH, or guillotine with a gill, junta not hoonta, ENvelope, and ENvoy, not ON-, etc. I recognize those are not “standardd” in every case. That is not an American chauvinism, but an English-language chauvinism to which I plead guilty. The French won’t stop saying OOEEkend, after all.

  • Michael

    Venquax: I should have said that my rant wasn’t directed at any individual in particular but was instead sparked by numerous instances sprinkled throughout this line of chattery, and indeed far and wide across the Web.

    I’m afraid I may find it hard to side with you on ‘envelope’, though I can only conclude that your ardour and support for the de-Francization of English means you’ll say ‘leftenant’ (lieutenant) from now on. ;-)

  • Michael

    I’m not sure I know how to spell ‘Francicization’ exactly. Perhaps, ‘Frenchification’?

  • venqax

    It’s not just the French, tho they are uniquely annoying. Where I am the biggest offender is Spanish. In Mexico, they play BEISBOL, which is also the way they pronunce it. But for some mysterious reaons, we either keep the alien spelling and change the pronunciation, e.g. colonel, or we keep the alien spelling AND pronunciation, evidently forever. I think LEFtenant it the result of an ancient typo, so I can’t be with you on that. BUT I would say if you are going to SAY leftanant, then spell it leftenant, FGS.

    Likewise if you want to maintain the Spanish pronunciation, then SPELL it halapenyo, or tortea. Don’t write jalapeno, or tortilla and expect me to pronounce it in Spanish. J doesn’t make an H sound in English. LL doesn’t make a Y sound in English. I speak English. Likewise, Onvoy and onvelope if, for who knows what reason, you don’t want to prounounce an E like an E.

    Meanwhile, what’s so special about Fr and Sp? We don’t say Folks-Vogen. Or eat Veeners. Or drink Wotka. I say, Pick a language and stick to it!!

  • Stephanie

    venqax said: “I think LEFtenant it the result of an ancient typo, so I can’t be with you on that.”

    Too funny!

  • Charles Kratz

    Author: StephanieComment:venqax said: “I think LEFtenant it the result of an ancient typo, so I can’t be with you on that.” Too funny!

    Yes. Hilarious. Now, maybe we could move on to another topic. I think that dead horse stopped breathing several days ago.

  • Michael

    Charles Kratz: You’re welcome to move on to other topics. Others are welcome to discuss what they like too.

    One of the virtues of this website has been the generally good nature and polite tone of the participants—something of a rarity for the web (q.v. YouTube!). Indeed, newcomers have commented on it! It would be a shame to bring it down.

    Venqax: Aha! You’re one of those brave, misguided souls committed to ‘rationalizing’ the language. Well, good luck to you I say. Of course, you must first commit to one particular accent and dialect, and then convince everybody else to accept your judgement.

    For my part, I take delight in the sheer messiness and incongruity of the written language; seldom strictly phonetic, but steeped in history. Looking at words like ‘lieutenant’ (sorry CK ;-)) or ‘drought’ or ‘yacht’ or ‘church’ I like to imagine how their pronunciation has changed through space and time. Wouldn’t it be cool to hear ‘Henry IV’ performed in the speech of Elizabethan London? His puns would actually make sense! ‘If reasons were as plentiful as blackberries, i would give no man a reason upon compulsion.’ (Act 2, scene 4)

  • Bradlee TheDawg

    To the idiots (including Mr. Cambridge degree) crying “elitism” – you are all full of crap, pronounced either (ee-thur) KRAP or BULL-TCHS-ITT. You are either pronouncing a word correctly or you are not. Regional differences in dialect aside.. “ask” is never “aks”and “tooth” is never “toof” etc. . Just because something is done on a regular basis does not make it correct. Just because a word is mispronounced regionally 100% of the time does not make it correct. Most of these so-called dialect issues stem from widespread ignorance, nothing else.

  • Doug

    Wow. On first reading of Mr. TheDawg’s post, I thought, “that’s unduly harsh.”

    I mulled it over for about a sandwich and a glass of milk, and now I’m back to say:

    I’m afraid I agree with him 100%. “Ask is never /aks/ and tooth is never /toof/ no matter how many times it is *shudder* uttered…

    …and “me and him” can never be the subject(s) of any sentence.

    As a resident of the great U.S. Southern region for most of my life, I also agree that most of the so-called “dialect issues” are nothing more than euphemisms for widespread ignorance.

    Ignorance of one’s native language is curable, in most cases at no cost. Choosing not to cure that ignorance is beyond ignorant, it is stupid- not to mention self-destructive. As Rex Harrison so eloquently put it in My Fair Lady, “With every word you utter, you condemn yourself to the gutter.”

  • Angela

    I would always pronounced necklace and bracelet wrong when I was younger… Would drive a friend of mine totally batty! LOL! I would always get corrected about it. But I still remember it like it was yesterday and I never make that mistake.

  • venqax

    Michael: I am not really for rationalizaing, in the sense that I like English’s quirkiness, too. I like the fact that the R is February IS pronounced, but the D in Wednesday it not. For no apparent reason (apparent being the key!). I like the fact that some things are “exceptions to the rule” and just have to be learned.

    What I don’t like, is the double standard that English speakers impose upon themselves which, IMO, denigrates English. I think it may be more of an issue in the US than in the UK. In America, anglophones are being constantly assaulted by Spanish loanwords that they are expected to pronounce in Spanish. Complete with rolling r’s in some casese. Meanwhile, the “Spanglish” speakers mangle English with impugnity and if you insist on speaking YOUR language according to its rules, you are considered a racist, or worse. And, as cited above, not all non-English languages are afforded the same concern. German, Polish, Russian, it’s perfectly fine and expected to anglicize those pronunciations.

  • venqax

    Michaal: footnote, what I’m pushing doesn’t really involve dialects diifferent standard Englishes. E.g., I am not saying VIT-A-MIN, vs VYE-tamin needs to be “standardized” between AmE and BrE. Or there needs to be a “ruling” on leftenant vs. lootenant or clurk vs clark.

    But I don’t know of ANY standard dialect of Englishi in which, J makes an H or Y sound, or LL is pronounced like a Y, or W is pronounced like a V, or a word begins with the ZH sound of treasure, etc. Newer sounds right, llanks my chain, and makes my eyes jurt.

  • Peter

    German, Polish, Russian, it’s perfectly fine and expected to anglicize those pronunciations.

    Really? What German, Polish or Russian words have entered English with “anglicized” pronunciation (by which I assume you mean an outright change in consonants, in the Spanish “j”-sounding-like-”h” becoming “j”-as-in-”jay”, not just a shift away from sounds that don’t occur in English, such as “ch”-as-in-loch, or distinction of sounds that are allophones in English (“dark” l, etc)….although we do use the “ch”-as-in-loch in the word “loch”, after all)?

    If you want to “Anglicize” jalapeño (whose pronunciation is already Anglicized, mind you), you should respell it ‘halapenyo’ and keep the pronunciation, IMO.

  • venqax

    Peter: In German, I’d point to wiener and Volkswagen as cited above and wurst, Even Zeitgeist if you want to be picky (it’s not a Z sound in German.)

    With Polish and Russian, I must admit I was thinking more of common names than words, but there are examples. Kielbasa, in Polish, is pronounecd kewbasa or kebasa (ish) with the L pretty much silent. Russian, of course, has to be transliterated, but you can still get things like borscht which is transliterated and so said with that T on the end which isn’ t there in Russian.

    But Polish and other Slavic names get massacred. And they are fine with it. Have you ever known a Jaworski (a very common Polish name) who insists you say Yavorski? Or Wojo– who insists on Voyo (who has not changed the spelling to Voyo?). Do any Stivics want you to say Stivich? Or –icki’s make you say — ski? In all those cases you have it– J is Y, W is V, CKI where the C makes an S sound, C that makes a CH (no diacritics in English).

    Now apply the same standard to a Jaramillo, Lujan, Jose or Juan. I agree that the spelling should be changed to halapenyo if you want to preserve the pronunciation. That’s what they try with BEISBOL. Either is fine with me– say tortila or spell it tortea. When I’m in the conversation WE are speaking English. New words get some leeway, but come on, ballet? Debut? Llame (tho most Americans do say Lama, with an L)? How long before the word needs a green card? LOL

  • xamaica2004

    I haven’t read all the posts, but my personal “twitcher” is “haych” when it’s “aitch” dammit! And that’s not a case of elitism (I just made it through college). I can’t watch the telly in the evenings now without cringing at the now widespread use of “haych”. It’s plainly a case of mispronunciation or laziness. My child uses “aitch” when she’s with me, but the other one when she’s with her friends, so she does know which one is correct. Unfortunately, I can’t correct everyone out there like I can my family, because I’d probably get a black eye!

  • gil

    As probably everyone knows, Spanish is a phonetic language. We pronounce every letter on a word. For that reason it would be unthinkable for me to omit the first “R” of February or library when the counterpart in Spanish is “febrero y libreria (febrero is not capitalized and libreria has a different connotation in Spanish) It simply comes natural and very difficult to omit in an ordinary conversation. For a long time I wondered why I was not hearing the “R”. Now I know.

  • Charles Kratz

    Yes, Gil, you are perfectly right. In Spanish, “febrero” and “libreria” are both pronounced with both “r”s precisely because they are easy to say and come naturally. In English, the construction of “February” makes pronunciation of the word difficult. That is why “Feb-u-ary” is a common and acceptable pronunciation. As for “library,” anyone who omits the first “r” is a moron.

  • venqax

    xamaica: I don’t know what context you are hearing “haitch” in; it’s not something I hear in the US. I think it is an Irish English characteristic, and is maybe eve considered “standard” in Hiberno- English a/o Ullans. If you are in the UK, maybe it’s a faddish thing.??

    As an observation, I have heard it from Newfoundlanders. Don’t know if that is dialtectical there, or if it is related to the Irish thing?? Interesting.

  • venqax

    Charles: Agree that anyone who leaves the first R out of library is at least a mo-on in their speaking skills, but disagree that one who does the same with February is not. It might be in the Common Box with nucyular materials, but it is not acceptable.

    English, for many reasons, isn’t as “phonetic” as Spanish is. Some letters R silent and some R not. February’s R’s not. I think it is just a matter of education and careful (non-lazy) speech. Difficult? I don’t buy that or think it matters. Enunciating ASKS and TESTS instead of just leaving off the final S– which is common– is even more difficult but no less necessary for a careful speaker.

  • Charles Kratz

    And I, venqax, have to disagree with you on the relative difficulty in pronouncing certain words. “Asks” and “tests” are childsplay in pronunciation. No one who did not sleep through sixth grade English would or could mispronounce them. “February” is a tongue twister and that is why the dictionary lists “Feb-u-ary” as one of the pronunciations. I don’t know where you live, but in America, anyone who said “Feb-roo-ary” would be greeted by raised eyebrows.

  • Michael

    ‘Haitch’ for ‘aitch’ is quite common in Australia and Ireland, including amongst well-educated speakers. Doubtless, Australians inherited it from Irish forebears, but many young Englishmen and women also use it. Indeed, its usage appears to be on the rise in the UK. Despite this, ‘haitch’ is considered a hyper-correction and nonstandard. That may well change with time, as mispronunciations have a way ending up in standard speech.

    Personally, it bugs the hell out of me too.

  • Maeve

    Haitch for h:
    When no less a celebrity than Bono repeatedly says “Haitch I V Positive” in a national television campaign, the writing is on the wall as far as young people are concerned.

    Personally, I think that even celebrities should consider using a standard form of English when making non-entertainment statements. Today’s post at http://www.AmericanEnglishDoctor.com is on this very topic.

  • Susan H

    @Maeve:- Bono is Irish so he would have been taught “haitch” as a youngster.

  • venqax

    Susan H: As I suspected, it’s the Irish again :)

    Charles: I am an American who lives in America. Remember, dictionaries are DEscriptive, not prescriptive. Some are listing aks and even nukyular now. Are those tongue twisters too? So must we bew beer, and sweep with a boom, as well? I listen very carefully to speech (enough that I love this site!) and I can tell you FebRuary is more common than you think, and those of us who DO say it are very aware of those who don’t. We are too polite to say anything to the “Booies”, as we call them, of course, but about 1/3 of us are glancing knowingling, if descreetly, at each other every time an R dropper drops his R.

    I’m ather supised, you usually insistent on coect ponunciation, enunciation and geneal hallmaks of eudition.

  • Charles Kratz

    venqax: my hearing must be worse than I realized. I can truthfully say that in all my years I have never heard anyone — whether in person, on TV, educated, uneducated — say “feb-roo-ary” in the United States. Maybe I should see an otolaryngologist. Oh, but I already do. Sorry, but the old “you can find ‘ain’t’ in the dictionary, too” argument doesn’t hold any water here. One of the five dictionaries I consulted was the 1961 edition of Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary from, you know, back when real English was still taught and spoken. Who knows what kind of ideas are being crammed into the heads of innocent tykes now? The fact remains that “feb-roo-ary” does NOT roll blissfully off the tongue. Any attempt to get the masses to pronounce the second month in that manner is doomed to failure. I suggest it is better to work at eliminating my pet peeve: the failure of most people — whether they feature themselves as educated or not — to distinguish between and use properly the words “lie” and “lay.”

  • Maeve

    Susan H,
    Like all of us, Bono learned to speak the way he heard the people around him speak in his home and in his neighborhood. He was probably taught the standard pronunciation of the letter H at school. Certainly he would have heard it modeled by his English teachers.

    Bono is an extremely intelligent, articulate man. Since he decided to pronounce the H as “haitch” in those carefully-produced HIV ads, I can only believe that it was a deliberate professional choice.

  • Michael

    Maeve,

    I suppose there is another possibility: Bono might well have decided that ‘aitch’ is an affectation, and one of which his family and old friends might have disapproved. If I’m right, he was simply being true to his roots and to himself.

    This is, perhaps, what you meant by ‘professional’.

    By the way, I thought you and others might find this recent BBC article interesting http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12619718 . (The audio file is worth listening to as well.)

  • Michael

    Venqax,

    Doubtless you will be appalled to hear that ‘February’ is often pronounced ‘FEB-ree’ in Australia. There are, in fact, two standard pronunciations in British English: ‘FEB-roo-air-ree’ and ‘FEB-yoo-ree’.

    And I’m not sure I agree that dictionaries are solely descriptive rather than prescriptive. The Oxford Dictionaries, at least, don’t seem to wholly one or the other, and I would guess the same of others. I’m genuinely interested to know how true this is.

    Is there a lexicographer in the house?

  • babs turow

    Say your pray-ers instead of prars. My friend’s mother says groin-eh-col-a-gist instead of gy-neh-col-o-gist which I actually think is quite clever and appropriate!

  • venqax

    Michael:

    Feb-ree actually wouldn’t bestick in my craw. That is the kind of elision that is common in English, and British English specializes in it. Not extr’ord’n’ree! And given that an Aussie Febree is in the summer, special consideration is in order. Losing a couple layers off the word might be necess’ree to avoid overheating.

    Here is what MW has to say about it:

    “We do not list either the \ ÷feb(y)wer \ pronunciation of February or the \÷ nü-kyl(r) \ pronunciation of nuclear as “acceptable”; we merely list them as commonly used pronunciations. Both of those pronunciations are clearly preceded by the obelus mark \ ÷ \ (which looks like a division sign). This mark indicates “a pronunciation variant that occurs in educated speech but that is considered by some to be questionable or unacceptable.”

    I guess I’m amongst those some who consider it worthy of the obelus, and DO think the comparison to a barbarism like nukyular is warranted. I’m never moved by, ” but everyone says it like that” arguments. And when possible, I try to go deeper than dictionaries when it comes to issues orthoepic. Orthoepical?

  • Anita Wagner

    I really cringe when someone says, “I seen….” instead of “I saw” or “I have/had seen.” It automatically makes the person seem like a “hick from the sticks.” I, too, am a person who is bothered by common mispronunciations and misuses of words. They stick out to me like a sore thumb, whether they’re in print or said out loud. And I went to public school!!!

  • Anita Wagner

    Oh, and I’ve always said, “Feb-ROO-ary” and “Lib-RA-ry” simply because they don’t sound right to my ear any other way.

  • Doug

    “Remember, dictionaries are DEscriptive, not prescriptive.”

    While I won’t disagree that the above statement is, unfortunately, true in some cases, I think that it is a travesty and an abdication of dictionaries’ liguistic duty, mission and responsibility. People generally don’t consult dictionaries to learn how to speak poorly- they can hear that all around them every day.

    Dictionaries, in my opinion, SHOULD BE largely PREscriptive, detailing correct forms and pronunciations. New words should be included reasonably quickly as they arise (“sexting” etc.), but horrible gaffes and egregious errors such as “nukyular,” “toof” and “aks” should be included *only* under “frequently mispronounced as…” footnotes.

    What’s next, dictionaries listing “irregardless” as acceptable just because so many uneducated (and/or uncaring) dolts say it?

    I honestly just don’t “get” the point of view that dictionaries should be wholly descriptive, no matter how repugnant the error, and make no attempt to provide knowledge-seekers with correct forms and usage. A descriptive-not-prescriptive dictionary seems like such a pointless waste of manpower and paper.

  • abby

    “Dictionaries, in my opinion, SHOULD BE largely PREscriptive”

    Doug, I couldn’t agree with you more!

    A new pet peeve of mine (because someone at work mispronounces it almost every day) is “pee-ipheral” for “peripheral.”

  • xamaica2004

    Maeve – regarding being taught standard pronunciation in schools.

    I can tell you that certainly in English state schools (including my child’s) many teachers say “haitch”. What chance do the kids have when those who are supposed to know better, don’t. This is the kind of thing I had to explain to my daughter when she told me “Well, that’s what my teacher says!”

    I can’t escape “haitch” these days – now that HD TV is being plugged continually. It’s a wonder that I haven’t developed a permanent tic from grimacing when “haitch” is said on all the major TV channels.

    Also, unfortunately, for me, I work on a nuclear project with several Americans. I’ve surprised myself by not smashing my head against the desk everytime I hear “newkuler” – and I hear it quite often.

    If you google “Mitchell and Webb Grammar Nazi”, you’ll find a comedy sketch, which really tickled me when I saw it, but it will speak loudly to anyone who has a regard for correct pronunciation!

  • venqax

    Anita: Good for you! Keep R-ticulating. We may eventually have to form one of those square formations to with all our rifles out to stand against the onslaught of the R-less forces of Chaos, but it’s the good fight!

    You know, things like “seen” for saw, and “come” for came, really don’t bother me because 1) they are grammatical rather than pronunciation mistakes, and 2) in my experience people who would say that are uneducated or unsophisticated people who really don’t know differenty, and I don’t hold that against them. It’s when a Yale grad, or an nuclear engineer says “nukyular” or a Harvard grad says, “corpse” for “corps” that I get all rawled up.

    Is nukyular mainly an American thing? You sure hear it a lot here, but I wouldn’t know about otherwheres.

  • Charles Kratz

    venqax: it’s a circular formation and it is round. Does your love of the letter “R” translate to similar affection for the letter “T”? Think of all the troglodytes who pronounce “often” as of-fen (you know, the correct way) as opposed to “OF-ten” (the incorrect way). Man the barricades! Every letter must be demonstrably pronounced. Next we go after those who eschew pronouncing separately each letter in “thorough.”

  • venqax

    Wouldn’t any circular formation be round? I lam not referring to the notorious firing squad, but the famous infantry square. :)

    No, Charles, that violates my whole point: Some letters are silent, some aren’t. Knowing the difference is the measure of good speech vs. other. The T in often is silent. The R in February is not. No rational reason, that’s just how it is. As we all know, English is like that. Why would you think off-Ten is incorrect if you accept Febyuary? Off-Ten is as common. By your standard, if everyone says it, doesn’t that make it acceptable? Likewise nukyular. The equation of the two is MWebster’s, not mine.

    The idea that pronouncing the R in February is somehow difficult, or a “tongue twister” is strange. Why do you find that more difficult than any other broo syllable? I think (not that this is original) the the mispronunciation is probably due to the invalid comparison with January. The difference, of course, is that January does not have an R before the -uary. February does. The same misconceived equations give us fly and flied from try and tried, bring and brang from ring and rang. And probably dive and dove from drive and drove.

    The T in mortgage is silent. The C in indictment is silent. The Ns in government and environment are pronounced– tho they are a bigger PITA than February, IMO. The D in Wednesday is silent in American English, etc. Just memorization, I guess. I have no special fondness for Rs, but I can’t think of a silent one off hand (not meaning the rhotic/non-rhotic thing). I’m sure there are such animals. BarbituRates is another example of one that gets wrongly dropped a lot.

  • Michael

    At the risk of further infuriating somebody, ‘off-ten’ is quite an acceptable pronunciation of ‘often’ in British English.

  • Michael

    Charles & venqax,

    At the risk of further infuriating one or the both of you, in British English ‘off-ten’ is quite an acceptable pronunciation of ‘often’ and ‘Wednesday’ can be pronounced with the d voiced gently (i.e., at the back of the mouth).

    The t in ‘mortgage’ is, however, never voiced :-)

  • Michael

    Sorry for the double up there.

  • Charles Kratz

    Michael, I’m not offended nor am I infuriated. I am also not referring to British English. I am talking about American English. The colonies split from the mother country over two centuries ago. What you do there is your own business. Here it is a) incorrect and b) ignorant to pronounce the “t” in often — which, of course, does NOT mean that one does not hear it that way and hear it frequently. We have rubes in this country, too. Saying “Wed – nes – day” in public here would undoubtedly elicit laughter. I’m sorry. I don’t know how one would pronounce all the letters individually in “laughter.”

    And venqax, I’m sorry if my point was not clear to you. The military maneuver to which you referred is called a Circular Formation and that means, ipso facto, that it is round and not square, as you suggest.

  • Michael

    Charles,

    Relax mate. Really. Take it easy.

    Nobody, least of all me, is trying to assert their version of English over yours. I think if you read my earlier posts in this chain you’ll see that to do so would be counter to my modus operandi. I know you were talking about American English. Most participants here are American. My post was simply to say that there are other ways of saying the same word; that what in your country is illegitimate is sometimes legitimate elsewhere, and—by implication—vice versa. This is an international forum, after all. We sometimes entertain non-Anglophone guests too. It may be useful for them and perhaps even interesting to you to know of other ways of speaking within the language. I’m fascinated by the way you and other Americans speak, so I assume that you are likewise curious. It’s just all part of the bigger conversation. One, I hope, that we can conduct without name-calling or put-downs. Good humoured jibes and passion are fine, but you might like to check your tone, it’s sounding a little snide—a little like the cyber equivalent of road rage. If you can’t, then I suggest you consider cooling off for a bit outside of this discussion.

  • Charles Kratz

    Michael:

    Funny you are the only one to take umbrage at my innocent remarks. What did I actually say to push your buttons? Maybe you should relax, take a breather, have a cup of coffee. You do post a lot here. It could be getting away from you. Cheers.

  • Doug

    Abby wrote:
    “A new pet peeve of mine (because someone at work mispronounces it almost every day) is “pee-ipheral” for “peripheral.””

    Actually, the mangling of “peripheral” that I hear the most often is “periphial.” When I know the person well enough to correct it in good humor (e.g. without getting a black eye) I simply say “it’s puh-riff-err-ul, comes from the word periphery, therefore it couldn’t logically be pronounced puh-riff-ee-ul.”

    Apropos of completely illogical mispronunciations, I have a friend (ex-boss, BS from College of West Georgia) who pronounced “disgruntled employee” as “disgrundle emplowee.” I always tried to hide my sudden urge to retch with a smile and nod. Now, having retired several years ago, I don’t have to do that any more.

    Speaking of which, would anyone care to comment on “any more” (23 words) having now, apparently, become “anymore” (1 word)? It just looks SOOOOooooooo WRONG (!!!) to me as a single word, and yet I can’t even remember the last time I saw it in print as 2 words.

    *wanders off, wringing hands and gnashing teeth over the unbearable angst of it all*

  • Doug

    Drat. Trying to correct “23 words” above to “2 words,” and am reminded (again, so I guess it would be “rereminded”) that edits are not allowed here on a forum that is all about correct speaking and writing…

    How ironic is THAT?

  • Doug

    xamaica2004 wrote:

    “regarding being taught standard pronunciation in schools.

    I can tell you that certainly in English state schools (including my child’s) many teachers say “haitch”.”

    Madame “X” (if I may so presume), you are spot-on. My 7th Grade English Teacher (in California) pronounced “wash” as “warsh,” to the great amusement of us students, who had yet to discover regional accents because we had yet to experience any region other than the San Francisco peninsula. We just knew that she obviously wasn’t from “around here.”

    Naturally, never having heard that particular aberration before but keenly aware of how WRONG it was, I asked her innocently one day (I was feeling particularly froggy, I guess) if she would please spell “warsh” so that we could be sure to get it right if it showed up later on a test- was it w-o-r-s-h like it sounded?

    My 13-year-old butt spent that afternoon in the Principal’s office, where I tried the innocent act (which failed utterly,) but then did manage to avoid suspension or detention by repeatedly pointing out to the Principal that, no matter how “smart-assed” my question might have seemed on the surface, it was an indisputable fact that the word “wash” is utterly devoid of the slightest hint of any “r” and that possibly Miss Kersell (the teacher) needed remedial coaching on “California English.”

    Yes, dear readers, I think I have been an English Major (as well as a smarta**) since birth.

  • venqax

    Uh, oh Michael. As a colorful local politician here would say, “You’ve opened up a box of Pandoras you don’t want to get into.”

    off-Ten ??!!!

    Actually, that one has been discussed a lot above over the months. I believe that RP explicitly calls for silence on the T. In Gen Am, the silent T is preferred among “cultivated” speakers, according to research by Elster. Not, of course, that you don’t hear the T more ofTen than not, and run the risk of getting “miscorrected” if you leave it out. Elster actually quotes someone (Hoyt?) on the subject saying that the T is pronounced by 2 groups of people: 1) the overly precise and affected upper classes (paraphrasing) and 2) “semi-literates who like to prove they can spell”. :-) Not very kind, but I always thought funny and on the mark.

    The D in Wednesday is always silent in every Am English variation I know of. I know it is pronounced in some British regional dialects (the Beatles said it!). I don’t think RP accepts it, but I’m not sure.

    You know, I still can’t find a silent R. Maybe that is the “authority” of FebRuary. “R is never silent in English”.

  • venqax

    Charles: Maybe I am the one not being clear. I was referencing the Infantry Square, which, so far as I know, is generally known by that name and was made particularly famous by the Brits at the Battle of Ulundi, and in previous versions by the Romans at Carrhae, and in the Napoleonic wars where “breaking the square” became a goal of cavalry tactics and an idiom for assaulting a strong defense.

    We have to be careful, I think, when we talk about “phonetic” spelling. Sometimes letters are silent, sometimes combinations of letters represent phonemes. In the example of “laughter”, one could properly say that every letter is “pronounced”– the GH digraph makes an F sound in that word, as it does in many following OU and AU vowel combinations (but NEVER at the beginning of a word, so GHOTI doesn’t go at all). Neither letter is technically “silent”. Even more directly, one would say that February IS spelled phonetically. And none of the letters represents a sound that is at all unusual.

  • Charles Kratz

    venqax: I was an officer in another army.

  • Michael

    Charles,

    I didn’t so much take umbrage as wonder why you feel the need to set what appears to be such an angry, belittling tone to your otherwise intelligent posts. Most recently, my mere mention of ‘British English’ seemed to elicit something of a tirade, which struck me as strange and uncalled for. (I’m an Australian, not a Briton, by the way.) Please don’t misconstrue me, I’m not trying to pick a fight and I’m certainly not writing in anger. I simply call it as I see it. The rest is up to you.

    And yes, I do post a lot here and shall continue to do so.

  • Michael

    venqax (capitalized or no?),

    I may have picked up the itty-bitty d sound in ‘wednesday’ from my Mum, a Lancashire lass. You can hear it by looking it up on howjsay.com

    I can’t recall how she pronounced ‘often’, but she was certainly no speaker of received pronunciation. Indeed, very few people are—or ever have been! RP is something of an artificial construct, intended to define a small elite.

    Moving on. Tell me—I’m just curious—how do you pronounce the word ‘buoy’?

  • Michael

    Doug,

    I have an American relative who says ‘Warshington’! It threw me when I first heard it. Must be one of the few cases of an intrusive r in American English, right? But how the hell did it come about? Seems to pop out of nowhere.

  • SLH

    Forgive me guys but you seem to be getting your knickers in a twist over trivia although I accept that hearing a mispronunciation can raise the blood pressure.

    I would, however, like to alert you to a situation where a patient was prescribed a tenfold overdose of the wrong drug after the nurse had phoned the GP practice and the receptionist had pronounced ETODOLAC so that it sounded like ADALAT. The dose for etodolac is 600mg while Adalat is 60mg. Fortunately the error was discovered before the patient was given anything. It was a very scarey near miss

  • Charles Kratz

    Michael,

    We must live in different universes. I don’t have the foggiest what you are talking about. Thank you.

  • Michael

    On that we’re agreed Charles.

  • Charles Kratz

    Michael, you are evidently one of those persons who simply must, at all costs, have the last word. Let me oblige you. Please, be my guest.

  • gil

    I hope this ends it all. For me, the “P” as in swimming is always silent.

  • venqax

    SLH: That is frightening. Sometimes miscommunications can be more than just annoying. It is also an interesting example, because it would seem to demonstrate one of the “correctable” problems with mispronunciation that has nothing to do with dialect or regionalism or silent letters, but rather is a product of the universal problem of poor a/o lazy reading.

    An enormous amount of word mangling is the product of people encountering an unfamiliar word, or a name, which may in fact be pronounced very “phonetically” without any tricks or exoticisms, and yet instead of “sounding it out” as a well-trained 3rd grader might, they just panic, give up and blurt out something. And the something they come up with usually presents the question of not, “Can you speak? ” but , “Can’t you read?”.

    I admit, this is probably a prickly issue for me. My wife has an unusual name, but one that is pronounced as spelled, and it is mangled all the time. Yes, I know names can be difficult, many are not English and many are spelled in archaic or chaotic ways compared to how they are said. But still…

    Using your example, and making a bunch of assumptions: How do you look at the word ETODOLAC, in print, and conclude ADALAT is how you say it? First off, you have 4 syllables, not 3. So, now we can’t count– even to 4– either? Then we have an E, probably pronounced EE as it is a drug name, not an A. Followed by a T, not a D. — then just ignore the syllable with the D that IS really there, then we have K sound again, which we pronounce T. So our theory is that the letter T is pronounced D and the the letter C is prounced as a T. The 3rd syllable of a 4 syllable word is, of course, silent.

  • venqax

    Michael: That is a good question, as I almost never use or encounter the the word. My inclinationn would be to pronounce it BOY-EE, not homophonous with boy, and not BOO-EE. My only reason for that would be that the word buoyancy has always bee BOI-YAN-SEE in my experience, with a noticeable separation between the OI sound followed by th the consonantal Y sound. (i.e., not BOI-AN-SEE)

  • abby

    SLH and venqax ,

    If one can pronounce Cholmondeley as Chumley, or Worcestershire as Wooster, then certainly one can pronounce ETODOLAC as ADALAT. In life and death situations (as meds/hospitals are), it needs to be in writing (not that it will be decipherable).

    My biggest question here, SLH, is how would it have been an overdose? You said that the “The dose for etodolac is 600mg while Adalat is 60mg.” It appears to me that this is a tenfold underdose…not that this type of error is any more excusable…

    And besides that…what is the RECEPTIONIST doing giving out medical information to a nurse??? The most she should have done was fax the Rx over!

  • abby

    re “bouy”

    Not that I was individually asked, but I was raised pronouncing this word “boy” when it was in the compound word “lifebouy.” I don’t recall my mother ever using “buoy” alone. (“Lifebouy” was the name of our bath soap, as well as a flotation device to save a life.)

    Personally, when I am reading “bouy,” I mentally pronounce it “boy,” but when I speak it (we have had three boats) I say “boo-ey” so that the hearer will understand what I mean, since I have found that most Americans (as I am) use the 2-syllable pronunciation. And although it may not matter in casual conversation, when you’re on a boat, and you’re discussing buoys, it CAN be a life and death situation (or at least accident vs. non-accident).

  • venqax

    How do you pronounce “vegan”? Personally, I have never HEARD it said anything but VEE-gun. BUT, MW lists that as well as VEJ-un. An online dictionary lists both with the note that VEJ-un is “primarily British”. Meanwhile, Cambridge doesn’t list VEJ-un at all; only VEE-gun, And I have an American collegiate Webster’s from the 1990s that ONLY lists VEJ-un. VEE-gun is not even listed as an alternative. So what gives?

    I would guess that VEJ-un is derived from the pronunciation of vegetarian. The problem, however, it the pretty strong rule in English that a G before an A is hard, as in game, not soft as in gin. I can’t think of an exception to that rule, so it would seem that the change in spelling between vegE tarian and veg An would dictate the adjustment of the G as well Thoughts?

    Again, I state up front that I have never actually heard anyone say “vejan”. Is it a Britishism, or dialectical? Seeing it in the dictionary at all took me by surprise.

  • ailaG

    venqax: As a vegetarian I prefer “vee-gun” over anything that sounds like “vegetables”. The names “vegetarian” and “vegan” sound like vegetables when they really shouldn’t – they make us sound like we only nibble on lettuce.
    (Pizza is not a vegetable!)

    And yeah, I never heard anyone pronounce a J there. I’m not a native speaker but I lived in the US & UK for short periods of time.

  • Doug

    venqax wrote:
    “My wife has an unusual name, but one that is pronounced as spelled, and it is mangled all the time.”

    A pet peeve of mine involves a feminine name, Sheila. This is especially intriguing for me because it also is a generic term for “female” in some dialects/slangs in Australia.

    Increasingly, I see this name dyslexically represented as “Shelia.” I even turned around and pulled into a store parking lot once, went inside and asked them how they pronounced the name (“Shelia’s Place”) that was so proudly displayed on their signage.

    The lady behind the counter said, rather haughtily, “It’s SHEE-lah, my name, I’m the owner. I don’t know why some people have such trouble with it, it’s a common name…” I told her that the name as written on her sign would be pronounced SHELL-lee-ah or SHEE-lee-ah, and that the “common name” is actually spelled S-H-E-I-L-A, so that was probably why “some people had trouble with it,” but she just glared at me for my trouble. Some people just “know what they know,” I guess, despite clear, ample evidence that they’re dead wrong.

  • Doug

    “How do you pronounce “vegan”? ”

    OMG this opens up a whole new can of worms: inventing new, redundant, spurious words for which we already have perfectly good words.

    Read my lips: a “Vegan” is an alien life form who comes from the Vega star system. Any reader of Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Sir Isaac Asimov (etc. etc.) knows this.

    A person who eschews meat and/or animal-derived foods is a vegetarian, not a “vegan.” Unless, of course, he, she or it is a vegetarian from Vega, i.e. a Vegan vegetarian. :-P

    And it’s pronounced “VAY-gun” because the system they’re from is Vega, pronounced VAY-guh.

  • sally

    Sorry, Doug, a vegan (VEE’gun is how they pronounce it) in the context of someone who eats only plant products is not the same as a vegetarian.

    Vegetarians choose to eat only plant-based foods, although some do eat eggs and milk/milk products. Most vegetarians go about making their food choices quietly, without trying to convince others to ‘go their way’.

    Vegans refuse to eat, wear or otherwise use ANYTHING that comes from an animal. No leather, no drugs that result from animal research, etc. Many vegans are strong and sometimes militant animal rights activists (not to be confused with animal welfare, which means good animal husbandry).

    Look at almost anyone who is vegan, and within him or her you will probably find someone who is completely against food animal production, service animals, biomedical research – in short, anything that has to do with ‘using’ animals of any kind. Heck, most of them won’t even eat honey.

  • venqax

    abby: “If one can pronounce Cholmondeley as Chumley, or Worcestershire as Wooster, then certainly one can pronounce ETODOLAC as ADALAT.”

    No, that “if then” doesn’t work. First, Cholmondeley and Worcestershire are proper names– rules with proper names are always outside of normal restrictions. Look at Sheila in the next example: Never mind the pronunciation, we all know it’s I before E except after C. It should be spelled SHIELA. But it’s just plain not. KEITH goes and misbehaves the same way.

    And, regardess of tha, both your examples are instances of elisision– skipping over sounds and syllables– like in INT’REST vs. IN-TER-EST Altho they are among those uniquley British extreme examples of the phenomenon. With drug name example you are completely changing basic sounds– D to T, T to C, etc. That’s not elision that’s e-literacy.

    It’s the difference between pronouncing Cadillac CAD’LAC or even CA’LAC and prouncing Cadillac TAKLAT.

  • venqax

    aliaG: Well, since a vegan doesn’t eat ANY animal products, as opposed to a vegetarian who just eshews meat, the veggie-like comparision is probably pretty close for the forme. Certainly no vegan would eat pizza if it had cheese on it. A vegetarian might.

    Doug: I think they are the SAME. At least I can’t imagine any human adopting such drab dietary habits. Alien origins explains a LOT.

    What are veganese? Is that the little dogs from there?

  • Sara

    It drives me crazy when people say “expecially” instead of “especially.”
    Unfortunately, it has become an epidemic all around me, but maybe I’m hyper-sensitive.
    It’s horrible though; like fingernails on a chalkboard…

  • Charles Kratz

    venqax: are you saying that at least one proper way to pronounce “Cadillac” is cad-lac or did I miss something? Again, speaking strictly from the American English point of view (NOT to denigrate any other national variation of English, for those of you who might be sensitive to the subject; I’m just speaking about what applies to me), I have never heard Cadillac pronounced other than as it is written. If I have, it is not a matter of variation or dialect. It would be just ignorance or stupidity, the same, Sara, as saying “expecially” for “especially” — another subject altogether. In other words, there are differences in opinion on pronunciation, a reasonable divergence open for honest discussion — and misuse of grammar, spelling or punctuation, which is just wrong and not deserving of any more comment than “that is not correct English.”

  • venqax

    venqax: are you saying that at least one proper way to pronounce “Cadillac” is cad-lac?

    No. I’m not. I was using it as an example to illustrate the DIFFERENCE IN KIND of pronouning Worcestershire Wooster, vs. pronoucing Etodolac as Adalat. The former is an example of elision. Which is common, and which the pronunciation cad’lac WOULD BE. The latter is just complete mispronunciation, replacing consonants seemingly at random.

    Cad’lac or Ca’lac are not acceptable pronunciations of Cadillac. But Taklat is not an acceptable way to pronounce Cadillac of a whole higher order.

  • Michael

    venqax & abby,

    Re ‘Bouy’. Thanks! I didn’t realize American standard included an optional pronunciation. And I take your point abby—the American ‘boo-eee’ pronunciation has much to commend it in safety-critical situations where boys are about! Though I’m not an experienced sailor, I’m afraid ‘boo-ee’ might simply attract funny looks in Australia; negating any safety value.

  • Stacey

    Segue – pronounced segway

  • abby

    Michael, so “bouy” is “boy” in in the land of Oz?

  • churchsec

    I don’t think the article was written to be mean, as one writer suggested. In todays global business world, regional dialects don’t cut it when talking with some one accross the world. I have taught English in Japan and they aren’t interested in learing regional dialects or “slang” as they call it. They want to learn proper English so THEY don’t sound stupid when doing business with others. So it’s not a matter of elitism, education, or the lack there of or regional dialects, it’s all about being able to communicate and being understood. I always made my children pronounce the words properly (at appropriate ages of course) before giving them what they asked for. I explained to them that if they couldn’t communicate clearly, how was I to know what they were asking for? They are all adults and well spoken and the ones with children do the same with their children.
    BTW, aks vice ask DRIVES ME CRAZY!!!

  • wordsmithy

    Not to be mean, churchsec (really), but you TAUGHT English to people who “want to learn proper English” and you type “there of” when those two words should be one – “thereof”? Hopefully it’s just a typo…

    But what’s with the “aks VICE ask”? That should be “aks vs. ask.” Forgive me, but I just have to ask where you learned this English that you teach?

  • venqax

    Uh oh. Now wordsmithy used “hopefully” in the way you aren’t allowed to. And I ended that sentence on a preposition. This is maddening– I think the lack of an edit function here is the design of some cruel experimental psychologist. I do, BTW, love words like thereof. I actively push for the use of heretofore, theretofore, thentofore (?), henceforth, thenceforth, all of which are useful single-word replacements for longer, less economical phrases that are often grammatically mangled to boot.

    BTW, we need the word “hopeably”. When a common error is caused by a lack of a proper alternatives, a new road has to be built.

  • abby

    What about wherewithal, nonetheless and notwithstanding? I love those words, too.

  • fenigal

    wordsmithy: and where might be the schoolmasterly response from Michael?

  • wordsmithy

    venqax,

    Well (or shouldn’t I begin a sentence with “well”?), I suppose we each have our own area(s) of ignorance…

    You caught me completely off guard; I don’t recall the whole “‘hopefully’ as an adverb not being able to modify a sentence” issue in school. I must have missed that day (or week) in class.

    Grammar Girl vindicates me, although you might also take issue with her: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/hopefully.aspx

    You may have to get used to hearing it…

    There is an online dictionary, The Cambridge Dictionaries (“for Learners of English” which advises new English speakers:

    “hopefully
    adverb
    -used, often at the start of a sentence, to express what you would like to happen
    Hopefully it won’t rain.
    Hopefully we’ll be in Norwich by early evening.
    -in a hopeful way
    “Do you have a cigarette?” he asked hopefully.”

    No comments from the kiwi gallery, Michael?

  • Laraine Viss

    I disagree with your number 50. I’ve never heard the “h” left out of the word “vehicle.”

  • Michael

    Kiwi?! Other side of the Tasman old mate. ;-)

    ‘Hopefully’ as an adverb is still resisted by some but I suspect they’re fighting a losing battle. As the Oxford Dictionary points out, we happily say ‘Sadly, he won’t be joining us.’

  • Peter

    venqax: The idea that pronouncing the R in February is somehow difficult, or a “tongue twister” is strange. Why do you find that more difficult than any other broo syllable?

    I don’t think it’s the “broo” part that’s difficult, it’s the transition from there to the following vowel. The ‘r’ makes the ‘oo’ more fronted and more closed than normal, and the follow vowel is mid-open; replacing the ‘r’ with a ‘y’ glide brings the ‘oo’ closer to the ‘a’ (and vice versa, letting the vowel move toward schwa), making it ‘easier’ to pronounce.

    You know, I still can’t find a silent R. Maybe that is the “authority” of FebRuary. “R is never silent in English”.

    It’s silent all the time in English. “car” (/ka:/)

  • charles kratz

    “Broo”? What broo. A witch’s “broo”? No. What is difficult to say — and which no one speaking American English, with the exception of venqax, would ever say is “feb roo ary.” It is simply not done in the common, yet correct, American vernacular (as opposed to the even more common — distressfully so — but incorrect American vernacular). That’s no tirade. It’s simply a fact.

  • wordsmithy

    Michael, ouch…

    However, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiwi says

    “Biology
    Evolution

    It was long presumed that the kiwi was closely related to the other New Zealand ratites, the moa. However, recent DNA studies indicate that the Ostrich is more closely related to the moa and the kiwi is more closely related to the Emu and the cassowaries. This theory suggests that the ancestors of the kiwi arrived in New Zealand from elsewhere in Australasia well after the moa. According to British scientists, the kiwi may be an ancient import from Australia. Researchers at Oxford University have found DNA evidence connected to Australia’s Emu and the Ostrich of Africa. Upon examining DNA from the moa, they believe that the kiwi is more closely related to its Australian cousins.[6]”

    :)

  • Michael

    Wordsmithy,

    Well, I mean, obviously when you put it like that…

  • Michael

    abby,

    Yep. Oh boy is ‘buoy’ ‘boy’. A ‘booey’ sounds like it short for something like, I don’t know, ‘booze-bus’ (a popular form of mass transport involving ferrying drunken people about the joint to keep them from behind the driver’s wheel). Aussies tend to shorten words and add the suffix ‘-y’ or ‘-ie’, as in ‘brekky’ (breakfast), ‘bikky’ (biscuit or cookie), etc. Sometimes, to confuse things, we throw in a ‘-a’, ‘-s’ or ‘-o’ at the end of a truncated word. Saying the whole word just takes too much time.

  • Peter

    ‘bikky’ (biscuit or cookie)

    Biscuit. (Do you know the difference? When it gets stale, a biscuit goes soft; a cookie goes hard, like a cake. “Cookie” comes from Dutch “koekje”, diminutive for “cake”. Americans, of course, have to reverse everything and call a biscuit a cookie and a cookie a biscuit…)

  • Michael

    New American Oxford has this to say on the pronunciation of ‘February’:

    ‘To pronounce February in the way traditionally regarded as correct is not easy. It requires the explicit pronunciation of both the r following the Feb- and the r in -ary, with an unstressed vowel in between. In popular pronunciation, the rə following Feb- has been replaced by a yoo sound: Feb-yoo- rather than Feb-roo-. This change is due to two processes: dissimilation, in which one sound identical with or similar to an adjacent sound is replaced by a different sound, and analogy, in which a member of a series, in this case January, affects the sound of another member ( February) of the series. Feb-yoo- is now the norm, esp. in spontaneous speech, and is fast becoming a standard pronunciation.’

    The Oxford Dictionary of English says something similar, except that the roo sound is preferred, whereas in the US version it’s the other way around.

    I’m not fussed either way. There are plenty of words the spelling of which bears little relation to the pronunciation, though sometimes it’s nice to try. Perhaps our forebears spoke more slowly. Or perhaps they were simply having a laugh at our expense.

    ‘We’ll stick another r in there—that’ll screw ‘em!’

  • charles kratz

    Michael: Thank you. Thank you very much, indeed, and that is NOT sarcasm.

  • cam

    Laraine Viss: I never heard the “h” pronounced in “vehicle” until I moved to Georgia, USA (except on the old sitcom “Beverly Hillbillies”). I’m from California…

    Stacey: “Segue – pronounced segway”
    Segue is an Italian word, not an English one. Same reason we pronounce divorcee as dih vor say rather than dih vor see. How do you want to pronounce it?

  • Michael

    Peter,

    I did know that, more or less, though I like your soft/hard test. (I even knew about ‘koekje’ courtesy of my Dutch girlfriend.) I was endeavouring to make sure the Americans assembled here knew what I was talking about. But yes, I was a little taken aback when I was last in the States and was served a ‘biscuit’ which looked to me for all the world like a scone. Still, different strokes and all that.

  • Michael

    Charles,

    You’re welcome.

  • charles kratz

    Michael: and we think the British are “quaint” for calling a cookie a biscuit (sort of fits the concept of 500-year-old homes in the Cotswolds; and a scone is a scone here. Drawing comparisons can be interesting, but it is not necessarily instructive or beneficial to “take sides.” It is just that a common language evloves differently in many different locales, which certainly describes the English language to a T (or to a tee, take your choice).

  • venqax

    Michael: I would still have to refer to the MW entry about the R-less February being analogous it nukyular– which fits all of the excuses offered for Febyuary. And it doesn’t say that the R-less in American is preferred, only that it is becoming the norm. So is “irregardless”. The very point I am making is the distinction between careful and “better” speech” and the “norm” whatever if might be. So the excuse of “commonness” is simply irrelevant. I do agree that Febyuary is very common– I hear the R in that more often than I don’t hear the T in that word. So what ‘s the difference there? Again, it is acceptance or rejection by the relatively authoritative scholarship (which is all we have in English). The acceptance of the where/were merging is far more threatening, I think, as it involves the extinction of a phoneme. But it could plead the same thing: that HW sound is just too hard to say.

    Peter: I did say I was excluding the “rhotic/non-rhotic” distinction when saying I could find no silent R in English. Yes, British RP is non-rhotic. Genearl American is very rhotic, as are many British dialects. The R-less February is not an issue of “rhoticity”.

  • laraine

    Hi! I just read the interaction from venqax. I never heard of rhotic or non-rhotic. I’d like to learn more. Can someone tell me how I can learn more about this?

    Also, I am wondering whether there are any groups that get together to discuss this cool stuff.

    Laraine

  • Peter

    The acceptance of the where/were merging is far more threatening, I think, as it involves the extinction of a phoneme. But it could plead the same thing: that HW sound is just too hard to say.

    Oh, I wondered what you were talking about until the end there, not being aware of anybody anywhere ever merging “where” and “were”…you meant “where” and “wear”. (HW sound isn’t hard to say…it’s just not said, in modern English…that’s not “threatening”, it’s a done deal. Retention of “hw” in some dialects is not standard English)

  • Michael

    venqax,

    Like I said, I’m fairly relaxed either way. The Oxford Dictionaries list irregardless as informal, whereas the two pronunciations of February are listed as standard.

    Look, I know how you feel. There are some nonstandard pronunciations—and a few standard ones—that really bug me too, but as much as I sympathize, I think you’re losing this one. That’s according to the Oxford Corpus, at least. No shame in that. Fowler lost umpteen fights.

  • Michael

    Hi Laraine,

    A good introduction to the subject rhotic and non-rhotic accents can be found on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhotic_and_non-rhotic_accents

  • Laraine

    I am more concerned about grammar and usage. For example, I cringe when I hear educated people say things such as the following: (1) “There’s some apples on the table,” and (2) “Whoever lost a wallet can pick up their wallet at the office” (using the plural “their” when one should use the singular form of “he” or “his.” Are the grammarians going to officially change that because everyone is saying that now?

  • Michael

    Charles,

    Now it’s my turn to be confused. I haven’t been to the Cotswolds since I was nine. For the record: I have been to stay with friends and family in the United States, travelled through some wonderful parts of your great country, dated Americans girls, hung out with many Americans, talk frequently with my American father, read American books, and—like every other Australian kid—have been drenched in American media since the year dot, so am reasonably familiar with many American accents and much of your usage. (The biscuit thing caught me off-guard, I will admit, and I also realize there’s more to the USA than CNN and The Simpsons.) If I haven’t made it abundantly clear before now, then let it be known that I have not the slightest problem with any of it. Indeed, I find it all interesting and much of it delightful. It’s not my preferred English, but I’ll cheerfully defend your right to use it. If you feel that the Limeys are quaint, well, that’s your prerogative. My remark was more along the lines of a wry ‘how about that, eh?’ I apologize if that wasn’t clear. Thanks.

  • charles kratz

    Michael and others: I am dumbfounded (or you might say “gobsmacked”) at the lacksadaisical attitude of British English speakers and those of national dialects most closely associated with British English (in other words, everybody but Americans and Canadians) with respect to some “words.” “Irregardless” a word?! Astounding. Use of that word here in America immediately marks the speaker as poorly educated and/or not too bright. Not that many, many people don’t use it, but those people are poorly educated or none too bright. I like to think of the Oxford English Dictionary as the beacon of light in a language rather quickly going dark. Now, you tell me this about irregardless. Well, IRregardless of what that venerable institution has to say, I’m sticking to my guns on this. After you pass through customs and enter the USA, the first time one utters irregardless … well, you might as well start saying “ain’t” and things like “Me and him ain’t got nuttin to give you and she.” You are then practically in ebonics territory.

  • charles kratz

    Michael, going back to the Cotswolds for just a second, I think you interpret some things meant to be facetious as overly sarcastic. Please don’t. I’m too old now to change my playful style of writing. I might break something if I try.

  • venqax

    wordsmithy & Michael: I think you are relying way too much on dictionaries. You need to at least go so far as style authorities if you are going to investigate definitions and proper usage. Hopefully? I don’t know about Australia, but that is an old bugaboo here and no STYLE book (like Strunk & White, and NBC which , for good or ill are the bibles of American English) declines the chance to bash “hopefully” in THAT adverbial sense. ( you can say, “I hopefully awaited rescue, that is fine)

    But again, the fact that “people say it” and then dictionaries report that people say it is, I think, irrelevant as well as tautological. I would still ask, On what grounds do you defend Febyuary and Hopefully (as used), and condemn irregarless, off-ten and nukyular? Common use vindicates the former and the latter, and if the dictionary/popular voice recorder recognizes both as common or even “becoming the norm” then you have to go beyond a dictionary if you really want to make a case. Dictionaries alone just don’t cut it for anything but definitions and “frequencies”. Pronunciation, useage and etymology all have more authoritative scources out there.

    Peter: Yes, sorry, I did mean where/wear. I don’t know about the UK but HW is cerainly not gone in American. In fact, it is one of the markers for the NE dialects that they don’t pronounce HWs. Most Americans do (when speaking CAREFULLY and not in quick informal speech– e.g. most people SAY prob’ly in regular speech a lot. Most everyone KNOWS it is prob-AB-lly, and DO say that if they are speaking slowly, carefully, or self-conciously.)

    Disappearnce of the HW is especially “bad” because it impedes communication by making distinct words homophones. A whale is not a wail. Anything that does that is bad for the language. OTOH, things that fill an unmet need are good. I, e.g.. think hopefully SHOULD be acceptable in all adverbial forms, because the word hopeably doesn’t exist. Likewise, the singular their. I would say, “Everyone who likes this should raise their hand” should be perfectly acceptable because there is no gender-neutural singular and just saying “his” for all is frowned on by the PC police.

  • venqax

    Biscuit? My experience as an American has always been that a biscuit is a type of soft, flaky baked roll– somewhat similar to a dumpling– that is served in conjunction with meals, like a dinner roll. OR a hard thing given to dogs, specifically called a doggie biscuit. I thought, maybe wrongly, that the British used biscuit for a hard, cracker-like thing. What we would maybe call melba toast (if we had a word for it at all.) I didn’t know what they called biscuits were cookies. New to me. So an oreo is a biscuit? You have chocolate chip biscuits?

    I do know the Brits have pudding completely mislabeled as just about anything from fruitcake to flavorless gravy. IOW, a catch-all term for anything you really don’t want to eat LOL.

  • Peter

    Yes, an Oreo is a biscuit, and there are choc-chip biscuits, etc. (Interestingly, Oreos are made by Nabisco, which is a contraction of “NAtional BIScuit COmpany”; wonder why they didn’t call it Nacooco!? And a dog biscuit is a biscuit, in the normal, non-US, sense, of course; why isn’t it a “dog cookie” in the US?)

    I don’t think anyone would call Melba toast a biscuit…

  • venqax

    Nabisco does make biscuits. Famous biscuits that come in refridgerated cylinders that you whack on the counter to break open. I think they did that long before they moved into the cookie market. Now, of course, Nabisco makes every kind of food and quasi-food product you can think of. I mean, of which you can think. But I think biscuits were their initial product. Dinner biscuits. For things like Biscuits and Gravy– a classic dish. LOL. But I don’t think most people put gravy on a cookie….

  • Peter

    I don’t know “biscuits and gravy” is … I thought an American “biscuit” was a cake- or muffin-like thing. You eat them with gravy? Mah…a quick google shows some pictures from which I can only guess that Americans have a different definition of “gravy”, too (the stuff in the pictures is some white lumpy goo).

  • venqax

    Biscuits aren’t sweet. So you wouldn’t eat them in the context of a cake or muffin. They are “bread” of a sort, similar to dumplings– tho I don’t know if you have dumplings there either, so that may not help at all. I didn’t realize you don’t HAVE biscuits, just figured you called them something else– like you call fries chips and chips crisps. Anyone out there who spends time on both sides of the AO who might enlighten us?

    The gravy in B&G is indeed lumpy and goopy– often with bits of sausage in it. It is a favorite among many over here, tho I must say I’ve never been a fan. Gravy is simply meat drippings– in this case “white” gravy, so chicken– and flour. Not unlike what I think you call pudding? I saw Yorkshire pudding at one time, I think it was, and remember thinking, “that’s gravy– very bland, gravy. The kids are not going to be happy.” LOL.

  • Peter

    I’ve never seen white gravy; chicken gravy is pale, but not white like in those photos. Apparently it’s actually Béchamel sauce made with meat drippings instead of butter…pretty sure that wouldn’t be called “gravy” in Br.E.

  • hz

    @venqax: “I saw Yorkshire pudding at one time, I think it was, and remember thinking, “that’s gravy– very bland, gravy. The kids are not going to be happy.”

    Yorkshire pudding isn’t gravy… it’s made with water and flour and is also similiar to a dumpling… our family has it with roast dinners and brown gravy… it’s literally a savoury pudding.

    Neither Australians (which I am) nor in UK to we have American style biscuits… closest thing to it for us is a savoury scone.

  • venqax

    Thanks, hz.

    I don’t know why some gravy is white. I assume some people do put cream or something or other in it. I was thinking: I know KFC– Kentucky Fried Chicken– is a fast-food chain that is popular in a lot places outside the US. Here, they give you biscuits with everything, along with the other “sides” you actually order. Maybe they use something else in other countries? Biscuits are always associated with fried chicken in the US, kind of like fries are with hamburgers.

  • hz

    KFC in Aus seems to replace the biscuit with a dinner roll, it has sesame seeds and is slightly sweeter than most bread in Aus… the only gravy at KFC for us is brown… maybe they thought Australians wouldn’t take to the biscuits and gravy?

  • charles kratz

    hz: the gravy at KFC is indeed brown. I can’t tell if it is the gravy or the mashed potatoes they use. One of them has a funny and unpleasant smell. The biscuits are regular American biscuits and are quite good, as are the biscuits at Red Lobster.

  • venqax

    Ya know, now that you mention it, the KFC gravy here is brown too. Hmmm….wonder why. I do that the real Col Sanders caused a ruckus years ago when he publically stated that he thought KFC’s gravy tasted like wall-paper paste.

  • hz

    The potatoes at KFC in Aus are reconstituted from powder…. and you can really tell :/

  • charles kratz

    hz: the potatoes in the US KFCs are equally bad, I’m sure. But the chicken, as bad as it is for you, and the biscuits are delicious.

  • hz

    Yes, the chicken is pretty good (bad for you) but good…

  • Doug

    Wordsmithy said “(…) you type “there of” when those two words should be one – “thereof”?”

    I have noticed a strange situation in which the same words are combined into one word when used as a noun or adjective-noun and two words when used as a verb:

    “To take off in an airplane, one must perform a takeoff.”
    “You must log in using your assigned login name.”

    I cringe when I see “Prepare to takeoff” and/or “Please login now,” yet I can find no specific rule on this anywhere.

    Is all of this a Fig Newton* of my fevered imagination, or have I simply failed to find the rule that says that compound nouns may be concatenated but their verb forms must remain forever apart…

    *In the spirit of the infamous biscuit/cookie conundrum :=P

  • Doug

    venqax said “I would say, “Everyone who likes this should raise their hand” should be perfectly acceptable because there is no gender-neutural singular and just saying “his” for all is frowned on by the PC police.”

    This really pushes my buttons, and not in a good way. I truly believe that, if any human is still alive 500 years from now, historians will agree that “political correctness” (the well-meaning but wholly misguided notion that it is “bad” to offend anyone regardless of provocation, and that males and females are identical in every respect, and that in fact every human being is as good as every other human being and therefore no words or actions based on any differences whatsoever betwen people can be tolerated) that began in the late 20th century marked the beginning of the end of so-called “Western Civilization.”

    If you need a word that denotes either males or females, use “his,” which is clearly understood to mean “his or her” in the same way that “mankind” is clearly understood to include women and hermaphrodites, not “their” which absolutely *must* be followed by a plural noun. Just because a lot of black people live in Africa does not justify American Blacks, almost none of whom have ever been to any African country and probably couldn’t even name one, calling themselves “African Americans.” Angelina Jolie is not an actor- lacking a penis, she’s an actress (sort of, but that’s beside the point.) Youth Sports trophies absolutely must be reserved for the winners; handing them out indiscriminately for “participation” renders them meaningless and sends a very destructive message to the kids, who learn that just showing up is all that’s required for “success.”

    …and on and on and on… yadda yadda yadda ….

    “Political Correctness” is the last refuge of a society too weak to call a spade a spade and deal intelligently with the reality that some people NEED to be offended, and frequently while others just need to get over themselves.

    Everyone who agrees please hold up HIS hand….

  • charles kratz

    Doug: Hear, hear. I’m holding up my hand and waving it. With you all the way.

  • hz

    Doug, I think you’re contradicting yourself… His applies to his or her but need to start saying actor and actress, no more actor applying to both?

    But his applies to both… just not actor… right.

    Also not holding up my hand as politically incorrect or not you sound like a pretty intolerant individual all round.

  • lisapaloma

    Just to play devil’s advocate (I think it’s pretty silly, too), for those who are gnashing their teeth and wringing their hands about “irregardless”, does “inflammable” mean the opposite of “flammable”? I seem to remember something about a normally negating prefix being used as an intensifier….
    And with respect to “their” being used as a singular, IMO that’s just evolution in the moment, and appropriately so. “Ms.” got a lot of hackles up forty years ago, but it’s pretty standard usage now. You German-speakers, isn’t there something very similar in German between “their” and “her” or “they” and “she”?
    Regarding (or irregarding) oddball pronunciations like “supposably” I’ve had ESL students write “Firstable.” I’ll give you a moment to try to figure out what they were trying to say, and just throw in a comment about “sposta” as in “You’re sposta be concientious about grammar and spelling when you’re commenting on pronunciation.” The previously mentioned error was an effort to write “First of all.”
    Now, let’s all smile, take some deep breaths, and relax. (Who was it that used to say “unlax”?

  • Peter

    *Hand*

    Just because a lot of black people live in Africa does not justify American Blacks, almost none of whom have ever been to any African country and probably couldn’t even name one, calling themselves “African Americans.”

    Haha. Yes. I saw an interview once with a moderately well-known Irish actress(!) who talked about when she was filming in New York for the first time; she met someone who asked about her accent, she said she was Irish, and he said “You’re Irish? So am I!” “Where are you from?” she asks. “Queens.” (That’s Queens, New York, not County Laois, Ireland…)
    She thought it was hilarious that people who have never even been to Ireland, let alone come from there, called themselves “Irish”.

    Doug, I think you’re contradicting yourself… His applies to his or her but need to start saying actor and actress, no more actor applying to both?

    There’s no contradiction. You use “his” (and “actor”) when referring to a male, or when referring to a generic person; you use “her” (and “actress”) when referring to a female. So “actor” includes females when used in a generic sense, but not when used of Angelina Jolie (who is certainly female).

    you sound like a pretty intolerant individual all round.

    And if there’s one thing we can’t tolerate, it’s intolerance! :)

    (I don’t know where you see ‘intolerance’ in Doug’s post, though)

  • hz

    Probably in the part that states black people “probably couldn’t even name one [country in Africa].” Maybe intolerance isn’t the right word, perhaps maybe just rude and presumptuous.

  • Doug

    Peter wrote: “She thought it was hilarious that people who have never even been to Ireland, let alone come from there, called themselves “Irish”.”

    My point, exactly. I have a friend who was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and emigrated to the Atlanta (U.S.) area as a boy with his family. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen during college. He happens to be caucasian.

    He takes great delight in checking “African American” on all forms where that choice is offered. He says that reactions vary all across the board, but the funniest ones are when the form-taker/checker is black, for indeed, they believe that the meaning of the words “African American” is “black person.” He told me that most of them are indignant and offended by his checking of that box, to which he responds by protesting that he is, in fact, a genuine African American while they are, in fact, not.

    hz wrote: “Probably in the part that states black people “probably couldn’t even name one [country in Africa].” (purportedly quoting me)

    I believe I said (scroll up) “almost none of whom (…) could name one [country in Africa].” So not all, just MOST is what I said. If you’re going to vilify and condemn another person (rather than debate his stated opinions based on the overwhelming logic of your own) at least be intellectually honest about it and do not impoly that I said “black people” (implying _all_).

    Like most other opinions voiced here and elsewhere, mine is anectdotal, based on my 3 years of living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and subsequent discussions with American Blacks on this very issue *because* I am white and have lived in Africa. I am sad to report that out of approximately 35 black white-collar co-workers (in the U.S.) almost all of them thought that Africa was the _country_ that their ancestors were from- they had no idea that it was a continent containing dozens of countries, and when I pointed that out, only one of them could name an African country- South Africa. I asked if anyone had been to Egypt and they corrected me triumphantly: everyone knew that Egypt was an area in Syria! Mind you, these were all college graduates. I find it difficult to intuit that most American blacks without college degrees would do any better.

    Of course, white kids these days would do no better, but they don’t pretend to be “African” Americans.

    My whole point, hz, was not the geographical ignorance of (most) American Blacks, per se; it was the ludicrosity (new word! new word!) of them calling themselves, euphemistically, “African Americans.” Surely even you got that point?

    Rudely and presumptiously yours…

  • Doug

    **presumptuously**

    I would pay for an edit function on this board…

  • Doug

    venqax wrote :(…) every time I hear someone—at a university, no less—say comp-troller, rhyming with stomp-roller, it makes me want to pumpch them in the mpose.”

    How does everyone feel about pronouncing “processes” as PRAH-sess-EEZ” instead of “PRAH-sess-uz”?

    I hear it all the time in a corporate setting, and it seems to be spreading- probably because the first time I heard it was from the President of the company. To me, it marks the utterer as highly pretentious, making an attempt to sound edumacated when, in fact, his hoity-toity overly-contrived pronunciation proves that, lamentably, that ship sailed without him.

    In other words, “PRAH-sess-EEZ” comes across to me as a laughable affectation, and I frequently have to consciously stop myself from laughing out loud during the presentation or converstation.

    I feel the same way when I hear “orientate” instead of “orient,” but I have learned here that my loathing for that particular overly-contrived word is a uniquely U.S. phenomenon, the Brits & Aussies being perfectly at ease with “orientate.”

    Is “PRAH-sess-EEZ” acceptable Down Under and Over There?

  • Doug

    “What about the question words like when, what, where, and why?

    I remember I had an English teacher in elementary school who always used to pronounced an the H sound before the words.”

    Has this been discussed? I can’t find it here other than the above quote from 2 years ago.

    I had someone from West Virginia “correct” me (in an MMORPG) the other day, giggling over my pronunciation of “why” as /HWIGH/ instead of as “wye.” Dumbfounded, I replied that of course, almost all words beginning with “wh” except “who,” “whom” and “whose” were pronounounced as though they began with “HW” and she said “well, I guess Mr. College Degree hasn’t heard about silent letters, haha…”

    I followed up with her later, and asked her if she believed that “where” and “wear” are pronounced the same. “Of course they are, silly! I’ve never heard ‘where’ pronoounced the way you do until now,” she replied brightly.

    I have seen a comment here that this malignant convergence is now becoming “the norm” (NOOOOOOOOOOO!) but no real discussion of how it got that way. How could anyone in their right mind WANT to phonetically converge word pairs with different meanings and spellings so that they are indistinguishable from each other, thereby fulfilling the Idiocracy prophecy?

    Is this a trend? Will English soon devolve to only 10-12 discrete words?

    “FOOD!”
    “NO!”
    “YES!
    “NO FOOD NO SEX!”
    “UGH!”
    “INDEED!”

    How can English teachers have allowed crap like this to happen?

  • charles kratz

    hz: “no more actor applying to both?” What do you mean? It never did apply to both. It’s called the English language. Just because the ultra-Left Hollywood crowd doesn’t like it is not enough to reconstitute our language to accommodate them.

  • sally

    I’m a science writer and refuse to use the phrase ‘his or her’. Sounds too much elementary-schoolish to me (as in ‘Everyone should take his or her books with them to the cafeteria’…ughh). If people can’t figure out that ‘his’ refers to both sexes, I can’t help them. I just wrote an article that will probably be read by both sexes and I doubt anyone will notice (or care) that I used ‘his’ exclusively.

    Re ‘how can English teachers have allowed crap like this to happen’:
    I’m a firm believer in what children learn in terms of spoken language happens primarily in the first few years of life; influenced mostly by parents. I’ve heard too many otherwise well-educated people use poor grammar and pronunciation, so I’m left with assuming that the way in which these adults speak is the result of what they heard at home. No matter what course of study any of us were in during HS, we all had the same basic grammar exercises.

    Unfortunately, it’s a self-perpetuating problem. An entire generation of English teachers who are coming out of college and teaching our kids today learned to speak from their parents (or caregivers). If those parents spoke well, we’ll be ok. If not…..

    I still think of my grandfather who had an 8th grade education and became head of a publishing house (law books). If he were alive today, I know he could speak or write circles around most college graduates. Same with my grandmother, whose HS botany notes I have. The details and accuracy are stunning, and probably comparable to what might be found in a graduate level biology course today. Maybe.

  • charles kratz

    hz: “Maybe just rude and presumptuous.” You mean like your posts?

  • venqax

    HOLD IT!! You will find no one who more readily agrees that he/him/his should be the standard observed for referring to all of *mankind*. I was simply referring to the hyposthetical example new needs require adaptations– so IF (IF!!) you will not accept the masculine as the general (which, e.g. some publications and institutions– ironically of higher education will not) THEN you should accept their as a singular– not cloddishness like “him or her” ad nauseam or writing *s/he*. I am in no way endorsing such PC preposterousness (preposterity?).

    And I agree about African-American- silly AND inaccurate to boot. There is absolutely nothing denigrating or intended as degrading in referring to a person as Black. Actor/actress, etc. with you all the way there as well. There are plenty of challenges in using English properly. No need to add to them with fatuous political agendas. “Native American” is equally annoying to me. What is wrong with American Indian? Nothing. And the Indians here are no more “native” than anyone else is at this point.

  • venqax

    Doug: From your keyboard to the language god’s ear. I don’t know what the XX is going on with the disappearing HW. Right here on this very site, the header for “Weather, Wether, Whether” has this shocker:

    *Wether is a prime example of a word that will slip past the spell check. It is easily confused with two of its homonyms, whether and weather.*

    2 of its HOMONYMS? What in the name of all that is wholely holy– WHether is NOT a homonym of weather or wether!!!

    And we have Peter from the UK, above, telling us:

    (HW sound isn’t hard to say…it’s just not said, in modern English…that’s not “threatening”, it’s a done deal. Retention of “hw” in some dialects is not standard English)

    Since when? Since NEVER so far as I know. Some dialects? No idea where/wear that idea comes from. American dictionaries, tho, I’ve been unpleasently jolted to find often or usually list both the W and HW pronunciations for such words, without comment of any kind. In the US I think it is a characteristic of some regionsal dialects to make the where/wear merging. But it is by no means standard, or “not retained” in General American. I have no idea when it started becoming acceptable, let alone “preferred”, to drop the HW, and I am even more mystified by the complete dearth of any discussion of this on any usage or pronunciatin blogs. ???

  • tina

    Acrost, instead of across, my husband says that all the time and it drives me nuts! Instead of saying that he’s “going across the street” he’ll say that he’s “going acrost the street.” AAAAAhhhh!!!!

  • Laraine

    I have two billion examples of people saying words completely incorrectly. My mother does not care how she says things. She pronounces things in her own unique way. I chalk it up to pure laziness in her speech. Here’s one terrible example: she says “oxygen” like oksh-a-gen (with a hard “g”).

    But I don’t think that unique pronunciations are what this web site is about. So why did I descend into that example? To get it off my chest, I guess, because I can’t keep correcting her.

    But thanks to whoever posted “groinecologist” for “gynecologist.” That made me laugh every time I thought about it!
    Laraine

  • charles kratz

    lisapalma: “Just to play devil’s advocate (I think it’s pretty silly, too), for those who are gnashing their teeth and wringing their hands about ‘irregardless’.” Fine. Go ahead and say “irregardless” — if you don’t mind sounding like an uneducated idiot. I’m not gnashing MY teeth or wringing MY hands. It is the person who uses “language” such as this who invites ridicule. It’s sad when people who don’t know better murder the English language out of their ignorance. It is, however, far worse when someone is not ignorant of the rules of grammar, but chooses to ignore them.

    As far as your reference to German is concerned: yes, you are correct, but what does that have to do with English? Please don’t go into linguistic history to discuss common roots. This is not 1357.

  • venqax

    lisapal: People who are learning a English as a second language to their other, native, tongue have my respect and sympathy, and the mistakes they make with it are quite understandable. My concern is with those for whom English is apparently a second language yet have NO first one. There is no excuse for their poor speech, unless they are entirely uneducated and partly deaf.

    The prefix *in* has more meanings than simply *not* or a synonym of *non*. Something that is inflammable is something that can (is able) be to be *inflamed*– a word that is still very commonly used. The prefix *in* is a related to the word *in* and is a variant of *en*– to enter into. So “entangle” doesn’t mean untanlge and enrage doesn’t mean to unrage– quite the opposite. The word “flammable” was basically coined– or at least pressed into general use– according to the Lowest Common Denominator principle which recognizes the ubiquity of ignorance and slow-wittedness and, for some reason, demands saving the lives of those who are SO illiterate they may actually catch fire.

  • charles kratz

    It appears lisapaloma’s post, while sent out by email, didn’t make it to the web page for some reason or other. So some who don’t receive the email posts will know what venqax and I are talking about, here’s lisapaloma’s post again:

    “Author: lisapaloma

    “Comment:Just to play devil’s advocate (I think it’s pretty silly, too), for those who are gnashing their teeth and wringing their hands about “irregardless”, does “inflammable” mean the opposite of “flammable”? I seem to remember something about a normally negating prefix being used as an intensifier…. And with respect to “their” being used as a singular, IMO that’s just evolution in the moment, and appropriately so. “Ms.” got a lot of hackles up forty years ago, but it’s pretty standard usage now. You German-speakers, isn’t there something very similar in German between “their” and “her” or “they” and “she”?Regarding (or irregarding) oddball pronunciations like “supposably” I’ve had ESL students write “Firstable.” I’ll give you a moment to try to figure out what they were trying to say, and just throw in a comment about “sposta” as in “You’re sposta be concientious about grammar and spelling when you’re commenting on pronunciation.” The previously mentioned error was an effort to write “First of all.” Now, let’s all smile, take some deep breaths, and relax. (Who was it that used to say “unlax”?”

  • venqax

    What are the attitudes regarding the L’s in the likes of calm, palm and almond? My investigation indicates that they– like the L’s in the middle of ALK, OLK and ALF/V combinations– are properly silent, but affect the sounding of the preceding vowel. I.e. something like AH. So *palm* is best said PAHM (rhymes with bomb, tom). Pronouning the L is a *spelling pronunciation* akin to saying the T in ofTen.

    Likewise folk and yolk are properly foke and yoke. I’ve never heard anyone pronounce the L in yolk, but do notice people who are careful to put the L in folk. I BAWK at such TAWK and say all FOKES should not L-ocute suchly.

  • charles kratz

    venqax: well, now we have just traded sides. I certainly pronounce the “l” in “palm” and everyone else I hear does as well. I live in California where there are plenty of palm trees. Maybe you live in the frozen North with nary a palm tree to be encountered. You know, it could be like “Nevada,” which Easterners insist on calling “Ne-VAH-da” and drives the Nevadans up the wall. In fact, you could be taking your life in your hands if, when visiting your money in Las Vegas, you let a “Ne-VAH-da” slip out. But, then Easterners get a lot of pronunciation just plain wrong: “har-reh-bul” for “horrible,” “Cuber” and “Asier” for “Cuba” and “Asia.” Oh, I could go on for a long time.

  • venqax

    Well Charles, I think most of the Easterners you hear must be New Englanders, or at least Jerseyites. I’m from the East Coast—farther down, and those “Kennedy” accents have always driven me crazy. Some historical linguists say the “Baston arear” accent can be traced to a dialect in the west of England whence many of the original colonists came. Interesting if true.

    Truth be told, I always pronounced the L’s in the palm/calm/balm words, too. Then I ran across some dictionaries that listed the L-less pronunciations as preferable or even EXCLUSIVELY, as if the L was downright wrong, not even reco’nized. So I investigated and the explanation I hit on from Elster- -based on a variety of sources—pretty much convinced me that I should go L-less. The evidence wasn’t from the perspective of “popular polling” or even dialect-regions, but the comparison to the other L combinations—e.g. LK, after a’s and o’s and between A’s and F’s – which apparently developed in the same manner. That is, not being pronounced but modifying the vowel before them. Then, as more people started reading at all, more read badly, and the clumsier forms of spelling pronunciations were born. In short, I was convinced I *shouldn’t* pronounce the L. Being a proudly prescriptive pronouncer myself, open to *scholarly* rulings regarding such things, the evidence persuaded me to consciously change to L-lessness. I’m sure there are many scholars who disagree, tho.

  • Peter

    Since when? Since NEVER so far as I know. Some dialects? No idea where/wear that idea comes from. American dictionaries, tho, I’ve been unpleasently jolted to find often or usually list both the W and HW pronunciations for such words, without comment of any kind.

    AFAIK it’s standard in all “British” Englishes (British, Australian, New Zealand, Indian, Malaysian, etc., etc.), and I thought it was standard in American English (certainly never hear “hw” in the accents used as “standard American” on TV, etc.) My Shorter OED only lists the “w” pronunciation.

    (I always though “hw” was a Scottish thing (just assumed … the only person I ever knew that spoke like that was a Scottish woman), but I came across something recently that said it’s less common in Scotland than in England)

    So *palm* is best said PAHM (rhymes with bomb, tom).

    Erm…yes, of course “palm” is pronounced “pahm” (how else?), but that sounds nothing like “bomb” to me (on the other hand, it sounds exactly like “parm”, which you’d probably argue with). The vowel in “bomb” and “tom” is a different one altogether. (IPA: /pɑ:m/ vs. /bɒm/)

    (How about “poor”, “pour”, “paw”?)

    You know, it could be like “Nevada,” which Easterners insist on calling “Ne-VAH-da” and drives the Nevadans up the wall.

    Enlighten us…how do Nevadans pronounce it?

  • wahn

    My students are Luo in northern Uganda. They do not have ‘x’ sound. So they say ‘re lak’ instead of ‘re laks’ but then ‘seks’ instead of checks. What best method can I use to tame their tongues?

  • abby

    wahn: this first one is easy; your own example has them combining “ks” for “x” (seks for checks)…any time an “x” is required, it can be replaced with “ks.” Thus relax would be relaks…same sound.

    As for words with “ch,” this next example might not work for your student, but Greeks of my acquaintance use “ts” to approximate the “ch” sound. The Greek language also doesn’t have a “ch” phoneme (as in church). Their word for “tea” is chai, but they spell it “tsai.” (I believe the Greeks borrowed the word from India…not only because it has a phoneme that isn’t indigenous to Greek, but also because chai is what Indians call their tea.

    “Ts” doesn’t come out sounding exactly like ch, but the sound it produces is closer than “s” alone.

    Anyone out there with a better option??

  • venqax

    I am so disappointed in the Empire. I had no idea that the UK, of all places, had descended into such slovenliness (that is pronounced sl-Uvenly, like shovel). An entire, almost uniquely English, sound ignored, neglected, and unrecognized due to phonological languor. Of course, my countrymen are not guiltless in this crime, either—many a map can be found of exactly where the “whine-wine” merger (they have even assigned a name to this demon!) is present and where the stalwarts redoubt. Of course New England it the worst offender, as one would expect. What’s next? The thin/tin merger? Chew/shoe/sue merger? How about the homonyms heat and eat? That initial H sound in there is awfully demanding, after all. The French can’t manage it, and we don’t want H-sounds that distinguiss Egliss from Frens making us sound un-Romantic. Can’t we just get by with 3 or 4 consonants and a couple vowels, like og, ug, ot, uk and um? Maybe og and ok are too close to distinguish; it’s happened before. Thank god for the Scots, I guess, they may actually save the language! LOL

    Peter: Pronouncing the L. That was unclear? The direction in the source I referred to specifically rhymed bomb with balm. That seemed a bit off to me, as balm, even without the L would seem better more like BAWM. Of course bomb and tom rhyme—what would the vowel difference between the two be?

    The Nevadans pronounce the first A short. Don’t know what the British would say or call it- they seem to have the short and long vowels reversed somewhat. (it’s O-bomb-a, not *bamma* like Alabama—broad A like father, not short like fat). Nevada, OTOH, IS the short A. Like the A in BAD, NOT like the continentals would say Nevahda or Nev-odd-a. Same with ColorAdo—no rods in it. I’ve noticed the State of Nevada in its official publications has started putting the little “U” diacritic symbol over the first A to emphasize that the “official” pronunciation rhymes with *vad* with bad or sad.

    I think poor and pour have pretty much merged. The vowel sound in the latter like OO-ER is rarely heard, and was probably never very common. People do seem to have trouble saying tour or tournament without stuttering a bit, as if they are unsure if it’s ok to say TORnemment instead of the awkward TOO-ERnement. (It’s not, they should just say TURNement). Paw? Like a dog’s paw? How is that similar to poor, even with the most shameless R dropping? Do lore and law, saw and sore sound the same to you? Hmmm…can I see safety issues with this.

  • venqax

    abby & wahn: if they have an SH sound, then the closest to a CH would be TSH. That is usually considered “synonymous” with the CH in English. If they don’t have an SH (e.g., I don’t think Greek does??), then the TS might be as good as you can get.

  • abby

    No, no “sh” in Greek, either.

  • abby

    venqax, your use of the word “slovenliness” reminded me of this:

    I was watching a nature show recently, and the narrator pronounced the bird name “plover” as if it rhymed with clover instead of cover. Need I even mention that I cringed and corrected him out loud?

    There are several of these words that are often (offen) mispronounced: hovel and hover are pronounced like cover, not like father.

    There are plenty of other examples of the o being short in words like these: love, shove, dove (the bird), govern, above, glove, shovel, oven, coven, sloven(ly), Coventry, covet; and those are just words where a “ve” follows the “o”. The same vowel sound happens in honey, come, son, won, money, ton, and probably plenty more.

    Of course, English, being English, has to muddy the waters with cove, move (neither of which rhymes with love, nor even with each other), dove (the past tense verb), and many, many others.

  • Dave Gomberg

    If you want my feedback, item by item, just ask me for it (dave1 at wcf dot com). I think some of your comments are right, some are elitist, some are plain wrong IMHO.

  • Peter

    The direction in the source I referred to specifically rhymed bomb with balm. That seemed a bit off to me, as balm, even without the L would seem better more like BAWM. Of course bomb and tom rhyme—what would the vowel difference between the two be?

    There’s no difference between “bomb” and “tom”; there’s a difference between “bomb”/”tom” (IPA [ɒ]) and “balm” (IPA [ɑ]) … and between that and “bawm” (IPA [ɔ]).

    I’m not sure that [ɒ] exists in American English [see abby's post, above: hovel and hover (both [ɒ]) and cover ([ʌ], or even [ə]) are not the same vowel, for me…but I can’t even imagine how you could get [ɑ] as in father]

    Paw? Like a dog’s paw? How is that similar to poor, even with the most shameless R dropping? Do lore and law, saw and sore sound the same to you? Hmmm…can I see safety issues with this.

    Yup. Paw/pore/pour/poor, lore/law, saw/sore, all sound alike (except for the initial consonant in each group, of course): /pɔ:/, /lɔ:/, /sɔ:/ (I can live with /pʊə/ for “poor”, though).

    (There’s an old joke about how to get out of a locked room that involves variations on hitting yourself against the wall or something in the room to make a sore, using the saw to cut some piece of furniture in the room in half, two halves make a whole, and you climb out through the hole. Doesn’t work is sore and saw aren’t homophones…)

  • abby

    Okay, Peter, I understand the dropped “r” in words like “party” (pahty) and “park the car” (pahk the cah)…but please explain the ADDED “r” in words like “saw.”

    I know it happens…I’ve heard it…but what is the explanation (or rationalization) for it? When you see a word like “saw,” to you say to yourself, “oops, I can’t forget to add that invisible ‘r’ in there”? (That question is meant to be pleasantly sarcastic, not meanly sarcastic…)

    We studied silent letters in school, but never invisible ones.

    BTW, we have the same riddle in America, however it starts out with a mirror and a table. You look in the mirror, see what you saw, take the saw and cut the table in half…etc.

  • Peter

    There’s no added ‘r’ in “saw”; it’s /sɔ:/, not /sɔr/. “Sawing”, on the other hand, does (usually) have an ‘r’ glide. Why? I don’t know; it just does…so as not to make it sound ridiculous, I suppose :) [Which it does if you try to say it without a glide, or with a 'w', or something]

  • charles kratz

    Dave Gomberg, right you are. Elitist to say the very least, indeed. I would like somebody who frequents this hang out to tell me just how many angels do dance on the head of a pin.

  • xamaica2004

    Peter on April 3, 2011 9:49 pm
    There’s no added ‘r’ in “saw”; it’s /sɔ:/, not /sɔr/. “Sawing”, on the other hand, does (usually) have an ‘r’ glide. Why? I don’t know; it just does…so as not to make it sound ridiculous, I suppose [Which it does if you try to say it without a glide, or with a 'w', or something]

    Erm… Well I personally don’t have a problem with saying “sawing” or “drawing” without the r in middle. Stacks of people in the UK do say the middle r. Yet another smack my head on the desk trigger for me.

    I do have pronunciation problems though with words such as bear & beer and pour & poor (they come out the same for me) – must be something to do with my Jamaican/English accent.

  • venqax

    Who is Dave Gomberg?

    Yes, xamaica, it is probably a result of your accent or dialect. Bear and beer, that is. Poor and pour are fine. The middle R– which you are more than noble for avoiding– has had a lot written about it. Specifically, the tendency of no-rhotic speakers who drop their final Rs (poor and PAW? You can’t be serious!), to then add phantom Rs where they are, obviously, not. Some actually hypothesize a psychological reason– a compensatory device for the R-dropping in the first place. That seems perfectly plausible (different from plorsible) to me. Undoubtedly subconscious guilt is at work among non-rhotics for their bad behavior. Similarly, the notorious cockney H which (not witch) gets ignored when there and invented when not. You realize, no doubt, that if they simply ended *saw* correctly, there would be no need to discuss gliding. :)

  • venqax

    charles?? How many angels dance on the head of pin? Anyone who gets– let alone makes– that allusion shouldn’t have a problem with being seen as “elitist”! It’s kind of like saying, “Thankfully, I’m but a common man….” in Latin.

  • abby

    venqax: re: “Anyone who gets– let alone makes– that allusion…”

    Not really…every child who went to Catholic school (and listened) in the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s would get, and could make that allusion…

  • venqax

    Well if you had one of those touted Catholic educations, you surely must be fluent in grammar, and usage etc. etc. Right? Weren’t you conditioned to be intolerant of lethargy? Aren’t you supposed to have knuckle and backside scars from this stuff? You are an elite!LOL

    BTW, 110% agreement about the mispronunciations of Os in OV combinations. Hover, grovel, etc. just like shovel, oven, cover, etc. In fact, pronunciation of the O like a short U (but) in such cases is the rule– move, clover etc, are the exception– as any brief recitation of common vocabulary shows. Yes, plover rhymes with cover, not Grover. It’s hard even to find an exemple for the latter. Yet another example of where “If people KNEW the rules– instead of assuming there aren’t any– then many mispronunciations would be moot (as like boot, note mute). English is a lot more phonetically spelled than most seem to think it is.

    I have read that the OV problem is the result of an early scribal practice of overly “rounding” the Us in front of *V*s before there was a distinction between the 2: So VV, intending UV, came out looking like OV, the first U getting mistaken for an O. If that is true, it still doesn’t explain the other situation as in the *other* situation (other, brother, mother) or the identical mispronunciation of Os in the word *monger* (warmonger. etc) which should be mUnger, rhymes with youngerr, not Onger, like a Conger eel.

  • Peter

    Specifically, the tendency of no-rhotic speakers who drop their final Rs (poor and PAW? You can’t be serious!)

    There’s no “dropping” of ‘r’s. There’s simply a difference between spelling and phonetics. When you say “telephone”, are you “dropping” the /p/ and the /h/ when you pronounce a /f/ in the middle? No, of course not: it’s simply that the digraph “ph” in this case is pronounced /f/. In proper English, the digraphs “ar”, “er”, “ir”, “or” and “ur” are pronounced /ɑ:/, /ɜ:/, /ɜ:/, /ɔ:/, and /ɜ:/.

    Hover, grovel, etc. just like shovel, oven, cover, etc.

    Is the [ɒ] vowel really missing altogether in American? So often I hear Americans claiming it’s identical with [ʌ] (as you do here) or [ɑ] …

  • Maria

    Didn’t anyone notice?

    Regardless is on the list twice, once as irregardless, and then again as regardless. So you actually only have 49.

    By the way, pronunciation won’t make you look dumb, especially if the mistakes are as common as you say. You might look weird by saying it the ‘right’ way.

    Advertisement? Is it /ad/verr/tiz/ment/ or /ad/verr/tize/ment/?

    Thanks for helpful list!

  • Sarah

    I am so pleased with the smackdown on the t in “often.” I definitely cringe when that silent letter is pronounced. Rhymes with soften!

  • venqax

    In the case of telephone, the letters ph make the f sound. Nothing is being dropped. If you said tele-own, then the f sound is being dropped. Elephone, the T is dropped, telephoe the N is dropped, etc. If you say Sore without the R, then the R is being dropped. The R is not making any other sound, it is simply rendered mute.

    I don’t have those lovely IPA symbols at my disposal (can’t even do italics on here, where do you get that stuff, BTW?). And I don’t know what vowel you mean by the “backward lower-case a”– looking symbol. But, yes, hover, oven, shovel are all the same vowel which is also the same vowel as the U in under, upper, bun, gun, pun, nun, etc. and as the O in brother, mother, monk, ton (the weight– to which I think you add at least one more N and and E.

    (What is it with you guys and extra letters, anyway? Programmmmme (how may M’s is it? 4 or 5?), colour, labour, catalogue, manoevre, foetus, achaeology, encyclopaedia, …Joesus! Do writers get paid by the letter in Groeate Brittaeinne?).

  • venqax

    IOW, *ar*, *or*, *ir*, *er*, etc are not considered diagraphs that represent a single sound, like *ph* or *th* do, in American English. They represent assorted vowel sounds leading into an R sound. So car, or, and bird are three different vowels before an R sound. *Er*, *ur* are pretty much the same vowel sound (herd and curd rhyme) and usually *ir* is the same as well (bird also rhymes with herd and curd). *Ar* and *or* are distinct. Other pre-R vowel sounds as in the words *ear* or *air* are usually written with double vowels before the R, *ea* and *ai* being common.

  • Laraine

    I am very impressed with the erudition of people who must be linguists. I would be more helpful for me if more common errors could be discussed on a non-linguist level that I could understand.

  • Anna

    Morning fellow language purists.

    I know this comment is not strictly related to pronunciations, but I’d be interested to hear any comments from anyone interested. In Australia, in formal writing we write the date as 24 April 2011 (corporate style guides generally dictate this).

    My Scottish friend (who lives here) is cheesed off as she is used to the British way of writing it as 24th April 2011.

    I’m completely aware that the North Americans in this gang write it as April 24 2011 (but do you use the superscript ‘th’).

    Any views on what the correct way to write a date in formal communications should be / is?

    Ta, AV

  • abby

    No “th” in formal dates…but we do put a comma after the date: April 24, 2011

  • abby

    …well, after the day…

  • charles kratz

    Anna: “correct way” is what it is where you is. In other words, there is no correct way other than the customary manner where you happen to live.

  • charles kratz

    Maria: “By the way, pronunciation won’t make you look dumb.” Really?!! Language is the key to opening the mind of a person. The second one or two words come out of the mouth of another person, you can tell how much education he has had, probably where he comes from and many other personal attributes, not the least of which is intelligence. Don’t underestimate pronunciation — and, of course, grammar. You do so at your own peril.

  • charles kratz

    And let us not forget socio-economic class as reflected by how one speaks.

  • Peter

    If you say Sore without the R, then the R is being dropped. The R is not making any other sound, it is simply rendered mute.

    Nonsense. Just as “ph” represents the “f” sound in “telephone”, “ore” represents the “aw” sound in “sore”. Nothing is being dropped.

  • Peter

    I don’t have those lovely IPA symbols at my disposal (can’t even do italics on here, where do you get that stuff, BTW?). And I don’t know what vowel you mean by the “backward lower-case a”– looking symbol. But, yes, hover, oven, shovel are all the same vowel

    You can do italics — just use standard HTML markup: <i> to start italics, </i> to end. For IPA, I type them in an external editor and copy here; easiest way: find a web page with IPA symbols in Unicode (not graphics) and cut-and-paste. (Try this page; you can click on the symbols you want, and then copy from the text-entry area at the top).

    [ɒ] is the vowel in the British pronunciation of “pot”, etc. (and “hover”), but if you don’t know what that sounds like, that won’t help. It’s not the same vowel as [ʌ] in “cover”, etc. Slightly more open. (How do you say “Conger (eel)”? That’s [ɒ], too, for me.)

  • venqax

    Thanks Peter. For Americans, the vowels in pot (rhymes hot, not, cot) and in hover (does rhyme with cover, lover) are entirely distinct. And, as just indicated, he vowel in hover and cover is the same and as that in mother, money, funny, cut, cup).

  • venqax

    Maria:You are correct. But poor pronunciation will make you sound</i) dumb– just like any other…careless… use… of language. Ya know?

  • venqax

    Anna: The standard American way of writing dates is April 6, 2011. No suffix. However, as read that would usually be SAID April sixth, two thousand eleven or twenty eleven ( I hope the former goes extinct soon). In numerical form, 4/6 is April 6, not June 4 as it would be in most European countries. Hence 9/11 as the moniker for the attacks of September 11. Nothing confoundable happened on November 9.

    However, in some *formal* writing styles in the US, the day-month-year form IS required. E.g. in the “MLA” formal document style, dates are to be written 6 April 2011. The military uses this system most often as well (along with the 24-hour clock).

    Along the same lines, here in the US the disagreement is more over not the month/day/year format, but the 1-1-2 vs 2-2-4 digit notations. IOW is it 4/6/2011, or 04/06/2011 or just 4/6/11? I, personally, insist on 4/6/11, and despise computer entries that force me to do otherwise. The reasoning being, in no other case when I’m writing the number 4 or the number 6 do a I write 04 or 06. It’s ridiculous. When asked to write you age on form to you put that you are 035? Or is it pretty justifiably assumed that age 35 does NOT mean 135? Same with the year. If one lists his birthday as 12/2/76, must he really add the specificity that that would be 1976? Not 17 or 1893?
    Precisely what confusion does this prevent?

  • venqax

    Anna: The standard American way of writing dates is April 6, 2011. No suffix. However, as read that would usually be SAID April sixth, two thousand eleven or twenty eleven ( I hope the former goes extinct soon). In numerical form, 4/6 is April 6, not June 4 as it would be in most European countries. Hence 9/11 as the moniker for the attacks of September 11. Nothing confoundable happened on November 9.

    However, in some *formal* writing styles in the US, the day-month-year form IS required. E.g. in the “MLA” formal document style, dates are to be written 6 April 2011. The military uses this system most often as well (along with the 24-hour clock).

    Along the same lines, here in the US the disagreement is more over not the month/day/year format, but the 1-1-2 vs 2-2-4 digit notations. IOW is it 4/6/2011, or 04/06/2011 or just 4/6/11? I, personally, insist on 4/6/11, and despise computer entries that force me to do otherwise. The reasoning being, in no other case when I’m writing the number 4 or the number 6 do a I write 04 or 06. It’s ridiculous. When asked to write you age on form to you put that you are 035? Or is it pretty justifiably assumed that age 35 does NOT mean 135? Same with the year. If one lists his birthday as 12/2/76, must he really add the specificity that that would be 1976? Not 17 or 1876?
    Precisely what confusion does this prevent?

  • venqax

    sorry for the ddoouubbllee post.

  • abby

    venqax: Precisely what confusion does this prevent?

    Well, not so much the month or day, but the year is critical when it comes to years that can span a century.

    I’m a medical coder, and the reports came over on software. Some of the procedure codes are age-specific.

    If a patient is 102, the software thinks she’s 2 years old. If a claim goes to the insurance that way, it can be denied if the procedure code is one of those age-specific codes, because the insurance gets a claim for a two-year old with an adult procedure code.

  • abby

    This is a good site to explain the whole “dropped r,” “inserted r.”

    http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Rhotic

  • Laraine

    I wish that all dates would be switched to the year first, as that is the most important number. When I file things in my computer, I put in the year first, then the month, then the day. That’s the only way that they are in a semblance of chronological order.

  • Peter

    For Americans, the vowels in pot (rhymes hot, not, cot) and in hover (does rhyme with cover, lover) are entirely distinct.

    I know they’re distinct, but it’s not the same as the British “pot”, etc.; standard American “pot” seems to be the same vowel as “father” (just shorter): /ɑ/ (which makes it sound like “part”, to me). I think /ɒ/ is missing in American English, which would explain why the vowel in “hover” got shifted to sound like “cover”…

    The reasoning being, in no other case when I’m writing the number 4 or the number 6 do a I write 04 or 06. It’s ridiculous.

    Really? When writing a time, say five minutes past three, do you write 3:5?

    I wish that all dates would be switched to the year first, as that is the most important number. When I file things in my computer, I put in the year first, then the month, then the day. That’s the only way that they are in a semblance of chronological order.

    Agreed…strongly!

  • charles kratz

    Peter and Laraine: “I wish that all dates would be switched to the year first, as that is the most important number. When I file things in my computer, I put in the year first, then the month, then the day. That’s the only way that they are in a semblance of chronological order.” I really don’t care much one way or the other, although I always lean toward the clean order of keeping things the way they are. In any event, it ain’t gonna happen, so no sense getting your knickers tied in a knot over it. I refer to an earlier post of mine and the allusion to angels, pins and cotillions.

  • charles kratz

    Oh, and I wouldn’t have brought up angels dancing on the head of a pin except that venqax liked it so much, I thought I’d entertain him or her again, a retort you might say, to his or her opinion of my education.

  • Peter

    In any event, it ain’t gonna happen, so no sense getting your knickers tied in a knot over it.

    It already happened. Year-month-day is the widely used ISO standard format. (And it’s been the normal way of writing dates in Japan since forever). It’s not yet common in ‘every day use’, but it’s only going to become more common in the future.

  • Laraine

    Thanks for the information about the order of dating! I am thrilled to hear that, as I have already converted to that method on my computer so that everything is in chronological order: 2011-4-7 comes before 2011-4-8. Otherwise, things are organized by the month, which makes no sense chronologically.

  • charles kratz

    Peter: does that mean we will be using kanji and hiragana then? I thought we were discussing English. Maybe the Urquat write it that way, in which case, you are right. It’s spreading!

  • Welheminah

    This side really helped me and I expect more guides.I would like to share all information that I got from this site with my siblings so that they can learn a ton about english at an early age.English is our second language and it sometimes limits us to speak out our minds because of the pronounciation.thanks a lot for the side!

  • venqax

    I think “becoming common” and what is or is not “going to happen” needs to be seen in context. Here in the USA, remember, we still don’t use the metric system for everyday things,– tho it is quite common and for some things useful. But for the mundane world, our old tried-and-true feet pounds and miles are much better and hasn’t been “replaced” in any sense. (I still laugh every time I see a person’s height given in centimeters! Saying someone is 6 foot 5 SAYS something at a primal level.) So, if the medical field needs to avoid confusing 24 year-olds and 124 year-olds. well, OK then. And computers? Of course computers put things in contexts that work best for computers, not for people. And don’t forget that for centuries we’ve officially listed people “last name first” for all kinds of purposes and yet we’ve never simply reversed the order of given and family names in the everyday sense. I don’t want some poor little chub treated like a centenarian too his damage or demise. But I think that’s a pretty specialized case.

    Peter: No, 3 5 could be ocnfused with 3 50. But if I was told to right down how many minutes after 3 it is, I’d write 5, not 05. And I’ve never seen a birthday card that says, “That’s Great, Now You’re 08!” or somesuch. Why just use 2 places? Why not say it’s the year 02011? Or 00,002,011? Leading zeros existl for arithmetic, not normal life.

    charles: Certainly any of my allusions re your allusions would rebound very favorably on your education, no?

  • charles kratz

    venqax: you make an excellent point with regard to years first, zero this and zero that, and especially our relationship in this country, the United States, to the metric system (not love-hate, but just plain hate). When I think back to how many billions of dollars were thrown out the window in a miserably failed attempt to cram the metric system down the throats of the American public, I could laugh (except it isn’t funny, just expensive and unnecessary) but instead cry. Some things just work better as they are. If metrics are better for science and math, fine. Let that system coexist with English weights and measures. It has been doing that for at least 100 years. Moreover, the metric system has hardly been a resounding success in Britain, as well.

    And yes to your final question. I was just giving your chain a gentle tug.

  • Rizla

    I read a lot of comments on how “language changes” and how “snobbish” and exercise like this can be.
    I once ordered a meal in a foreign place and was asked if I wanted “cheevs” with my fish.
    It took me a while to figure out that it was meant to be “chips”.

    The idea behind language is communication. Our quality of articulation and expression is what determines our being effectively understood.

    Yes you may use a brick to hammer nails, but even casual hobbyists know that a hammer is better suited. Being a revolutionary and using your fist may be seem radically progressive until you realise that it has just prevented you from repeating the act soon.

  • abby

    You all HAVE to see this!

    The guy in this video should be chatting with us here…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbSSQe6vsSw

  • venqax

    Ok, Peter, let me see if I can get this to work. Thank god speaking is easier than writing on a computer. According to what I can find, the answer is No, the *ɒ* doesn’t exist in American. The vowel sounds in father, not, wasp, palm, and lot are identical. The so-called Palm and Lot lexical sets are the same in GA. Canadian English takes it a step farther– up there, the vowels in not, father and thought are all the same. So no difference between what we would call a short O, as in pot, and an AW sound as in law or lawn. The symbol ɑ is used for both the palm and the lot sound in GA.

    The æ symbol for the a in lad, tap, bat also indicates that first A sound in Nevada. So nevæda, not nevɑda. It’s a bit tricky for those of us raised with the AHD system of pronunciation-spelling to figure out this IPA thing with its strange backward and upside down letters.

  • venqax

    That same pot/father sound is noted by *ŏ* in the AHD system. So, in answer to Conger, it would be the same sound, kŏng’ gûr in AHD or ‘kɒŋ gər in IPA. Same initial syllable as Congo. Of course, the normal rule is that Gs preceding Es are said Js. (dʒ). But GER suffixes are a common exception to that. In this case perhaps because it probably comes from the Greek gongros

    Your comrades, tho, seem to disagree with your Paw/pore/pour/poor, lore/law, saw/sore, all sound alike conclusion. The IPA system distinguishes between ɔː as in *paw* and ɔr as in *war* and the BBC’s own spelling pronunciation writes AW for the sounds of law, paw, as opposed to OR for the sound in north or war, just like American would.

    ɔː paw

  • Peter

    That same pot/father sound is noted by *ŏ* in the AHD system. So, in answer to Conger, it would be the same sound, kŏng’ gûr in AHD or ‘kɒŋ gər in IPA. Same initial syllable as Congo. Of course, the normal rule is that Gs preceding Es are said Js. (dʒ). But GER suffixes are a common exception to that. In this case perhaps because it probably comes from the Greek gongros

    I was only asking about the ‘o’: so you’re saying it’s the same vowel as ‘father’ (that’s /ɑ/, not /ɒ/)? That’s what I expected if you replace /ɒ/ with /ɑ/ everywhere, but your previous comment about ‘Conger’ made me think it was different…but on rereading that post, I don’t know why.

    The IPA system distinguishes between ɔː as in *paw* and ɔr as in *war*

    Of course IPA distinguishes between /ɔː/ and /ɔr/, but it doesn’t say anything about how to write “paw” and “war” — that depends how you pronounce them! If you’re reading some page that transliterates “war” into IPA as /wɔr/, that’s obviously an American site.

    (Actually, rhotic speakers don’t really say a distinct /r/ (or, I suppose, strictly speaking, /ɹ/), either. There’s a separate IPA symbol (˞) for rhoticized vowels … it should be /wɔ˞/ for an American)

    and the BBC’s own spelling pronunciation writes AW for the sounds of law, paw, as opposed to OR for the sound in north or war, just like American would.

    Don’t know anything about “BBC’s spelling pronunciation”; if it uses ‘r’s in words like that, it’s obviously not using it in the same way an American would (‘aw’ and ‘or’ are identical to me, but I don’t know why it’d use both). The OED uses /ɔː/ in all cases, as expected.

  • Doug

    Rizla said: “The idea behind language is communication. Our quality of articulation and expression is what determines our being effectively understood.”

    The other day I was watching TV in the living room. When the commercial came on, I grabbed my empty coffee cup and bolted to the nearby kitchen for a refill.

    In the background, I clearly heard a woman prattling on about her company, “Citizen Mower,” and how good it was for old people. Not only that, but “Citizen Mower” took good care of your pets, too, and could bill everything to Medicare in some cases!

    Astounded that a lawn tractor company was nonsensically specializing in geriatric folks and their pets (just how the Hell did they bill Medicare for riding mowers?) I literally ran back into the living room to get a better idea of what this innovative new company was all about.

    As I skidded to a halt in front of the TV, the woman was just signing off with a final plea to call the nearest “Citizen Mower” office for more information, and, fortunately for me, put up a large picture of their company name logo: “Sitters and More,” it said. Mystery solved.

    Imagine, though, if this commercial had run on the radio! Hundreds of old people (and/or their dogs) would have rushed to their phone books trying to get the number for “Citizen Mower” so they could get their garden tractors billed to Medicare, only to be disappointed and baffled.

    If ever there was a graphic illustration of why it is so important to learn to speak some “standard version” of your native language (instead of the down-south, homey but unintelligible mush-mouth dialect this woman spoke) this was it.

  • Doug

    Laraine said: “I wish that all dates would be switched to the year first, as that is the most important number. When I file things in my computer, I put in the year first, then the month, then the day. That’s the only way that they are in a semblance of chronological order.”

    Wow- you guys must be using some really old computers, like DOS 1.5 machines or something.

    As it happens, I started “mucking about” with computers before they had hard disks, using DOS 1.0 on a 6″ floppy. I “progressed” up the chain of DOS releases through various iterations of Windows, learning batch files along the way in order to make the machines actually do anything useful.

    In *all* of those cases except the earliest releases of DOS, date-formatted numericals were correctly sortable in chronological order irrespective of the display format (mm/dd/yyyy or yyyy/mm/dd). If you had 3,000 files of various names on a disk (or hard disk) they all had creation and modification dates, displayed in format mm/dd/yyyy on my machines, and could easily be sorted by date into chronological order, with a date of “04/03/1985″ correctly sorting before “03/02/1986″ even though the mm/dd of the 2nd file was smaller than that of the first file.

    The only situation I can think of that would force one to format dates as yyyy/mm/dd would be if you were naming your files with date-based numerics, such as “20060302.txt” or someting similar, then sorting them by name.

    I guess my bottom-line bafflement is: why not just date-sort the files and quit worrying about inventing new date formats when it isn’t necessary or even useful?

    I hate it when I miss the entire point…..

  • Doug

    venqax blurted:
    “charles: Certainly any of my allusions re your allusions would rebound very favorably on your education, no?”

    How dast you impugn, I say, IMPUGN his impunity, sirrah? Methinks thou hast made allusion to the elusive illusions of elision heretofore well and truly denounced herewithin, yea and verily, renounced and mispronounced!

    I should have tooken a left in Albuquerque…..

  • Doug

    Charles said: “Maria: “By the way, pronunciation won’t make you look dumb.” Really?!! Language is the key to opening the mind of a person. The second one or two words come out of the mouth of another person, you can tell how much education he has had, probably where he comes from and many other personal attributes, not the least of which is intelligence. Don’t underestimate pronunciation — and, of course, grammar. You do so at your own peril.”

    and

    “And let us not forget socio-economic class as reflected by how one speaks.”

    I don’t know how I missed this post earlier- the serendipitous misconception that chronic misuse, malaprops and/or mispronunciation of words in one’s native language do not give the impression of ignorance and (duck, everybody!) stupidity on the part of the speaker represents the biggest source of angst for me.

    It is so clearly evident to anyone with functional eyes, ears and half a brain that poor/sloppy/lazy/non-standard speech (including the euphemistically-named “Ebonics”) deprives people of so many opportunities in life… career, income, social, marriage…. and it is entirely self-inflicted! Those who somehow failed to learn acceptable “standard” English in school can easily do so on their own after school, and at little or no cost!

    I can’t think of a single aspect of life that is not improved through learning and practicing more or less correct “standard” English. This is not new- it was amply documented many years ago in works like Pygmalion, later popularized in the movie My Fair Lady.

    At this point, some of you reading this are saying “yes, we agree with your accusation of ignorance… but stupidity? That’s going too far. It’s not their fault. They’re just products of their environment. Victims.”

    No, in some cases the failure to learn standard English in school is the fault of society- so-called “Political Correctness” says that correcting someone’s poor or non-standard English in school might be injurious to their self-esteem. I wonder how injurious a lifetime of menial jobs (or poverty and crime) will be to their self-esteem… but I digress.

    The “stupidity” is evidenced by poor speakers’ failure to see, observe and quantify the harm that they are doing to themselves by not learning and speaking standard English… and then take responsibility for improving their own lives by remedying the problem.

    No, they would prefer to say “we don’t talk that way at home” to those who try to nudge them in a standard-English direction, thus dismissing out of hand the evidence that is all around them. Even worse, they ridicule people who discuss these issues as “elitist” and “snobs” and “grammar nazis.”

    I’m sorry, folks, but I can’t think of any other word to describe such self-destructive behavior: it’s stupid. With a capital “D.”

  • venqax

    I do dast indeed and did! The impune condition of those in willfull contempt of erudite elocution, elisions o’er than e’er esteemable, and confusion of illusion and allusion to the desert of contusion is the villainous victim of my vindictive yet virtuous volley! Theretofore and henceforth, entrusted; and with encrusted musta’d it most decisively cuts! Merrily, verily, hueily, dewily, and lewily…and that’s dethpicable.

  • Bekah

    I really haven’t heard of most of these pronunciations. There are a few I recognize like ask and then some that sound just plain wierd to me.

  • Cec

    Epitome: /e-pit-uh-MEE/, not /e-pit-ome/

    You know you’ve heard SOMEONE mess that one up at some point.

  • Charlotte Ann

    While I agree that there is a correct way to pronounce words, you must take into account dialect. As a lifelong Southerner, we stuff in extra syllables and the sound of a short “a” pretty much where ever we can. I don’t think that it necessarily makes my fellows sound ignorant, I prefer to think of it as regionalized (and yes, I know that isn’t really even a word). Depending on how a person says “Houston”, I can peg where they are from with deadly accuracy. It cuts down on the unnecessary chit-chat.

  • venqax

    Finally some silent Rs! occurred: temp-a-ture and vet-en-air-ian. I would say that that temp-Ra-choor and vet-Rin-airian are probably acceptable easings. Like int-rest and vej-table. They don’t have to be pronounced with 4 or 6 (!) syllables (tho that is still probably preferable.) I would NOT say that such R-lessness is acceptable. But it is quite common. And for those who say commonness = acceptability, irregardless of properness, or that saying it ofTen makes its own truth, ekcetera….

  • Peter

    Depending on how a person says “Houston”, I can peg where they are from with deadly accuracy.

    Which “Houston”? I say “hyouston” when it’s Sam, or the city in Texas, “house-ton” when it’s the street in New York, and never “hoose-ton” (which drives me crazy) — none of which sound like how Texans or New Yorkers say them, because I don’t share their accents.

  • Peter

    BTW, venqax, going back to this:

    Peter: Yes, sorry, I did mean where/wear. I don’t know about the UK but HW is cerainly not gone in American. In fact, it is one of the markers for the NE dialects that they don’t pronounce HWs. Most Americans do

    I just ran across http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonological_history_of_wh, according to which 83% of Americans and virtually all non-Americans do not pronounce HW, and “there are no regions [in America] where the preservation of the distinction is predominant”.

  • Evan

    February with the 1st “r” is simply the correct pronunciation. Instead of saying that everyone you know leaves out the “r”, thank the writer of this article and try to correct yourself. I pronounced the word “idea”(ī-ˈdē-a) as i-dear until my mid 20s. I made the correction and am happy that I did, as I think it made a poor impression on people.

    I’ve heard quite a few people pronounce the “r” and quite a few not pronounce it. The ones who pronounced the “r” left a better impression…at least for that moment in time. Same scenario for “library”, when people leave out the 1st “r”, it just doesn’t sound good.

  • Study linguistics.

    Languages are living and thus they change! Embrace change — don’t fear it or use it to label other people as ignorant.

    Many of these so-called mistakes are only “linguistic change in action”, as Jared wrote in the 3rd comment. It’s a short-sighted and conservative perspective that dictates that because x was done some way in the recent past, any other way is wrong. Nearly every word that you can utter today was pronounced differently at some point in the past. At what point in the evolution of a word can we pin it down, say that it is “correct” and decree that it should not continue to change?

  • charles kratz

    Subject: “It’s not what you say, but how you say it”

    Graphic example of the importance of phraseology

    It’s not what you say, but how you say it”

    “Enjoy this one minute clip – quite powerful!”

    (filmed in royal Exchange Square Glasgow )

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hzgzim5m7oU

  • Iskandr

    If you are going to write an article on pronunciation, please do a few things. First, check multiple dictionaries and in particular check the OED or OAD. Second, learn how to read and write in IPA, it will make you sound much more credible!

  • WGibson

    I like how I can go to the Merriam-Webster dictionary’s site and within a minute or so see that the pronunciations the author complains about for aegis, asterisk, athlete, candidate, clothes, jewely, medieval, mischievous, niche, and vehicle are all acceptable. Irregardless’s first known use is in 1912, and it is a word. And can also be spelt , both meaning the same thing. Don’t have my OED in front of me and would like to see what it says about these words, but I know this author needs to do some better research.

  • WGibson

    Should say “And “wintry” can also be spelt “wintery,” both meaning the same thing. ” Obviously, by trying to be a good little linguist and putting the spelling in carrots I made the comment system think they were tags… oops!

  • venqax

    Here’s what my own poorly-funded and unscientific study of this particular social pathology has led me to conclude: In the USonly — leaving the UK and all others out of it entirely (GOK is going on over there!):

    –the wh pronunciation is still prevalent in the SE and many parts of the Midwest—including among national broadcasters who are trained in midwestern.

    –all the American dictionaries list both, without any preference indicated—tho in MW with the hw pronunciation usually listed first.

    That is pretty much consistent with what others have said re America. However, there is a qualitative issue that is identifiable:

    -All the defenses of the wh pronunciation come from “language people” of some sort, albeit none seem particularly upset by the “merger”. This includes this site’s own maven Maeve Maddox on the relevant subject. The advocacy for wh comes entirely from speech conscious people. Meanwhile (or meanwile), the only assault on wh comes from the facebook page of a Canadian high schooler in Miss Oshunn’s class—Miss Oshunn herself apparenntly disagrees. The overall tone is unmistakably one of “tolerance” for the mergers from the cogniscenti—nothing more.

    -A university website for ESL learners actually offers a tutorial on how to make the wh sound and to distinguish it from the w—just like they do with t and th sounds. To wote, (I am sensitive to the feeling that quote might contain too many consonant sounds in a row) “In this exercise, you will listen and compare the difference in sounds like in whether and weather.
    Listen, practice, and record your voice to have a conversation with a native speaker”.

    - And here is the most powerful invalid datum: When I have pinned people down— and I can abuse that authority a lot in my job— and ask people to speak a test phrase .slowly with careful enunciation the wh’s come out much, much more often than they do in quick, common, unreflective speech. Like prolly vs probably. Or sosecurity vs. social security. It’s as if they KNOW the h is supposed to be there boldly, if subtly, leading the word (never mistaken for whirred.)

    So, the only conclusion possible is that HWile the inability to discern the nature of the Prince of Whales may be widespread enough for clench-toothed toleration, to the discerning speaker for whom a napkin is not a mystery and a sleeve is not its stand-in, the Hwerewithal to delineate the Hwere, Hwen and Hwy is akin to the appreciation of single malt Hwisky from Hootch.

  • Peter

    At what point in the evolution of a word can we pin it down, say that it is “correct” and decree that it should not continue to change?

    Nobody’s doing that. But the fact that languages change doesn’t mean every erroneous usage is “change in action”. There’s still such a thing as right and wrong.

    I like how I can go to the Merriam-Webster dictionary’s site and within a minute or so see that the pronunciations the author complains about [...] are all acceptable.

    Being listed in a dictionary doesn’t make them acceptable.

    the wh pronunciation is still prevalent in the SE and many parts of the Midwest

    *shrug* the study (is that too many consonants?) woted by Hwikipedia says they’re habout hequally likely in the SE US…

  • venqax

    @ Peter: ..the fact that languages change doesn’t mean every erroneous usage is “change in action”. There’s still such a thing as right and wrong…Being listed in a dictionary doesn’t make them acceptable. Dittoes! Mega dittoes. Amen!

    I am sorely tired of the seemingly ubiquitous assumption that most dictionaries are PRE scriptive, and are the final authorities on any matter of language. simply because people are unaware of any more substantial sources regarding the matter. It is similar to those who confuse the news with facts, i.e, there is objective information being conveyed, but mostly they are reporting to you what they have been told, or telling you what someone else has said, NOT pronouncing on truth or the state of reality.

    Re the w/wh: My bad. I should have said it is very common, not necessarily prevelant, in those parts of the country. The Scots and the Irish say Hwisky, tho, right? I mean please, please, please, don’t disabuse me of that notion. It would be like finding out Socrates pronounced it “hyperbowl”.

  • venqax

    OK, I guess all must be put in perspective. I just watched a televised recorded lecture delivered at Pepperdine U by a relatively well-known professor of history (don’t know where he is actually from).

    In the course of less than a hour he talked about “criseeses”– long e with an es on the end to boot, just to be sure to show he was a double believer in pluralism; and expanded on problems that were– ready– peculular to the situation of the 18th century. Maybe to demonstrate that tho nucular power was unknown, the potential for extremely advanced language mangling was way ahead of its time. It makes the likes of lazy lingustic dumpsters like WGibson and Study Linguistics (!) seem paltry.

  • Shadeburst

    If your criterion is the number of speakers of the language, then American English is now the de facto standard.

    I grew up in a “vey Briddish” home (very British) in South Africa and we would pronounce often as AWF-TIN and salt as SAWLT. We said archiPELago, precipiTAtion and preSCRIPtion. Jewellery is the normal British spelling but we spoke the word as if it had been Jewelry. Also FEBROOREE, and the t of miniature would have a somewhat ‘tsh’ SOUND. (Perhaps we weren’t so “vey Briddish” as we liked to think.)

    English is a great language. Mangle it as you like and people will still understand you. I’d rather someone spoke to me in bad English than I had to take the trouble to learn their language. (LOL for anyone who’s slow on the uptake.)

    However when I watch a US-made DVD I like to switch on subtitles to make sure I get all the words. What the heck, my girlfriend is from California and sometimes SHE asks ME, “What did they say?”

  • Beardy McPaul

    I thought the article was fantastic. The few people that thought it was “elitist” or “classist” are clearly the people that pronounce words in this list incorrectly. You’re wrong, and you should start pronouncing these words correctly now that you have been taught how to do so. I’m looking at you, jd. I can picture you now in your cave, drawing some antelope on your wall. Uggh! Me no wrong! Haha! People suck.

  • Mick

    What about pronunciation of definite/indefinite articles prior to vowel sounds? (Posted 7 Sept. 2009). It’s spreading. These “criminals” sound like my children when they were learning to talk.

  • Francoise

    Wow! I haven’t seen too many articles with as many comments as this one.

    Thanks for this article. As a foreigner living in the US, I am always happy when someone corrects a word I mispronounced. What I realize, though, is that, since I learned English from books and tapes, the correct pronounciation is often the only one I know.

    So, I suppose I was correct in saying dentist and not dennist.

    I have also come to see that there is a difference between mispronouncing words and grammar mistakes (“Me and my brother”) and dialect (“Are yous coming?”)

  • John

    WOW…so many misprononciations. My biggest “pet peeve” VOILA, like the French “la VOILA” being prononouced WOILA. Keep that V sound in there!

  • Peter

    If your criterion is the number of speakers of the language, then American English is now the de facto standard.

    How do you figure that? American speakers account for about 8% of the English-speaking world (including ESL speakers … Indian English, etc.)

  • Round One

    As a writer, I embrace the variants. People say things differently, it affords great lattitude when used to characterize people in fiction. It also shows the manner in which language evolves. We rail against it, because we somehow believe that English, and language as a whole, should be rock solid, like Gibraltar. But the sad fact is that English, and most other languages, evolves over time and with the times. We all have our preferences. When I speak, I often use terms that aren’t “correct” because I know they will be understood by the people involved in the conversation. Sometimes getting hung up on something as trivial as pronunciation does more to kill conversation than just allowing the language to flow willy nilly if that’s what it takes.

  • venqax

    I think the “point” is being missed by some here. First, no one is saying that people learning English as a foreign language are judged by the same standard as native speakers. A foreigner who says “I must itch my back” is misinformed. A native speaker who says that is either a moron (diagnosed) or uneducated to the point of illiterate.

    Seond, everyone with a mind recognizes that there are dialects, accents, regionalisms, etc. And they are fine IN THEIR PLACE. The whole endeavor of discussing standard language is to distinguish between those and a “standard” or general form of the language that is appropriate in more formal and cosmopolitan contexts– across the board. In the US it is called “General American” or Standard American English (SAE). In the UK I guess it is Received Pronunciation? (RP)The ability to distinguish between the two and use the proper English in the appropriate context is the very task of an educated person vs. a rube. So shshsh with the whole “in Bongonia we say crick and INsurnce, and Long Island is Long Gisland”. Yes. We know. That’s beside the point.

    And yes, we all know English is evolving. So? That doesn’t excuse poor language. Grammar and spelling “evolve” too. But no one seems to think that they can spell things any way they want to, or invent any syntax they fancy without getting dinged. English is not completely chaotic, as some on here think. If there are recognized standards for spelling and grammar– few of which are contentious–then why would there NOT be for pronunciation? Don’t understand that inconsistency of thought. My butter knife, I guess, is “evolving” into a screwdriver. Pretty soon, I’ll get funny looks and called pedantic for calling it a butter knife, I suppose.

  • abby

    venqax — way to go! ….or is that substandard English ;)

  • venqax

    Good example. Not substandard, but informal. Which is fine in an informal conversation.

    Peter: I’m not sure– I think it depends on how you define spoken English (mabye native vs learned is a criterion). In most of the genuinely Anglophone world outside the US and England now– including Canada, Austs, NZ, SA, Ireland, Scotland, the Carribbean, etc– they have their own recognized “standarad” which may be more or less similar to AmE or BrE but is neither and distinct. By that token, since the US is the biggest Anglophonic country, AmE is the most predominant. As far as ESL, AmE and BrE are the 2 chief standards. And I can’t find anything to suggest that, since WW2 at least, BrE is the version most taught to foreigners. In my experience, it certainly is not in Latin America. The many university students I’ve encounterd from numerous CAm and SAm countries have all learned in AmE in their home countries’ schools.

    Likewise, all I know from Japan, SKorea and even mainland China have come here having learned American spelling, grammar and rhotic Rs (which are quite difficult for the Mandarin speakers who struggle to sound Rs generally, and especially at the ends of words.) OTHO, those from the ME and Africa seem to have learned British. India seems to stand on its own, and I know Indian English is recognized as discrete, tho undoubtedly more similar to Br than to Am.

  • Tony

    When I encountered this site I thout a Brit had written it, until I came across the entries on ‘clothes’ and ‘jewelry’.

    Clothes:
    In proper English (i.e. English^2) clothes would be pronounced ‘cloze’, although a hypercorrection with ‘th’ in the middle has appeared over recent decades.

    Jewelry:
    The result of the work of a butcher is butchery (not butchry), that of the burglar is burglary (not burglry), the result of the work of a jeweller is jewellery (not jewelry) – it has four syllables.

    One of my other pet peeves: ‘Mediaeval’ has four syllables, not three.

  • venqax

    Ah yes, at Number 32 on the list we have: medieval – The word has four syllables. The first E may be pronounced either short [med] or long [meed]. Say/MED-EE-EEVAL/ or /MEE-DEE-EEVAL/, not /meed-eval/.

    The same issue comes up a few other places here and deserves some attention. By what authority is the 4-syllable pronunciation preferred? In particular, why the conviction that in the very common vowel pairing of ie, the pronunciation EE-EE is correct? What other words abide by such a rule? Especially with the modern and American spelling, MEDIEVAL, (which of course is preferable to retention of the ridiculously anachronistic ae*), there is no reason to pronounce the 2 central vowels separately. A very common, even “normal” elision here is to say “med-ee-val”, just like the prescriber says not to– and then fails to present any support for. Yes, the roots medi and aevum make up the word. So? Again, it is the norm for final and initial vowels to be adjusted when Latin words are being forged into English ones. Med-ee-ee-val sounds ree-ee-diculous, even impee-eeded. It really requires a glottal stop, which like the ee-ee doubling, is very un-English. The only other word I can think of that has 2 ee sounds in a row is minutiae—which is a rather clumsy import and is rarely pronounced correctly, anyhow. Compare *extraordinary*—which to a “mere” 5 syllables for the same reason.

    *Unless we are going to type “f” for S’s too; and use I’s for J’s and V’s for U’s, and reawaken other ancient scribal stylings). That would be fine. Some think Julius Caesar got far too much credit for the feats of his brother, Ivlivs.

  • Peter

    In proper English (i.e. English^2) clothes would be pronounced ‘cloze’, although a hypercorrection with ‘th’ in the middle has appeared over recent decades.

    Nonsense. The origin is Anglo-Saxon claþas, “with ‘th’ in the middle”. I don’t think 1200 years or so counts as “recent decades”…

    It really requires a glottal stop, which like the ee-ee doubling, is very un-English.

    You haven’t listed to many Englishmen talk, have you? The glottal (that’s “glo’l”) stop is probably one of the most common phones in the language :) It’s the very definition of “English”. I sentence you to watch My Fair Lady in penance!

    Unless we are going to type “f” for S’s too

    Why would you do that? The long “s” is not an “f” (and was never used in Latin…)

  • Juan C.

    For the Mexican Spanish words that have made it in to the English language;

    CHIPOTLE: Is pronounced chee-POHT-leh, not chih-POLE-tay.

    TORTILLAS: pronounced tohr-TEE-yas, not tore-TILL-ee-uhs (and not called shells)

    GUACAMOLE: wok-ah-MOH-leh, not gwok-uh-mow-lay

  • Vladimir

    Thanks for pointing these mistakes out, it may be helpful for some of us ;)

  • bb

    44. Realtor – The word has three syllables. Say /RE-AL-TOR/, not /re-a-la-tor/.

    No
    Realtor has 2 syllalbes not 3. It’s Real Estate and a REAL-TOR sells Real Estate

  • venqax

    @Peter
    You are absolutely right. I keep forgetting how wide the “variation around normal” speech in the UK is. How in the world you fit so many dialects in such a small place is just fascinating. It’s like a clown car without the trick. And, I should have been much more specific. By glottal stop, I meant the specific type of such creature that is not common in English and is usually transcribed with a reverse apostrophe, e.g. Hawai’i, or by a hyphen or dash as in uh-uh or uh-oh. Such cases being stops between vowel sounds as well as syllables. Those that Cockney is notorious for—displacing t’s and l’s– are not common in English; and those that are very common in English, the single syllable vowel-consonant sort as in cat are seldom recognized by any but linguists as even existing. At least my dictionary has the IPA for cat as kæt not kæ?t, ? being the symbol for the glottal stop that is actually there, but is listed simply as a “marginal sound” in English. So yes, common, if inauible. OTOH, the gulp required between 2 ee sounds in a row is analgous to that between the i’s in the Hawaiian pronunciation of Hawai’i—written as such to reflect that sound. And that ain’t English. So where else to we find an ee-ee combo in regular old English, outside places like the range of the Bow Bells or Philadelphia? I don’t here it, anyway.

    I am not actually stating that the proper pronunciation is trisyllabic medeeval. Just asking whence comes the conviction that it is not, and, given normal pronunciation conventions, shouldn’t be.

    Intersting aside, in Hebrew and Arabic language classes for Englsh speakers they actually use Cockney as an example to teach the concept of this sound in Semitic languages.

  • venqax

    Well Juan C, I guess your concerns depend on your side of the border. It is also a TRUCK, not a TROOK or TROOKA; TURK-ee, not TOR-kay; and it’s a HAM-berger, not an OMBorgair. And, while we’re on the subject, it’s BASEBALL. Not “beisbol”. The fact that words like tortilla and guacamole, tho of Spanish originhave been brought into English, means their pronunciations are going to get anglicized. OTOH, chipotle I completely agree with. That is a metathesis nukyular-sepulkartype of error based on an inability to read, not an ignorance of Spanish.

    @Peter– forgot your last bit. True, and f has never been an S but as close as you could get with modern common type. Like 2 hyphens for a dash, or !? for an interrobang. My point was simply that is it is paleographic. Not blaming Latin.

  • abby

    Juan C… GUACAMOLE: wok-ah-MOH-leh, not gwok-uh-mow-lay

    I know languages evolve, but when did the “G” before a “U” become silent in Spanish?

    Is guerra now werra?

    Is Guillermo no willermo?

    I am certainly no expert on Spanish, but I did learn the basic pronunciations…and you have confused me!

  • venqax

    Tony re Jewelry: The result of the work of a butcher is butchery (not butchry), that of the burglar is burglary (not burglry), the result of the work of a jeweller is jewellery (not jewelry) – it has four syllables.

    Like most things English, it’s not that simple. The word “jewelry” goes back to the 14th century, quite awhile before the word or concept of “jeweler” (Am spelling) and basically meant things made with jewels or precious metal; compare “finery”, etc. The suffix –ry has never meant simply “the product of”. Compare “brewery”- not the product of a brewer, but the place where brewing is done. Likewise laundry, winery. What you have here is not a pronunciation issue, but one of vocabulary. The word *jewelry* is pronounced JOOL-REE or JOO-EL-REE, not JOOL-ER-EE or JOO-EL-ER-EE. The spelling makes that obvious; there’s nothing between the L and the R. The later word, *jewellery*– is pronounced with 3 or 4 syllables, as you say. The two mean basically the same thing now, but are really 2 different words, etymologically. I think the –ry version, tho older, is more common in AmE (where jeweler is spelled with 1 L, as well), whereas the -ery is more common in BrE. Don’t know why that is.

  • I.Ken Seymour

    In Queensland, Australia, the state football team wears a maroon jersey, but they call themselves ‘marones’ and spell it as maroon. Just go to New Zealand to hear mispronunciation of the mother tongue to extremes.

  • Melanie B.

    Very interesting discussion – thanks… I find it fascinating how many pronunciation variations there are between the UK and USA (where I am – western NY state), and to some degree, between Canada and the USA. Not to mention those variations among various regions of countries.

    When my western Ontario CA friend pronounces “film,” it seems to have 2 syllables, like “FILEM.” Is this typical of Canada and UK in general, or is this a western Ontario variation?

    The UK pronunciation of “jaguar” always sounds strange to me. I can’t quite hear it now in my mind’s ear. In the USA, we typically say “JAG-WAR.”

    As a person who has studied French and Spanish extensively, I tend to get frustrated with anglicized versions of terms from these languages. I guess I am a linguistic snob. :)

  • Melanie B.

    And…. in regard to the author’s #10:

    I think people who mispronounce “cache” may be confusing it with “cachet,” also a French word and pronounced like “caché” – 2 syllables with the account on the second one. These 3 words all come from the French and have different meanings.

    (Actually “cache” and “caché” are related — both referring to something hidden.)

  • venqax

    I. Ken Seymour: We have a somewhat similar situation in the US where the basketball team, the Boston Celtics, prounounce their name SEL-TIKS, whereas suddenly, for some unknown reason, many if not most people stared pronouncing the word KEL-TIK around 20 years ago.

    Before that, everyone said SEL-TIK and I don’t know what brought about the change. My suspicion is that it is mass imitation of the pseudo-academics who have heard that C’s in Celtic languages are always hard. Which of course is entirely irreleant since we are speaking English– which is not a Celtic language and has its own pretty hard rule that Cs before Es are said like Ss, not Ks– AND, even more to the point, Celtic itself is not a Celtic word, anyway.

  • venqax

    @Melanie B. As a person who has studied French and Spanish extensively, I tend to get frustrated with anglicized versions of terms from these languages. I guess I am a linguistic snob

    I guess snobbery can go in both directions and for opposite reasons. I, too, have studied French and Spanish, but get annoyed by those who don’t anglicize their pronunciation when they are speaking English. Unless, of course, they really are native speakers of the other language, it comes of IMO as pretentious at best, and cloddish at worst because they usually flop their attempt at the foreign pronunciation. E.g. “lonzheray” for lingerie, cashay for cache, chaze lounzh with an emphasis on the ZH sound at the end of lounge which should be “longue” anyway.

    Certainly native speakers of French and Spanish I encounter don’t go out of their way to de-Gallicize or de-Hispanicize when speaking English. We get Ombergairs, 18 well (wheel) Trookas with rolled Rs, OAT dogs on the greeel, Torkay on Tonksgeebing, AHOX cleaner, OOatair maylons; dees, dat, and de-odair.

  • bert

    Hehehe, most amusing – this particular page is obviously aimed at American native speakers of English :)
    (As opposed to British ones.)

    Hehehe, excellent work !

  • Kimberly

    Why do some people use ‘and’ instead of ‘an’?

    I’ve seen often such examples as, “He grew and inch since I last saw him.”


    Another thing that I wonder about is the pronunciation of ‘d’ and ‘t’. It seems many people have a tendency to hiss (a slight ‘s’) when they say words with ‘d’ and/or ‘t’. Is this a diction coaching thing?
    When I do it, the tip of my tongue touches the roof of my mouth, so what am I doing differently?

  • venqax

    How do you pronounce “cumin”? As in, the spice. I always hear KOO-MIN or KYOO-MIN, rhymes with Newman. On a tv show recently, I saw a bunch of foodies laugh at a woman (a moron, I do allow) for saying, “KUM -IN”, as if rhyming with summon. BUT, in my dictionary, that very KUM-IN pronunciation is the ONLY one listed. KOO or KYOO-MIN are not even listed as alternative pronunciations, despite their prevalence. So? I am perfectly fine announcing and defending “summon-cumin” over “newman-cumin” if it is justifiable etymologically, etc. Anyone?

  • Joe R

    Proven – Pro-ven, not ‘pru-vin’ as seen on TV ad-vert-is-ments!

  • Maeve

    venqax,
    Etymologically I suppose you could justify KYOO-MIN/Newman. The word cumin derives from OE cymen. In OE the y had the sound of ü in German füllen. However, if you want to go with the only pronunciation given in Merriam-Webster and the Oxford English Dictionary, go with the
    KUM -IN/summon option.

    If the arrogant foodies you cite want to insist on their version, they can cite Answers.com, where kū’mĭn, kyū’- are given as alternate pronunciations of number one kŭm’ĭn.

    I call them “arrogant foodies” because people who ridicule others for their pronunciation are arrogant louts. Anonymous banter in a free-for-all on a web site is one thing, but a face-to-face encounter on a television program quite another. One pronunciation may be standard at a given time in history, and another non-standard, but among civilized people, a simple correction privately and respectfully given ought to be sufficient.

  • elelsea

    Interesting blog.

    My husband’s family says threwn when they mean threw, “I threwn it out.” They drop the “e” on words like cafe and linguine, referring to them instead as caf and linguin. Mocha becomes “mock-a.”

    There are times that I notice mispronunciations and realize it is because individuals have not seen the word in written form and don’t know how to spell it. They are repeating what they have heard spoken, for example, instead of pneumonia (nu monia), they say ammonia.

    I live in Wisconsin and it irks me that Brett Favre is referred to as Brett Farve. And the rest of Wisconsin, including the media and fans, go along with it. He should at least change the spelling to Farve. I have read that this annoys some members of his family who pronounce the name “Fav ray.” People think I am goofy if I bring this up.

    My most despised mispronunciation is supposably instead of supposedly. I know this has been discussed at length, but just putting in my 2 cents.

  • venqax

    @maeve- I would agree with the arrogance diagnosis. What I find unusual about cumin, is that I don’t think I have EVER heard anyone (except for my truculent self) say cumin-summon. I hear it pronounced coo-min or kyoomin by all, most of whom are food-folks of some kind (as most others probably don’t know the word at all). Whenever I say it, whoever is present says, “isn’t it koomin?” or “I thought it was koomin?”. I then either go into my annoying little tutorial or just say, “No. It’s cumin. Most people just pronounce it wrong”. And leave it at that. Oh no. Does that make me an “arrogant speechee”? Oh well. Correct arrogance is annoying. Incorrect arrogance is worthy of punishment.

    @Joe R: Not sure what you mean. In GenAm it is PROO-VIN, rhymes with move-in. It may be PROH-VIN, or similar, rhymes with cloven in Scottish English or Scots?? Don’t know.

    @elesea: I agree Mr Favre should quit it. Especially since I suspect the root of his pronunciation is illiteracy of some kind, not anything historical or interesting. The name Favre, Fabre, Lefevre, etc, is not uncommon, especially in the WI area, and I don’t know of anyone else who pronounces it that lysdexic manner. Le FAYV, I hear a lot. But, it is his name, so he gets some rope, I sussope.

  • Roger Aimes

    As usual one of the least accepted versions of English i.e. American English pretends to be the world standard. Try using it around the globe and you´ll notice how disorientated your audience will become even in the Orient. The simple fact is…there is no universal English so stop acting as if there were some mythical standard English. I would love it there were standardized spelling, pronunciation, & grammar that even the queen would follow -don´t hold your breath.
    If English is to truly become the Lenqua Franca then Anglos will have to yield to other regions and accept that non-native speakers are the largest group using the non-standardized language. English has got rid of the ye & thou, perhaps gender and nutty spelling should be axed next. Iḿ not axing for trouble from the purists, I´m just saying if you fancy yourself a standard bearer you´ll encounter people whoĺl find your version quaint as well as fanciful. English is dead, long live English!

  • venqax

    Don’t know what you’re reading, Roger Aimes. No one here has suggested that American, or any other national standard is a world standard. There are folks pushing the idea of a “Univeral English”, but not on this site, and no one has “acted like it”. If anything, we’ve talked about national standards. Nothing more. If anything, it’s been a few of the Brits on here who seem to think they have a unique handle on standards.

    And let’s get that clear, while we’re at it: Over 2/3 of the world’s native Anglophones are American. America is BY FAR the largest English-speaking country. The UK is a very distant second, and there is a lot more variation in British than in American English, even further reducing its value as a standard. So IF there were a “world standard”, General American would have a stronger claim than RP would. But no one is saying that. And, as another experiencer of the world, I can tell you no one has any special problem with Am English, especially in Latin America, Japan Taiwan, Korea, etc. etc. Maybe the real problem here is not English, per se, but reading comprehension?

  • Sandeep

    anyways is a correct word, meaning is same as anyway.

  • Alex

    You spelt ‘jewellery’ incorrectly. It is not ‘jewelry’

  • Maeve

    Sandeep,
    Yes, “anyways” is a word. So is the interjection “shucks.” Speakers who use “anyways” to mean “anyway” know what they mean by it and listeners understand what they mean by it. But “anyways” is not standard English.

    Alex,
    The OED gives both spellings:
    jewellery | jewelry, n.
    The latter is the preferred U.S. spelling.

  • venqax

    Why is there so much confusion, seemingly in the British quarter, over British vs American English? As an American, I encounter “jewellery” all the time– in British writing and from British writers. I think naught of it. In American writing, it is always jewelry. It really isn’t that hard to conclude that one is a British spelling and one is American. Likewise color/colour, center/centre, traveling/travelling. I don’t want to be rude, but it seems like Americans are generally aware of this, while (whilst) some otherwise erudite Brits aren’t. At least I haven’t seen, on here, Americans saying things like, “You spelled defense incorrectly, it’s spelled with an S, not a C”. Could the British be the provincials in this case, LOL !? I’m just sayin’…

  • Melanie

    It is wonderful to read how compassionate everyone is about language, and I wish I could go back and read all of the entries. But I just began. One has to enjoy reading about all of the variations. I love the pronunciations of the Brits and some of the New Englanders but cannot take their addition of the letter R to “idea”–”idear” is not pleasant to hear, even from Sir Paul, Hugh Grant, Harry Potter, or anyone. And “amongst” may be okay for the UK, or if in an historical play, but please, let’s say “among” in the USA. I am grateful for the tips and reminders and will make sure to leave out the H the next time I say “vehicle.” Being from the South, I don’t like to sound too “hicky.”

  • Bruce Lee

    I’m back from the dead!

  • John Reid

    A funny mnemonic for you….. I think Bennet Cerf may have written this one:
    Sally Smith put on her skates
    Upon the ice to frisk.
    Her friends thought she had lost her mind,
    Her little *

  • Katie

    Acrossed just kills me.
    I crossed the street. – Yes!
    The dog is across the street. – Yes!
    Don’t mix them up. The dog is not acrossed the street.

  • Trinzia

    Could you please add “Nuclear”?
    There’s no such thing as a Nu-cu-lar war.

  • Grammar Granny

    Please add “aviary” to the list. It has four syllables, AVE-EE-AR-Y, not av-er-y. And insurance. I was taught to pronounce it in-SURE-ance, not IN-sure-ance as I often hear. And a real pet peeve of mine: who is the pretentious twit that started the current craze for saying oh-MAJJ instead of AH-midge for the word homage? And why oh why am I finding that abomination “irregardless” in some dictionaries now? AAAACCHHHH!

    I pronounce the r in February, I say jew-el-ry, and I do many of the things that some commenters say “no one” does. But then, I was educated in Massachusetts in the 1960′s and, therefore, am a defender and an advocate of correct pronunciation, believing that standardized use of our language leads to clarity rather than confusion…a good thing, yes?

  • Susie B

    Regarding a couple of items ( the L in palm etc. how “New Englanders” speak:

    1. Would you say SAL-mon? Believe it or not, I have heard a couple of people pronounce it that way, not even knowing that the L is supposed to be silent. One was in a voice- acting class!

    2. I am originally from Western Massachusetts, which makes me a New Englander. We do not speak like those from the Boston and other more coastal areas of Mass. We pronounce our ending r’s as in fear and do not say pahk the cah.We say Tom as Tahm not Tawm. Now I live in Nevada and appreciate the comments on the correct way to say its name.

    3. I know, I said two but have to ask this question: when did it become correct to pronounce FORM-idable as form-ID-able, as I hear now from radio and TV announcers, guests, hosts, EVEN on the public stations, which are supposedly appealing to a more educated audience? Or has the second one always been acceptable and I am wrong?
    Thanks.

  • calliegal235

    I have read several of the comments indicating the authors do not think it very important to pronounce words correctly, in spite of the fact, that some mispronounced words are actually completely different words than what the user has in mind.
    In some cases, it really makes it more difficult to communicate with people.
    Once, I heard my linguistically talented husband paraphrase an “English” statement from an American, into English for an employee in a cafeteria. It is possible that the employee was an immigrant, for whom English was a second language, but this means it was all the more important that the American speak distinctly. Here’s the sentence he paraphrased, as near as I can make it:
    Jdawlscowdriet?
    My husband said to the employee, trying to understand, what sounded like one word:
    I think he wants to know if you are out of cream.
    The rocket scientist, Richard Feynman, considered spelling a social convention, not a science, and he was right. However, our pronounciation social convention falls into quite a disarray if we decide to use one word when we mean another, or completely mispronounce words, especially one after another in the same sentence!
    Personally, I just find it easier to communicate if we pronouce the same words in a particular language the same way. It can be something like a fun puzzle.
    If you don’t really like words, why would you read about them?

  • calliegal235

    venqax:
    And let’s get that clear, while we’re at it: Over 2/3 of the world’s native Anglophones are American. America is BY FAR the largest English-speaking country. The UK is a very distant second, and there is a lot more variation in British than in American English, even further reducing its value as a standard. So IF there were a “world standard”, General American would have a stronger claim than RP would.
    Perhaps true, however, very few Brits learned English as a second language, while a great many Americans are still learning English as a second language. So, we have quite a mixture here in the U.S.

  • calliegal235

    I found this page by searching for, “Why do people say idear instead of idea?” I still don’t know where that originated. Does anyone know?
    My mom is from Grundy, VA, and they say, “idear.” Many in those mountains are from Scottish, Irish, or German families.
    Does anyone know from where that ‘r’ on the end of words which end in ‘a’ came?
    My mother-in-law used to say, innersting, for interesting. I was never sure if she did it just for fun, or really thought it ought to be pronounced that way. Her parents were school teachers, and she was an avid crossword puzzle solver and reader. Have others heard of this variant pronounciation?

  • USA HATER

    Pronounciation is pronounced PRO-NOUN-SI-ATION.

    What kind of screwed up country are you from? Oh, right, America

  • Sean Lewis

    GrammarGranny, you found “irregardless” in a dictionary??? Wow. I start to wonder if we have any use for dictionaries if they’re going to lower the bar to clearly mis-used and frankly incorrect “devolution” of language as opposed to maintaining standards! Amazing. There’s no way “irregardless” is proper; we all know it’s become more common simply out of ignorance.

    On my planet, we’ll have a standard reference of what’s correct and what isn’t, and yes we’ll tolerate and even accept variations of that standard. But the standard will remain. Still, it;s hard to argue that our language(s) are not always evolving (sometimes de-volving) and changing. That’s just the human element, and language is a human thing.

    And Sandeep, “anyways” is just another example of this, in my book. Sure, it’s “a word,” but that doesn’t make it a correct word. It’s obviously another example of a deterioration in usage of the language — and I won’t opine on the cause of that — but we already have a word for that: “anyway.” If someone wants to use the word “anyways” (or “irregardless” or “aks” any other bastardizations of other standard words), I do indeed clearly understand them, but it’s a reflection on them, and it’s quite obviously incorrect. It does not mean that it or any of these examples need to become accepted as standard.

    One more to add to the list: pronunciation of the word “Washington” with an “r” in it — “WAR-shington.” Kind of the same thing that Calliegal above is talking about. I guess that’s maybe it’s more of an example of regional dialect or accent, and we here in Washington State tolerate it good-naturedly, but we do notice it and wonder about where that “r” came from!

  • Sean Lewis

    …and for the record, I have NEVER seen or heard the word “jewellery.” I’ve heard it pronounced “JEW-lery” plenty of times, though.

    Finally, I’ll say that I’m appalled at how many “professional broadcasters” (mostly in sports, of course) still commonly say “he played good.”

    Sheeesh.

  • Linda Paparsenos

    I was born and raised in N.J., have lived in Greece for almost 40 years where I taught English as a Foreign Language. The text books with teacher’s books were based on British English. The RP, supposedly the English of BBC, was given for many of the words listed, including often and listen both with a slient t. I also notice my friends raised in London pronounce many words with an R that isn’t there (idear) andl leave it where there is one. (Court and caught are homonyms).
    But at this point I have a question: I now spend a good deal of time in Milwaukee as my younger son lives here and have been assured by those born and raised here that the Midwest/Wisconsin accent is the preferred accent in the USA and is what broadcasters are encouraged to use. So much of this accent is grating on the ear I just wonder: is there an equivalent of RP in the States and if so, is the Midwest pronunciation considered it?
    One more point: my grandson’s pronunciation was graded as “acceptable’ for English as a Second Language as he apparently picked up an “accent” from his father. My son does not have a Greek accent, more of a Northeast USA He has been in the country for17 of his 34 years. How does a school get off with this, and in effect, telling my son he is not eligible to read English to his son. ESPECIALLY IN MILWAUKEE! Any answers?

  • Joe

    The word is “ASPHALT” not ashphalt! No ASH say it right…

  • Joe

    I drives me nuts when “professional broadcasters” are speaking about the “Time of Day” and the say for example, “It happened at 8 am This Morning” Really? as opposed to 8 am This Evening? If the event reported took place at 8 am say it happened at 8 am or 8:00 (8 o-clock) this morning…

  • Maeve

    USA HATER on August 25, 2011 5:58 am

    Pronounciation is pronounced PRO-NOUN-SI-ATION. What kind of screwed up country are you from? Oh, right, America

    One can only wonder what dictionary you use to look up the standard pronunciation of English words.

  • Angelica

    Currently in a linguistics class.. it amazes me how people actually pay attention to grammar & expect everyone to speak “properly”

  • Emily

    I used to work with a man who was educated but would say ‘onest’ instead of once. I only did that onest. Maybe it was his Louisiana heritage.

  • Alice Barham

    Realtor is only two syllables and is pronounced Real -tor.

    And a note to Maeve, who has posted just above me: You’ve given an incorrect spelling of pronunciation.

  • Maeve

    Alice,
    I spell pronunciation “pronunciation.”

    It’s USA HATER who doesn’t know how to spell the word.

  • venqax

    Linda Paparsenos …the Midwest/Wisconsin accent is the preferred accent in the USA and is what broadcasters are encouraged to use. Is there an equivalent of RP in the States and if so, is the Midwest pronunciation considered it?Yes to Midwestern being the broadcast standard, and in many ways the “preferred” standard in the US, called “General American” or “Standard American English”. No to that being equated with a Wisconsin accent. The “Midwest: referenced as a General American standard is more like Iowa, western Illinois, eastern Nebraska.

    Sean Lewis …and for the record, I have NEVER seen or heard the word “jewellery.” I’ve heard it pronounced “JEW-lery” plenty of times, though. If you read things from Britain you’d see jewellery in writing. People in the US, tho, do mispronounce jewelry as if it were spelled –LERY very commonly.

  • venqax

    calliegal235: Once, I heard my linguistically talented husband paraphrase an “English” statement from an American, into English: Jdawlscowdriet.
    Characterizing this as simply from “an American” is very misleading. Obviously this person was speaking colloquially with a very strong regional or even foreign accent (at least) that is no more representative of American English than any number of unintelligible non-standard dialects in the UK would be of RP. There’s nothing wrong with regionalism and dialects. There IS something wrong with being completely unaware of or incapable of using standard language, or not knowing the difference between the 2.

    Over 2/3 of the world’s native Anglophones are American. America is BY FAR the largest English-speaking country. My points here were simply that, 1) American English is much less “diverse” than the Englishes spoken in the UK are. And 2), many have questioned the idea that American English is the dominant form in the world, saying things like “only 8% of English is spoken by Americans” or it is the “least accepted” or something disingenuous like that. The fact is that 2 out 3 NATIVE English speakers in the world are in the USA. We aren’t talking about places like India or EU countries where people learn English as a second language. Indian English is recognized as its own standard, in any case. And American English is what is taught as ESL in places like Latin America, Japan, Korea. I advocate national, not global, standards for English. The sun set on certain things a long time ago.

  • LA

    My pet peeve is when people say “fermiliar” instead of “familiar.”

    The author of this article is dead wrong on “realtor.”

  • venqax

    What’s wrong with the pronunciation of realtor? The author has it right.

    It is hard to argue convincingly, tho, that it is only 2 syllables, as REE-AL is very difficult to defend as only one syllable. That schwa A after the long E is just too strongly pronounced.

  • Kate

    My peeve: Data. DAH-tuh (incorrect) instead of DAY-tuh.

  • WizeChik

    “Pronounciation is pronounced PRO-NOUN-SI-ATION.”

    Pronunciation is pronounced “pro-NUN-see-ay-shun”, not “pro-NOUN-see-ay-shun”.

  • Keaton

    I am a Missourian, and HATE it when (usually Congressmen) pronounce it “Mizzura”. Truth be told, not a lot of people enunciate the two ‘S’s, but I fail to see how they extract the ‘A’ out of the end. As far as common pronunciation is concerned, my home state is pronounced “Miz-ur-ee”.

  • venqax

    Pronounciation would be pronounced PROH-NOUN-SEE-AY-SHUN. But pronounciation is not a word. Pronunciation is a word. It is pronounced PROH-NUN-SEE-AY-SHUN. See how easy this can be!

  • P

    Good list…just wanted to add one more. Too many people use “supposably” instead of “supposedly”.

  • CJ

    You’d have to be pretty stupid to mispronounce most of these.

  • venqax

    Kate: AMEN. Same with STAY-tis, KAY-vee-at, op-er-AN-DEYE,
    STRAY-ta. Most Latin should be pronounced in English with “long” vowels. Also an-ten-EE, ver-ta-BREE, noh-VEE. Every physician who says ver-ta-BRAY loses my confidence reeght awah.

  • MEP

    I need some words with “au” in their spelling, which are pronounced with a LONG A, as in GAUGE.

  • Yoshi

    I personally have never heard “irregardless”, “asterik”, “bob wire”, “pitch-er” and several others on the list, and I really pity you for having to put up with that.

    February I pronounce correctly; however, I think it sounds better as Feb”yoo”ary, without the first R, but library without the first R sounds weird. And while “hw-” pronunciations like “hwip” (whip) and “hwayt” (white) are correct, I strongly prefer the “H-less”, or unaspirated, pronunciation. I find many of the secondary pronunciations to have more aesthetic value, and you put some on your list as incorrect.

    And I don’t understand how you can name words like “clothes” and “niche”–which are correct–when there are worse things out there like (surprise) “sup-Prayz” rather than “ser-Prayz” and (temperature) “Tem-pe-cher” rather than “Tem-per-uh-cher” or “Tem-pruh-cher”, and let’s not forget herb being pronounced “herb” instead of “erb”. Also, it really pisses me off when people say “me either” (me neither) and “he/she/it have” (has), even though those are more grammatical than pronunciation. I can let something like spelling slide, as long as it’s understandable (’cause face it, English is one *ed up language to spell), but when it comes to pronunciation and grammar, there’s just a lot to cover, lol.

    I am a writer and linguist, and below are disagreements I have with your list:

    1. aegis – I will disagree and say it should be pronounced “Ey-jis” which is my preference, although “ee” is the predominant pronunciation of “ae”, it is not the only way. “Vertebrae” is with an “-ey”, and I opt to use it here, because “EE-jis” sounds ugly.

    14. clothes – “klohz” is correct.

    26. Illinois – “-noiz” is correct, plus this is English not French. If people really cared about pronouncing it correctly, in this case French pronunciation, it would be more like “i-li-Nwah” and not “il-uh-Noy(z)”. So I really don’t care what people in Illinois have to say, when they don’t even know how to pronounce their state name properly in the first place.

    (Not a disagreement, Appendance)
    32. medieval – “mid-ee-vuhl” is also correct, though I’ve never heard anyone say “meed-E-vuhl”. Although “mee-dee-Ee-vuhl” is correct, it’s completely impractical to say like (facetiae) “fuh-See-shee-ee”, which I would suggest pronouncing “fuh-See-shee-ey”. So I might say “mid-ee-Ey-vuhl”, but I’d rather opt for “mid-Ee-vuhl”, and likewise with aether (“Ee-ther”), although there are no secondary pronunciations, I pronounce it “Ey-dher”, and formulae (plural of formula) “For-myoo-ley”.

    (Not a disagreement)
    34. mischievous – I know how it’s pronounced, but I feel like “mischievious” deserves to be a word in its own right, as a combination of “mischievous” and “devious”, which is, I think, where the whole confusion lies anyway.

    35. niche – “nitsh” is correct, “neesh” is okay to me, but is not an accepted pronunciation. French words in English have a predictable pronunciation because of the approximation to French pronunciation, but I refuse to pronounce things half-assed, like foyer (“Foi-er”) “Foi-ey” which should be “fwa-Yey”, and while we’re at it, voyage should be “vwa-Yazh” and not “Voi-ij”. The things that sound better with a French approximation than an American pronunciation, I will say the French way, other than that, I’m going American, like (crêpe) “kreyp”, not “krep” which sounds like crap. Only francophiles could love such a pronunciation, but I do think that crêpe actually sounds decent with a proper French accent.

    (Not a disagreement)
    36. orient – I see similar occurences happening with “converse” turning into “conversate”. I think it’s a morphological backtracking error, where people take “orientation” and “conversation” and assume the verb form is “orientate” and “conversate”.

    46. sherbet – “Sher-bert” is not incorrect; sherbert is an actual word and variation of sherbet. I think it sounds better than sherbet, which should probably have another pronunciation, “sher-Bey”, like its cognate and synonym sorbet “sor-Bey”. There’s sherbet, sherbert and sorbet, which are all the same thing in the end.

    Aside from these five, you did a really good job with the list. I’m pretty adamant when it comes to maintaining the integrity of Standard English, so I appreciate what you’re doing. I take a prescriptive linguistic approach and I consider myself a liberal purist, which means I’m for upholding Standard English, but I’m not going to eradicate popular slang that’s been deeply ingrained into the language, since it would leave English with a lack of spirit and a degree of creativity; I’m also for the creation of new words that follow established morphological structures (“pellicle” for movie, “nebule” for cloud, and “evit” for avoid, as from inevitable), and I also have nothing against dialects, but there should be a line between Standard English and English dialects.

    Cheers.

  • Valchemishnu

    Direction: A commonly misspelled word (especially) in (and also written incorrectly) word in South Asia.

    It is pronounced incorrectly as dier-ection

  • Levantine

    As a Briton, I’m thoroughly embarrassed by the ignorance that some of my countrymen have displayed on this page. Before condemning this spelling or that pronunciation as an Americanism (as if that’s a bad thing anyway), we would do well to familiarise ourselves properly with our own variety of English. To condemn the American ‘jewelry’ is absurd given that the form was once perfectly standard in British English too; and even the longer spelling now used in the UK should, according to Fowler (and you can’t get more English than him), be pronounced ‘jewel-ry’, which the OED entry (originally written in the early twentieth century) describes as the usual pronunciation of the word. My point is not that we in the UK should say the word like our transatlantic cousins do — clearly usage has changed considerably since the time of Fowler and the OED entry — but that we would be entirely mistaken in considering our current pronunciation in any way superior to the actually more traditional American one.

    If I may express a more general unease, I find the whole article, and many of the comments posted in response to it, extremely disheartening: the level of bigotry and (frequently misplaced) know-it-all smugness evident here is just astonishing. Pronunciational and dialectal variety adds inestimably to a language’s richness, and to deride people for using variant or even non-standard forms in everyday speech is obnoxious to say the least.

  • GoAskAlice

    Gyro makes me cringe when mispronounced. It’s correct pronunciation is”year-ro” I hear it mispronounced all the time but I was in a restaurant two weeks ago and ordered one and the order taker had no idea what I was saying and then figured it out and talked down to me that it was pronounced “jy-ro” and laughingly suggested that I should learn to pronounce what I am ordering. I then explained that I am of armenian/greek decent and actually know how to pronounce the name of the sandwich and that if he would have learned how to correctly pronounce what he is selling he might have gotten his GED. Gyro = Grrrrrrr.

  • Peter

    and let’s not forget herb being pronounced “herb” instead of “erb”.

    I assume you meant ‘”erb” instead of “herb”‘, given “herb” is the correct pronunciation in proper (as opposed to American) English…

  • Peter

    Gyro makes me cringe when mispronounced. It’s correct pronunciation is”year-ro” I hear it mispronounced all the time but I was in a restaurant two weeks ago and ordered one

    I assume we’re not talking about a gyroscope here? (Year-o-scope? Absolutely not!).

    The food item is pronounced “donner kebab” :)

  • venqax

    Sorry, Alice, but assimilation is the price of immigration– at least in the US. Gyro, in English, is pronounced JAI-roh. Pronouncing it GAI-roh would be wrong because in English, Gs preceding Y’s are generally pronounced like J’s. Pronouncing it Year-oh is wrong because in English, G’s don’t sound like Y’s at all. And we are speaking English. That’s the key. We aren’t speaking Greek or Armenian. The rules of pronunciation in those languages are very interesting. They are also quite irrelevant to the pronunciation of English. We have thousands of words that come from other languages that we don’t pronounce according the rules of their language of origin. We don’t even pronounce words from Anglo-Saxon (Old English) as they were pronounced in OE. It’s nice that you are familiar with Armenian and Greek. But believe me, Chinese people have bigger complaints than you do.

    Peter: Sorry, you’re simply crushed by the mass of Uncle Sam. 2 out of every 3 native English speakers are ‘merrcans. Tho speaking proper American English seems to be a challenge for 9 out of 10 of them.

  • Stacey

    I cannot stand hearing about Jennifer Hudson’s FILLINGS anymore. Oh, she’s singing (along with millions saying) feelings? Who knew? But fillings and feelings are not the same….or am I behind?

  • Peter

    Peter: Sorry, you’re simply crushed by the mass of Uncle Sam.

    Maybe he should cut down on the burgers and fries.

  • Peter

    2 out of every 3 native English speakers are ‘merrcans.

    Where do you get that number?

  • venqax

    As it happens there is a pie-chart in Wiki, under the English Language entry that literally (I’m being careful…) illustrates the distribution. Based on census data that are quite accurate so far a I’ve seen. From 1990s, but no significant changes since then show up in the US 2010 data thus far.

    Undoubtedly right about burgers and fries, but they shouldn’t be replaced by chips and organ-meat pies (god, really?). Wait– I think those are getting replaced by burgers already! :) Of course, the rule of the gyro applies anywhere in the Anglosphere.

  • gary clark

    the word Realtor does not have three syllables as stated it has two
    and is often mispronounced the correct pronunciation is Real-tor
    not real-la tor

  • venqax

    Of course you are correct about the insertion of a non-existent vowel between the L and the T. But you still have something of a problem arguing the the REAL in realtor is only one syllable.

  • Matthew

    Funny how one (or more, I am not reading all of the comments) of you is speaking of pronunciation but cannot spell correctly. Tho is spelled though and advice is different from advise. According to the dictionary “vehicle” is 3 syllables. It also states the “medieval” can be pronounced both ways, correctly.

  • venqax

    Who says vehicle doesn’t have 3 syllables? What would be the alternative? VEE-k’l? Does anyone say that? I agree that medieval as 3 syllables is acceptable because I’ve never heard an argument as to why it should be 4.

  • Matthew

    Sorry typed that wrong. Just meant that both words could be pronounced correctly both ways. Was early in the morning and I had not slept. The H can be pronounced and still be correct.

  • Miranda

    Being a native, I cringe when people pronounce Oregon wrong. There is no e on the end, it is not “gone.” It’s pronounced more like “gun” or “gin” with a soft g.

  • Paul Bridle

    Staff who broadcast from the BBC in the UK seem to be Hell-bent on mangling the English language viz.: Ustralia (Australia), Uhmerica (America), Sth Africa, l’gality (legality), plitical (political), plice (police), r’bust (robust), bleeve (believe), bleef (belief), claps (collapse), crate (create), retrick (rhetoric), resoolt (result), sekertree (secretary), veturn (veteran), vunerable (vulnerable) and so it goes on…

    The BBC also seem to have largely dispensed with “are”, “were” and “have” with “is”, “was” and “has” being used instead, resulting in there is/was/has been problems and other such horrors.

    I would be intersted to know if anyone else ahs noticed these BBC usages.

  • Izza

    Some people are leaving no room for natural speech. For example, in “Iced tea”, the ‘d’ and the ‘t’ blend together, so the only way you could make sure that there is a distinction would be to pause between the two words, which is not a natural way of speaking. Obviously if it’s being written as “ice tea” then it’s wrong, but to expect a distinction in speech is a bit ridiculous.

  • Hawkeye

    What is the correct pronunciation of “to”, I say it’s “too” like the number 2/two. So many people I hear on TV, say Tah.

  • daniel

    and all in alphabetical order, too? this list is obsessive-compulsive, half of the things on here can be pronounced either way— english is an evolving language.

    and hawkeye— you can either say tu (like “two”), which is the long form, or tə (“tuh”) or ta (“tah”), it depends on where it is in the sentence. most people only use the first pronunciation where there is a pause afterwards such as at the end of a sentence, but there aren’t really any rules.

    my rule is that if it can be understood, the language has served its purpose and there is no point obsessing over the minute details of the language. there are things called “regional accents” and “idiosyncrasies” that account for different pronunciations.

    there are some things that bother me in pronunciations, but it’s when people label a certain group as speaking a certain way and then deem it as incorrect. for example, i’m a southerner and many people seem convinced that southerners say pi-kæn (pee kan) and then say that we don’t pronounce it correctly, when what we say is pi-kan (pee kahn) or pə-kan (puh kahn) i don’t care what you say or how you say it— it’s part of what makes english such an interesting language. but don’t label other people’s pronunciations as incorrect especially when you make a broad sweeping statement about how group X pronounces words incorrectly (the author didn’t do this, just expanding on the idea).

  • daniel

    and comments like this make my head spin:

    “2 out of every 3 native English speakers are ‘merrcans. Tho speaking proper American English seems to be a challenge for 9 out of 10 of them.”

    if 9 out of 10 people speak it, then isn’t it given that their pronunciation is just as valid as anyone else’s, no matter how much you may dislike it?

  • venqax

    No. Majorities of people cannot properly distinguish your/you’re. compliment/complement, to/too, or whose/who’s, either. That doesn’t mean they are not wrong, or that the differences are artificial. The point we are talking about is regionalism and dialect AS OPPOSED TO standard speech. I don’t know why they distinction has to be repeated, repeatedly. Sorry if *you’re* head spins, but a mistake doesn’t become correct just because *alot* of people make it.

  • venqax

    @Yoshi : February I pronounce correctly; however, I think it sounds better as Feb”yoo”ary, without the first R…And while “hw-” pronunciations like “hwip” (whip) and “hwayt” (white) are correct, I strongly prefer the “H-less”, or unaspirated, pronunciation. I find many of the secondary pronunciations to have more aesthetic value, and you put some on your list as incorrect.
    Because they are incorrect. English usage isn’t interior decorating. I “prefer” saying LONZH-ur-ay for lingerie, too, but my preference is still wrong. I prefer saying and writing guverment to government. What I prefer doesn’t matter.

    1. aegis – Again, what sounds ugly to you is irrelevant. In American, anyway, it’s pretty standard that AE makes a long EE sound. There is one vertaBRA and more vertaBREE,. There are no vertaBRAY. That’s one of my shibboleths for choosing a doctor. If they don’t even know how to pronounce it correctly, etc, etc. Likewise supernovEE, antennEE, and even in British, archEEology and encylopEEdia. A few words, like *aesthetic* are exceptions. The same goes for OE—another faux-Latin spelling. Notice that the plain E, not an A, has replaced he AE in most American spellings.
    26. Illinois – The S is silent. It doesn’t matter that it is English, it is a proper noun, a place-name no less, and its pronunciation has long been standardized as IL-IN-OI. Even if English conventions were applied, there isn’t one for words ending in OIS, which English doesn’t do. If the S were pronounced, an E would be added to the end. Similarly ArkansAW, and ConneTicut with a silent middle C. For one who would preserve what’s *been deeply ingrained into the language* this is an odd position to take. Names don’t follow rules well.

    35. niche – “nitsh” is correct. I agree. “Rhyme it with itch, French no more,” says Fowler (or Hoyt). The word has been in English far long enough to be anglicized. Likewise FOI-YUR, GIL-A-TEEN, etc. I would advocate saying KWITCH, Loraine.
    KREEP SOO-ZET??

    46. sherbet – “Sher-bert” is not incorrect; sherbert is an actual word and variation of sherbet.
    Just like nukyular is a variation of nuclear; and vegeterble is a variation of vegetable. The word is sherbet. Anglicizing and saying the T is great, but there is no second R.

  • Stephanie Fairhall

    It’s shameful to say this but I’m Australian and we are very lazy with our language, we tie words together, instead of saying “Good on you” we say “Goodonya” and i noticed that i personally haven’t even pronouncing Feburary with an ‘a’ let alone a second ‘r’ i say “Februry”. This is something i find i must change.

  • Non-elisted

    This isn’t just about pedigree. I will soon have my second Ivy League degree, and I routinely make most of the errors mentioned here. And I’m not ashamed. There are many philosophies on language. I think that the language should be left to evolve naturally. If these mistakes are common, they’re common for a reason, and we should update the language, not impose restrictions that counter natural tendencies. Progressive, not regressive.

    That said, I did enjoy the article and it’s interesting to think about some of these differences. Though if I ever said “FebRUary,” everyone I know, including my professors, would think I was a tool.

  • elelsea

    Stephanie, you wrote … instead of saying “Good on you” we say “Goodonya”

    How would you use “Good on you” in a sentence? I have never heard that phrase before.

    I have heard “Good for you!” as a congratulatory statement. And, “Eating spinach is good for you.”

    Is “good on you” the same as “good for you”?

  • Betty

    Actually, to the first British person to post, I think you’ll find that it is correct to pronounce often without the T, as “of-fen”, as suggested in this site. To pronounce it phonetically is crass and incorrect. I’m an English teacher; I should know.

  • snerk

    “variation” has four syllables. All of them are inevitable.

  • Fricky Fresh

    I live in Texas… Maybe my southern draw has something to do with the words i pronounce wrong. My girlfriend hates it.

    Acrosst, instead of across.
    Exspecially instead of especially.
    Elts instead of else.

  • keel

    As a native english speaker after spending quite some time trying to learn spanish and french, the sheer lunacy of the pronounciation rules becomes glaring. The pronounciation of words in english ALWAYS contradicts itself. In spanish, if you know how a letter sounds in a word, its function never changes from word to word (save a small number of exceptions). While I agree with many of the proposed corrections, different regions have their own rules wherein the author of this article is simply wrong. On one hand, its nice having a variety of words plucked from various other languages/times with different pronounciations, as it embodies some kind of heritage, but on the other hand its kind of… to put bluntly, f***ed.

  • Shenanigans

    41. preventive
    Preventative is in the Webster’s Dictionary. Yes, one’s a noun and one’s a verb, but that doesn’t make it a mispronunciation.

  • venqax

    So which is the verb? to preventive or to preventative? Or maybe Webster’s Dictionary is the verb. Is it I preventive, you preventive, he/she/it preventives? I preventived. I am preventiving. Maybe the exotic verb *prevent* could substitute here. …What are you talking about?

    How many times must it be repeated that there is a difference between regionalisms, dialects, *twangs* and standard speech? Is it 10, 20, 406? Is it different from the number of times it must be said the “being in the dictionary” means absolutely nothing regarding the propriety of a word? Does any place teach anything regarding English any more? Can we spell any way we want to now, too? Maybe it’s my “twang” but I spell it spsgetty. It’ll be in Webster’s sune enuff.

  • Om

    It is truly amazing how an attempt to showboat intellect and class always winds up revealing ignorance and intolerance. Such behavior may hurt or humiliate an individual because of their cultural dialect or unfamiliar use of a word but with an understanding of its meaning. If you understand what is meant, leave it alone. The mispronunciation of a word shouldn’t draw judgment on a individual’s character or intellect. Correcting someone says more about the character of one who corrects than one who mispronounces. Einstein mispronounced words often, and it wasn’t always the result of his accent. He had better things on his mind.

    This is kuh-rap, Maeve.

  • Maeve

    Om,
    If I had this post to do over, I would rethink and rewrite some of the examples, but the basic premise–that there is a difference between an acceptable alternate pronunciation and an unacceptable mispronunciation–remains valid.

    Mastery of a standard form of English, including pronunciation, is one of the things that American children can be expected to acquire in eight or more years of formal education.

    Nowhere in the article do I suggest that anyone should be so disrespectful as to correct the pronunciation of others in a non-teaching situation. I hope you will take the time to read my guidelines regarding standard vs nonstandard English here:
    http://www.dailywritingtips.com/what-to-do-about-non-standard-english/

  • Amelia

    Holy cow, prescriptivist much?

    These are your personal pronunciation pet peeves, no more, no less. I mean, do you understand what an isogloss is? How dialects work? What you’re saying has no basis in historical linguistics. You’re aware that pronunciations change over time, yes? I mean, for pete’s sake, insisting that people pronounce the “r” in “February”—have you NOTICED that we don’t pronounce the “k” in “knife”?

    This is why we have the IPA. Orthography isn’t everything.

  • Amelia

    “On the other hand, some of you claiming to be university-educated linguists should simply be ashamed of yourselves. Just because your hippie prof told you it’s “politically correct” to automatically accept any and all pronunciations just because some idiot once decided to say it that way doesn’t mean we’re not allowed to point out that it’s wrong! Nobody’s forcing you to pronounce things the way they were intended. You’re free to sound like a moron if you want. Just don’t throw a hissy fit just because someone has the gall to point out some common mistakes and wants to help you improve.”

    Good. Lord.

    Yeah, somebody sounds uneducated here. Hint: it’s not the “university-educated,” “politically correct” linguists.

    All aboard the clue train! When people say that pronunciations are relative, do you have an idea what they mean? No, you don’t, so I’ll explain.

    They mean that what is NOW accepted by small-minded people like you as being “correct” was ONCE A MISTAKE. Or a corruption. Something that the equivalent of you (in, say the 15th century) railed against!

    Because: linguistic change. On lexical, on morphological, AND on phonological levels.

    Got it?

    Jesus christ. Could people be any dumber or more classist?

  • Amelia

    “The word is sherbet. Anglicizing and saying the T is great, but there is no second R”

    Uh, actually, there is no French word “sherbet.” There’s a good deal more going on than “anglicizing a French word by pronouncing the ‘t’.”

    There IS a French word “sorbet,” which is itself a loanword, from Italian “sorbetto,” which comes from Turkish “şerbet,” which comes from from Persian “sharbat,” which comes from the Arabic word for “drink,” “sharba.” Seeing as this is clearly a hand-me-down loanword, and seeing as we have seen fit to add the esh (“sh”) back into the word even though the Romance languages only have an “s,” tell me, what is your major objection to adding in an “r” if it rolls off the tongue for English speakers? What is your compelling prescriptivist argument?

    Do you just not like the kinds of people who say “sherbert”? Do you think they’re low-class?

  • Amelia

    “For those of you who think we’re elitist, racist, classist or snobs, please go look up “Pygmalion,” or if heavy reading’s not your thing, at least go rent Rex Harrison’s “My Fair Lady,” wherein you will hear the immortal truth “With every word you utter, you condemn yourself to the gutter.”

    I think you kinda missed the point there, dude.

    People don’t speak dialects in a vacuum. Their non-standard, low-prestige dialects are only “condemning them to the gutter” because PEOPLE are condemning to the gutter. The people who are judging them for the dialect they speak. People like…you.

    Also extra points for the condescending “if heavy reading’s not your thing” when the social commentary re: accents and class in “Pygmalion” clearly went over your head. Eliza’s smart, and so is her dad. It’s just the rest of society that’s like “OMG HOW VULGAR.” You’ll note that Eliza’s vulgar gutter talk—I believe there was a certain word starting with “b” involved—actually earned her the admiration of one of the upper class. (Whether Freddie was a progressive out to shatter the dominant paradigm, or just kind of a doofus, is debatable, though.)

  • Amelia

    “The word “orange” came into English from the Spanish naranja. ”

    I agree with your overall point, but I need to nitpick: “orange” didn’t come into English from Spanish. It came from Old French via Anglo-Norman. Totally different. I don’t think we have many Spanish words in English at all (except for obvious loanwords). Not a lot of linguistic contact between English and Spanish, you know?

  • Amelia

    “1. aegis – I will disagree and say it should be pronounced “Ey-jis” which is my preference, although “ee” is the predominant pronunciation of “ae”, it is not the only way. “Vertebrae” is with an “-ey”, and I opt to use it here, because “EE-jis” sounds ugly.”

    Uh, Yoshi? The conventions for how you pronounce the ash (æ) in Greek and Latin are different. You know that “Aegis” is Greek while “vertebrae” is Latin, right?

    Granted, the Latin ash is usually not pronounced the classical way, [aɪ] (“aye”)—we say vertebrei, not vertebraye—but I still think that the Greek ash should be kept [i]. Think Æsop, dæmon, etc.

    The reason I’m a stickler for this is because classical Greek is not longer spoken…so it can’t change. Otherwise I’d certainly say, “If you want to change the vowel, then change the vowel…if you feel it’s necessary.”

    BTW, Yoshi, how are you a linguist if you say things like “I say February correctly”? I didn’t appreciate being told I pronounce the name of my native state wrong, either.

  • Amelia

    “There is one vertaBRA and more vertaBREE,. There are no vertaBRAY. That’s one of my shibboleths for choosing a doctor. If they don’t even know how to pronounce it correctly, etc, etc. Likewise supernovEE, antennEE”

    Holy confusing Greek and Latin, batman!

    I’m sorry you’ve turned down doctors because they pronounced “antennae” as [æntɛnaɪ] when…the ash is, in fact, pronounced that way in Classical Latin. Oops. What did you want them to say?

    Now, for “vertebrae” (which I assume is actually the word you were talking about), I agree that there’s no “vertebray.” However, it ain’t “vertebree,” either. It’s Latin. It’s “vertebraye.” With an [aɪ]. But you know what? No one pronounces classical languages correctly anyway, because…we don’t have any native speakers anymore, so we don’t know exactly how they were pronounced. Makes being snobby kinda tough.

    Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, “vertebray” is MORE correct than “vertebree” (or rather, less worthy of your superficial scorn). Neither one is a criterion for choosing a doctor. Seriously, does it matter how s/he pronounces the word, so long as s/he knows all 24 of them?

    But then, you know the word “shibboleth,” so you must know what you’re talking about!

  • Amelia

    P.S. I think people should study Latin before complaining that people are mispronouncing Latin words. Ditto for any other language. Just sayin’.

  • Amelia

    “19. February – Disagree here too. Dropping the R just seems lazy to me, and all the CAREFUL speakers I know– a few– do very consciously pronounce it. I think this is one in particularsomething of a shibboleth (sp) in the US for educated vs. semi-literate speakers. ”

    Oh my sweet Lord Leonard Bloomfield, are you for real?

    1. I have never pronounced the “r” in “February” because a) I never saw the use and b) it seemed vestigial to me; it works with Latin phonology, but not with English phonology.
    2. I know how to spell the word. There’s an “r”! I’m aware! I also know how to spell “shibboleth,” with enough confidence to not need to put a (sp?) after it. I am also literate in every other sense of the word. My vocabulary is excellent. My spelling and grammar is also perfect unless I’ve been awake for 48 straight hours, or something like that.
    3. ?
    4. I am “semi-literate.”

    Why would you say this…?

    1. Question the literacy of anyone who doesn’t pronounce words the way you do.
    2. ?
    3. Profit!

  • Amelia

    Oh oh oh irony. Sorry guys…that should be, “My spelling and grammar ARE also perfect unless I’ve been awake for 48 straight hours, or something like that.”

    I didn’t go to bed last night, though. So…exception that proves the rule?

    Sorry for the high volume of posts. That’s also a function of having been awake during the strange time between 2 am-7 am.

  • Amelia

    “A few words, like *aesthetic* are exceptions. ” But you’re breaking your Greek-ash-is-pronounced “ee” rule! Boo! Hiss!

    Or wait…maybe pronouncing “aesthetic” with an [ɛ] and not an [i] is, like, an okay thing to do because it’s accepted, because it’s come into the language via centuries of phonetic changes, and because it feels naturally to you?

    Whoa, it’s almost like…that’s what everyone else who pronounces a word differently from the way you’re used is doing!

    Nah. They’re just “careless speakers.”

  • Amelia

    “Remember the dictum, “Hate the sin, not the sinner?” That is what is going on here.”

    Yeah. I was never a fan of that, since you mention it. Usually the “sin”… wasn’t, and the supposedly un-hated “sinner” always ended up suffering from the hater’s prejudice anyhow…

  • Amelia

    “As a student of the French language, I listen carefully to all native speakers for their pronounciation of words. While I understand and appreciate the differences between Québécois French and Parisian French, I’d like to think that I could trust one Quebecker’s pronouciation to be extremely similar to everyone else’s, if not identical.”

    Just out of curiosity (I know you’ll probably never read this, but just in case), are you studying Québecois French rather than French French? If so, that’s cool (Québecois is awesome), but be prepared to be looked down on for your accent in France (a bit like people look down on the speakers of the dialects Maeve considers non-standard).

  • venqax

    Holy cow, prescriptivist much?
    Oh, Amelia (I pronounce that AY-MEE-’LY-AY)! Yes. Prescription is necessary to having a standard speech as opposed to a random collection of dialects, creoles, and pidgins. We prescribe spelling and grammar, too, and no one seems to have a problem with that. Only pronunciation, for some never-defined reason is supposed to be chaotic. Now why is that?

    These are your personal pronunciation pet peeves, no more, no less.
    No, these are standard pronunciations agreed upon by the large majority of those like the author who use and consider English professionally and seriously.

    I mean, do you understand what an isogloss is? How dialects work?
    Yes. They are not standard speech. We are talking about standard speech Do you know what standard speech is? The isogloss for SAE is the boundaries of the USA, not a set of RR tracks north of your neighborhood, along Glottal Creek, then back along Fouled Vowel Road.

    I mean, for pete’s sake, insisting that people pronounce the “r” in “February”—have you NOTICED that we don’t pronounce the “k” in “knife”?
    Yes. That is because the K in knife is silent. The R in February is not. I’m sorry if pronouncing it is challenging for you. There is a whole category of KN silent K words where the K is silent, ya KNow? There is no such rule for “inconvenient R’s” being ignored, unless you count vetenarian and tempature which are not recommended, either.

    Orthography isn’t everything.
    But it’s MOST things. English spelling is not as chaotic as often thought. Most words correlate with their spelling.

    You’re free to sound like a moron if you want. Just don’t throw a hissy fit just because someone has the gall to point out some common mistakes and wants to help you improve.”
    Well said. For the record, when I discover that I have been pronouncing a word incorrectly, I make a purposeful effort to change my pronunciation. Period. I do not just assume the way I’ve heard a word said all my life is correct. I investigate and if I’m mistaken I fix it. I don’t accuse the person who pointed it out of being an oppressor or a “hater”(god, do you really use that word?).There is whole philosophy of life there, BTW.

    All aboard the clue train! When people say that pronunciations are relative, do you have an idea what they mean?
    It means they don’t believe in standards. It means they are not prescriptivists and they probably don’t like the idea of standard speech or know what it is. But, again, they don’t say spelling and grammar are relative, do they? Not that aive cene annywaye (as long as you understand that, it should be fine, raight?

    Because: linguistics change. Got it?
    Well, languages change, if not linguistics. But not every day. You don’t get to dismiss any and every convoluted mangling of English as “evolution in progress”. Got that?

    Could people be any dumber or more classist?
    Dumber has no bottom. Classist is fine if by upper class you mean better educated than average. And that is not at all coterminous with the Ivy League. I hear such educettes say nukylar, peculyalar and realator frequently, and even their careful speech is very non-standard…Lower classes also tend to be less educated and therefore speak more poorly. You can either try to correct that, or just pretend it isn’t so while your “betters” in a linguistic sense laugh at your overstepping your isogloss and not leaving your vernacular home on the porch where it belongs. Standard speech is available to anyone who wants it, regardless of class. There is no fee.

    Uh, actually, there is no French word “sherbet.”
    No, the French confusion comes from sorbet. Sherbet comes from Persian, Turkish and Arab words, none of which have an R in the last syllable. Obviously, some people confuse sherbet with someone named Herbert. Just like they confuse JanYOOary with FebROOary. Many sources don’t recognize sherbert at all as a variant. All recognize sherbet. So where would an acceptable second R come from, exactly, but as an illiterate mistake? Nowhere. It isn’t acceptable. Vegterble may roll off the tongue, too. That is not the criterion for permissibility.

    Do you just not like the kinds of people who say “sherbert”? Do you think they’re low-class?
    It’s not a matter of class or likeability, but one of literacy. Just like grown-ups who say aminal crackers or spsgetti– I can like them, but wish they wouldn’t talk that way around impressionable children.

    People don’t speak dialects in a vacuum.
    No, they speak them behind their isoglosses, 

    The people who are judging them for the dialect they speak. People like…you. So we are trying to help them by learning to recognize and correct their mistakes so they won’t get judged as being less capable than they perhaps are. I once pronounced conscience as “con-science” because I had never seen the word. I was corrected and I am glad. I was in the third grade and even then didn’t want to sound like a oaf. Wouldn’t you judge someone who misspelled head as hed? Or wrote that they had blue ies? Can’t speak vs. can’t spell. What is the difference?

    Uh, Yoshi? The conventions for how you pronounce the ash (æ) in Greek and Latin are different.
    You know that we aren’t speaking Greek or Latin, classical or otherwise, right? In American English, the general rule is to pronounce AE as EE, regardless of the word’s birth certificate. We rarely pronounce foreign words foreignly.

    classical Greek is not longer spoken
    Precisely. And especially not by us.

    “If you want to change the vowel, then change the vowel…if you feel it’s necessary.
    Oh, so rules of pronunciation are up to the speaker? In that case I can just pronounce it UGis. In fact, all vowels should just be schwaed.

    Yoshi, how are you a linguist if you say things like “I say February correctly”? Perhaps he is a prescriptive linguist. Not all linguists share your conviction that orthoepy is random, ruleless, and personal.

    Holy confusing Greek and Latin, batman!
    More like wholly confusing Greek and Latin with English. I don’t want my doctors to speak Classical Latin any more than I want them to practice Classical Latin medicine. I also don’t want them saying AY at the end of word just because they see a letter A there. Medicine isn’t Sesame Street.

    Seriously, does it matter how s/he pronounces the word, so long as s/he knows all 24 of them?
    Probably. If someone is too intellectually lazy to learn how to properly pronounce a word common in his field, that trait is probably not unique to his speaking. Why wouldn’t I assume that someone who says vertabrAY might also think there are 22 or 31 of them, because they never bothered to actually count? And what kind of snob are you to insist that everyone have 24 vertabrae? Can’t we change the number…if we feel it’s necessary?

    I think people should study Latin before complaining that people are mispronouncing Latin words.
    I am not telling Ancient Romans how to speak Latin. I’m talking about how modern Americans should pronounce English words that came from Latin, etc.

    I have never pronounced the “r” in “February” because a) I never saw the use Oh, okay. I didn’t realize that “seeing the use” was the standard for pronunciation. Now I no. (don’t see the use for silent K’s and needless W’s).

    My spelling and grammar is also perfect.
    Whatever do you mean? If pronunciation doesn’t have any rules to make it “perfect” then surely spelling and grammar don’t either. You must be one of those Yoshi-types who say they pronounce February correctly.

  • Amelia

    You’re actually proving my point in trying to use the orthography of my name against me. My name is written with Italian and not English orthography, and gets frequently mispronounced by people who take it for the latter. So orthography’s not always God, you know? Also, learn the IPA.

    “We prescribe spelling and grammar, too, and no one seems to have a problem with that. Only pronunciation, for some never-defined reason is supposed to be chaotic.”

    No, there are anti-prescriptivist philosophies re: grammar, too. And I’d argue that spelling is completely different—it’s visual, it engages different parts of the brain. Language isn’t usually visual (there are exceptions like sign languages, of course). It’s also useful as a way to unite people—take the Chinese writing system, for example. Since Chinese is logographic, speakers of different mutually unintelligible dialects (or languages, but they’re classified as dialects for now) can understand each other. A standardized alphabetic spelling system, while not approaching that level of unity, has that same usefulness. It just poses a problem for beginning readers, who have to learn words phonetically before memorizing how they look. Then again, I doubt learning to read was any easier back in the Age of Nonce Orthographies You Made Up Your Damn Self. My point, though, is that spelling is NOT the same as pronunciation, so don’t pretend that it is.

    As for grammar, we could sit here and argue all day about whether or not non-standard grammar is inferior to standard grammar. I think that non-standard grammars are valid in their own way, because it they didn’t work, people wouldn’t use them. If it’s language, it’s correct by the standards of the universal grammar. Not really qualified to comment on that though.

    I think you’re misusing the word “standard,” too. You seem to be saying that Standard American English is the ideal linguistically, rather than the ideal culturally. I’d argue that Inland North (a standard dialect) and African American Vernacular English are just DIFFERENT dialects. Standard’s not better just because that’s what it’s called.

    But my beef here is with the fact that Maeve is criticizing people’s pronunciations—not their syntax, not their use of the word, and not even their spelling. If she were getting on people’s case for eggcorns or folk etymologies, then okay. And the abuse of the word “literal” gets me too. What’s more, she seems to be mostly criticizing what is ACCEPTABLE dialect variation. There’s a world of difference between a mispronunciation that occurs because someone has made up their own pronunciation and just doesn’t know any better, and one that occurs as part of normal variation. This bothers me most of all because stigmatized pronunciations are sometimes more “correct” in a historical sense (like the metathetic “aks”). Witness people complaining that British English (which accent? usually they don’t know) is classier than American English, and then go on to complain about the classlessness of dialects of AE that are have more in common with certain British dialects.

    Re: sherbert:

    “It’s not a matter of class or likeability, but one of literacy. Just like grown-ups who say aminal crackers or spsgetti– I can like them, but wish they wouldn’t talk that way around impressionable children.”

    Hoo boy, you just gave my comment the ol’ tl;dr treatment, didn’t ya? Okay, I’ll say it again, even though you should have read more carefully the first time. I specifically mentioned the etymology of the word (Arabic, then Persian, then Turkish, then Italian, then French, then English), pointing out that the English “sherbet” is spelled and pronounced with “sh” (esh), despite there being no esh in the Romance cognates. My argument (God, I hate repeating myself) being that there is no compelling reason not to rhoticize the second vowel when a) we have already deviated significantly from the French and Italian words and b) rhoticizing the second syllable rolls off the tongue more easily for an English speaker because the first one is rhoticized. And if you protest that we should pronounce things the way they were originally, dammit, I point you to your quote: “I am not telling Ancient Romans how to speak Latin. I’m talking about how modern Americans should pronounce English words that came from Latin, etc.”

    I challenge you to explain why a Latin æ should be pronounced [i] (unless it’s an “exception” like “aesthetic,” natch) but it’s unacceptable to rhoticize a vowel in a word that has come from French while actually resembling the Turkish, Persian and Arabic versions more.

    “Probably. If someone is too intellectually lazy to learn how to properly pronounce a word common in his field, that trait is probably not unique to his speaking. Why wouldn’t I assume that someone who says vertabrAY might also think there are 22 or 31 of them, because they never bothered to actually count? And what kind of snob are you to insist that everyone have 24 vertabrae? Can’t we change the number…if we feel it’s necessary?”

    There is anatomy and there is language acquisition, and never the twain shall meet.

  • Amorypaz

    26. Your pronunciation key for Arkansas is incomplete. The standard pronunciation of the state is Ar-kuhn-saw. The river, however, is properly pronounced Ar-kan-zuhs (just like it’s spelled).

  • Kevin Beach

    This may not be strictly on topic, but I must challenge your definition of “Halloween”. It is NOT “derive[d] from “Hallowed Evening,” meaning “evening that has been made holy””.

    “Hallow” in this context is a noun and is an archaic word for “saint”. “-een” is an abbreviation of “eve” or “even” (not “evening”) and means “the day before”, as in “Christmas Eve” and “New Year’s Eve”.

    In the Christian Church Calendar, November 1st is the Feast of “All saints”, previously known as “All hallows”. It is a very important day and the previous day was spent preparing for it and was the given its own name “All Hallows Eve(n)”. It became abbreviated to “Halloween”.

    That’s why many Christians find the modern concept of Halloween, with its emphasis on pagan religions, so offensive.

  • Amelia

    Thanks, Kevin! So much of this prescriptivist BS is predicated on flawed or incomplete knowledge of history.

  • Maeve

    Kevin and Amelia,
    Re: Incomplete knowledge of history

    “That’s why many Christians find the modern concept of Halloween, with its emphasis on pagan religions, so offensive.”

    Considering the origins of the Halloween festival, I suppose that many ancient pagans were a bit offended in their turn:

    In the Old Celtic calendar the year began on 1st November, so that the last evening of October was ‘old-year’s night’, the night of all the witches, which the Church transformed into the Eve of All Saints. (OED)

  • Amelia

    Maeve:

    I don’t think you understood my comment. I am not biased in favor of either pagans or Christians, and I understand that Kevin’s comment only tells half the story. I certainly think of Halloween as a pagan holiday rather than as a Christianized All Souls’ Day or anything like that. I just wanted to second his point that your treatment of the word “Halloween” is so reductive as to be meaningless.

  • Amelia

    By the way, I’d like to hear you tell us we’re all saying “Samhain” wrong…

  • venqax

    You’re actually proving my point in trying to use the orthography of my name against me

    I was only joking about your name, as in, “if we can all just pronounce anything any way we want to”. I’m surprised that anyone “mispronounces” it (though, I’m not sure what you mean by that). It is not an uncommon name, at least in America.
    .
    So orthography’s not always God, you know?

    Not always, but usually. Even if it’s an alien orthography. You point out that Amelia is spelled with Italian orthography (although I don’t know how it would be any different in English). In what orthography does E make an ER sound, rendering bet bert? What makes you think I’m not familiar with the aɪ piː eɪ ? For discussing American English, though, I think the MW and Am Heritage dictionary conventions for orthoepy guides are much more useful, and familiar to more people.

    …there are anti-prescriptivist philosophies re: grammar, too. And I’d argue that spelling is completely different—it’s visual,

    There are anti-prescriptivist philosophies for everything. They are usually academic abstractions and/or politically motivated. In a word, nonsense. To make a distinction based on what part of the brain engages or whether something is visual or not is what is entirely arbitrary. There are no reasons not to apply standards to language or to apply standards to spelling but not to pronunciation, etc. If we don’t keep some kind of a hand on pronunciation, we’ll end up with the same problem the Chinese have. And that is not a good thing. You want to avoid communication problems, not cement them.

    You seem to be saying that Standard American English is the ideal linguistically, rather than the ideal culturally. I’d argue that Inland North (a standard dialect) and African American Vernacular English are just DIFFERENT dialects. Standard’s not better just because that’s what it’s called.

    No, it’s better in its place because it’s been agreed upon by those who believe in standards. So it’s what is taught formally, and what is expected in serious, or professional settings. Not African-American or Spanglish. Standard as opposed to what is absorbed in an isolated region, or a sub-population. Ideal culturally makes it so linguistically too, really. Language is a cultural construct. And there is a difference between “high” and “low” culture, standard speech vs. vernacular speech vs. slang, formal vs informal language, etc.

    But my beef here is with the fact that Maeve is criticizing people’s pronunciations—not their syntax, not their use of the word, and not even their spelling.

    And Maeve is absolutely right to criticize pronunciation as much as syntax or spelling. The full title here would be “50 Incorrect Pronunciations That You Should Avoid If You Don’t Want To Sound Like A _____” clod, hayseed, goomba, or at least don’t want to come across as somewhat unsophisticated or illiterate. THAT is really what this is about. People will judge you for saying “hyperbowl” just as harshly as for spelling “payed”. Probably not as many people, but the ones who will are—bet your house—better educated than those who won’t notice, and probably more careful and precise about other things besides language. Sorry, but on this issue the world is divided into 2 types: those who don’t care about pronunciation, or think it’s too hard to learn, and justify it by calling themselves “anti-prescriptivists” or “anti-elitists” or some such excuse; and those who do and try to speak as well as possible. That is NOT to say that all of the opinions offered on the post are inarguable. I have posted disagreements with some. But the idea that there never IS any “right or wrong” with pronunciation and that any mistaken mangling is a “dialect” is just not so. There are always people who will denounce any standards as oppressive and undemocratic. There just isn’t much point in being one of them because the only people you could favorably impress don’t care. The ones you will make an unfavorable impression on do. It’s a lot like etiquette, really. Go ahead and eat everything with your spork and a tablespoon at home. If you go to a formal event, however, don’t blame others for noticing your bumpkinity.

    she seems to be mostly criticizing what is ACCEPTABLE dialect variation. There’s a world of difference between a mispronunciation that occurs because someone has made up their own pronunciation and just doesn’t know any better, and one that occurs as part of normal variation.

    If so it’s a very small world. Acceptable to whom? You and others who don’t care? Variation is just what standardization seeks to minimize, at least, eliminate at best. The British accent that would be considered “correct” in most instances would be RP. Not Glaswegian or Scouse. That is pretty easy. In American, it would pretty much be that “broadcast Midwestern” found in and around Iowa. True, it is simply another dialect in one sense, but it is the one that has been agreed upon by a substantial group of language-people as SAE or General American. Touch it up with pronunciations that can be established as “better” than others for objective reasons (like nuclear not being spelled nukuler, there being no K or X in escape, there being no second R in sherbet, and being a first one in February.etc.) even though they may not be extant in ANY spoken “dialect”.

    This bothers me most of all because stigmatized pronunciations are sometimes more “correct” in a historical sense (like the metathetic “aks”).

    Yes. Sure. Most people who say aks do so because they are steadfastly observing a divergent historical spelling tradition. Most are probably influenced by Chaucer. I have nothing against dialects. Where I am from, anyone would say, “I brung this with me”, “He had just saten down”, “She’s boughten those before”, “I had drove 100 mile on 3 gallon of gas before I come home Sundee”. Fine. There. At home or in casual conversation. Not out in the world at large.

    Re: sherbert:

    The relevant Persian and Arabic words do have the SH sound. I don’t think omitting a non-existent R sound is that challenging, even for English speakers. We don’t call loners hermirts, put curterns on our windows, or make certern that things go right. Is there a Kermert the Frog? It is usually frowned on to run right from 1st to 3rd base, too, even if it’s shorter and 2nd base m
    ay a bit challenging. It is a baseball diamond, after all, not a baseball triangle.

    There is anatomy and there is language acquisition, and never the twain shall meet.

    There is being careful and there is being careless. There is standing straight and there is slouching, there is blowing your nose in public and blowing your nose in private, neat and sloppy, rough and finished. And they are definitely twain.

  • venqax

    We don’t know how you are pronouncing samhain. If you speak Irish Gaelic, or like to think you do, then you would say something akin to SA-WIN. If you are speaking English, you would be perfectly fine to say SAM-HAYN. That is, after all, how it would be pronounced in English. If a word is adopted into English, it gets anglicized. Samhain, though, isn’t exactly an everyday word and it is a proper noun, so keeping a foreign pronunciation is more defensible than is usually the case. In general, however, if you want to preserve the native spelling, you’ll have to accept the new pronunciation. If you want to keep the origingal pronunciation, then you need to live with a new-language-appropriate spelling. E.g. Spanish “beisbol”. So if you want to say SA-WIN, spell it accordingly. If you want to keep the spelling, get used to Anglophones saying sam-hane. That what you do in English with a syllable ending in M followed by one beginning with an H. We don’t have a an MH digraph.

  • Test crash dummy

    This is a weird one

    Couscous, the food or dish, should have the same vowel sound for both syllables. I’ve heard one or two people try to make the two vowels different, like koos-kus or koos-kəs. It’s very minor compared to most pronunciation problems, but it drives me crazy.

  • Amelia

    In reverse order:

    The “samhain” thing was a joke…it had less to do with pronunciation and more to do with the fact that Maeve seemed to think we were unfamiliar with the history of Halloween. I tend not to say “samhain” out loud, since I am liable to annoy someone no matter how I say it (there’s the modern Irish Gaelic way of saying it, which is really a different word altogether, versus the old way of saying it, which speakers of modern Gaelic may not recognize, etc.).

    I really don’t think you are paying attention to my “sherbert” argument. Yes, I know there are eshes in the Arabic, Persian and Turkish cognates. But there are none in the Romance cognates, and since people seem to be arguing that the word came into English via French, NOT via Turkish, I feel like adherence to the Romance form is moot, and there’s no reason to come down so hard on that rhoticized schwa.

    Of course English speakers can pronounce the schwa without rhoticizing it. But they tend not to when producing this word, and that’s okay. It’s called an ALTERNATE pronunciation.

    I really think the classist, racist, and oppressive side of prescriptivism is lost on you. You say “There are always people who will denounce any standards as oppressive and undemocratic.” But it is not having ANY standards that I have a problem with. It is having standards and then refusing to see any deviations as legitimate.

    Have you heard yourself? Listen to you what said:

    “The full title here would be ’50 Incorrect Pronunciations That You Should Avoid If You Don’t Want To Sound Like A _____’ clod, hayseed, goomba, or at least don’t want to come across as somewhat unsophisticated or illiterate. ”

    “If you go to a formal event, however, don’t blame others for noticing your bumpkinity.”

    “There is being careful and there is being careless.”

    You also contradict yourself when you talk about standards as though they are natural laws. I have tried to point out that dialects are internally consistent to the people who speak them. I have also asked you a question that you have ignored, namely how you justify sneering at people who pronounce ash any way other than [i] (a very dubious prescription, as I have already explained), and then turn around and say “A few words, like *aesthetic* are exceptions. ” Just out of the blue. You say they’re “exceptions,” but you give no sort of phonological explanation. No, it’s just an exception, to the otherwise hard and fast Verqx Law of Ash Pronunciation. And yet you say you have attained a higher standard than those who speak another dialect. And that is why I think you are full of it.

  • Amelia

    Correction: “Verqx Law of Ash Pronunciation” should be “Venqax’s Law of Ash Pronunciation.”

  • Michele

    The one that makes me scream everytime is when a certain President would say “nucular”, instead of “nuclear”. I just think if you’re going to be the POTUS, you should pronounce that one correctly. Palin says it that way too, but on purpose, I think, to attract the same fans that he had once.

    I know someone who says supposebly for supposedly. Cringe. How about ideal for deal. I think most people have a few.

  • Peter

    Uh, Yoshi? The conventions for how you pronounce the ash (æ) in Greek and Latin are different.

    Well, I would hope so, since ash doesn’t occur in either language (writing Latin “ae” as “æ” is a mediæval practice, but it’s not a distinguished letter as in Anglo-Saxon English, etc.), and “αε” isn’t a diphthong in Greek; but “ae” is regularly used in English spellings of Greek words to transliterate “αι”, which, like Latin “ae”, is properly pronounced approximately “eye”, not “ee” (it may be pronounced “ee” in modern Greek, but there are no modern Greek loanwords in English). So why should there be a difference?

    If you are speaking English, you would be perfectly fine to say SAM-HAYN. That is, after all, how it would be pronounced in English. If a word is adopted into English, it gets anglicized. Samhain, though, isn’t exactly an everyday word and it is a proper noun, so keeping a foreign pronunciation is more defensible than is usually the case.

    Really…how do you pronounce “Siobhan”? Not an uncommon name, but I’ve never heard of anyone calling themselves “see-ob-han”. “Samhain” on the other hand, I’d say Anglicization is more defensible precisely because it’s not common: few people have heard it pronounced, and few have any idea how to pronounce Gaelic.

  • Amelia

    Peter: okay, so maybe I shouldn’t have called it “ash,” but my point still stands re: how it’s pronounced. I’m pretty sure we’re in agreement, actually. I’ve been saying the same thing all along—that the Latin ae is “aye,” and the Greek one is “ee.”

  • Amelia

    Correction: I see now that you’re arguing that the Greek “ae” is not really pronounced “ee.” I’ll cede that point, since I don’t know anything about Greek (classical or otherwise), only Latin. Why has it become the convention to pronounce the Classical Greek “ae” as “ee,” though? (Aesop, daemon, aegis, etc.)

  • venqax

    I tend not to say “samhain” out loud, since I am liable to annoy someone no matter how I say it.
    No one would have the right to be annoyed at your saying sam-hayn if it is clear that you are speaking English, and that you don’t pretend to speak Gaelic. If they’re going to be annoyed anyway, that’s their issue. I’ll bet 99.9% of the time “they” don’t speak Gaelic, either.

    I really don’t think you are paying attention to my “sherbert” argument… Of course English speakers can pronounce the schwa without rhoticizing it. But they tend not to when producing this word, and that’s okay. It’s called an ALTERNATE pronunciation.
    No it’s called a mispronunciation. And a misspelling as well. And it’s not okay. Your argument is that, for reasons unclear, it’s okay to just add sounds to words that aren’t there because….why? It is “easier” for challenged English speakers? And why do you even think that is the case? I really think it is nothing more than a lazy confusion with Herbert, or Albert, or any other bert. Laziness or confusion are not usually thought of as perfectly fine reasons to do something. Is it simply an ALTERNATE pronunciation to add a random R to anything, then? Mondrays in Novrember, after Hallorween, I surpose. By that logic, I guess excape, expecially, aminal, alunimum and cinninom are all just ALTERNATE pronunuciations, too? Obviously a lot of people say them that way.

    You also contradict yourself when you talk about standards as though they are natural laws.
    How is that contradictory? I haven’t said they are just like natural laws, but they are general rules and a lot like social norms—they have been agreed upon by the closest thing to an authoritative body. No, it’s not like a number but it’s certainly isn’t “contradictory” (to what?) to say that rules apply. As you point out: “…it (has) become the convention to pronounce the Classical Greek “ae” as “ee,”… (Aesop, daemon, aegis, etc.) Yes, it has.

    I have tried to point out that dialects are internally consistent to the people who speak them.
    And I have pointed out that that doesn’t matter. Psychotic delusions can be internally consistent to those having them, FGS. And I have said that there is nothing wrong with dialects. In their place. That place is in informal speech and casual writing. It is NOT in formal speech or formal and professional writing. There is where “standard” English (American English in the case of the US) is appropriate. Yes, it may be more closely associated with one organic dialect than another, but it’s the one agreed upon as the formal standard. The only odd thing is that in most English-speaking countries there is no formally recognized body, like a Language Academy, that sets the standards. So they are set by relative consensus of the professional community who use the language, and by social and cultural norms. Just like the ones that say it is not polite to talk with your mouth full, or pass gas in an elevator.

    I have also asked you a question that you have ignored, namely how you justify sneering at people who pronounce ash any way other than [i]

    I don’t sneer at them. It’s bad pronunciation, not a moral failing. I would inform them, if and only if the setting were appropriate; and I would be a bit less likely to take their erudition for granted IF they were professional and otherwise serious people. Not as much as if they said hyperbowl, or revelant, or irregardless, but still. As for exceptions, of course there are exceptions. There are always exceptions. “Aesthetic” is never pronounced AYsthetic, EEsthetic AIsthetic, or any way that ae is normally pronounced rightly or wrongly. It is just ignored, probably because it is an unstressed initial syllable. Colonel is pronounced kernel, too, but that doesn’t mean there is any rule for when L makes an R sound. It is simply an exception. An anomaly that has arisen in that case, interestingly, because of a lack of standards. Pronunciation changed but spelling didn’t. As you note, the convention that has arisen in Am English is that ae’s are pronounced EE. Often the American spelling is now simply E, e.g. archeology. Not, note, A. Regardless of the words provenance. It is of no consequence at all how Greeks or Romans ancient or modern said it.

    I really think the classist, racist, and oppressive side of prescriptivism is lost on you.
    The supposed classist, racist, and oppressive side of most standards should be lost on everyone who is a grown-up by now. What a ridiculous notion. You are cheering for organic language development, yet you think it is supposed to serve a left-wing political agenda? THAT is inconsistent. Standard language, and its use, is actually a great social equalizer. If the sub-standard speech or “dialect” employed, often self-consciously, by advocates of the “down-trod” were not seen as such it would lose its power. Standard speech is available to anyone who wants it, for free. The classist and racist approach would be shunning it and insisting on some gibberish of colloquialisms and argot. And the speech of the upper classes, BTW, can be just as affected as the lumpenproletariat’s when it comes to pronunciation. The R-dropping of Harvard-ese is no better than that of a Georgia farmer. Probably worse, since the Harvard-types should know better. As for me, as I’ve said, I have a native dialect as much as anyone else does. I also try to cultivate a non-dialectal standard speech that I make sure to use when it is appropriate. Not a wild concept.

  • Peter

    Why has it become the convention to pronounce the Classical Greek “ae” as “ee,” though? (Aesop, daemon, aegis, etc.)

    Presumably because it became conventional to pronounce Latin “ae” that way (the spelling “ae” for the Greek short “αι” comes from Latin) by a combination of mediaeval Latin usage and the Great Vowel Shift. Hence “Caesar” sounds like “sees her”, not “Kaiser.”

    (Though for scientific Latin, etc., the modern recommendation is to use the Northern European pronunciation, rather than the English)

    “Aesthetic” is never pronounced AYsthetic, EEsthetic AIsthetic, or any way that ae is normally pronounced rightly or wrongly

    Hm. An initial “ee” sound is the only pronunciation given in the Shorter OED.

    (The big exceptions are things like “aero”, but that’s from Greek αε (or αη), not αι…)

  • venqax

    @Peter: I can’t speak for the UK, but in the US Siobhan is by no means a common name. I’m sure almost anyone confronting it here would say something like See-oh-ban, and what’s more, I can say if this were a name that had been in the US for more than a couple generations it would be pronounced Soh-ban or something similar. Just ask any Polish Jankowski or German Weber or Czech Kovac if anyone—including themselves—pronounces their names Yankovski or Vayber or Kovach. Now, if they have changed the spelling to Kovach, that’s another story. The same solution for poor Siobhan, of course, is to adopt one of the many anglicized spellings of the name: Shivon, Shivaune, Shivaun, Shavon, Shivonne, Shivaughn, Shavaughn, Shavaughne, Shavaughan, Shavaugn, Shavaugne, Shavaun, Shavaune, Sheavaughn, Shevaun, Shevawn, Shavone, Shavonne, Chevonne or Chevon. English-speaking people can barely manage the rules for English orthography. Are you seriously suggesting they should have a grasp on rules as bizarre as Gaelic’s?
    An initial “ee” sound is the only pronunciation given in the Shorter OED.
    What is it you guys say about the price of tea in China? Merriam-Webster gives: \es-‘the-tik, is-, British usually ēs-\. The O-American-ED gives only, “Pronunciation:/es-THetik/” and the alternate spelling esthetic (which I have never seen). I have tried to be very careful in stating that I am talking about the standards of American English. Never even heard EEsthetic, and it would immediately ID the speaker as not-American.

  • Jon

    I had a friend decades ago who pronounced “rationale” the OED way, that is, rash-ah-nail-ee.

    And for the same reason “isolate” with a short i.

    University of Chicago MA in English literature. Great editor, very near-sighted.

  • Daphne Lee

    I’m an English teacher and I think this webpage is very resourceful. I would say that most of my students/learners have pronounced ‘Wednesday’ incorrectly. It should be ‘WEDZ-Day’ and not ‘WED-NES-DAY’.

  • venqax

    In General American it is properly WENZ-DAY. Two syllables and the D is not pronounced. In various dialects WENZ-DEE. I don’t know of any American dialects in which the D is pronounced. Might be somewhere.

  • Daphne Lee

    Venqax, I totally agree with you. It is supposed to be pronounced without the ‘D’; Typing error.

  • AJ

    Heh… don’t come to NZ, they’d drive you bonkers here. Everything is mis-pronounced.

    A few choice NZ (mis)pronunciations:
    Debut – Day-ah-BOO
    Known – NO-when
    Own – OH-when
    Cache – Cayshe
    Subaru – Soo-BAA-roo
    Data – Dah-Tah

    Basic rules for vowels in NZ:
    a = aaarrrrrr
    e = i (some very blushy moments when first moving here and being invited round to a barbecue on someone’s dick)
    i = u (fush and chups)
    i = eye (vyetamin)
    i = e (‘six’ sounds very much like ‘sex’)

    i is a pretty random vowel here in NZ – I still have trouble sometimes understanding the locals.

    There is no ‘ih’ or ‘ee’ sound here in NZ, I do so miss them. No more vi-ta-mins, only veye-ta-mins, no more mee-grains, only meye-grains, and don’t get me started on grease or greasy – it’s an ‘S’ not ‘zee’ – gree-zee ARRRGHHHHH!

  • Peter

    I had a friend decades ago who pronounced “rationale” the OED way, that is, rash-ah-nail-ee.

    “The OED way”? The OED only gives “rash-ah-nahl” (and “isolate” with a long “i”) … are you using “OED” to mean something other than “Oxford English Dictionary”? (“Odd Eccentric Dictionary”, perhaps?)

    I don’t know of any American dialects in which the D is pronounced. Might be somewhere.

    That would be the “I have a bad cold” dialect :)

  • Ryan

    Very interesting article. I am guilty with a few of these.

    Forte blew my mind. I’ve been saying the French word the Italian way for years. Goes to show what a complicated language we have. No wonder it is often mispronounced.

    I feel the tick-i-lish issue is a bit much. I always found that pronunciation to be very onomatopoeic. It is a word likely to come up in a silly context and is fine to be pronounced like that.

    Prescription is a good one. A serious word that needs its proper pronunciation.

  • jon

    As many people have noted, several entries in this list are just plain incorrect. In addition to these entries that are just plain incorrect (such as the false etymology of the word “Halloween”), many of the other entries fail to take into account legitimate alternate pronounciations resulting from regional dialects and the like.

    Overall, this is a pretty poor article, pompous and ignorant.

  • venqax

    Well, jon, as many entries have also noted– and as the entire topic and premise of the post indicates– we are not talking about “regional dialects”. We are talking about a STANDARD NON-DIALECTAL American English (for the most part, it is American that is presented here, not some other national standard). That, is THE POINT. Why do we have to go over that, repeatedly, redundantly, again, and again and again? “Alternate”pronunciations are very, very rare. And “regional dialects and the like” (by the like I guess you mean sub-standard speech that is other than regional) are NOT THE TOPIC AT HAND. Is there something about being against liinguistic standards that also precludes reading comprehension? I just have to ask, pardon being pompous, because it keeps happening over and over and over.

    Can’t you tell the DIFFERENCE between “regionalisms” and “dialects” and standard speech? At least in some sense? MOST of the time it really is not difficult. Maybe in your dialect you say “punkin”. Fine. The WORD is actually “pumpkin”. The end. You can say punkin wherever and when ever you want to. “Devaite” from the norm all you want. You are also welcome to say nukular, excape, irrevelant, horse doovers, Valentimes, crinimal, and prevert. The only penalty is that some people will think less of your erudition. They won’t say anything, and you’ll probably never know. So where does that transmission get lost? What do you not comprehend about that? A pretty poor article? Maybe if you understood the subject of the article, your commentary could be relevant. As it stands, it screams for a do-over. That’s dialectical, I believe, for “correction of your error.”

  • Letterwright

    Is there a growing tendency for some people in the US to say “Dittn’t” and “Couttn’t” (a la Cockney English, with definite glotteral stop in the middle), or has that pronunciation always existed stateside (I live in the UK)? Family Guy seems to take the p!ss out of this. Thankfully this pronunciation seems to be decreasing here.

  • Letterwright

    Another pronunciation that grates, as demonstrated brilliantly in a documentary I watched yesterday about a bridge they are building in Serbia: “the way they weave the shtrands of wire makes the bridge eckshtremely shtrong”. Terrible. It’s even harder to pronounce things this way than it is to pronounce them correctly!

  • venqax

    I wonder if something like that– sh for s– is more a speech impediment than an accent. Like the lisped th for s, and elmer fudd’s waskily wabbit talk. I was always bothered by Tom Brokaw, who was one of the biggest national newscasters in the US for a long time. He had a pronounced speech defect where he couldn’t pronounce the letter L. It came out thru the back of the throat so it sounded a bit like a mix between a glottal stop and a Scottish ch. It’s a relatively common defect (the late actor Peter Falk of Columbo fame had it too) but I don’t know its technical name. Comedians here pounced on it all the time (on the Simpsons, the character Tom Brokejaw was the result).

    I was always dismayed that of all the thousands of broadcasters in the world to choose from to be one of the Big Three anchors, they would pick someone who needed a speech pathologist. Maybe the New Coke guys were the sponsors at the time.

  • Graeme

    ‘Alternate pronunciations’? I think you’ll find that should be ‘Alternative’.

  • Hanii Puppy

    If you’re sticking with the greek thing, then:

    aegis – Normally pronounced Ai-jis. If sticking to Greek, you should it should be ae-Γees. That’s a diphthong sliding from “ah” to “eh”, rather than just a flat vowel sound. The G should be pronounced as a Gamma, which sounds like a voiced version of the Ch sound found in Loch. The i should be pronounced as “ee”

    archipelago – normally pronounced as spelled. If sticking to greek, then the ch sound wouldn’t be a “k” sound, it would be the “ch” sound found in Loch, Arachnid, etc. again, the I should be an “ee” sound and the G should be pronounced as a Gamma.

    chaos – again, “ch” sound as in loch, arachnid, etc. rather than “k”.

    On a side note, Forté has an accent over the e, which marks it as a separately voiced syllable rather than a modifier.

  • venqax

    True, relative to *alternate*. Although REALLY it should be *Incorrect* pronunciations, as the post title indicates. Or maybe, sub-standard, non-standard, illiterate, dyslexic, lysdexic, bungled, mangled, impeded, etc. Depending on the particular (or, for some, particalar) pronunciation involved (involoved, invloved). Did I leave out any alternates or dialects/diarleks? If so, sore-y.

  • Melanie

    Can I submit the word ‘poinsettia’ for consideration? Especially this time of year, I find myself wanting to pop the heads off of people who insist on saying ‘poin-sett-uh.’ There’s an ‘i’ in there you seem to be missing. POIN-SET-EE-UH.

  • venqax

    @Alex- Appreciate your decapitating tendencies in general. BUT remember that outside the state so-named, the river IS pronounced AR-KANZUS. At least in Kansas and Colorado.

    Local names often vary from place to place. E.g., in the US there are cities pronounced, LEYE-MA (Lima), VER-SALES (Versailles), GREEN-WITCH and WAR-CHESTER. These are not mispronunciations.

  • Lindsey

    I’ve always found what’s being said is more important than how it’s said, myself. As long as I can understand what the speaker is talking about, a mispronunciation here or there shouldn’t be a problem. If anything, having everyone pronounce everything exactly the same way would be boring. There’d be no need for voice actors, just computers with a dictionary on file and the ability to adjust pitch and tone. Our dialects would lose their flavor, and as writers, what does pronunciation even matter unless we’re reading something aloud or referencing it for how a character from a particular place would say things? When people are reading our work, they’re not going to read it with perfect pronunciation, unless that happens to be the dialect a reader has cultivated. They read it in their own voice, the one they think with. I’ve had a character for a while with an unusual name, and I’d always correct people on the way they said it… until I realized I was pronouncing the name incorrectly, too. I’ve since changed the spelling, but beyond that I’ve just got to live with the fact that, no matter what I do, some people are going to keep pronouncing his name differently than I do. And that’s just fine, because as far as characters go – as far as writing as a whole goes – that’s not really what matters.

  • Peter

    I didn’t know there was any place called “green-witch” (the only US Greenwich I know of is the one in New York, pronounced the English way), but the US also has places pronounced “ay-rab” (Arab), “ay-thins” (Athens), and “kay-row” (Cairo)…and a “mar-sales” (Marseilles) to go with your “ver-sales”.

    I wonder if America has anything as odd as the British place names Beauchamp and Beaudesert (pronounced “beachem” and “belzer” respectively), or the famous Cholmondeley (“chumley”)…and of course the Oxford college names Caius (“keys”) and Magdalene (“maudlin”) [The US has a Berkeley, which is pronounced pretty much as written in American, but "barklee" in English...]

    Cholmondeley and the personal name Featherstonehaugh (pr. fanshaw) are the ones you always see used as examples of utterly inexplicable English spellings. (Along with “ghoti”, but that’s not a real example.)

  • Lovely Alaskan

    Just because something is common doesn’t make it right. Too bad this list did not include ‘aunt’ because I pronounce it aunt, rhymes with haunt and many people pronounce ‘aunt’ like ant.

  • venqax

    And, proving your point nicely, you pronounce it wrong. It is not hard to find the authority for “ant” and the condemnation of “awnt” as nothing more than a spelling mispronciation-turned affectation. It is not, as commonly believed, dialectical or regional. Elster, I think, is one who has researched this.

    As always, speaking here for American English of
    pr-eye-vacy, v-eye-tamins, d-eye-nasties, deBREE, MISS’ls, etc. etc.

  • Phil

    another common mispronunciation which grates me; why is the French word ‘lingerie’ pronounced ‘lunjeray’ ? It should sound like lanjeree

  • venqax

    English speakers aren’t speaking French and don’t pay much attention to the spelling. Same reason they say chaise LOUNGE. I have no problem with anglicized pronunciations. But they have to follow the rules, too. There is no English rule that would render lingeris LON-ZHOO-RAY or anything similar. The proper rendition would be something like LIN-JAIR-EE. Which, of course, sounds absolutley horrible and suggests getting rid fo the word entirely.

    Peter: There are GREEN WITCHES (spelled Greewich) in Pennsylvania and Utah. Tho to be fair, the Utah one claims an origin unrelated to the English city. Greenwich, Connecticut is probably the best-knows here, but the pronunciation is slightly different from the UKs. GREN-ITCH more than GRIN-IJ, or GRIN-ITCH. Same with the village in NYC. In general, I think Americans tend to say things as spelled more than the Brits do, e.g. BOAT-SWAYN, COCK-BURN.
    I didn’t know Beaudesert=Belzer, Very intersting. I’ve heard that Belvoir (pronounced BEL-VWAR here) is said Beaver. Don’t know if that’s true.

  • Savannah

    I have to put in my two bits.

    Conch.

    It is absolutely not pronounced “konch,” it’s “konk.”
    Trust me on this one, if you go to south Florida or the Bahamas, they will skin you alive (or rather just know you’re some tourist…) I lived in between south Florida and the Bahamas for 12 years, (grew up there, actually) and moved to North Carolina, where everything is “konch.”

    It kills me.

  • venqax

    Good one, Savannah. That one bugs me too, but not being in the Florida/Bahamas area it doesn’t come up much.

  • joyce

    I work at a dental office..and many patients don’t like “OVACAINE”…I wonder why a lot of people don’t realize it begins with an N.

  • JB

    Milk = It’s NOT (Melk)

    Secruity = It’s NOT (Secority)

    Especially = It’s NOT (Expecially)

  • venqax

    Because it’s ovaltine, not novaltine. Just like Herbert leads to sherbert, and January implies Febuary. It’s worthy of a lot of study the associations and correlations that people make when they aren’t thinking. Which is most of the time.

  • Peter

    “Aunt” pronounced “ant” is probably the single most jarring American[*] (mis)pronunciation of English. “Aunt” has a long /a:/ like “father” (i.e., sounds exactly like (non-rhotic) “aren’t”), not the short highly-fronted /a/ in “ant”.

    [*] Except for the Bostonian version, which sounds like an Englishman putting on a “posh” accent and always cracks me up.

  • Sartre

    This is the sort of prescriptive lunacy we should stray from. A lot of the pronunciations are from your regional accent or whimsically conjured up by you and not standard American English. Additionally, we should not conform to linguistic prescriptions unless in an academic setting (not possible to escape unfortunately). Furthermore, the advise you give would not be good for an academic setting. Actually, it would not be a good idea period. People will think you are trying to hard to sound intelligent with the overcorrections (the suggested pronunciation of February for example). Like another poster, I prefer descriptive linguistics as oppose to prescriptions. I also have and adversity to conformity.

  • venqax

    The *Bostonian* version of anything is not standard American English (by a long shot). “Jarring” as you may find it on your little isle, ant=aunt is SAE. The alternative here is not the a of father, which here is the same as the o in bother– rendering “ont”, but rather “awnt”, the vowel SAE places in law, saw and paw (NOT lore, sore, or pore). Really, the non-rhotic British you adduce must be so full of homonyms that it impedes communication. Aunt and aren’t. Are you kidding? Maybe the inevitiable confusion this produces explains other striking anomolies. E.g., kings and queens and such are important parts of lore, not relevant to modern law. It must have been easier on your ears back in the day, before the sun set… but how old are you, anyway? Do you REALLY recall the near-century past since the world was McMericanized?

  • Peter

    The alternative here is not the a of father, which here is the same as the o in bother– rendering “ont”

    Except that the American “o in bother” is actually the “a in father” (IPA /ɑ/; I don’t believe the proper “o in bother” (IPA /ɒ/) exists in American English), so your “ont” ought to be the correct pronunciation of “aunt” :)

    I think I’ve posted here before about a TV program I watched years ago involving a dog named “Bob” that I thought was named “Barb” though most of the show, because that’s how it was being pronounced. (I also had a work colleague from San Francisco named Paul who pronounced his name with approximately the same vowel: “Paal”, to rhyme with “Baal” … demonic possession, maybe?!)

    The vowel in law and lore is one and the same, in both American and British English (IPA /ɔ/). American’s just rhoticize the latter. (Merriam-Webster gives them, rather imprecisely, as /lȯ/ and /lȯr/ respectively)

    but how old are you, anyway? Do you REALLY recall the near-century past since the world was McMericanized?

    I’m in my early 40s; spent my formative years in South-East Asia and mainland Europe, attending “International” schools (which is to say American schools: we had American certifications, standardized tests, etc., the students were mainly the children of foreign diplomatic and military personnel, probably near 50% American, so I’m very familiar with American English, but with the other 50% of the student body coming from pretty much every other place you could name, the standard English was not overly-Americanized — standard English throughout most of the world is still basically British English).

  • Terry

    Does anyone know where and why Duck/Duct tape was originally used? It is NOT duct tape. No self respecting HVAC tech uses it on ductwork. It dries out and fails. Try it yourself.
    This type of tape was used to seal up the seams on canvas shrouds that military tanks used during beach landings in WWII. The canvas was rigged around the special tanks and actually allowed them to float and be driven ashore. The tape was then christened “duck” tape by the soldiers as it allowed the tank to float better with no leaks in the canvas.
    See you can learn new things

  • RB

    Cache (cash) is a different word with a different meaning than cachet (cash-ay).

  • Jimbo Jobbins

    One that really bugs me is “Nuclear” as in NEW-CLEE-ERR

    However some people insist on pronouncing it NEW-KUL-URR.

  • venqax

    The A in father is ɑ , while the O bother is…also ɑ. Same as the Os in not and lot, and the A in wasp.. The vowel in lore, prior to the sorely needed R, is ɔ. As in port, north, core, etc. While the vowel in law is ɒ, which does indeed exist on my English IPA chart for GA, albeit with a luke-warm confidence. With law as an example, in fact, along with (or would you say alongst? Besidst?) off and dog. Americans with a tendency toward pinky raising, for some reason, stick that ɒ/ ɔ in the beginning of aunt, as well. Oo. Shivers there for a second. The vowel of aunt in GA is properly rendered with the æ of lad, pass, and bath; whose sounds are homonymous . The Bob/Barb confusion is a good example of the mistakes I would think would be all too common in your seemingly indistinguishable non-rhoticisms. That R on the end is as important (importan?) and crucial (crucia?) as other conclusive consonants. Leaving it silent has always seemed very, pardon for lack of a better word, French. That being le rois of silent last letters. Paul rhymes with ball, not with Bob or Barb. The same vowel sound as law above. Paul, shawl, hall/haul, call, thought, on/off– all the same vowel. Baal is a bit more complex, though I hear those with the relevant knowledge pronounce it either like ball, or with the sound of father/bother.
    .
    Ah… the educational history explains the sensitivity to Americanism. The foreigners I’ve worked with from Latin America, Japan and Korea have all learned US English, at least so far as their spelling and writing reflects. Those from India and Africa more British. The PRC Chinese seem to have learned American, too. It’s hard to tell anything about pronunciation because they all tend to be so far off any English standard. I did have a Chinese woman tell me– with a smile, of course– she had em-eye-a-grain, which at least seemed more like what an American would have.

  • J

    Great job! It’s really nice to see an author utilize classism and regionalism so effortlessly! One of the most amazing parts of this piece is how the writer could have stopped to consider that maybe some of these words are “mispronounced” by people simply in the operation of their accents, but nope, they just blasted on through! Amazing!

    On the real though, the way we speak is a part of who we are as individuals, and English language purists and their non-regional dialect everyone should learn how to talk “correctly” blah blah blah are the most nauseatingly boring people in the entire world.

  • Peter

    While the vowel in law is ɒ

    Well, that’s not standard American — Websters says ‘ȯ’, same as ‘lore’. I guess it’s just possible in Georgia; my attempts to pronounce it that way have an exaggerated Southern ring to them. (Actually, Websters uses the same notation for the vowel in ‘off’. And ‘dog’ is either the same or ‘ä’, the vowel in ‘father’)

    The Bob/Barb confusion is a good example of the mistakes I would think would be all too common in your seemingly indistinguishable non-rhoticisms. That R on the end is as important (importan?) and crucial (crucia?) as other conclusive consonants.

    And initial ones…do you pronounce the ‘k’ in ‘knight’ (not to mention the ‘g’ and ‘h’ in the middle)? And final silent ‘e’s? ‘Bob’ and ‘Barb’ are impossible to confuse if you don’t mix up your vowels.

    Final ‘r’s are not silent in non-rhotic English, anyway; they make a big difference to the pronunciation…they just aren’t pronounced /r/ (but then, they’re not in rhotic dialects, either; rhoticization is not a full /r/ sound.)

    Paul rhymes with ball

    Indeed it does…but I’m afraid my colleague would have pronounced “ball” identically with “baal”, too.

    The foreigners I’ve worked with from Latin America, Japan and Korea have all learned US English

    Yes, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and ‘Latin’ America are the most highly-Americanized places outside the US (the few English-speaking countries in Central and South America—Belize, Guyana…I think the rest are all Spanish-speaking, except Brazil—use British-based English, though…and throughout the Caribbean)

  • Peter

    ooh, venqax, get a load of this: http://www.thepoke.co.uk/2011/12/23/english-pronunciation/ :)

  • venqax

    Wow! Written for the UK, obviously, but most all of it would be just as true for American.

    Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
    RP is evidently using different vowels from GA for haunt and aunt, and the fact that they are distinct is my point re aunt in GA. The poster I was responding too would be pronouncing the vowels in haunt and aunt the same. That’s just as wrong in GA as it evidently is in RP.

    Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
    Not sure if a distinction is being made here. In GA, the vowels in grand and grant are the same.

    Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
    And then singer, ginger, linger,

    Again, not sure if a contrast is being drawn between finger and linger. In GA there is none.

    Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
    Real and zeal have the same vowel.

    Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
    Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.

    Must admit I had to look up loth. Never seen that variant before. Job and nob are the same vowel in GA.

    Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
    Psalm raised another issue from what I think is intended here. SAHM. Rhymes with calm, palm and balm. Silent L.

    Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
    For GA nEEther and lEEsure are the same as each other and decEEver. The nEYEther variant is not “wrong”, but sounds affected to normal people, as does lEsure, rhymes measure. I don’t know if that is a British thing or not.

    Granary canary
    Not pronounced the same, but avoids the question of grAn-ary vs. grAY-nary. Grand vs. gray. For GA I think the verdict comes down in favor of the former.

    Hiccough has the sound of cup.
    That one always bugged me. In modern US publications you usually see it spelled hiccup nowdays.

    Tour, but our and succour, four
    Thanks to the pour-poor merger in GA, which has been around a long time, tour and four have the same vowel sound. The distinct vowel in tour/pour made by some has always been weak in English.

  • Peter

    Apparently it’s from a Dutch book on how to speak English without an accent.

    Again, not sure if a contrast is being drawn between finger and linger. In GA there is none.

    No; the words at the end of each pair of lines are obviously supposed to rhyme (there are three that don’t: food/would, canary/aerie, enough/cough); it’s commenting on the distinction in the ‘ng’ sound between ‘singer’ (ŋ), ‘ginger’ (nʤ) and the ‘finger/linger’ pair (ng).

    Thanks to the pour-poor merger in GA, which has been around a long time, tour and four have the same vowel sound. The distinct vowel in tour/pour made by some has always been weak in English.

    You know, I just realized “GA” means “General American”; I interpreted it as the state code for “Georgia” in the previous reply :)

    The “pour-poor” merger is standard, but tour isn’t merged with them…doesn’t that give you a problem distinguishing tor from tour? :)

    I’d never heard of “feoffer” (it’s not in my Shorter OED, either); it looks like “feefer”, not “feffer”. And I just can’t bring myself to pronounce “Terpsichore” and “Melpomene” the way the metre requires (with the accent on the wrong syllable…an impossibility in Greek. Or at least, it can only occur in the genitive, due to length exchange between two neighbouring vowels — πόληος => πόλεως, with the rule-breaking accent)

  • Peter

    (Obviously that’s “without a Dutch accent”, not “without any accent at all”…you can only do that by staying silent ;))

  • venqax

    Your last post raises something completely off topic, but I don’t know where else it would go. It has been my observation (not necessarily profound!) that Norwegians, specifically, speak English is a singularly “unaccented” manner. I work with a lot of foreign students, and it seems Norwegians have a unique ability to pronounce English in a fashion that sounds like a native, at least American, speaker. And I mean those who don’t necessarily speak English very well, they just do so without a foreign sound. Sometimes it’s kind of eerie. I had one student (ski team member, just to reinforce the stereotype!) who I thought had a speech impediment or perhaps a hearing difficulty because he spoke haltingly and had to search for words. It was a while till I realized he was Norwegian and simply had a limited command of English. But the English he did manage was so “natural” sounding and unaccented, it didn’t even occur to me that he was ESL. Is it just me, or are Norwegian phonemes extremely similar to American English? Really don’t know.

  • venqax

    J : maybe some of these words are “mispronounced” by people simply in the operation of their accents,
    Yes, that probably is why a LOT of people mispronounce things. Such is the POINT, made here for the multiple-thousandth time. Still can’t read? A “regional” pronunciation is fine if you are speaking “regional” English in some appropriate context. That same pronunciation may well be a mispronunciation in STANDARD American English. We are speaking here of STANDARD pronunciations. Not regionalisms or non-standard dialectics. The adjective STANDARD may provide a clue about this. STANDARD. Maybe I should type it again, because it seems that so many are having difficulty with this idea and repetition is the best way to learn especiallly when teaching small children and training animals. STANDARD. Standard English is to Regional English what a pure-bred is compared to a mixed-breed or mutt of some kind.

  • Kathy

    I enjoyed this article and had a good laugh as I read it to my older children. I didn’t read all the comments but a fair amount of them. I live in the opposite corner of the country, but I have been told by a native Oregonian that I prounounce Oregon correctly as Or-i-gin (hard “g”) not the way a lot of outsiders say as Or-i-gone. I suppose a lot of misprounounced words are as such because of not living in the area or being around people from a particular place. My grandfather always made fun of my saying “wa-ter” for water when he pronounced it “war-ter.” Just another regional difference, he being from Maryland and I from Florida.

  • Stina

    Nuclear. When I hear someone say “new-kya-lur,” I die a little.

  • Georgia

    “Standard English is to Regional English what a pure-bred is compared to a mixed-breed or mutt of some kind.”

    Which is an apt analogy, seeing as how purebred dogs are usually much more sickly and shorter lived than their mutt counterparts. Most Americans do not speak SE, and we will most likely see a rapid evolution (prescriptivists would say decay) of SE as we know it over the next few generations, thanks to increases in certain ethnic populations, a move to a technological society and globalism.

    I am a descriptivist. Prescriptive grammar certainly has its place, but saying that one dialect is superior to another is a bit silly. English was once considered a language of the uneducated by French invaders (the same English that used “me” instead of “I”, “ain’t” and “axe”). It was a regional (and largely class-specific) language; French was the governmental and academic standard.

    I think that we should be teaching SE in non-standard regional speaking areas in the same way that we teach foreign languages. Teach kids to be bilingual in Englishes. They would use their regional dialect in community interactions and then be taught that the “language” of academics is SE, like a Spanish-English student would use Spanish at home and English in the classroom. Then there wouldn’t be a condescending attitude towards a child’s home language, yet they could learn to translate and communicate in SE. I’ve done my student teaching in underprivileged schools and the students tell me that they like the “foreign language” approach because I’m not belittling their family or community, or making them feel stupid. They feel special because they know two “languages” -with different pronunciations, idioms and norms – and both help them communicate in different environments.

    Remember that speaking SE doesn’t make you smart, and speaking non-SE doesn’t make you unintelligent. Those of us who by chance grew up in a near-SE environment should recognize how hard life, especially academics, can be for those who didn’t.

  • Ben

    Hi, linguist here. Just wanted to say that there’s a big difference between prescriptive (rules that say what’s “correct”) and descriptive (rules that explain what people do naturally) grammar. All of these are prescriptive rules, which are virtually meaningless because they describe an idealized version of the language. Every region has its dialect and every person has their own personal idiolect, so what may be incorrect in idealized English is perfectly proper in that dialect or to that person.

    Also, aegis is pronounced ay-gis. It’s Greek: αιγίς. In IPA: [ejgis] This is pronounced ay-geese where the first syllable rhymes with hay and the the second syllable is the plural of goose. Thanks.

  • A G Whitnall

    Just to add to the Anglophonic infighting as a Briton (not ‘Brit’!) living in Australia I’ve noticed some Australians mispronounce the following:
    Route as ‘rowt’ instead of ‘root’ (although this might have something to do with the common vulgar slang term ‘root’ – as in to ‘root’ someone!).
    Saturday as a two syllable ‘Sat-day’ instead of ‘Sat-er-day’.
    Pasta as ‘paa-ster’ and Pasty (as in Cornish Pasty) as ‘paa-stee’ instead of ‘pas-ter’ and ‘pas-tee’.
    Privacy as ‘pry-va-cy’ instead of ‘priv-a-cy’.
    Yogurt as ‘yow-gurt’ instead of ‘yog-urt’.
    Cashe as ‘kaysh’ instead of ‘kash’.

  • Keith

    The word ‘towel’. I hate when people pronounce it TAH-L. There are two syllables! Grrrrrr

  • Peter

    Also, aegis is pronounced ay-gis. It’s Greek: αιγίς. In IPA: [ejgis] This is pronounced ay-geese where the first syllable rhymes with hay and the the second syllable is the plural of goose. Thanks.

    In English, it’s pronounced “ee-jis”, where the first syllable sounds like “he” and the second starts like “Jim”. Through unrelated sound changes, Modern Greek αι is also “ee”, and probably the second syllable sounds like your “geese”. In Ancient Greek, αι is more like “eye”, and the ι in the second syllable is short, so not like “geese”. There is no modern or historical backing for your “ay” in the first syllable.

    Pasta as ‘paa-ster’ … instead of ‘pas-ter’

    Surely something more like “paa-stuh” … which is probably closer to the proper pronunciation than yours.

    Privacy as ‘pry-va-cy’ instead of ‘priv-a-cy’.
    Yogurt as ‘yow-gurt’ instead of ‘yog-urt’.

    Both perfectly standard and acceptable pronunciations, your preference for your regional dialect notwithstanding. (You probably pronounce “path” and “bath” to rhyme with “math”, too, right?)

    Cashe as ‘kaysh’ instead of ‘kash’.

    You mean cache … in what context? In a technical context “kaysh” is the standard/correct pronunciation; “kash” makes you sound like a marketing dweeb, and will get you laughed at by the competent people. But if they’re saying a “kaysh” of drugs, you get to do the laughing.

  • venqax

    Maybe you think standard language is weak, for some reason, but the apt part of the analogy is that some committee of “experts” have decided what the “ideal” characteristics of any breed are, and judge individuals within that breed based on those standards. Similarly with what is the “idealized” version of any language, and its spoken variants. To some degree, the decisions are undoubtedly arbitrary. But they are there, nonetheless.

    Most Americans do not speak SE, and we will most likely see a rapid evolution (prescriptivists would say decay) of SE
    Actually, more Americans speak something close to GA than any other dialect. That is why it has the status of GA. Notice it is a Midwestern-influenced dialect. Not an Eastern Shore or Southern one which would be older. Still, it is standard. As said before on this post, no one argues much with standardized spelling. How is pronunciation any different?

    Yes, yes, descriptivist, blah blah. That’s a cop out. No different than any sliding on standards for anything. The history of Normans has nothing to do any of this. They didn’t speak standard French, and they introduced new words. English is just as old a language as French is—maybe older—and its social status in the 11th century is irrelevant to the discussion of standard American pronunciation a thousand years later.

    I think that we should be teaching SE in non-standard regional speaking areas in the same way that we teach foreign languages. Now there I agree, 100%. In fact, what MAKES it standard should be that it is what is taught in schools. It is the “common” language and the language of the educated. Regionalism and dialects don’t have to be taught. They are organic.

    Kids SHOULD be “bilingual” if they speak a regional dialect. That is my whole point. If you must speak some argot, fine, but ALSO be capable of speaking GA when appropriate, lest you be perceived as an uneducated rube. And if you can’t tell the DIFFERENCE between your front-porch dialect and standard speech, you ARE an uneducated rube. Which is also fine if you have no desire to ever be taken seriously outside your neighborhood. The problem is we DON’T teach SE in schools anymore. So no one knows the difference and they all think they’re “descriptivists” and that language doesn’t matter.

    They would use their regional dialect in community interactions and then be taught that the “language” of academics is SE, like a Spanish-English student would use Spanish at home and English in the classroom. Yes, that would be great if that distinction were made. I agree. Home is the place for your “dialect”. The world at large is the place for GA or whatever the SE of your country is. Altho in the case of a foreign language like Spanish, I’d prefer that they drop it all together if they are living permanently in the US. No country has ever been helped by bilingualism. I don’t think making kids feel special really warrants civil wars.

    speaking SE doesn’t make you smart
    No, but it makes you sound smarter those who don’t use it, and it probably means you are better educated than average. speaking non-SE doesn’t make you unintelligent.
    No, but if it is a sub-standard dialect it probably makes you sound uneducated, unsophisticated, and maybe hickish or thugish. That may be unfair, but so is the fact that some guys are 5’2” and some are 6’. At least you can DO something about your language.

    Those of us who by chance grew up in a near-SE environment should recognize how hard life, especially academics, can be for those who didn’t. So we should be trying to help them overcome the problem, not pretending that it doesn’t matter.

  • venqax

    Piggybacking on Peter: Ben-The-Linguist, your input re aegis is oddly wrong, given either a prescriptive or a descriptive approach. How the word is pronounced in Greek is entirely irrelevant to how it is pronounced in English. A linguist, of all people, should know that. In English- prescriptively– it is pronounced EE-JIS. And, at least for us who are not necessarily linguists, but English-speakers, that is what matters. Descriptively it may be pronounced a number of ways, but AY-GEES is none of them.

  • venqax

    Just to add to the Anglophonic infighting as a Briton (not ‘Brit’!) living in Australia I’ve noticed some Australians mispronounce the following:
    AG Whitnall:

    I think you’re definition of Anglophonic infighting needs widening to realize that Australian English (the OTHER GA) is its own standard, distinct from American or British variants. I don’t know much about its rules, but from your remarks it looks like it has some similarities to General American:

    Route as ‘rowt’ instead of ‘root’: Actually both of these pronunciations are SAE (standared american english) depending somewhat on context.

    Pasta as ‘paa-ster’ and Pasty (as in Cornish Pasty) as ‘paa-stee’ instead of ‘pas-ter’ and ‘pas-tee’: Not sure what to make of this. Pasta iin the US is past-ah. Pretty much the way it’s said in Italian. No phantom Rs. The only pasties we’re aware of are those that may have “titillating” twirling tassles used well by talented exotic dancer.

    Privacy as ‘pry-va-cy’ instead of ‘priv-a-cy’:
    If you mean PR-EYE-VACY with a long I, then yes, just like American. Cf. V-EYE-TAMINs.

    Yogurt as ‘yow-gurt’ instead of ‘yog-urt’.:
    If you mean YOE-GURT rhymes with GO-GURT. Yes. How do you say it? Can’t think of another pronunciation that would make sense given the spelling.

    Cashe as ‘kaysh’ instead of ‘kash’:
    Not sure of the word. Do you mean “cache”?

    One other thing. Briton. I’ve never used it because it seems wrong to me. The Britons were a fairly specific Celtic folk who lived in present England when the Romans arrived there. When did they become anyone, let alone Anglo-Saxons, who lived on the island? Whatever happened to “Britisher”? I like that word. Seemed better, too, since it didn’t already mean something else.

  • Peter

    If you mean YOE-GURT rhymes with GO-GURT. Yes. How do you say it?

    British pronunciation varies with region between /ɒ/ like … well, like that ‘o’ in ‘bother’ or ‘pot’, that doesn’t seem to exist in American … and /əʊ/ like ‘go’. The ‘a’ in path and bath follows a similar isogloss, from /æ/ to /ɑ:/

    When did they become anyone, let alone Anglo-Saxons, who lived on the island?

    A long time ago…before Chaucer was a lad…

  • Krystina

    One of my pet peeves is the world “Italian”. It’s ‘it-alian’ not ‘eye-talian’.

  • Anna

    Anyone who is up in arms saying this is elitist or that pronunciation is not a big deal is part of the reason why most of America sounds ignorant. This is why we are considered one of the most ignorant countries. Not only are we so lazy that we are the fattest and sickest country, we are also lazy when it comes to speech… Is it really to hard to pronounce the r in FebRuary and in libRary….need that extra second to shove more food down your face… Watch Idiocracy people, that is where we are headed…And if you think I am wrong, you are part of the problem.

  • Maeve

    Anna,
    Idiocracy. One of the greatest American movies ever made!

    I wish that some television station would elect to run it for 24 hours every March 4 (National Grammar Day) the way TNT does with A Christmas Story! in December.

  • venqax

    Anna: Have you been reading these posts? What makes you think this is an “American” problem? Have you heard the depths to which English sinks in other places where it is, in theory, being “spoken”? I don’t defend American linguistic slobbishnesss, but it’s hardly unique.

    Maeve: I was told that, “The month of March is National Grammar Day”. Not just the 4th! You just can’t make this stuff up.

  • Maeve

    Venqax,
    I looked it up! I found lots of references to March 4 as National Grammar Day, but when I googled “Grammar Month” I found nothing. Maybe I’m doing something wrong. I’m all for an entire month dedicated to Grammar.

    As for sloppy grammar being an American problem, you are certainly right. I’ve just finished watching the first 72 episodes of the popular British mystery series Midsomer Murders. I was appalled to hear the same misuse of pronouns from the lips of our English cousins that I rant against in regard to U.S. television.

  • venqax

    Hi Maeve. I didn’t mean to suggest that there was a Grammar Month (tho not a bad idea). Just thought it ironic (treading carefully with that word!) that such a pronouncement would be made when the very subject is proper use of language. “March is Grammar Day”. Maybe Aprill is Spealling Month.

  • featherpen

    I agree that it can sometimes be irritating when others mispronounce words. However, after carefully looking through the list of words here and the “correct” and “incorrect” pronunciations, I have come to the conclusion that many of the so-called “incorrect” pronunciations are nothing more than regional and dialect differences.

    My family comes from a German background and they settled in the Dayton, Ohio, area around 1900. I have noticed that some of the so-called “incorrect” pronunciations are actually what we were taught to be the “correct” and proper way to pronunciate words. Thanks to the world wars, those of Germanic backgrounds were very strict on assimilating into American society and teaching their children to speak proper English to avoid being persecuted as possible enemies.

    As someone who underwent years of speech therapy as a child, I understand the value of proper pronunciation. I am very careful to pronunciate words the way that I was taught as correct. Also, you need to take into consideration linguistics and speech. There are some consonant combinations that are very difficult to make and, over time, changes are made to make these words easier and more natural. Languages do change over time and there is nothing wrong with minor changes in pronunciation.

    Again, I fully understand how hearing words mispronounced or pronounced differently from how we were taught can be irritating. I, myself, have a few pet peeves in that regard. However, I find it arrogant to label acceptable regional and dialect pronunciations as “incorrect” just because you or I may have been taught a slightly different pronunciation due to our geographic region, dialect, or heritage.

    In the grand scheme of things, does this even REALLY matter? Does the fate of the entire world hang on whether an individual pronounces “mischievous” /MIS-CHI-VUS/ or /mis-chee-vee-us/ or “candidate” /KAN-DI-DATE/ or /kan-i-date/? Absolutely not.

  • Patric Hamilton

    Here are a few of my pet peeves on pronunciation:

    Tour…not “tore”…should rhyme with pure. (same for tourist & tournament)

    Temperature…has four syllables…not three. Temp-er-uh-ture….not temp-uh-ture.

    Respiratory….has five syllables…not four. Res-pir-uh-tor-ee….not res-puh-tor-ee.

    Rural….rue-rull…not “rule”

    Luxury…luk-shur-ee…..not lug-zhur-ee.

    Strength…stringth…not “strenth”

  • Peter

    I’ve just finished watching the first 72 episodes of the popular British mystery series Midsomer Murders.

    Phew…I didn’t know there were that many. You’d think the whole Causton/Midsomer region would be depopulated by now (with the possible exception of murderers…but that should make them easy to spot)!

  • Tom

    I get annoyed hearing people pronounce “cache” as /KASH – A. Correct is /KASH. I heard Matt Lauer, and other “professional” communicators, pronounce it incorrectly on TV. The word “cachet” IS pronounced /KASH-A. Two completely different meanings.

    It’s all about being able to verbally communicate. Professionals should know better. Incorrect pronounciation can result in conveying the wrong message.

    Great comments everyone.

  • cunning linguist

    Someone doesn’t know how to pronounce “Illinois” or “Arkansas?” THE TERROR. THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

    Can you pronounce Quesnel? Derby? Alcester? Baie d’Espoir? Potawatomi? New Berlin? Gladstone? Bedford–Stuyvesant? All from English-speaking countries, by the way. God forbid you ever have to go to Montreal and ask for Pie IX, Cote Vertu, or Hochelaga-Maisonneuve…

    There are a few gripes which are legitimate – like irregardless (not a real word) prostate vs prostrate, cavalry vs calvary, nuclear vs nucular (there is no nucule like molecule to make nuclear nucular) – but i think they are just common mistakes. Whining about common pronunciation variants which are largely due to regional accents is pretty irritating.

  • Rebekah

    If “preventative” is in the dictionary, and the dictionary tells me I can pronounce it “preventative” how come this list on the internet tells me I can’t?

    Kinda brings your authority to speak on the topic into question.

  • Midwest is Best

    The one that has always baffled me is how some people (mainly Brits, I guess?) pronounce “negotiate” with an “s” sound: Nego-see-ate… Where in heaven’s name did that one come from?! Also, people saying “nupchooals” for “nuptials”… where did the “oo” come from? Oh well, there’s no accounting for taste… I guess. (BTW, I am not a native English speaker, so I make it a point to speak correctly… most of the time ;-)

  • Mariam

    I have no authority on linguistics whatsoever, but I am fascinated by its study. I am currently in the first level in my state university. The first thing that they try to teach us is the difference between “prescriptive” and “descriptive” grammar. descriptive grammar describes the innate rules of grammar and pronunciation of a certain dialect *as it is actually spoken and used by that group of people*, whereas prescriptive grammar are created grammar rules that certain people, usually some form of “language preservationists,” think all people *should* use instead of their regional dialects. I am from a city in the south, so I have grown up speaking relatively “standard” English but have been around people who spoke in the southern dialect. Neither one is wrong. Language is arbitrary; cat in English is no more “catty” than gato is in Spanish. Prescriptive rules usually develop against the grammatical structures of a group of people that the standard language speakers are uncomfortable around, such as many of the “hick” (a word I take offense to) pronunciations you refer to betraying a somewhat ingrained prejudice/bias against southerners. Seriously, what determines what is correct in a language is what the majority of people of a dialect actually use.

    “irregardless” is correctly identified is being wrong; as far as I known from Merriam Webster, it is not a word. same with the misuse of “prostate” versus “prostate.” and some words like “Realtor” and “Library” should probably be pronounced the way the people working in those positions pronounce them, but the vast majority are simply gripes about regional accents.

  • venqax

    1. Patric Hamilton
    Tour…not “tore”…should rhyme with pure. (same for tourist & tournament)
    Temperature…has four syllables…not three. Temp-er-uh-ture….not temp-uh-ture.
    Respiratory….has five syllables…not four. Res-pir-uh-tor-ee….not res-puh-tor-ee.
    Rural….rue-rull…not “rule”
    Luxury…luk-shur-ee…..not lug-zhur-ee.
    Strength…stringth…not “strenth”

    Definitely agree with rural and strength. The others are a bit more complex. Tour is not tore, but it doesn’t rhyme with pure, either. Closer to “poor”.
    Temperature and respiratory are both cases of elision, which is common and standard in English. Like veg’table and int’rest—and countless examples in British English, where dropping syllables wholesale is an art form! (The affected “vej-et-able made famous in the US by Paul Harvey isn’t precise, it’s wrong.) True, in the case of temperature, the R should not be dropped. But the tri-syllabic “temp’rature” is standard in American English. As is “resp’ratory”, with4 syllables and the stress on the first syllable. The occasionally heard “resp-EYE-ruh-tory” is perhaps British or Australian? Definitely odd-sounding to American ears. The SAE LAB-ratory (4-syllables) is analogous.

    Luxury is tricky. Some US dictionaries accept the LUG pronunciation, others accept the ZH sound in the second syllable. Beyond dictionaries, I haven’t found a more authoritative treatment of the word’s pronunciation, so we are left with the K and SH as probably the preferable pronunciation for SAE or General American– LUK-sher-ee with the stress on the initial syllable– since all sources list it as acceptable.

  • Nixygirl

    My personal pet ate is when people say “Pacific” when they mean to say “Specific”….drives me nuts!!

  • Nixygirl

    lol I wrote ‘ate’ accidentally instead of ‘hate’! You should see how red my face is now!

  • Stan

    I personally can’t stand it when people say feb-u-ary rather than feb-ru-ary. I have corrected many people on this point. I’d always pronounced it feb-u-ary, because that was how I had heard it. But then I read the Little House on the Praire books, and one of the kids in there asks her mother how to spell February. Her mother tells her to spell it like it sounds and pronounces it for her. The girl then spells February properly. Hey, if it’s good enough for Laura Ingalls Wilder it’s good enough for me.

    I do agree with some commenters’ view that language is supposed to evolve, but one of the joys (and curses) of having a written language is that the language no longer evolves as quickly as it once did. Our language was in transition when written communication became more common, so while some words and language structures made the evolution, others did not. There have been periods of faster evolution for the English language. For example when Noah Webster published his speller, and later an American English dictionary. These became the standards by which American students were taught, and the language evolved. The internet has also sped up evolution a bit, which is distressing to some of us. Still, there are constants, and it’s nice to see a post trying to maintain some semblance of poise in the spoken language.

    Love it!

  • compton

    I understand how annoying it is when people’s pronunciation and usage differs from your own, but I’m actually a little surprised that in this age of global communication, so many people have such blind faith that their own specific habits and practices constitute The Right Way!

    By all means strive to implement this Standard Language if you want to: in fact while you’re there, would you ask Canute how he’s getting on holding back the tide?

    Unlike English, both French and German do actually have centralised bodies of overeducated toffs which dictate how everyone else has to use the language. What’s really bizarre about this is that the French and Germans all listen to these self-important time-wasters.

    British and Americans on the other hand would say, ‘yah boo sucks’ to any such self-appointed body, and this is at least part of the reason why it’s Britain and the US where all the innovative technology of the last decades has been developed.

  • venqax

    cunning linguist: Comparing apples and parsnips? What does the pronunciation of geographical place names have to do with any of this? They are proper nouns, often don’t follow conventional pronunciation rules, and are determined by local customs. None of which is the subject here, which is Standard English. Let alone how you pronounce foreign languages. No one expects an English-speaker to know how to pronounce French, Eskimo, or Chinese. We DO expect an erudite English-speaker to be able to pronounce standard ENGLISH, however. Likewise, to this: pronunciation variants which are largely due to regional accents. Regional accents AS OPPOSED TO standard pronunciations is included in what the author is talking about. Mispronunciations that RESULT from regionalsm is probably the BIGGEST problem for standards, not a excusal from them. That’s what STANDARD means, after all. When people use their regional “accents” because they don’t know standard English, or don’t have the sense of propriety to use it, it is a problem. Inserting your dudgeon into a discussion that you fail to recognize the subject of is what is pretty irritating.

    Standards don’t excuse dialects. The PURPOSE of standards is to supersede dialects.

    How many times does this need saying? If it’s a thousand, I think we’re getting close.

    Rebekah: No, it’s your understanding of language rules and their derivation that is questionable. Dictionaries are not the ultimate authorities on language, nor do they claim to be. Most are self-identified as descriptive, and simply report what people are saying, without judging what is right or wrong. You need to dig a little deeper into linguistic authorities than your handy little desk-reference for that. In some dictionaries you will find “irregardless”, and the pronunciation “NOOK-yoo-lar” for that very reason. I don’t know off hand what the story is with preventative, but the fact that is “in the dictionary” doesn’t mean anything at all beyond “lotsa people say this”.

  • venqax

    cunning linguist: Comparing apples and parsnips? What does the pronunciation of geographical place names have to do with any of this? They are proper nouns, often don’t follow conventional pronunciation rules, and are determined by local customs. None of which is the subject here, which is Standard English. Let alone how you pronounce foreign languages. No one expects an English-speaker to know how to pronounce French, Eskimo, or Chinese. We DO expect an erudite English-speaker to be able to pronounce standard ENGLISH, however. Likewise, to this: pronunciation variants which are largely due to regional accents. Regional accents AS OPPOSED TO standard pronunciations is included in what the author is talking about. Mispronunciations that RESULT from regionalsm is probably the BIGGEST problem for standards, not a excusal from them. That’s what STANDARD means, after all. When people use their regional “accents” because they don’t know standard English, or don’t have the sense of propriety to use it, it is a problem. Inserting your dudgeon into a discussion that you fail to recognize the subject of is what is pretty irritating.

    Standards don’t excuse dialects. The PURPOSE of standards is to supersede dialects.

    How many times does this need saying? If it’s a thousand, I think we’re getting close.

    Rebekah: No, it’s your understanding of language rules and their derivation that is questionable. Dictionaries are not the ultimate authorities on language, nor do they claim to be. Most are self-identified as descriptive, and simply report what people are saying, without judging what is right or wrong. You need to dig a little deeper into linguistic authorities than your handy little desk-reference for that. In some dictionaries you will find “irregardless”, and the pronunciation “NOOK-yoo-lar” for that very reason. I don’t know off hand what the story is with preventative, but the fact that is “in the dictionary” doesn’t mean anything at all beyond “lotsa people say this”.

  • Jake Wheeler

    Who pronounces the “d” in grilled cheese? Everybody says grillcheese. And there’s a reason, too: you need your tongue at the back of your top teeth to launch the “ch” in cheese-which is where your tongue is at the “l” sound in grill. If you say the “d” you have to remove your tongue and put it back again. People are lazy, so its grillcheese, and I know this means the end of the world, but I, for one, have no intention of changing, and gimme an ice tea widdat wouldja?

  • Michael

    Some of these don’t work in Canada. For example, in Canada, the pronunciation “jew-ler-y” is correct, because in Canada the word is actually spelt “JEWELLERY” not like the American “JEWELRY”. The pronunciation “jewelry” sounds very wrong to my Canadian ears, because our spelling has that extra syllable. Though, generally, it also annoys me when people syllabify L’s. Another thing… you said that “preventative” is wrong. That’s not true. Preventative is a valid variant of preventive. It doesn’t even get underlined by the spell-checker. Have you honestly heard someone say they’re taking “preventive measures?” Not me. And btw, in case anyone noticed me using “spelt”, Canadians use this much more often than “spelled”.

  • ChrisDixon1989

    I understand the point of those commenters who say that a lot of the errors mentioned here can be ascribed to regionalism and individual speaker preference. But they are missing a couple of important points. One is that we are all judged by how we speak. Some pronunciations should be avoided simply because they brand the speaker as uneducated. ‘Anyways’ is one example that was mentioned. ‘Aunt’ pronounced with a subtle diphthong instead of as ‘ant’ is another example. (US speakers who opt for the subtle diphthong tend overwhelmingly to be less educated.) The other point the commenters are missing is that pronunciation has to have some rational basis. You can’t make up arbitrary pronunciations that have no background raison d’etre and no other parallel anywhere in the English language. The subtle diphthong pronunciation of ‘aunt’ is a good example. Those speakers are trying to create a vowel sound that comes from German or Scandinavian languages (and certainly doesn’t have a parallel in any other English word). No, it’s not the long a of ‘father’ as some state, it’s something subtly different that doesn’t exist in English. Hence, this effort is an embarrassing pretension that simply betrays the class anxiety of a speaker trying too hard to sound posh and having it blow up in their face. Similar examples of arbitrary pronunciations are ‘Holloween’ for ‘Halloween’, ‘meer’ for ‘mirror’, and one that baffles and irritates me quite a bit–’anti-semetic’ for ‘anti-semitic’. ‘Ben’ for ‘been’, although hugely widespread in the US, is another example. That’s not due to the US accent; it’s arbitrary and unparalleled.

  • noemad

    i wonder why stupid was left out? Is it because its stoo – pid to ask or completely stew – pid not to?
    anyway(s) for you docile brits – learn to use R and then you can have a say okees?
    btw – you can either you go to school on schedule or shool on shedule

    dumbasses

  • Ally

    In my opinion, these words are pronounced wrong mostly because:

    1. People are in a rush to talk. I find that when I’m debating in class I always seem to mispronounce or otherwise butcher my sentences in an effort to get my point across. (Everything sounds so much better in my brain… So I think I’ll just stick to writing rather than debating.)

    2. They’re raised to talk that way. Seriously. My mom can’t speak worth a crap and even though I know how to pronounce things (I only slipped up on a few words on this list) I will pronounce them wrong because I’ve heard it said that way so much and it’s become a habit. (I refuse to pronounce Illinois any other way than “ill-ih-noys”. It just makes things easier on my brain. Plus, who the hell brings up Illinois in common conversation anyway?)

    3. People are lazy. Seriously. Fully pronouncing candidate is soooooo much effort. (I may be exaggerating a little.)

    To be honest, I feel that spelling a word correctly is more important than how you say it. Because, though you may sound a little dumb considering the situation, people still get your point.

  • Truffles

    I’ve heard specific and specifically mispronounced as pacific and pacifically before… now that is daft!

    To the chap who asked if Brits pronounce honest by sounding the ‘h’, no, we don’t, it’s silent as it is in the US.

    Finally, Medi-eval is the common pronunciation in England.

    Interesting post and comments.

  • Alex

    There have been a few comments about the pronunciation of dais but none that I can find pointing out that the headword is spelled with an umlaut over the i (i.e., daïs). Since the word has French and Latin origins, why is the umlaut used here? It doesn’t show up in the dictionaries I have checked (e.g., Oxford, M-W).

    Just wondering… and learning something new every day.

  • venqax

    Jake Wheeler: Who pronounces the “d” in grilled cheese? Careful speakers, that’s who.
    Everybody says grillcheese.
    No, they don’t. At least not if they’re over 12 years old.
    People are lazy.

    That’s true so far as it goes. But not everyone is lazy about every thing. People who are not lazy speakers say gril’d cheese with the D sound definitely in there, albeit in a glancing “grace note” manner, especially if they are not speaking in a rushed context. I know you won’t change. Couldn’t if you wanted to. Like that kid who always had food around his mouth, even if he hadn’t eaten anything all day.

    Michael …in Canada, the pronunciation “jew-ler-y” is correct, because in Canada the word is actually spelt “JEWELLERY” not like the American “JEWELRY”. The pronunciation “jewelry” sounds very wrong to my Canadian ears, because our spelling has that extra syllable.
    But there is no extra syllable in what you wrote. American JEW-EL-REE and “Canadian” JEW-LER-EE, as you have, are both 3 syllables. I think that your jewellery should have 4—JEW-EL-ER-EE. Perhaps that’s what you meant..
    … you said that “preventative” is wrong. That’s not true. Preventative is a valid variant of preventive.
    In American English (SAE, GA) preventive is strongly preferred. Preventative is a “variant” like sedatitive is a variant of sedative, or, conversely, competive is a variant of competitive. Or compare, in American, orientate is simply wrong. The proper word is orient.
    It doesn’t even get underlined by the spell-checker. And “spell-checker” is your authoritative source for spelling? Really? Have you honestly heard someone say they’re taking “preventive measures?”
    Yes, absolutely. More often than preventative which suffers not only from being worse to say, but harder to say too. Tho “prevan’ive” is probably closer. And, BTW, none of that is Canadian. It’s British. Canadians use a mix of American English and British English for things like color/colour, spelled/spelt, truck/lorry. There is no “Canadian” spelling, nor very much in the way of uniquely Canadian usage.

  • AquaAmi

    Being from Kansas, some of these words i’ used to putting an R in there somewhere. like washer some here would Worsher. so some of these words i would terrible pronounciation on. and i don’t really care.

  • sherwood

    Almonds, anyone? Or maybe you’d prefer ‘Ammons’…

    The joke is, that they’re AL-monds when they’re growing, then they shake the ‘L’ out of them at harvest…

    Heard a co-worker pronounce ‘chaos’ as ‘CHA-ose’ many times…told him confidentially that it was pronounced like ‘KAY-oss’ and he said he knew that, but he just liked to pronounce it the other way, lol…well, excuuuuuse me!

    Visited relatives in Florida, and heard a kid on TV being interviewed…said he was from ‘Fort Pierce’…but he was dropping them r’s, and it came out as ‘Fo’t Piss’…cracked me up, but the adult interviewer didn’t think it was strange…

  • venqax

    Alex: Interesting question. The “umlaut” you refer to is actually called a *diæresis*, tho it is graphically the same symbol as the umlaut used in German and some other languages. It’s one of the few diacritical marks that’s been used in English and it’s not used much anymore. You mainly find it in older texts. Basically it is used above the second letter in a double-vowel spellings to indicate that the 2 vowels are pronounced separately and distinctly, as opposed to making a *single* (usually diphthong) sound as the spelling would normally indicate. So over the I in dais is would clue you in that it is not pronounced DAYSS (rhymes face) or DICE, but rather DAY-IS. Two syllables with the A and I indicating their own sounds, not the AY or EYE sound typical of an AI combination. Likewise in older writing you’ll sometimes see *cooperate* with the diaeresis over the second O to show that it’s not KOOP–as in loop– ER-ATE, llke a normal OO, but KOH-OP-ER-ATE– 4 syllables with the first O long as in vote and the second short as in pot.

  • Win

    really you don’t pronounce the k in asterisk, the c in arctic, or d in whatever word that has d in it…
    The reason why im asking is because I’m asian, a filipino to be exact, and we pronounce english as how we read it. So if there’s a k in it we pronounce the k, if it has a d we pronounce the d, also with the t. The best example i could offer would be comfortable we pronounce it as com-for-tah-bel or thumb we pronounce the b in it… So it becomes a little frustrating and confusing for us… And for those that think this is elitist it’s not. I think it is best to make one standardized pronunciation (the dictionary!) for words and use it, less confusing for others.

    February i think is acceptable to pronounce it with fe-byu-war-e, mainly because americans pronounce it that way (like pronounciation, it became a word because the majority of us use it). I don’t get why you drop the r though from february.

  • AM

    First of all, a lot of the things you claim are wrong are actually acceptable pronunciations/forms. You can’t just say that something is wrong because you don’t like it. There are so many I’m not even going to start listing them.

    Secondly, some of these transliterations are absolutely horrible. For example your transliteration of spayed. If you mean that it’s pronounced like the worde “spade” you either just say that it has the same pronunciation, or you transliterate it as for instance /spayd/, you do not put the word “spade” between slashes. There are no silent letters when you transliterate.

  • venqax

    AM: I don’t think you are getting this. I also don’t think you are alone. The subject here is STANDARD pronunciations. Standard, specifically in this case, to what is called General American or Standard American English. Note that labeling: It does NOT say North Midland, Inland North, Southern, East New England etc. So we are NOT talking about *regionalisms* or *dialects* (except to the extent that General American is a dialect compared to other national standards, like British English), or– for the love of all that’s holy– *personal preferences*.

    Given all that, what, precisely, do you want to argue is “actually acceptable” that is noted as incorrect here? And why? What would be your grounds for arguing, as some here have, that “hi-archy” is just fine? Pronouncing ask as if its ax is perfectly justified? A pronunciation is not acceotable just because YOU like it, or just because lots of folks who don’t know any better say it that way. Please do list some. I study this a lot, and I find but a few to which I take exception, and try to say why in those cases.

    As for transliteration, the system of citing a common word for comparison is frequently done, perfectly acceptable, and often BEST because it doesn’t require a normal person to be familiar with ridiculous IPA symbology or even MW, AHD-style pronunciation orthography. Hence I streets in many cities are posted EYE St on the sign, so as not to confuse it with 1st street. To say spayed, pronounce it just like spade, is perfectly clear. The point is made that the 2 are homonyms– the D at the end of spayed exists, so say it. It’s just the slashes vex you? Why? At worst that is improper use of symbols, not “horrible” transliteration.

    Sometimes I think “descriptivism” is the best Trojan Horse ever built by the forces of ignorance.

  • John

    I couldn’t read the 1000+ comments, so this may have already been covered. When people who are SUPPOSEDLY speaking English say SUPPOSABLY, it drives my up a wall.

  • Rachel

    Well, wouldn’t it be a very sad and boring world if we all spoke like that! I’m British (English, from the North near Manchester) so a lot of those sounded bizarre to me, but then I’m sure I pronounce some words in a way that would make you scratch your head too.

    I love our regional accents in Britain, and I’d hate for everyone to suddenly start pronouncing everything the same way just because that’s the way someone has decided it ‘should’ be done.

    So for us, in our house, it will always be a book with a long oo sound, a ly-bree (library), wens-di (wednesday), and ‘alloween (no h’s round here, haven’t got the time for them!).

    Right now, I’ll put kettle on. Who wants a brew while we put rest o’t world to rights?

  • venqax

    That’s great in your house, as you say. That’s the point. If you have children, wouldn’t you ALSO want them to be able to go out into the world and speak in a standardized manner that marks a more general erudition, as opposed to be unable to communicate in anything but their local dialect? Like it or not, people are judged by these kinds of things. No one has said there is anything wrong with regional accents IN THEIR PLACE. And their place isn’t everywhere, all the time.

  • mrmojorisin

    WOW! This thread is so interesting! It started with pronunciation mistakes then went on to arguments about regional dialects, race, religion, food, PC terms, and so many other tangents. Most of my sentiments were already voiced by venqax. I actually found myself talking to the screen as I read some of the other posts, then I scrolled down, and sure enough, venqax seems to have crawled into my brain and taken the words right out of my mouth! I have to quote you on one of my biggest pet peeves, which you expressed so eloquently :

    “Well, that’s a problem with dictionaries, especially the “populist” ones that track usage rather than propriety. In their defense, they say so up front. Some in the US are, in the same spirit of chaos, listing noo-kyoo-ler and “irregardless” as “alternative” pronunciation as well. Usually with a mild admonition like “often considered non-standard” or “colloquial”, like it’s dialectical thing. So everyone gets an A and no one feels inferior.
    Let’s do structural engineering that way too! I have some really interesting bridge and tunnel designs, and I haven’t been corrupted by those snobbish, elitist, math and physics nazis who try to tell everyone else that THEIR ideas of gravity and stress llimitations and such are better than ordianary folks’.”

    I was literally ROFLMAO. You chuckle, but, no, I actually fell off the couch teary-eyed cracking up! Also, I must say, you have a lot more patience than I do. Come on, people, let’s say it together for the umpteenth time: The topic is STANDARD pronunciation.

    I also have to give kudos to Bradlee TheDawg, who said it best:
    “To the idiots (including Mr. Cambridge degree) crying “elitism” – you are all full of crap, pronounced either (ee-thur) KRAP or BULL-TCHS-ITT. You are either pronouncing a word correctly or you are not. Regional differences in dialect aside.. “ask” is never “aks”and “tooth” is never “toof” etc. . Just because something is done on a regular basis does not make it correct. Just because a word is mispronounced regionally 100% of the time does not make it correct. Most of these so-called dialect issues stem from widespread ignorance, nothing else.”

    Anyway, I am not claiming by any means to be a linguistic expert, so here’s my tuppence worth:
    1. On Bradlee TheDawg’s post: My family immigrated from Asia to an urban area in America where the majority population spoke “Ebonics” with a thick Latino accent. As a child, I didn’t want to be labeled as “the nerdy FOB” so I quickly assimilated and adopted the regional dialect, much to my parents’ dismay. My father often scoffed, “Why did we send you to the best private schools? How is it possible that your English actually got worse when we moved to America?” My mother would chime in, “If your grandmother (an English professor) could only hear you now, she’d roll over in her grave!” To think, I would actually “correct” my parents’ pronunciation with the argument, “That’s how it’s said here.” Now I realize I was young and stupid. And yes, I do correct my own children. Maybe their friends say “aks” or “toof” because nobody ever corrected them. I’m breaking the cycle! I completely agree with Bradlee TheDawg that just because an alternative pronunciation is “widely accepted” does not make it correct.
    2. Context must be taken into consideration. I admit, when speaking in an informal setting, I do slip into my regional dialect. My speech flows from one sound to the next without over-enunciating, and I often use slang, especially in a tongue-in-cheek manner. However, if I am speaking in a professional capacity, I do try to follow standard pronunciation rules. Case in point: When I corrected a colleague, she retorted “Geez, you didn’t have to make me feel stupid about it.” To which I replied, “I was just trying to help. Would you rather be corrected privately, or be humiliated publicly when your students’ parents complain about having to pay astronomical tuition fees for their child to be educated by someone who can’t even spell or pronounce words correctly?” After she got over her crushed ego, she thanked me, and from then on, my colleagues came to me for verification when in doubt.
    To make things even more interesting, I’m going to throw yet another angle into the mix. From a PR or Marketing standpoint, SAE or RP will appeal to a mass audience. Period. However, I may revert to a regional dialect if my target audience is concentrated in a specific region. This reiterates my point on taking context into consideration.
    3. On the subject of race and being PC: I had an Egyptian friend who always identified himself as “African American” on his law school applications, which raised a black friend’s eyebrow. I just thought it was funny that for someone who claimed to be “African American,” he didn’t even realize that my Egyptian friend is technically “African American.” Look it up on a map, people.
    4. On the anglicization of the English language: I understand venqax’ point: “…if you want to maintain the Spanish pronunciation, then SPELL it halapenyo, or tortea. Don’t write jalapeno, or tortilla and expect me to pronounce it in Spanish. J doesn’t make an H sound in English. LL doesn’t make a Y sound in English.” Just out of curiosity, how does a foreign word become a loanword and adapted to the English spelling and pronunciation rules? Being in a multicultural family, I’ve grown accustomed to conversing in different languages because there are certain things that get lost in translation. I’m sure at one point in my lifetime I’ve uttered words in 4 or 5 different languages in one breath. My own preference is to simple categorize the origin of a particular word and pronounce it in that language (i.e., use French pronunciation rules for French words, Spanish pronunciation rules for Spanish words, etc.) I don’t want to come off pompous, but it just rolls off my tongue more easily that way. So, what’s wrong with pronouncing words according to its origin?

    P.S. Please be kind. Like I said, I’m not claiming to be a linguistic expert. Just someone really interested in learning more about this topic :)

  • Connor

    A thing to add to ‘Jewelry’
    People so commonly pronounce it “JULE-REE”
    Another atrocity I hear far too often, ‘Supposed’
    So many people have the horrible habit of saying “A-SPOSED-TOO” I really don’t know where people get that one…
    This one drives me particularly insane, I’m not quite sure if this is pronunciation as much as arrogance but ‘presented’ and ‘presenting’
    God, I cringe when I hear “PREH-ZEN-TAY-TED” or “PREH-ZEN-TAY-TING”

  • Jill

    John, you may not have had time to read the 1000+ comments, but you could have done a search (Control F). You would have seen that it has been mentioned 5+ times (besides yours), beginning on December 3, 2008.

    Besides lazy speakers, there are obviously also lazy readers. Sorry to be rude, but there are a lot of people who have commented in the same vein “didn’t have time to read all the comments.”

  • venqax

    mrmojorisin:
    Come on, people, let’s say it together for the umpteenth time: The topic is STANDARD pronunciation. Thank you for the acknowledgment and thank you times ten for recognizing this point. I really don’t know what the comprehension barrier here is composed of. Not gray matter, that’ for sure.

    Context must be taken into consideration. I admit, when speaking in an informal setting, I do slip into my regional dialect. Case in point: When I corrected a colleague, to be educated by someone who can’t even spell or pronounce words correctly?” Yes, and no one is trying to abolish dialects. But there is a difference between a dialect and gibberish and between a standard and a non-standard dialect. Informal speech makes sense in an informal setting. But I would be among those questioning the credentials of an educator who was unable to speak properly in the relevant context.

    To make things even more interesting, I’m going to throw yet another angle into the mix. From a PR or Marketing standpoint, SAE or RP will appeal to a mass audience. Period. However, I may revert to a regional dialect if my target audience is concentrated in a specific region. Good point. If I’m trying to sell pancakes in the Am South, I’ll call them flapjacks. That truly is a regionalism. If it’s a national audience I’m speaking to, I’m sticking with pancakes. That’s the national “standard” and that’s why all the national brands use that word.

    On the subject of race and being PC: I had an Egyptian friend who always identified himself as “African American” Is he American? That would be my question. The problem is not only using African as synonymous with black—for which there is no basis at all culturally, but using African AMERICAN as synonymous with black. Like when Jamaicans or—when would this happen?—KENYANS are called African American.

    On the anglicization of the English language: I understand venqax’ point: “…if you want to maintain the Spanish pronunciation, then SPELL it halapenyo, or tortea. Don’t write jalapeno, or tortilla and expect me to pronounce it in Spanish. J doesn’t make an H sound in English. LL doesn’t make a Y sound in English.” Just out of curiosity, how does a foreign word become a loanword and adapted to the English spelling and pronunciation rules?… So, what’s wrong with pronouncing words according to its origin? I think the chief criterion is age. For how LONG has the word been used in English? Most words originally come from another language, but at some point you have to say BEVERAGE is no longer a French word being used in English, it is an English word that comes from French. So we don’t pronounce it as French would any longer. Likewise a Spanish canon, with the tilde over the first n, is now an English canyon. With the English spelling that supports something similar to the Sp pronunciation, but with the stress on the first syllable, not the second, which is how English normally does things. So words that have existed in English for long enough to become standard have to get anglicized. That’s how every language works. The Japanese say baseburu. The L sound doesn’t exist in Japanese, and they don’t try to say it. Great. I think words like tortilla, junta, jalepeno, guillotine, and wiener have been in English long enough to bet get citizenship. Notice too, that we are not consistent about this. Wiener e.g. IS always pronounced according to English. It is never said VEENer, let alone Veena. Spanish seem to claim some special exception to these things. If you, yourself, actually speak the non-English language in question, that would be different. Go ahead and speak your own speech. But don’t feel obligated to say SA-WIN if you don’t speak Gaelic. No one does. I’m frankly, amazed at how Germans call themselves German and say Germany when speaking English. I wouldn’t if I were them. Meanwhile you can’t get a Mexican to stop saying MAY-HEE-KOE, even if they don’t even speak Spanish.

  • Cherise

    Win,

    RE: “really you don’t pronounce the k in asterisk, the c in arctic, or d in whatever word that has d in it… or thumb we pronounce the b”

    The “k” in “asterisk” and the “c” in “arctic” are supposed to be pronounced. Those that don’t pronounce them are probably just speaking “regionally.” As for the “d,” it is mostly pronounced in English. The only word I can think of where it isn’t, is “Wednesday,” and English inherited this word from German, although the current Germans do not use a derivation of it (see etymology websites).

    As for thumb: I tried pronouncing it with the b, and it came out “thum-ba”; in order for a “b” to be audible, one has to add a vowel sound (or an additional syllable) after it. You hear the “b” in the fairytale girl’s name “Thumbelina” (thum-be-lee-na), but not in “thumb, “aplomb,” “climb” “comb,” “crumb,” “bomb,” “dumb,” “jamb,” “lamb,” “limb,” “numb,” “plumb,” “succumb,” “tomb,” or “womb” and some other, less-used, words.

  • Oi

    Forte also means strength in Italian. It is misleading to not mention this, as then one is lead to think that when one wants to use it in a phrase relating to strength, such as ‘foreign languages are not my forte’, one must pronounce it in the French way, whereas both the linguistic and the conventional english-langiage pronunciation is in fact fortE.

  • venqax

    But the forte at hand in the phrase, “Mathematics is not my forte”, is from French, not Italian. So the FORT– one syllable, no accent– would be appropriate. Convenient, also, because this is how it would be pronounced in plain ol’ English, and it’s been around long enough to be anglicized, regardless of its origin.

    The forte in music does come from Italian, and is a term of art sort-of, so the FORT-AY pronunciation works there if you simply HAVE TO foreign-ize things.

  • alpha

    This page must be ranked with honest and highest comments ever written. Awesome pots and delightful comments.

  • Barbara Rhoton

    I am a non-native speaker of US English with a degree in English. There are some things my tongue simply won’t do and I would never laugh at someone’s pronunciation that reflects a regional or ethnic difference; however, my gripe is using the wrong words altogether or saying them in such a way that the meaning becomes unclear: It took me a very long time to find out that duct tape had nothing to do with “ducks” and that barbed-wire had nothing to do with our neighbor “Bob.” I am still working on the “Manila” vs. the “vanilla” envelope… :-)

  • Callie

    I reckon some of the mispronunciations are because we speak so fast. In Australia we pronounce some things differently than the Americans. Like the word “tomato”. We pronounce it as /TOH-MAH-TOH/ in Australia and the yanks pronounce it as /TOH-MAY-TOW/. Language evolves, but sometimes the mispronunciations are just ridiculous. But spelling and grammar? God, people are worse at that, believe me.

  • venqax

    Actually, Barbara Rhoton don’t jump the gun on duct/duck tape. It is not at all clear that the “duct” form is the original, and considerable evidence that “duck”, as in a cotton/linen material that has been called duck for centuries, may in fact be the older term. Check out World Wide Words, for example. “Bob” wire is a common misspeak for a couple of reasons including lazy speech, ignorance of what a “barb” is, and, let’s face it– the general British problem with Rs that DOES make bob and barb sound much more alike than they would if Rs were given the respect they’re due. I think this has to do with French influence. Yes, I said it: French!

  • Brandi

    Two friends and I once got into an argument about how many syllables are in the word “orange.” I actually can’t remember who was claiming what anymore.

    It was stupid anyway – the argument was actually about whether or not the word would fit comfortably in a parody title, which I also can’t remember.

  • venqax

    So what was the answer?

  • Ray

    How about the word film. How many times does one hear >filim> or ? There is definitely no vowel or vowel sound between the and the as far I know!

  • Castanet

    A co-worker says “pacific” to mean “specific” and “ambalence” to mean “ambulance”. Thing is, she’s an educated woman but also falls back on using phrases like “ain’t”, “he don’t” and “so didn’t I”.

    I honestly don’t get why anyone who knows the difference would choose using bad grammar and mispronounce words. But then again, she also clicks her fake nails while typing as she pounds, quite audibly, on her keyboard. uuuughhh

    Other than groups who are identified by a shared use of language, has anyone witnessed people who bastardize the english language if only for attention, even if it’s negative?

  • Crystal

    I was always told I was wrong for saying Feb-ROO-ary. I just looked it up on Merriam-Webster. It turns out, what while the -r- is correct, the u is a schwa sound (upside down e in IPA). That sound is like the word uh. Feb-RUH-ary. While Feb-yoo-ary and Feb-yuh-ary are acceptable. Feb-ROO-ary, is not.

  • Peter

    “Bob” wire is a common misspeak for a couple of reasons including lazy speech, ignorance of what a “barb” is, and, let’s face it– the general British problem with Rs that DOES make bob and barb sound much more alike than they would if Rs were given the respect they’re due.

    But they don’t sound at all alike in British English. The American pronunciation of “Bob” sounds like the British pronunciation of “barb” — the British pronunciation of “Bob” is quite distinct, and no-one could mistake the (rhotic) American pronunciation of “barb” for “Bob”. AFAIK, the dropping of the “-ed” is a uniquely American phenomenon, so I can’t figure out how anyone could interpret the vocalization as “Bob wire” (A Brit saying “barb” could easily be interpreted by an American to be saying “Bob”, but he wouldn’t say “barb wire”, he’d say “barbed wire”, so our American would hear “Bob’d wire”, not “Bob wire”. A Brit saying it to another Brit, or an American saying it to anyone at all, would not be heard to say “Bob”. Possibly an American who speaks a non-rhotic dialect could be misheard by a rhotic-speaking American as saying “Bob wire”, but that wouldn’t be a common enough situation to have anyone talking about “Bob wire” as a common mistake…so where does it come from?)

  • venqax

    Maybe things sound different to American ears. I “don’t hear” the dropped-Ds from every English speaker I know–Yank, Brit, Cannuck, Aussie, Carribbean, and SAfrican– don’t know any Kiwis). Except for some Americans from the upper midwest (Wisconsin, Minnsesota, Dakotas) who have an odd habit of over pronouncing things (e.g. stoo-DENT, like “you dent” my car, or no I DID-INT). Anyway, I think we hear bob and barb the same from UKers because its not the rather subtle vowel difference that makes its mark, but rather the lack of an audible R in barb. OTOH, I think Americans say “bob wire” because they don’t read, haven’t seen that word in print even it they do read, don’t really listen to speech very carefully, and are generally lazy speakers. And I don’t find that to be uniquely American, either, tho in this case it might be more of a US issue.

  • venqax

    Callie: You are right, those are dialectical differences. In some American dialects people say to-MAH-toh, too, but SAE says to-MAY-toh.

    Castanet: Sounds like your co-worker may have come from a semi-literate or at least non-standard dialectical background and has only partially overcome it thru education. I hear this all the time from prominent figures who will slip into their dialect at times, especially when flustered, stressed, or in a casual setting. I think institutions of higher learning could and should do a much better job of instilling SAE ability as part of their basic program. For some who consider themselves “native” English speakers, standard English is as much ESL as it for foreigners.

    Crystal: As has been said here SO MANY times before, dictionaries are not authorities on pronunciation. They merely REPORT what people ARE SAYING. To find out what you SHOULD say, you need to dig deeper than MW. I mean FGS…And it is NEVER okay to say feb-yuh-ary. It would at least have to be feb-yuh-Wary. The prononced R is preferred for a variety of reasons. The best might simply be that it is THERE, in the spelling, and there is no reason NOT to pronounce it. Most “silent” letters have more compelling motivations.

  • june7

    My own pet peeve: “Judaism” should be pronounced “joo-dah-ism” or “joo-day-ism” — NOT “judy-ism” (there is no verb “Judy”).

  • venqax

    Is there a verb Juda or Juday?

  • Veritas

    I can’t imagine taking any form of advice on language from someone who cringes when they hear “someone sound the “t” in often”. Only semi-literate Americans say “offen”. Their more erudite cousins, American or not, pronounce the “t” as they are supposed to do.

  • Mitymous

    Worse than nails on a chalkboard, but apparently common: “FOIL-age” for foliage. OY!

  • venqax

    Veritas. Where in the world do you get the idea tha the T in often is supposed to be sounded? Any authority– historical, etymological, oological, ufological– for such an opinion would be interesting.

    I think perhaps “semi” literacy would apply differently. Those who have seen the word in print, but have never– or not often enough– HEARD it pronounced correctly, assume the T is sounded just like it is in soften…no, wait… it ISN’T pronounced in soften. Hmmm….but it’s right there plain as day…Fowler had a famous observation about often Ts and semi-literacy. Sorry for the subtlety (the B is not pronounced, but feel free to go at it on those 2 Ts!).

  • CraigMuskoka

    A well-endowed redhead I once dated constantly described herself as “volumptuous.” I didn’t bother to correct since the connotation of being lumpy seemed appropriate.

  • AK

    Thank you so much to everyone who responded to this article! I am in an English Usage class and have to identify words that are pronounced differently due to Time, Age, Situation, Region, Gender, or Education. All your comments have been so helpful!

  • Carol Paquette

    This is one of the funniest sites I’ve seen. It’s amazing that the majority of Americans don’t know how to speak English. Also, certain accents are sooooooo horrible, like the Australian accent. They don’t pronounce the r (in most cases), yet they add r to words that don’t require it. Example: I cried so many teas; my caah ran eaout of gas. Also adding the unnecessary r such as the country I live in is Americar — it lies to the north of Cubar. Our southern most state in the continental US is, of course, Floridar. This “ar” by the way, is pronounced as if written “er”. Annoying beyond words!

  • venqax

    Carol Paquette: But remember, people speaking other national standard Englishes– like General Australian, or Received Pronunciation in the UK– are just as correct as Americans speaking SAE. True, RP and GAus are “non-rhotic” variants of the language in which Rs are treated “differently” than they are in SAE. As distressing, and frankly nonsensical, as the “skip the ones that are there and pronounce ones that aren’t” approach seems to Americans, it is the standard there. Completely different, tho, are American English speakers whose regional, non-standard speech does the same theing. E.g. a Bostonian who does and does not the same thing with his Rs as a Londoner doesn’t get the same break from harsh, harsh judgment (j/k). They are, after all, Americans, and as such are speaking non-standardly, one might even say SUB-standardly by the rule of US law! Ok, more coustom than law…But compare driving on the left side of the road in New England vs the old one.

  • Abby

    Nucular! It’s nuclear. Also, I cannot stand when people pronounce the Canadian province of Newfoundland “New-FOUND-Land” or “New-found-Land”. It’s pronounced Newfenland!

  • passerby

    It seems most people out here are just bent on having the last word. To the British- You have your own standards of pronunciation, which are widely followed and understood in your part of the world. If its working for you, why do you want to change the rest of the world?
    To the Americans- Yes, you have different ways of pronouncing different words. That doesn’t make the rest of the world wrong.
    It seems to me that it has become more about one-upmanship than anything else. The last word here should be- To each, his own. Stop with the snide comments and the rudeness. You are not showing your linguistic expertise, but exhibiting your narrow-mindedness.
    I am writing from India and I speak a mix of British, American and Indian english. And guess what? It works just fine.

  • passerby

    Correction- If its working for you- Should be it’s :)

  • venqax

    Abby: I agree, I have always heard it pronounced NOO-F’N-L’ND until recently. I don’t know where the over-enunciated spelling pronunciation comes from. How do the natives say it? Likewise in my lifetime the Him-a-LAY-as became the Him-ALL-yas, Hi-ro-SHEE-ma became Hi-ROH-shi-ma, and the car-i-BEE-an became the ca-RIB-ee-an. I think misinformed linguistic “trendsetters” of various types start these fads out of ignorance and a false sense of how pronunciation really works.

  • venqax

    passerby: Why the correction? I understood you perfectly even with an its instead of a “proper” it’s. No directcommunicative value was lost. And communication, after all, is all that matters. So why have these oppresive rules anyway? “Should be” is so elitist and judgemental. Or judgmental. Language is living. Stop oppressing us!

    I don’t think the intent of this site was ever to say that the American standard is right and others are wrong. But it is pretty evidently written from the Standard American POV, so what is preferred or standard in American English. This seems to cause a LOT of upset and confusion, and I don’t know why. If I came across a site that said, “Colour is spelled with a U, Not color”, I would just assume they weren’t talking to me. I’d take no offense. Or offence, whatever that is. :)

  • E. T. Carney

    Reading part of the four years brought to mind Henry Higgins, KBE, from “My Fair Lady.” By listening to an individual’s speech, he co