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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1,286 Responses to “50 Incorrect Pronunciations That You Should Avoid”

  • venqax

    @Peter: Good points. However, I would make a distinction between characters created by an author and the author’s name. Everyone has at least some right to complain when their own name is mispronounced, unless they encourage it by violation of law orthographic law (looking at you Bret Favre and Loir Greiner.)

    I also call nonsense on the complaints about how English speakers pronounce foreign names and words. No s on ninja? Seriously? EmPHASis on the wrong sylLABle on Japanese words? Get real. We are speaking English and can’t be expected to observe the idiosyncrasies of every other language on earth. We anglicize. Just like they do when they mangle baseball (bas e buru) in Engrish.

  • Peter

    Dr. Seuss – “You’re wrong as the deuce/And you shouldn’t rejoice/If you’re calling him ‘soos’/He pronounces it ‘Soyss’”. “Seuss” rhymes with “voice”.
    Mowgli – “Mow” rhymes with “cow”. It’s not “MOH-glee”.

    Hmm. If the author wants invented words pronounced a particular way, he’d better make sure there’s a pronunciation guide in the book in which they appear. Otherwise, he doesn’t get a say; or at least, it doesn’t count for any more than anybody else’s opinion. As far as I know, EVERYBODY says “soos” or “syoos”, and most people say “moh-glee” (I confess I’d never heard “mow-as-in-cow” before), so that’s how they’re pronounced.

    Ninja Gaiden – It’s “GUY-den”, not “GAY-den”.

    Strictly speaking, it’s neither; but the former is closer than the latter.

    And for the love of God, the plural of ninja is “ninja”, not “ninjas”. Japanese words have no difference between singular and plural.

    But English words usually do. (And actually, so does Japanese, when they need it.) There’s nothing wrong with “ninjas”. Following the pluralization conventions of the source language isn’t even very common practice for Latin and Greek words any more.

    For instance, Naruto (the popular ninja-themed manga and anime). Its name and the main character’s name are pronounced with the accent on the first syllable: NA-roo-toh, not Na-ROO-toh.

    In standard Japanese, there’s no stress distinction at all; but if you listen to the anime in Japanese and try to construct what an English ear hears, it usually sounds more like “na-ru-TOH”, or even “nar-TOH” — but that’s because they’re stressing his name, either because they’re mad at him or calling on him; normal pronunciation would sound rather like “NAR[u]Tok” (with a velar stop for “k”).

  • venqax

    Continued
    21 — I agree.

    That’s good.

    22 — well, “holy” itself comes from “hālig”, so by your logic that should be pronounced “Ha-lee”

    Except in this case the spelling has changed as well. It isn’t haly pronounced like holy, it is hOly. It is, however, Halloween.

    23 — fricativisation (or whatever you want to call it) is what differentiated much of the core Germanic vocabulary from the Romance (e.g. “Father” vs “Pater”)

    That is true. But not in this case. The word is height. Not heigTH or even heightTTH. The trick to knowing that is looking at how it is spelled. With no H on the end.

    24 — see 6

    Why? Again, this is not metathesis. It’s simply not knowing how to pronounce heinous. Which is Hay-nəs.

    25 — wait, this is just the February thing again!

    So you can be wrong twice. Good going. A valid point is worth remaking, especially when there are linguistic barbarians inside the walls. I am taking it that you find “libary” to be just fine. And you’re serious. LIE BERRY. Or are you thinking in Bri’sh terms of lib’ry? That hardly excuses it, and is irrelevant to SAE, which is the subject here.

    26 — actually Arkansas DOES have “something to do with Kansas” AND it was originally ALSO pronounced how it is spelt by Arkansans themselves (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arkansas#Etymology) As for Illunois, I agree, though people have the right to call it what they want.

    As long as you have a language, people cannot “call” things anything they want to. That is the opposite of a language. It’s non-communicative. You are actually right about Arkansas. Not the state, but the river outside Arkansas is still called the ar-KAN-zəs.

    27 — see 2

    Again, why? Interpretate is not a word. Neither are transportate, conversate, drinkate or eatate, or any verb you just want to stick an –ate on the end of for unknown reasons.

    28 — this is only an issue where it causes confusion, which with most people it doesn’t

    29 — what about “inflammable”?

    What about wombats? What about it? The “in” in inflammable does not mean “not”. The in in that case is a variation of “en” (see the easily-accessed dictionary). See entangle, entomb, entrance, enquire. Knowing that is pretty darn basic if you’re going to be a commentator.

    30 — British spelling is “jewellery”, reflecting the ORIGINAL pronunciation (in short: you’re pronouncing it “wrong”).

    No, jewelry is the original word. Jewellery came later. Like many cases, it is American English that has preserved the older form and British that has been corrupted. HWen will you have gotten that?

  • venqax

    A relatively complete response to Alexei on March 10, 2017 3:03 pm. In installments.

    1 — I agree
    me too
    2 — “alternate” and “alternative” are both valid words to say, unless you’re reading stuff out. The same principle applies here.
    What would that principle be? Anyways is not a word, unless you are naming the plural of an undiscovered noun “anyway”. (Two anyways just ran right past my window in every direction). No one says alternate and alternative aren’t both valid words. But they mean—to a careful language user— different things. And careful users of language are what this whole place is aimed at.
    3 — this is nonsense. Since the word is Greek a /k/ sound is “wrong” too — really, by your logic, it should be pronounced with the Scottish pronunciation of “ch” in “loch”. What’s that you say about anglicisation? Well in that case an English “ch” is perfectly acceptable!
    Nonsense would be the idea that English is pronounced according to Greek’s rules. . The English rule IS that CHs from Greek are pronounced as Ks. And the CH of loch doesn’t even exist in English, so it’s not an available option. “Don’t forget what language you are speaking” is probably good guidance for anyone commenting on language use.
    4 — just after berating pronouncing ‘t” in “often”… you’re such a hypocrite.
    What? Is it hypocritical to say that you can’t kick the basketball but you can kick the soccer ball? They are different words. Some letters ARE silent—like the T in often or in mortgage—and some letters are not, like the C in arctic or in October. If that is too complex, or if the reasons that this is so are too hard for you to investigate, then you should just listen to those who have untangled it, as the writer here undoubtedly has.
    5 — assimilation (eg. /ks/ -> /s/, /kt/ -> /k/, /sk/ -> /k/, /nd/ -> /n/) is common language feature — it’s not a bug, however much it bugs you! Sorry, I had to that pun [yes] —, and went to the extreme in Italian, a very respectable language, I’m sure you’ll agree…
    No. This is not excused by “assimilation” but hits the very simple rules that Cs followed by consonants are pronounced as Ks and Cs followed by Is, Es, or Ys are pronounced as Ss. C is still a consonant, even when it follows another C. So aK-Sessory just like aK-Sess, suK-Sess, aK-Sident, aK-Sellorate. You are really bad at this, I’m afraid. Or arfaid, I guess.
    6 — transposition of sounds has occurred before in English, leading to “bird” (originally “brid”), “horse” (originally “hros”), and, ironically, “ask” (originally “aks”) .
    So? Giving mistakes a label does not save them from being wrong. You can’t just randomly transpose sounds and say anything you want backwards and deem it KO. That is a bit closer to pig Latin—which has rules, too—than it is to Eshling.
    7 — see 5
    For what, a completely different problem? Dropping a letter entirely? This is more like the herculean challenge of the C in arctic.
    8 — oh, and so we shouldn’t pronounce an “uh” sound in “Paris’s” then?
    No, you shouldn’t pronounce it in Paris’s, mainly because there isn’t an “uh” sound in Paris’s. There is something of a glottal stop. There is no “uh” sound in athlete, either, so what are you even talking about? This has to do with simply sticking a syllable where there is none. Rightight? Man, you are really not good at this.
    9 — this is entirely understandable, since “ar” is the pronunciation of “o” in many American accents, so those who pronounce o “properly” might assume an “ar” is an “o” (incidentally, I did this while watching DragonBall: I hear about “Kami”, (pronounced “Car-me”), and, owing to the American accents [I’m British] I assumed they were saying, “Commie”, much to my good humour ) ”
    No idea what you’re talking about here. Are you ESL? Americans DO pronounce Rs, the British often do not. You have it completely bass ackwards. An American would never pronounce Kami as Karmi. A Brit would pronounce Karmi “Kahmi” or Car-me as Commie or something like it.
    10 — well, “battle” is of French origin, but no-one pronounces it “battaille”
    Which is apropos of nothing. The author’s point is that there is NO reason to pronounce it cash-AY. Not in English, certainly, and not even in French if, for some reason, one wanted to pronounce it the way francais. It also has nothing to do with French words that have completely changed form, like battaille/battle has.
    11 — see 5
    changine DID to NID is not excusable. Candid and canid are different things. So would be candidate and canidate if canidate were a word that meant anything. An it’s not an it don’t.
    12 — see 6
    Really? Is that intended as an explanation of the mistake, or a refutation of it? If the second, it can’t be taken seriously.
    13 — see 3
    Yes, do. English rules say Greek-bred CHs get the K treatment. Rules are nice.
    14 — this has happened extensively before, though with a different sound (*ahem* gh *ahem*) pr.
    Here we have something. Though clothes doesn’t come from Greek, there is precedent for glazing right over those types of THs in English– IZ-muth, AZ-ma. KLOHZ may even be preferable.
    15 — OED gives “daice” as a pronunciation
    What OED? “Daice” isn’t even pronunciation orthography; not OED’s or of any kind. What in god’s name would it mean? The OED gives /ˈdeɪəs/ as the American, SAE pronunciation—exactly as this article has it. DAY-əs in a phonemic system. The point is really that it is unavoidably 2 syllables—the whole reason it is one of the few English words to retain the diaresis is to make that clear.
    16 — see 8
    Same mistake, same correction needed. The space between 2 letters does not as a rule make an “uh” sound. Between words, maybe, especially if you’re uh- nsure of what you’re saying.
    17 — I reckon this is similar to 9 — someone assumed “drownèd” — the original (and so by your logic “correct”) pronunciation — had undergone assimilation, and that the “proper” pronunciation was “drownded”. Well, you can’t blame them, they’re just like you
    Where did you get the idea that drowned was the original pronunciation of drown? If someone assumed he assumed wrong. Most people who mispronounce words don’t do so for a reason as sophisticated as assuming “assimilation”. They do it because they don’t know any better. Thanks to accessible articles like this one, that can be fixed. Yay.
    18 — oh, and “sapped” should be pronounced “sappd”? Too hard to pronounce? Well, there’s your answer
    Are you referring to a different 18? How would this relate to the fact that it is ET , not EK cetera? Are you venturing that a T after an E is too hard to pronounce? No.
    19 — what about “Wednesday”? (by the way, I pronounce “February” “Feb-yuh-ree”)
    What about Wednesday? What about it, given that is a different word from February? In American English it has always been pronounced Wenz-day. Don’t know about British. And since it is the subject at hand, you are mispronouncing February, even for a Brit. The first R is not silent, even in that case. Goes all the way back to Februarius who was not Febyooarius. Do you bew beer, too? Sweep with a boom? That BR combo is awfully tough. Requires masterful elocution to tackle that one.
    20 —see 6.
    Number 6 is metathesis. This is elision.

  • Florestan

    “contribute” and “distribute”: The stress is (or should be) on the second syllable, not the first.

  • twilightL

    Like a lot of people have said, a lot of these are just accepted regional differences. There are some words that do get on my nerves when they’re mispronounced, though. One in particular is “lingerie”. Say: LAN-zhe-ree. Not LON-zher-ay. (The “zh” is like the “s” in “pleasure”).
    My ex girlfriend used to always say and write “paper view” instead of “pay-per-view”. It drove me crazy. Even when I corrected her, she insisted it was “paper view”. I mean, how does that even make sense? She also pronounced “texts” as two syllables: “text-ess”. It’s “texts”. “TEKSTS”. One syllable.
    I say “aegis” as “EYE-giss”. That’s how it’s pronounced in Greek.
    Foyer – The word is French, it should be pronounced in a French way. FOY-yay, not FOY-er.
    Dr. Seuss – “You’re wrong as the deuce/And you shouldn’t rejoice/If you’re calling him ‘soos’/He pronounces it ‘Soyss'”. “Seuss” rhymes with “voice”.
    Mowgli – “Mow” rhymes with “cow”. It’s not “MOH-glee”.
    J. K. Rowling – “Rowling” is pronounced “rolling”, not “RAU-ling”.
    Ninja Gaiden – It’s “GUY-den”, not “GAY-den”. And for the love of God, the plural of ninja is “ninja”, not “ninjas”. Japanese words have no difference between singular and plural. Same deal with “samurai” – it’s “many samurai”, not “many samurais”.
    Pokémon – Oh gods. “Poh-kay-mon”. Not “Poh-kee-mon”. The accent over the e is there for a reason. And it’s not “Poke-mon” or “Pokey man” either.
    Mario (as in Super Mario) gets pronounced wrong a lot on TV in the UK. The “a” is a long “a”. Say MAH-ree-o, not MARRY-o.
    Saying “iced tea” as “ice tea” and “duct tape” as “duck tape” is more elision than incorrect pronunciation. It’s very hard to distinctly say “iced tea” and “duct tape” unless you really force it. When speaking at a normal pace, it tends to come out sounding like “ice tea” and “duck tape” because you elide the “d” and “t” respectively.
    Porsche – Two syllables. “Por-shuh”. Not “Porsh”. No, this isn’t an “elitist” or “snobby” way to pronounce it, it’s the RIGHT way. It’s German, not French. The “e” on the end is pronounced.
    Inversely, “Renault” is a French car, so the T is not pronounced. Say “Ren-OH”, not “Ren-ALT”.
    Not pronunciation, but I hate it when people misspell my name as “twighlight”. It’s “twilight”. “twi-light”. There’s no “gh” before the “l”.
    Siemens – “ZEE-mens”, not “SEE-mens”. Again, it’s German, the S is pronounced like a Z.
    Japanese names and words seem to get this a lot. For instance, Naruto (the popular ninja-themed manga and anime). Its name and the main character’s name are pronounced with the accent on the first syllable: NA-roo-toh, not Na-ROO-toh. And Sakura is pronounced SA-koo-ra, not Sa-KOO-ra.
    Masamune – Ma-sa-moo-nay. Not “Ma-sa-moon” or “Ma-sa-myoon”.
    Sake (as in the Japanese alcoholic beverage) is SAH-kay, not SAH-kee.
    Sudoku – SOO-doh-koo, not Sa-DOO-koo. It’s an O in the middle, not a U.
    Some people also tend to want to add a foreign pronunciation where there shouldn’t be one. For instance, the type of wine known as claret is pronounced KLA-ret, not KLA-ray.
    Really, I could go on all day, but I have things to do and you probably fell asleep halfway through this anyway, so I’ll stop here.

  • Yeahhh

    I know someone who says /Kin-dee/ instead of /Kan-dee/ for candy and /Chim-lee/ instead of /Chim-nee/ for chimney (nope, that’s not a typo! Not sure where he got the L)

  • James

    Do people buy any of this? If you go around saying February pronouncing both instances of R without a tongue-in-cheek expression I will envision a dunce cap on your head forevermore.

  • David B.

    I know some Southerners who say, and write, pic-a-nic or pic-i-nic.

  • Jess MacDonald-Reid

    Many words grate on my ear. Firstly we need to sort out the difference between pronunciation, and incorrect grammar. In New Zealand the word “yous” rhymes with ewes (a number of female sheep) and is used quite often by certain people. “Are yous guys coming?” This a grammatical error, the word does not exist.
    Other words, read out aloud may accidentally be mispronounced because the reader doesn’t have time to process the word. An example is advertisement. Caught unawares the speaker may say ad-ver-tise-ment and realise straight away they have said it wrongly, but have to carry on. On reflection they know it should be ad-ver-tiss-ment .

    However there are words that people, when they say them, the nitpickers correct them, even if the word may have two alternate
    pronunciations, depending on the area the person is from.

    Back to my pet peeves, are words said thatdon’t exist.
    Take the the word “oriented.” It means to line up to a specified direction, or to show someone new around an office. But how often have you head people using the word orientated. This is not a word.

    Then the foreign words, usually French, that in France are pronounced one way but often in English are not. For example “ballet” which is pronounced Bell-lay not bell-et. There are differences between UK pronunciation and American pronunciation (as well as spelling). I have always disliked the American spelling of color instead of colour. There are many words like this. Using “z” instead of “s” (realize/realise) for example.

    Imagine my surprise (horror) when I was studying Latin to find that the word colour is actually spelt color in Latin. Bugger.

    The pronunciation, in yachting, of the floating marker yachts must go around and head back the way they came. Both countries spell the word the same. Buoy. The English pronounce it a “boy” but the Americans call it a “boo-ee”, English commentators have given up with the English pronunciation and adopted the American way. Mainly because syndicated commentaries beaming to America do not know what they are taking about.

    Aluminum – American a-lume-in-um: English: al-you-min-i-um

    Many other words. But I need to stick to New Zealand, similar to Australia and closely related to UK English because that is what I know best. I have pronounced words incorrectly, read words that I had never heard. I was living in Wanganui which has a suburb called St John’s Hill. There is an English suburb called St John’s Wood in London.

    I had a very English boss who had an almost Upper Class English accent, tempered by forty years in New Zealand. One day he referred to St John’s Hill in Wanganui as “sin-jins-hill. I asked him about it, and he said that St John’s Wood in England was pronounced “sin-gins-wood.

    Difference between English and NZ pronunciation are mostly regional but a lot are similar.
    Take my mistakes: I had always had trouble knowing how to pronounce “liaison.” I used to say “lee-aye-shon. I was finally corrected by my second wife. Not to assign blame or I told you so, I corrected her on another peeve of mine. The word “mores” usually with an acute over the “e”. It means the customs or accepted behavior of a society.

    My spouse called it mores but normally it is said as more-ayes. Being a very stubborn woman she would not change until it was confirmed by a lecturer at university.

    Finally, in this post I will touch briefly on some Greek words.
    Calliope, antipodes, archipelago, Penelope, Aphrodite, antiques etc.
    Only calliope has two accepted pronunciations. Circus and carney people pronounce it Kelly-ope. In general it is called a cal-i-o-pee

    The others are usually said with the accent on the second syllable.
    An-tip-i-deese, ark-a-pel-a-go, Pen-ell-a-pee, Afro-dye-tee, an-teeks.

    So enough from me.

  • Dorie

    As many commenters have said above, some of these pronunciations that have been deemed “incorrect” are absolutely accepted and in wide usage in some US regions, some are considered a standard pronunciation in England, and one or two are simply incorrect, full stop (which is pronounced “period” in the US — chuckle).

    A couple of points:

    The word “realtor” is not always pronounced re-al-tor with three syllables. It is frequently pronounced ril-tor (or ril-ter) in the US, with two syllables. Those are alternative spellings given for American usage in the Cambridge Dictionary (dictionary.cambridge.org).

    Saying “sherbert” for “sherbet” is common enough that it’s the alternative spelling for American usage in the Cambridge Dictionary: ” ˈʃər·bət, ˈʃər·bərt “.
    From an article in _Smithsonian_ magazine: “…the ‘sherbert’ spelling of ‘sherbet’ has been around since the word entered English.” (Five centuries ago.)

    Many of these supposed mispronunciations remind me of how I grew up hearing my Appalachian Scots-Irish relatives talking. Many of them were not fortunate enough to have much “formal” schooling (if you can call a few-months-a-year, one-room-for-all-grades school “formal”); my grandmother, for example, only was allowed by her family to go to school until she was about 9 years old. Interestingly, they used some words which were not common elsewhere in the US, but are still in common usage in the UK. Who is to say what has more of a proper pedigree, what is more tightly-woven into the fabric of our beautiful, global language.

    Other supposed mispronunciations described in the article above remind me of my decades living in the UK, where they often have different “standard” pronunciations than we in the US do. For example, words such as “herb”, “harass”, “advertisement”, “cemetery”, “proven”, and “musculoskeletal”.

    Of course, English has historically had a wide variety of spellings and pronunciations for many words, and the language will always be evolving and changing.
    Many areas of the world have their own dialects of English; what is accepted as momentarily “standard” in American English isn’t necessarily more correct than what is considered standard- or common-usage in any other dialect of English.
    (I have even heard that the country of India now has more people who speak English as their _first_ language than any other country in the world does, although I don’t know if that is actually true.)

    It’s quite parochial to label common pronunciations used by many millions of people who are native English speakers, and even taught in their school systems as the proper way to speak, as “incorrect”.

    As others have pointed out, there is also an unnecessary snobbishness displayed in the descriptions of several items in the list. It diminishes the presenter of such a list, who thinks that others are using “his”/”her” language incorrectly, that it’s clever to deprecate in the guise of teaching.

  • venqax

    Oh, Britisher with a complex again.
    @ICU_DOUCME: British English and American English have different standards, as do other countries’ Englishes. Today, 2/3 of the world’s Anglophones are American, so if anyone owns it, we do. Now I, personally, am NOT saying anyone does. However:

    The American form jewelry is the older, original term. The British unnecessary elongation jewellery came later. Who knows why.

    Similarly, aluminum pre-dates aluminium, in the UK as well as the US, and was a British invention. The change there was to make it consistent with potassium, sodium, and calcium. But doing so made it inconsistent with platinum, molybdenum, and tantalum. So, it was to no improvement.

    Zee is another British invention, from an English dialect circa 1600s. It has stuck here AND in Canada because it is consistent with B, C, D, E, G, P, T, and V unlike zed which is consistent with nothing and sounds clunky, out of place, and quite un-English. It would flow just as well to say, “W, X, Y and Ziplock P. Diggle.“

  • ICU_DOUCME

    Well in English it is Jewellery. In Amerispeak who knows.

    Just look at what you guys have done to Al u min ium…

    And whats with adding a Z (Zed) to everything and then changing how the name of letter is actually pronounced?

    😉

  • Alexei

    A complete response to this article:
    1 — I agree
    2 — “alternate” and “alternative” are both valid words to say, unless you’re reading stuff out. The same principle applies here
    3 — this is nonsense. Since the word is Greek a /k/ sound is “wrong” too — really, by your logic, it should be pronounced with the Scottish pronunciation of “ch” in “loch”. What’s that you say about anglicisation? Well in that case an English “ch” is perfectly acceptable!
    4 — just after berating pronouncing ‘t” in “often”… you’re such a hypocrite
    5 — assimilation (eg. /ks/ -> /s/, /kt/ -> /k/, /sk/ -> /k/, /nd/ -> /n/) is common language feature — it’s not a bug, however much it bugs you! Sorry, I had to that pun [yes] —, and went to the extreme in Italian, a very respectable language, I’m sure you’ll agree…
    6 — transposition of sounds has occurred before in English, leading to “bird” (originally “brid”), “horse” (originally “hros”), and, ironically, “ask” (originally “aks”)
    7 — see 5
    8 — oh, and so we shouldn’t pronounce an “uh” sound in “Paris’s” then?
    9 — this is entirely understandable, since “ar” is the pronunciation of “o” in many American accents, so those who pronounce o “properly” might assume an “ar” is an “o” (incidentally, I did this while watching DragonBall: I hear about “Kami”, (pronounced “Car-me”), and, owing to the American accents [I’m British] I assumed they were saying, “Commie”, much to my good humour 🙂 )
    10 — well, “battle” is of French origin, but no-one pronounces it “battaille”
    11 — see 5
    12 — see 6
    13 — see 3
    14 — this has happened extensively before, though with a different sound (*ahem* gh *ahem*) pr
    15 — OED gives “daice” as a pronunciation
    16 — see 8
    17 — I reckon this is similar to 9 — someone assumed “drownèd” — the original (and so by your logic “correct”) pronunciation — had undergone assimilation, and that the “proper” pronunciation was “drownded”. Well, you can’t blame them, they’re just like you 🙂
    18 — oh, and “sapped” should be pronounced “sappd”? Too hard to pronounce? Well, there’s your answer
    19 — what about “Wednesday”? (by the way, I pronounce “February” “Feb-yuh-ree”)
    20 — see 6
    21 — I agree
    22 — well, “holy” itself comes from “hālig”, so by your logic that should be pronounced “Ha-lee”
    23 — fricativisation (or whatever you want to call it) is what differentiated much of the core Germanic vocabulary from the Romance (e.g. “Father” vs “Pater”)
    24 — see 6
    25 — wait, this is just the February thing again!
    26 — actually Arkansas DOES have “something to do with Kansas” AND it was originally ALSO pronounced how it is spelt by Arkansans themselves (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arkansas#Etymology) As for Illunois, I agree, though people have the right to call it what they want.
    27 — see 2
    28 — this is only an issue where it causes confusion, which with most people it doesn’t
    29 — what about “inflammable”?
    30 — British spelling is “jewellery”, reflecting the ORIGINAL pronunciation (in short: you’re pronouncing it “wrong”)
    31 — see 25
    32 — this would arise quite sensibly from “Meedeeval” — due to sound-reduction processes —, which in turn would arise quite sensibly from “Meedeeeeval”. When there are too many EE’s, one must go
    33 — the a, is quite naturally palatised, as happened with “luggage”. From here, it’s a similar process to 32
    34 — About the inserted i, see 27. As for the first-syllable-stress… where’s your backing for this? Other words with mis- have stress on the second syllable, in which case a reduced “ie” is quite unjustified…
    35 — see 10
    36 — see 2
    37 — see 5, also the etymological argument falls down since for all intents and purposes it’s an adjective not a past-participle
    38 — see 5
    39 — see 5
    40 — see 5
    41 — see 2
    42 — and before you were saying “halloween” should be pronounced with an “a” sound because of etymology! What a hypocrite…
    43 — I agree
    44 — see 8
    45 — see 29
    46 — see 2
    47 — see 17
    48 — see 8 and 2. Also, the 3-syllable pronunciation makes sense considering the word “tickle” has two syllables
    49 — see 5
    50 — personally I pronounce this “veercle”, but being from Latin (which pronounced H’s), pronouncing the H is perfectly justified
    51 — see 48

  • Abby Shuarts

    If you think that these pronunciations are wrong, where are you from? I live in the Midwest, and everywhere you go, you can hear people pronouncing these words in the ways that you find “unacceptable”. What you are saying is BS. I have a very weak midwestern accent, and even I mispronounce these words. So, deal with it. People have accents. It’s okay. Not everyone is the same. In my opinion, some of the stuff you are telling me to pronounce a different way is dumb. It all depends on what you grew up on. So, deal with it.

  • venqax

    @James Wilson: That is not just a pigment of your imagination. For all intensive purposes, you are correct.

  • venqax

    @ Brandon Johnson: What burns your breeches, the poopee or the people who say it? One of those problems is easier to fix than the other.

  • James Willson

    You can take something for granted. You cannot take it for granite, unless it is a rock.

  • Brandon Johnson

    People pronouncing poop as poopee. It really burns my breeches!

  • Andrew Kokas

    Thanks for jewelry. It so bugs me when TV and radio spokespersons advertising bracelets, rings and necklaces say joolery. What’s worse is that the advertiser–Kay Jewelers and other large chains–accept this irritating pronunciation.

  • Pongerlswothinstein

    “17. drowned – … Notice that there is no D on drown. ”

    No D??

  • Jack Wilson

    Once a mispronunciation has reached a level of popular usage, it necessarily becomes an accepted alternate pronunciation, so there is not such a hard division as the author tries to portray. Remember, grammarians do not get to dictate the rules of language, they only document them. The rules are determined by the general population speaking the language, and are in constant flux.

  • venqax

    @Bruce: Really? I think if you listen closely you’ll hear some of those a lot. Expecially (!) artic, aks (you HAVE to hear that one all the time, you can’t miss it. ), canidate, fortAY, and mischivEEous. Also you rarely hear anyone pronounce the ‘d in barb’d wire, do you? It’s always barb-wire.

    @Peejay: Actually comfortable IS properly pronounced “comf-TER-ble”, not “com-FORT-A-ble.” That is called elision. It is also why it’s proper to say vej-ta-ble and saying “vej-et-able” would be precious. Similarly, it is correct to say “tem-pra-chur”– 3 syllables but including the R. And weather can be inclemeNT, neither “in-CLIME-ate” or “in-CLEM-ate.”

  • Bruce

    This website is good, although some of these aren’t prounounced incorrectly that much:
    arctic
    accessory
    ask
    athlete
    barbed wire
    cache
    candidate
    chaos
    drowned
    et cetera
    forte
    halloween
    mischievous

  • PeeJay

    How about “hun-DERD” and “hun-NERD” for hundred, “suppose-EB-ly” for supposedly, “BUZZ-erk” for berserk, “comf-TER-ble” for com-FORT-A-ble, “YUGE” for huge, and “PER-fessional” in place of PRO-fessional. In fact, almost any word starting with “pre” or “pro” is slurred into “PER,” from “PER-cession” to “PER-duce” to “PER-tection” and “PER-vide.”
    You mentioned weather reporters, but what about the common three-syllable “tem-PUH-chure” instead of tem-per-a-ture, and “PER-cipitation” in place of PRE-cipitation, “THUNNER-storm” for THUNDER-storm and “in-CLIME-ate” conditions for in-CLEM-ate?
    When TV became widely popular in the ‘50s, a common notion was that American English would soon become homogenized, adapting to the polished delivery of announcers and broadcast folk, while we lose our pet regionalisms. But the opposite has happened; instead of TV upgrading the nation’s speech, it has managed to dumb itself down to the least common denominator. Now we regularly hear on our local Fox affiliate such things as “approxi-MULLY” (approxi-MATELY), “UH-medi-ULLY” (IM-medi-ATELY), “fortun-ULLY” (fortune-ATELY), “predom-ULLY” (predom-INANTLY) and my favorite, “PER-tick-ER-ly” (PAR-tick-U-LAR-LY).
    Although this list is nowhere complete, names of cities across the U.S. are sometimes badly scorched, two of the most prominent being “San FERN-cisco.” And “Sac-ER-mento.”

  • venqax

    @TERRI FLEMING: I am not sure what point you are asserting with “sawsage”. The first syllable IS pronounced “saw” as in sawmill, I see what I saw, on a see-saw, etc. Are you just referring to people misspelling it that way?

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