50 Incorrect Pronunciations That You Should Avoid

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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1,356 thoughts on “50 Incorrect Pronunciations That You Should Avoid”

  1. 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.

  2. 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….

  3. 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)

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

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

  6. 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. 🙂

  7. 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

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.’

  11. 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.

  12. 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…

  13. 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.

  14. 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.


  15. @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.”

  16. 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.

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

    “a bungled affectation”

    A nice quote from

    “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.

  18. 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.

  19. @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…

  20. 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’.

  21. 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.

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

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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?

  27. 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.

  28. 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”

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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?

  32. 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!

  33. “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!

  34. 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.

  35. 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!

  36. 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

  37. 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.

  38. 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”.

  39. 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:

    Go bananas!

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

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