Summer School with Miss Pronunciation

Welcome to Amaze-ing Words Wednesday! I was expecting to experience the lazy days of summer with my toes in a kiddie pool and the sun on my face, but my vacation was interrupted by Miss Pronunciation. Having noticed some poor pronunciations in the English language, she has called a special summer session to address them.

Okay, okay, Miss Pronunciation. Welcome back and all. Whassup?

Miss Pronunciation: First of all, Ms. Glover, please remove the gum from your mouth. Second, the proper pronunciation is “What’s up.”

Now, class, I am happy to be back at Threading the Labyrinth so that we can clear up some confusion in the English language with regard to the following words and their pronunciations. Since you are looking forward to summer vacation, I will keep this lesson short and not give the quiz I had prepared on words we covered last time (see A Lesson with Miss Pronunciation).

CANDIDATE. In an election year, this word will likely be mispronounced 5,431 times. Let’s not make it 5,432. It is not cannidate. Think candid, even though we all know candid is the last thing the candidates will be as they promise, plead, and plow their way into office. Regardless, may the best candidate win.

CRAYON. Many children pronounce this word as if they are speaking of royal headwear. You do not, however, pick up a crown of burnt sienna or cornflower blue. Crayon is two syllables and rhymes with rayon or stay on.

ESPRESSO. While you might wish that the barista provide your drink in an express manner, if you wish to imbibe that syrupy coffee, please dispose of the x. It is not an expresso, but rather an espresso. In Italian, that probably means “this caffeine is killing me.”

ET CETERA. I am once again covering this oft-mispronounced word. Ms. Glover has requested that this word make repeat appearances until she consistently hears et cetera instead of ek cetera. However, Yul Brenner will demonstrate this time.

If Julie’s husband wishes to add the “Very well, your majesty,” she says that would be welcomed as well.

JEWELRY. At times, I wonder if people have fallen victim to a word scramble. Rearranging the letters, one might discern that this word is pronounced jewl-er-y. Yet a close look at the actual word shows us that the e comes before not after the l in the word. Be sure, therefore, to say jew-el-ry.

ORNERY. Onri is the pronunciation of the French male name Henri. Orn-e-ry is how I feel when people continue to mispronounce words time after time despite adequate correction. It has three syllables, beginning with the syllable orn. Admittedly, it is an unusual word in that no other words rhyme with it, but I feel confident that my class can master it.

REALTOR. This is another word which we have a tendency to draw out into more syllables than needed. House hunters need not consult a real-a-tor, as there is no such thing. However, a two-syllable realtor might wish to show you around until you settle on the perfect place to store all of your stuff and adopt a lifestyle of maintenance and repair.

SALMON. Some consonants are silent, such as the l in salmon. Just as one would not say castle with a t-sound or muscle with a k-sound, the word salmon is actually pronounced sammon. Forget that l. It squeezed in somehow, and we can’t get rid of it. Perhaps it stands for lemon, a lovely garnish for grilled salmon.

TRIATHLON. In preparation for the Summer Olympics, we must rectify this mispronunciation once for all. This word is three syllables only. It is not a tri-ath-a-lon, but a tri-ath-lon. The same can be said for bi-ath-lon and de-cath-lon. It’s a bit of a tongue twister, but athlon is a Greek root that means “prize” or “contest” and it has no additional a. So there we are.

Julie: My sincere thanks to Miss Pronunciation for a second appearance on my blog. I was doing well with pronunciations until I reached “triathlon.” Guilty as charged! I will remedy that mispronunciation before the arrival of the London 2012 Olympics.

I would like to add my own mispronounced word to the list. It’s a Spanish word actually which refers to a smoked jalapeño pepper, but it is often used here in Texas in restaurants: CHIPOTLE. It is not chi-pol-te. The t comes before the l. Thus it is chi-pot-le. Order accordingly.

Now it’s your turn! Which words from the above list have you struggled with? What other English words do you often hear mispronounced?

Sources: eHow: How to pronounce commonly mispronounced English words; The Most Often Mispronounced Words in English

20 thoughts on “Summer School with Miss Pronunciation

  1. For me, an ESL, these posts of yours rock!
    Do you know my biggest problem when writing? Prepositions. Seriously. My CPs have fun changing almost all of them on my manuscripts, because I barely get one right LOL
    You wouldn’t happen to have a magical post on prepositions, do you? =P

    1. For you, Juliana, of course I will put prepositions in the queue. They are confusing in English, aren’t they? Especially “of.” We seem to use that particular one for a vast number of things.

      Thanks for coming by!

    1. So part of the issue, I think, is that we adopt these words from elsewhere (Italian-espresso, Spanish-chipotle), and then we want to make them sound English. We are word thieves, I tell you! I actually like that about English–our language stew. Thanks, Natalie!

    1. Thanks, Stacy! I often wonder if these teachers are too harsh (except Prof Punc, who requires three cups of that espresso to get going in the morning). Glad to help!

    1. Indeed, Miss Pronunciation attempted to clear that one up in her last post. Obviously, SOME people didn’t get the memo and have not complied with the corrective measures she used! She may need to start smacking a few hands with rulers, eh? Thanks, Patti!

  2. Love these posts, Julie! Chipotle always gives me trouble. I know someone who always says “coner” instead of “corner” and it drives me nuts. And no, it’s not a speech disability. Just the way she says it. 🙂

    1. Coner? Really? Is it a regional accent? I’ve known some Alabamans and Georgians who seem to skip right over r sounds. How odd.

      And yes, chipotle ain’t easy to say correctly. Thanks, Rhonda!

  3. Chipotle is one I’ll never get right.

    Here’s a good one about espresso. On the Dire Straits Making Movies album is a song titled “Expresso Love.” It’s a great song, but I’ve always wondered if the misspelling was intentional or unintentional.

    I hear rea-la-tor a good bit. I also hear old timer’s disease when people mean Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes people say kinnygarden when they mean kindergarten. And the ones who do the “kinnygarden” thing are often educated adults.

    This is the best one, though. My parents pronounce the word prostate like this: prostrate. LMAO!

    1. I don’t know that Dire Straits song, but hey, they spelled dire straits right. I’ll give ’em credit for that! I also hear real-a-tor a lot, and I’ve heard kinnygarden. Weird. Thanks, Catie!

  4. I was doing so well and then two in a row, but hey, they were the only two. If I’m not thinking about it, I get lazy and get these both wrong: et cetera & jewelry. There are a few words that I always mess, but they aren’t coming to me. Perhaps it stands for lemon, lol, you’re funny

    1. Miss Pronunciation is obviously one tough cookie, but I like her coming here to help with these. Because hey, we all mispronounce stuff and don’t know it! Thanks, SJ. 🙂

  5. Good laugh, Julie

    Coming from the UK, Realtor is one I struggle with. TV announcers make a real hash of words and then try to carry on as if they’ve just pronounced the word correctly, and Chipotle is one that I don’t think I’ll ever get right.

    The worst word I regularly hear isn’t a mispronunciation, it’s just the wrong word, and it’s not even a word – “Pacifically.” Arrrgggghhhh! “I need a pacific list,” “What is wrong pacifically?” and a long list of variations have me grinding me teeth. My attempts to show these people the error of their ways just gets blank stares, they heard and used the word for so long they don’t even realize it’s wrong.


    1. I know! The Pacific is an ocean, people. Specific is the word they are looking for, right? LOL.

      Did you want to add all the ways we Americans butcher your lovely language with our misguided pronunciations (“schedule,” maybe)? Thanks, Nigel!

  6. Great post, Julie! As a medical professional, it makes me crazy to hear people call a rotator cuff injury a rotor cup injury…happens all the time! It’s like when House uses the cane on the wrong side…eeek! Research, people. I stopped watching for that reason alone.

    1. Shut the front door! A rotor cup injury? How funny.

      I know how you feel about House (even though I don’t watch it). I am about to lose it with Bones because they can’t decide if the forensics people work for the Jeffersonian Institute or Institution. (Hint: It’s Institute, TV writers and actors!)

  7. Guilty on triathlon here! But I’m good with the rest you list. However, my husband more than makes up for me! He had a speech impediment as a kid, so I try to give him slack. One he’s always said is “ambliance” for “ambulance.” But one he’s picked up recently drives me nuts (short drive, I know): he’s always saying he has “no quorums” about doing something or other. I keep trying to tell him, “A quorum is what you need when you’re voting on your AMVETS board. You have no qualms about doing whatever it is.” LOL!

  8. This was awesome! One of my biggest pet peeves is when people pronounce the word gyro exactly how it looks. It’s Greek, not English! The real pronunciation is something closer to “year-o,” with a bit of a roll of the ‘r.’

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