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Words we can’t pronounce
Published: April 17, 2014 – 10:58AM
Have you ever been asked to be more “pacific”? Or been told something was for “all intensive purposes”? Perhaps you’re regularly instructed to go to the “parts and assessories” department to pick up stock.
We all mispronounce words at some point in our lives. And we all tend to have a good laugh when we hear those in power say a word incorrectly. But some words are mispronounced more regularly than others, and it makes sense to be aware of them if you want to appear professional.
Which mispronounced words get your goat? Post a comment at the end of the article.
When the former prime minister Julia Gillard pronounced hyperbole as “hyper-bowl” rather than the correct “hi-per-boll-ee” she was lampooned on social media. But she’s not alone among politicians. Former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin was well-known for her mispronunciations – her “refudiate” was one word that caused particular mirth.
Former US president George W. Bush is another who was famous for mispronouncing words. There are many websites devoted to his famous word mix-ups. He had a habit of adding or subtracting syllables or turning words into plurals that shouldn’t be. Some of his more popular mispronounced words include “misunderestimate”, “subliminable”, “unceptable”, and the ever-popular “internets”.
One of the main reasons people mispronounce words is that they’ve never heard them spoken. They might see a word written on a page and feel they know how to say it by its spelling. So when they decide to use it in speech, they take a guess at what it sounds like, with sometimes embarrassing consequences.
One colleague remembers taking an acting class and having a classmate read through a play mispronouncing the word “whore” as “war”. No one corrected her but everyone laughed about it behind her back.
Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper released a report earlier this year that found 80 per cent of people struggle with common words and place names. Some of these words include: espresso, which is mispronounced ex-press-oh instead of es-press-oh. Another common word is et cetera. It should be et-set-ter-eh but is often mispronounced as ecc-set-ter-ah.
And while “often” is traditionally pronounced “offen”, it is now commonly heard as “off-ten”.
Mispronunciations can cause problems among those for whom English is a second language. Simran* arrived from India 10 years ago believing she was fluent in English – which she is – but several months working in an office made her wonder.
“My supervisor would tell me to ‘aks’ for help if I needed it,” she says. “I had no idea what this meant. I thought she was saying ‘axe for help’. I since realise she was telling me to ‘ask’ for help and I notice many people mispronounce this word.”
Simran says another classic mispronunciation she hears frequently is “supposively”, which should be pronounced as “supposedly”.
“I know it’s only subtle but when English isn’t your first language, it’s sometimes difficult to try and work out what is meant by particular words. Saying ‘vunerable’ instead of ‘vulnerable’ is another example.”
Much of the success of the TV show Kath & Kim was down to its very funny mispronunciations – glass of “cardonay” anyone? And while we can all find humour in catching someone out with a mispronunciation if we’re among friends, if you’re in a meeting or pitching to a client, it is more embarrassing than funny.
In a business situation, if you don’t know how to pronounce a word, it is advisable to ask someone how to say it rather than take a stab at it and get it wrong. Below is a list of common mispronounced words:
• Affidavid instead of affidavit
• Cannidate instead of candidate
• Chomp at the bit instead of champ at the bit
• Irregardless instead of regardless.
• Libel when you mean liable.
• Miniture instead of miniature
• Perogative instead of prerogative
• Revelant instead of relevant
• Triathalon instead of triathlon (many people add an extra “a”)
• Upmost instead of utmost
• Pronunciation is often mispronounced as “pronounciation”.
A mispronounced word today could be the new correct pronunciation of tomorrow. But until that day comes, it makes sense, especially in business, to ensure your pronunciation is correct.
* Name has been changed.
This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/small-business/trends/words-we-cant-pronounce-20140408-369qc.html