Funny Mispronunciations

One of the occupational hazards of being a reader is using a word in speech that one has read silently and stumbling in the pronunciation of said word.  There’s nothing like saying a word with confidence but incompetence, watching the listener screw up their face either in confusion or laughter, hearing the illuminating correction and having a hearty laugh at yourself. 

One of the joys of listening to books read on Librivox is catching an ‘oops’ from the mouth of their lovely volunteer readers.  I laugh out loud when ‘the patience of Job’ is pronounced like a wage earner.  One of the joys of listening to professionally produced books on tape is catching one of my own mistakes.  “Oh, is that how you say it?”

My last name is commonly mispronounced.  Before “No Call”, I was tipped off to telemarketers by the botched pronunciation.  The grocery store clerks who look at the receipt and say “Thank you, Miz ________” make me laugh too.

And for those who care:  Magistra Mater is  Mah-GEE(hard G)-struh  MAH-tair  Think “TEA with MaGEEstra.”

Proper Nouns

Wodehouse  – it’s supposed to rhyme with wood
Cowper – sounds like Cooper
Goethe – my SIL’s mother quoted Goethe and pronounced it GO-eth. 

“Mother, that name is  GERT-a” she said with the proper form-your-mouth-like-an-o-and-say-e-technique, to which her mother replied, “You can call it GERT-a if you’d like; I’ll say  GO-eth.”

Isak Dinesen – for years, in my mind I said DINE-sen,

until I heard it correctly spoken DIN-es-sen

Camus – it is not CAY-mus, it’s caMOO
Dumas – another French name to trip you up: dooMAH
Keats and Yeats – wah, wah they don’t rhyme! KEETS and YATES

Edinburgh – it looks like it should end with a burg, right?  Not!  ED-in-BURR-a

My Oopses

primer – long i when it’s paint. But if it’s a book of elementary information

you say PRIMmer

Orion – there was confusion when I said ORion instead of ohRYAN
vegan – hard and soft g’s trip me up all the time. 

I thought this was VEJen instead of VEEgan

bade – the past tense of bid is pronounced BAD – forget the silent e
victual – doesn’t it look like VICK-shoe-ol?  Nah, it’s pronounced VITtle
jihad – not that long ago I said JIE-had.  Ouch! 

Everyone else knows it is jih-HAHD

Oopses from Others

xylophone – my son thought this was pronounced ex-CELL-a-PHONE
roughage – one former boss gave this a French twist, saying ROO-ahzj
chihuahua – a friend’s husband said chih-WHO-ah-WHO-ah
synecdoche – William Safire wrote about Jerry Brown (remember him?)

saying SIN-ec-DOACH in an interview. Safire pondered the etiquette of correcting a governor; the correct pronunciation is sih-NEK-duh-KEY

I’ve run out of time to ponder and remember my favorites. 

Help me out, would you?  Correct my corrections, if need be.

What words have you or yours mispronounced?

156 thoughts on “Funny Mispronunciations

  1. What about Valentines? So many people pronounce it “ValenTIMES- please don’t tell me that is the correct way to say it!! How about worcestershire sauce ( I don’t know how to spell it, let alone say it!)  I think that you say it “woo-sha-shire”? Or not.  Sigh… I’m a dumb.

  2. When I was small and read a lot, I often saw the word “misled” which I knew from context meant something like ‘confused.’ I pronounced it in my head as m-eye-zled and did  not discover my error until I was adult.  I heard “misled” properly pronounced but did not connect.  My daughter misread “idiot” as ‘eye-doit” and discovered her error by the time she was 16. We put the two together eventually and both of us  now refer to  clueless politicians  as poor “m-eye-zled idoits.”

  3. My personal favorite is hyperbole! When I teach tropes, I write that word big and bold on the board right in the kid’s faces and challenge them to pronounce it. That in it’s self is a fine lesson in hyperbole! A friend from Scotland pronounces Edinburgh, Embra. She claims to get all the correct Scots sounds in there but to my ‘Murcan’ ear it sounds like M-Bra!

  4. I still remember one of my most embarrassing moments in 5th grade, when answering a question about Puerto Rico, I pronounced it pwerto rice-o. And melancholy was another one that I mispronounced until I heard it one day and didn’t understand what they meant! 

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