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Friday, April 15, 2016

When you are mizzled by English spelling

We all know that English spelling and pronunciation do not match up very well.

A facebook group I belong to recently had a very entertaining discussion of words that its members had mispronounced for a very long time because they had only ever seen them written.
The culprits:

Placebo PLACE-bo Pluh SEE bo
Pinochle Pin OACH'll PEE nuckle
Epitome EPPY tome ip PITTA mee
Awry AWEree Uh RYE
Rely RELLee Ruh LIE
Asylum ASSY lum Uh SYE lum
Misled MIZZ'ld, MIZE'ld Miss LED
Underfed Un DERFD Under FED
Ascites ASS kitties Uh SITE eez
Whodunit WODD you nit Hoo DUNNit
Subunit Soo BUNNit SUB you nit
Fatigue FATTY goo Fuh TEEG
Anathema ANNA THEEmuh Uh NATH uh muh
Voila VOYL uh Vwah LA
Infrared In FRAIRD IN fruh RED
Flamingo FLAY ming go Fluh MING go
Sundried (tomatoes) SUN dreed SUN dried
Nauseating NAW seeting NAW zee ate ing
Paradigm Para DIDGE um PARA dime
Omnipotent Omnee POTE 'nt Om NIP uh t'nt
Redolent Ree DOLE 'nt REDDA l'nt
Picturesque PICK chur skew Pick chur ESK
Cesarean Seez ur EEN Suhz AIR ee 'n
Pseudo Puh SWAYED oh SOO do
Hyperbole HIPE ur bole Hi PURR buh lee
Colonel Koe l'n ell KER n'll
Bedraggled BED ragg 'lld Buh DRAG 'lld
Hitherto HITHER toe HITHER too
Chaos CHAY oze KAY oss
Fajitas Fuh JYE tiss, FADGY tass Fu HEE tuhzz
Aspartame A SPARTA mee ASS purr tame
Inchoate INCH oh ate In KO uht, INKO uht

What words have you had this experience with?

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  1. As I child, I thought I was quite advanced, having worked out the pronunciation of acetaminophen. It wasn't until I was older that I realized ace-ta-mih-NO-fen was incorrect.

  2. "Miniseries", when written unhyphenated, never fails to get me.

  3. As a novice horticulturist, I asked a local nurseryman for a cotton-easter only to have him burst into uncontrollable laughter. The plant cotoneaster is actually pronounced kah-toe-nee-ass-ter

  4. To this day I still struggle with "legacy" and have to think twice before I say it (I always thought it was "leh juss ee," rather than "leg uh see.")

    Not as good as ass kitties tbh, but still...!

  5. It's especially aggravating, when an actor in a TV program or movie, makes an egregious mispronunciation of a word they were too pig-headed, or embarrassed, to ask for the correct way to say it. Some of the words on your list have been mangled by actors, big and small, of both sexes, and sadly, this influences an already ignorant and lazy audience, into believing they've heard the "correct" way to use the word.


About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.