Sunday, January 13, 2008

Most Commonly Mispronounced English Words

Yes, we're known for sometimes confusing our Ps and Fs but there are other English words that trip even native English speakers.

Speaking of our Ps and Fs, naalala ko tuloy yung kwento ng isang katrabaho ko dati. She called a Pinoy client but the client wasn't home so the voicemail came up. The voicemail prompt left my coworker confused as to where and how exactly to leave her message for the client. This is what the client's recorded voice said:
"Sorry we missed your call. Please leave a message after the beef."

Anyway-- Here's a partial list with explanation from Scroll down to get the full link. The first word is the commonly misprounced usage; the correct pronunciation is highlighted.

Some entries may surprise you. I didn't know that I've been mispronouncing "forte" till now:

Antartic - Antarctic
Just think of an arc of ants (an ant arc) and that should help you keep the [c] in the pronunciation of this word.

athelete - athlete
Two syllables are enough for "athlete."
[David Spader used this mispronunciation to great comedic effect in "The Benchwarmers". I know it's not an Oscar movie but it has Rob Schneider, who is Pinoy, so rent it now. - YBC]

cannidate - candidate
You aren't being canny to drop the [d] in this word. Remember, it is the same as "candy date."
[I know some of us are tempted to pronounce this with an American accent, like saying "twenny" instead of "twenty", but it doesn't make it correct - YBC]

duck tape - duct tape
Ducks very rarely need taping though you may not know that ducts always do—to keep air from escaping through the cracks in them.
Febyuary - February
We don't like two syllables in succession with an [r] so some of us dump the first one in this word. Most dictionaries now accept the single [r] pronunciation but, if you have an agile tongue, you may want to shoot for the original.

fedral - federal
Syncopation of an unaccented vowel is fairly common in rapid speech but in careful speech it should be avoided. See also "plute" and read more about the problem here.

forte -fort
The word is spelled "forte" but the [e] is pronounced only when speaking of music, as a "forte passage." The words for a strong point and a stronghold are pronounced the same: [fort].

'erb - herb
Does, ''My friend Herb grows 'erbs,'' sound right to you? This is a US oddity generated by the melting pot (mixed dialects). Initial [h] is always pronounced outside America and should be in all dialects of English.

irregardless - regardless
"-Less" already says ''without'' so there is no need to repeat the same sentiment with "ir-."

lambast - lambaste
Better to lambaste the lamb than to baste him—remember, the words rhyme. "Bast" has nothing to do with it.

often -ofen
We have mastered the spelling of this word so well, its spelling influences the pronunciation: DON'T pronounce the [t]! This is an exception to the rule that spelling helps pronunciation.

Here's the complete list of the 100 Most Commonly Mispronounced Words.
[picture from Savvy Traveler]


Anonymous said...

And you can't forget about Hurst and Hearse!

Anonymous said...

I must disagree with you on the correct pronunciation of "forte". You can use both pronunciations, "FORT" and "FORTE". I live here in the US and nobody uses the "FORT" pronunciation...not even TV people.


Yong B. Chavez said...

You are correct. Your's list needs updating.
Thanks for reading! -YBC

Grammar Project Manila said...

Saw the list on Your as well. Very insightful! Funny that "pronunciation" is one of the commonly mispronounced words as well. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

how about common words like lettuce /-tis/not -tus, mountain, fountain, certain /-tn/not -tein, creature/kri-/not cri-ei-, archipelago /-ki-/ not chi, second /-kend/with a schwa(cannot type it) not -kond, go, no, so /ow/ not o, awe /o/ not ow and the letter z /zi/ not zei.

Anonymous said...

I will beg to differ on the pronunciation of "often."

Saying and not saying the "t" in the word will still be correct.