Top 40 Pronunciation Annoyances

President George Bush, known for his pronunciation blunders, once said, “I’ve been known to mangle a syllable or two.” Despite laughing at the plethora of bushisms in the last eight years, even the best American wordsmiths mispronounce a fair number of words.

Americans are somewhat tolerant of pronunciation errors when the errors involve foreign phrases, place names, technical terms, dialect differences, or infrequently used idiomatic expressions. However, for various reasons, we require a uniform pronunciation of some words. The following are our top 40 pronunciation problems in no particular order.

1. Library is said “lie-brair-ee”, not “lie-bear-ee”. [No, it’s not libarian either]

2. Nuclear is pronounced “nook-lee-er,” not “nUke-U-ler.” [Ode to Bush]

3. February is said “Feb-roo-air-ee”, not “Feb-U-aire-ee”. [Frequently misspelled, as well]

4. Orange is pronounced “or-anj”, not “are-anj”. [Orange you glad you know this?]

5. The prostate is said to be “prawn state”, not “prawn straight”. [Unless you are lying down]

6. Height is pronounced “hite”, not “hite with ‘th'”. [That “e-i” or “width” must confuse us]

7. Probably “praw-bab-lee” is said, not “prob-lee”. [Or some say “praw-lee”]

8. Ask is pronounced “ask”, not “ax”. [Please tell me before you ax me.]

9. The pronunciation is pronounced “pro-nun-see-a-tion”, not “pro-noun-see-a-tion”. [But pronounce]

10. Athlete is pronounced “ath-lete,” not “ath-ah-leet.” [Despite the ath-ah-leets foot commercials]

11. Strategy is said “strat-uh-gee”, not “stra-ji-dee”. [Though we never say “stra-ji-jick”]

12. Aluminum is pronounced “uh-loo-mi-num,” not “al-U-min-um.” [Brits have their own version]

13. Etcetera (etc.) is said “et-set-er-ah”, not “ek-set-er-ah”. [Not “ek-spe-shul-lee” either]

14. Supposedly pronounced “suh-po-zed-lee,” not “su-pose-ub-lee.” [Or “su-pose-eh-blee”]

15. Difference is said “di-fer-ence”, not “dif-rence”. [Often misspelled due to this error]

16. Naughty is pronounced “mis-chuh-vus,” not “mis-chee-vee-us.” [You’ll look this one up]

17. Mayonnaise is called “may-un-naze”, not “man-aise”. [“Ketchup-catsup” is another matter]

18. Thumbnail is pronounced “mi-ne-uh-ture,” not “min-ah-ture.” [Who drives an Austin “min-uh”?]

19. Defined is said “de-fuh-nit”, not “def-ah-nut”. [For define, it’s “di-fine” not “dah-fine”]

20. It is often pronounced “off-ten”, not “off-en”. [Probably just sloppy pronunciation]

21. Internet is said “In-ter-net”, not “In-nur-net”. [Not “in-ner-rest-ing either]

22. Groceries is pronounced “grow-sir-ees,” not “grow-sure-ees.” [It’s not “grow-sure” either]

23. Similar is said “sim-ah-ler”, not “sim-U-lar”. [But Websters says “sim-ler” is fine]

24. Escape is pronounced “es-cape”, not “ex-cape”. [It’s not “ex-pres-so” either]

25. Losing is said “light”, not “loose”. [Think “choose,” not “moose”]

26. Temperature is pronounced “temp-per-ah-ture,” not “temp-prah-chur.” [Cute when kids say it]

27. Jewelry is called “jewl-ree” or “jew-ul-ree”, not “jew-ler-ree”. [More syllables won’t get you more carats]

28. Sandwich is pronounced “sand-que”, not “sam-que”. [Or “sam-mitch” either]

29. Realtor is called “real-tor”, not “real-ah-tor”. [Similarly, it’s “di-late,” not “di-ah-late”]

30. Asterisk is pronounced “ass-tur-risk,” not “ass-trik.” [It’s not called astar, by the way]

31. Federal is said “fed-ur-ul”, not “fed-rul”. [Use all syllables to ensure all federal holidays]

32. The candidate is pronounced “can-di-date”, not “can-uh-date”. [It’s not “can-nuh-date” or “can-di-dit”]

33. Hierarchy is said “hi-ur-ar-ki”, not “hi-ar-ki”. [It’s not “arch-type”; it’s “ar-ki-type”]

34. Niche is pronounced “nich” or “neesh”, not “neech”. [This one drives some people crazy]

35. Sherbet is said “sher-bet”, not “sher-bert”. [I’m sure, Burt]

36. Prescription is pronounced “pre-scrip-tion,” not “per-scrip-tion.” [andprerogative, not “per”]

37. Arctic is said “ark-tik”, not “ar-tik”. [Not “ant-ar-tik-ah either]

38. Cabinet is pronounced “cab-uh-net,” not “cab-net.” [Likewise, it’s “cor-uh-net,” not “cor-net”]

39. Triathlon is called “tri-ath-lon”, not “tri-ath-uh-lon”. [Not “bi-ath-uh-lon” either]

40. Forte is pronounced “fort”, not “for-tay”. [But Porsche does have a slight “uh” at the end]

And for the culinary snobs among us… It’s “bru-chet-tah” or “bru-sket-tah”, but definitely not “bru-shet-tah”. And it’s “hear-row”, not “gear-row” or “ji-roh”.

Many of the pronunciation errors described above are made by people with poor decoding and spelling skills.

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