Written Rambles

7 Words That You Might Be Mispronouncing

During my junior year of high school, I made a presentation in English class about Huckleberry Finn in which I pronounced the word “colonel” as “call-o-nell” at least 20 times. I won’t go into the sheer embarrassment I felt upon learning this fact, nor will I launch into an angry tirade about the fact that colonel doesn’t even have an “R” and yet, it is pronounced “kernel.” (Although, if you did want to read about it, I would direct you to this other HelloGiggles article I wrote back in the day…shameless self-promotion.) However, no one can stop me from focusing on the slightly larger subject of mispronunciation, which is very near and dear to my heart (which is to say, it plagues my life on a day to day basis). Some terms that may seem so simple on the outside are actually designed to embarrass you in public.

(NOTE: English has changed over time. I’m not saying anyone who uses such terms should be burned at the stake. I’m merely listing the original pronunciations for these terms and comparing them to how they’re said now, for funzies.)

Mischievous (adj.): showing a playful desire to cause trouble

How you may pronounce it: Mis-chee-vee-us
Actual pronunciation: Mis-chi-vus

I’ve always pronounced mischievous the first way, and I will continue to do so for the sole reason that it fits more with the actual definition. Saying “mischievous” with a long “e” sound sparks images in my mind of an evil dictator tapping his fingers together and belting out a nefarious laugh. It just sounds better. But if you look closely at the spelling of the word, such a pronunciation doesn’t really make sense.  There’s no “i” after the “v” and there isn’t an added syllable. Whoever started this trend was intentionally trying to stir trouble.

Crêpe (n.): a very thin type of pancake made from wheat flour

How you may pronounce it: krep, creep
Actual pronunciation: kray-pe

If you learn anything from this post, let it be this: crêpe without the unfinished triangle over the “e” means “a light, thin fabric with a wrinkled surface” and is hopefully not something you wrap delicious berries and Nutella in. Also, more importantly, it is pronounced “kray-pe,” like “grape” but with a “c” or “cape” with an “r” or like “mandrake” but with only one “a” plus some other letters.

Flaccid (adj.): soft and hanging loosely or limply, esp. so as to look or feel unpleasant

How you may pronounce it: flass-id
Actual pronunciation: flak-sid

Let me preface this entry by saying most dictionaries nowadays have come to accept “flass-id” as an acceptable, if not the most acceptable, pronunciation. However, the double “c” was meant to sound like a “k” (think “accident” or “ack-ci-dent”). The popularity of the movie Lake Placid brought the pronunciation of “flaccid” as similar to “acid” into circulation. (A total lie. I just wanted an excuse to show off my knowledge of terrible B-movies.)

Oregon (n.): a U.S. state that has an awesome computer game named after it

How you may pronounce it: Or-eh-gone
Actual pronunciation: Or-a-gun

As far as I know, the only people who have a problem with this pronunciation are people from Oregon, but in the off-chance that you meet one of these said mythical beings, here is your ticket out of getting verbally assaulted. Though the “gon” at the end of this word may spark memories of polygons from your high school geometry class, the “o” actually sounds more like a “u” in this case. Just imagine someone is holding out Oregon in one hand and a gun in another and they’re explaining the situation like “Do you want Oregon? Or a gun?” The second option is the correct pronunciation of the first.

Banal (adj.): boring or ordinary

How you may pronounce it: BAY-nal
Actual pronunciation: buh-NAL (but also, not really)

The pronunciation of this one is all over the place so it may not even be fair to include it in this list because no one can really agree on what’s correct and what’s not. While many dictionaries list “buh-NAL” first (think “canal”) as the first definitions, others list “BAY-nal,” “bu-NAHL,” and “bay-NAHL” as also being correct. In fact, in American Heritage’s Usage Panel, the decision about how this is used is almost equally split, with buh-NAL taking a slight lead, so I’m going with the people on this one. (Source)

Dr. Seuss: American children’s author and poet

How you may pronounce it: soo-s
Actual pronunciation: s-oi-s

I reckon it’s easier to teach children how to say Seuss like “moose” than it is to explain why it is actually pronounced more like “voice.” After the writer was busted for drinking on his college campus, he crafted the pen name Dr. Seuss, borrowing from his own middle name (Theodor Seuss Geisel). Despite the name’s German origin, the American pronunciation of Seuss like “truce” has gained traction in classroom’s everywhere.

Cache (n.): a hiding place especially for concealing and preserving provisions or implements; a computer memory used for storage of frequently or recently used data

How you may pronounce it: cash-ay
Actual pronunciation: cash

Anyone who pronounces “Target” like “Tar-jay” may also be tempted to pronounced this word as “cash-ay” or “catch” but this word actually sounds more like “cash” as in “people who know the proper pronunciation probably make a lot of cash because they work with computers and probably robots and stuff.” I don’t know, I’m just guessing.

In the end, we’re left with this feeling:

Pronunciation

I understand you, thoughtful sepia-tone man.

FEATURED IMAGE VIA WIKIHOW.COM

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1197711601 Joaquin Gaitán

    Point of Pride: Of those, I only mispronounce flaccid.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005753324108 Amy Harrison-Bolls

      Then you’re saying many things incorrectly, because this author hasn’t a clue what she’s talking about in probably 75% of these. Read some other comments so I don’t have to list them all.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1243929605 Lily Wonka

        You seem pretty annoyed with the author! In spite of her inaccuracies I find her writing light and bubbly and quite cute. A nice change from the news 😉

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=27200217 Shealagh Whittle

    The French way to pronounce crêpe rhymes with “step.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=829810821 Laura Gatannah

    Also, “forte,” as in “this is not my forte” isn’t supposed to be pronounced like the music term, but like the building where weapons are stored and soldiers hole up to protect something.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=532241565 Jennie May Ellis

      I’m from Northern Ontario, 1/3 of the population is french speaking and I’m bilingual as a result. “Crêpe” is actually pronounced like “step”. The accent over the makes a sort of flat ‘e’ sound like in the names Edward or Ester.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=532241565 Jennie May Ellis

        Sorry, I posted in the wrong place.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=689311861 Lea Burgwald Birsch

    I am a nurse, and as a student none of my anatomy professors were native English speakers. My dentist husband LOVES to tease me by requesting that I name muscles. He might be familiar with the correct pronunciation, but I know how to spell!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=65200283 Amber Nobe

    Oregon is actually pronounced more like “organ” — it’s not a three-syllable word. Take it from this mythical being who lives in Portland!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1493702009 Briana Boyer

    Oregonians pronounce Oregon as 2 syllables, not 3. Or-gun, no one puts an a in between.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000862177675 Jenny Kearns

    Gouda – the cheese. I’ve always pronounced it g-ow-da but apparently, as I have learned today, it is g-oo-da. Who knew!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000884842944 Ferdy Michiels

      Gouda is pronounced Gow-da, but the G isn’t something many people can pronounce (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gouda here u can hear it), it’s a throat sound.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=125301538 Cattie-Bree Skye Price

      Actually, you were closer to being right the first time! It’s more like “how-da” in Dutch.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=3616548 Alyson McKay

    As Shealagh said, crepe is actually pronounced like krep (short e) in French.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=10135202 Laura Elizabeth Donovan

    Your colonel story made me cringe!!!! Thanks so much for this compilation :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005753324108 Amy Harrison-Bolls

      Every one of this author’s articles are cringe-worthy. Her ignorance, and naivety, are a little ridiculous. And the issue that she spews this stuff as “fact” is harmful misinformation. And she’s studying “the power of words” at college? I’m guessing that’s an English major (or related). Which is an embarrassment to Wheaton College’s English program. Read some of her other articles, then research the topic. You’ll see what I mean.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1416960430 Neil Pechart

        You’re dead on. Her “expertise” on definitions is appalling. It’s like she has no idea that many words have multiple meanings. She’ll state that (some word) doesn’t mean (some definition) while every single dictionary states the contrary. Her Oregon mess is enough to make me cry. It’s the third syllable that is mispronounced, not the second. Or-uh-gun vs Or-uh-gahn.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=149000252 Shea Zellweger

    The primary pronunciation of Flaccid does, in fact, rhyme with Placid. The hard c is the secondary pronunciation. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flaccid

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61900568 Elizabeth Eshelman

    I hopped down to the comments to let you know that you are incorrect about crêpes, but I see others have already done so.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=5237670 Aaron J Mobley

    Wait . . . there are people who pronounce “mischievous” as mis-chee-vee-us and “cache” as cash-ay not ironically? I have only heard those as what I assumed were deliberate mispronunciations.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1371922913 Shae Rosecrans

    Heads up, Oregon isn’t pronounced with three syllables, it’s just two. As in organ, short and simple, no thrown in “eh” or “ah” in the middle; that’s a east coast way of saying it, which is incorrect. Coming from a born and raised Southern Oregonian, people who say Oregon with three syllables sound ridiculous and it sounds like they’re asking for oregano and can’t finish the word. Lol

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25913989 Natalie Hollingsworth

    Tyler, you are one my favorite writers on HG! <3 you and your writing style! You are fabulously hilarious.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=29905392 Daniel Crittenden

    I have a theory that people east of The Rockies say “Or-a-gone”.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005753324108 Amy Harrison-Bolls

      I was going to say anyone east of the Mississippi, but I think we’re both getting to the same point. (Although I’ve heard quite a few Texans say it that way too. Ick.) It’s cringe-worthy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=544518341 Alise Brillault

    Crêpe is pronounced with an “eh” sound, not “ay,” so “krep” not “krayp.” Most people I know say “krayp,” et c’est incorrect!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=535809593 Alice Dielens

      I was about to say that. As a French-speaking Belgian, I totally agree, it’s more of an “eh” sound than “ay”.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=576556814 Hannah Unterschultz

        Thank you both! That was driving .me crazy

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=544518341 Alise Brillault

    Also, caché (pronounced cash-ay) is a French word meaning hidden.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001856502890 Jeffery Rowan

    I believe you are correct on your final assumption. “People who know the proper pronunciation probably make a lot of cash because they work with computers and probably robots and stuff.” Back when I knew how to pronounce cache I was making bunches.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1133118914 Héloïse Goude

    As the frenchie that I am, I knew the correct pronunciation of every word you talked about. Whispering to myself: ” I’m soooo proud of you”.
    However, thanks a lot for that note, it’s very interesting and well written ! AND thank you so much for saying the truth about the word ” crêpe” !

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1133118914 Héloïse Goude

      Oh and I beg you don’t juge my english, if I know how to pronunce well, I do not know how to write in english to make understandable and correct sentences.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=513791729 Christina Konze

        You type more proficiently in English than most American citizens do. Good job!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1423511719 Caleb Stevens

    Love this post! But yes, as an Oregon native, it’s pronounced like the ‘organs’ in your body. Or the old dusty Wurlitzer ‘organ’ in your grandmothers garage. It may be the “wrong” pronunciation, but its the Oregon way. GO DUCKS!

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