Tyler Vendetti
April 15, 2015 12:29 pm

A Reddit user by the name of JustATreeNut posed a question to the Internet: what’s the hardest English word to pronounce? The post garnered over 5,000 comments, many of which involved English town names and wine brands. After two weeks of polling, the results were in…and they were kind of confusing. When you hear “hard to pronounce words,” the first terms that come to mind are typically “affidavit” or “hierarchy,” not “penguin” or “squirrel” but some of them start to make sense once you dive into the full explanation.

Worcestershire

Pronunciation: Wuss-ter-sheer

This one is hotly debated. Most British people will tell you to just say “Woo-stah” and drop the “-shire” on the end, especially if you’re talking about the famous Worcestershire sauce. Don’t be fooled by the “ces” in the middle. It doesn’t really do anything, kind of like that mysterious light switch on your wall or your pet goldfish. If you can say “Worcester,” I have faith that you can figure out how to pronounce its English cousin.

Choir

Pronunciation: Kw-eye-er

How did we end up with a word that looks like “choir” but sounds like someone saying “crier” in a baby voice? I’m all for “blaming the French,” as one commenter offered, but they use the word “chorale” instead, so this one is on us. Why we have a “ch” that makes a hard “k” sound, I don’t know, but I agree with the user who suggested changing “choir” to “quire” so we don’t all go mad. (I’m also a fan of the rhyming mini-musical that this conversation sparked. Pinot noire, Roseanne Bar, Midsized Car, You don’t have to be popuLAR…)

Squirrel

Pronunciation: Sk-whirl

Many English speakers reading this list are probably starting to question the verbal skills of these Redditors. After all, most of us have grown up saying the word squirrel on a regular basis. (“I almost got attacked by a squirrel on campus yesterday! Are squirrels and chipmunks the same thing? How do you spell squirrel?”) But apparently for foreign students, especially German students, squirrel is quite the conundrum and causes most of them to accidentally start inventing new animals like the “sqvirvel” or “squi-wel.”

Anemone

Pronunciation: Uh-nem-uh-nee

What do Nemo and Redditors have in common? Neither can pronounce anemone properly, apparently. I mean, I can’t blame them. This wild flower species has too many vowels and “n”s and “m”s for my liking. They all get jumbled in my brain and I end up spewing my own version of “amnemonemomne.”

Isthmus

Pronunciation: Is-muss

The easiest way to master this word is to keep your tongue safely behind your front teeth. You may sound like you have a lisp but that’s what this word was built for.

Sixth

Pronunciation: Siks

At first, this almost looks like a joke. Sixth? Doesn’t everyone who passed kindergarten know how to pronounce this one? But the longer you look at the word, the more complicated it starts to look. Why is there an “x” next to a “th”? Did the creator want us to get tongue-tied? How do English people approach this word, or Irish, or German? Sixth is a menace.

Penguin

Pronunciation: Pen-gwen

This one actually is a joke. During an interview on the Graham Norton Show last year, Benedict Cumberbatch admitted that he repeatedly messed up the pronunciation of the word “penguin” in a documentary he had narrated. Norton shows a clip in which Benny can be heard calling the little flightless creatures “pengwengs.” Apparently, nobody on the documentary staff felt the need to correct the actor, leading to this curious Reddit pick. A more appropriate choice, in my opinion, would have been Cumberbatch’s name because I’m sure that I’ve said “Benny-dict Come-burr-BACH” one too many times.

Colonel

Pronunciation: Ker-nal

I’ve discussed this word before so I won’t linger on it too much, but the only thing you need to know about it is that it doesn’t make sense and it should probably be eliminated from the dictionary.

Otorhinolaryngologist

Pronunciation: Oto-rhino-laryng-ologist

An otorhinolaryngologist is an ear-nose-throat doctor. (Seems like an odd combination to me, but I also know nothing about medicine.) Their unnecessarily long title makes me wonder whether they wanted to get their PHD to help people or, alternatively, to watch people stammer over their name. “So you’re a otor-hine-oh-larry-nee-glo-gist-o? Did I say that right?” No. No you didn’t.

Rural

Pronunciation: Rurr-rol (the “rurr” syllable rhymes with “purr”)

If you never looked at this word on paper, you might think it was spelled “rrrral” because many people let the middle “u” fall to the wayside when they’re in a hurry. Pop culture knows how much we all struggle with this word: it even showed up on an episode of 30 Rock a few years ago.

Do you agree with the Redditors? What words do you struggle to pronounce?

Featured image via Imgur.com.

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