Not a mute point

Are there certain words that, when you hear them mispronounced, send you into orbit? 

I know there are because you’ve told me.

I have a few of my own.  I’ve already vented about Pulitzer and nuclear. 

At the risk of seeming snobbish, I am forever tempted to let people know when they’ve mispronounced a word but then, as I pointed out in one of my early posts, these suggestions are not always received as the gifts they were intended to be.

I decided to jot down a few of my own and then check them against a list of the 100 most mispronounced words and phrases in the English language.

This exercise led to a couple of findings:  First, I am not alone.  Most of my peeves, but not all, were on the list.  Second,  I pronounce a few words and phrases  incorrectly myself.

My initial list of pronunciation peeves included:

  • jewelry when pronounced jewlery
  • realtor when pronounced relator
  • espresso when pronounced expresso
  • nuptials when pronounced nuptuals

And yes! Sherbert is on the list.

The first source I consulted,, also includes on its list some irritating misuses, such as such as orientate and interpretate.  I was surprised administrate was not on the list.  I hear that one a lot.  How about supposably?  Reoccur instead of recur?  It’s a mute point, when it should be moot?

I was surprised slep was not on the list, as in I slep poorly last night.  Or I kep it a secret.  And I was really surprised not to find hunnert; you know, dial a one-eight-hunnert number.

There are also a few incorrect phrases that tend to slip by, so I like that they’re on the list:

  • blessing in the skies
  • carpool tunnel syndrome  (I suppose there could be such a thing)
  • doggy dog world
  • for all intensive purposes

 Words and phrases I learned I’ve been butchering for years:

  • Clothes.  I say close but just learned (and my son says it correctly), the th is pronounced.
  • Spit and image.  I always thought it was spitting image.  Huh.
  • Champ at the bit.  I know it’s champ but sometimes I still forget and say chomp.
  • Pernickety.  I’ve always thought it was persnickety. 

If I had any authority, I’d declare today National Correct Pronunciation Day.  As I’ve discovered, a refresher wouldn’t hurt any of us.  There are plenty of websites out there that highlight common and comical mispronunciations.  So I urge you to go out there and read.  Then send me your top pronunciation peeve and one mispronunciation you’ll own up to. 

Spread the word.  Raising awareness is the first step.

Word Nymph will take tomorrow off.  She’ll be clipping coupons from the Sunday paper.  That’s coo-pons, not Q-pons.  I don’t mean to be pernickety.


Filed under All Things Wordish

9 responses to “Not a mute point

  1. A bear ant, when it should be ab-ber-rant
    However, I have learned that both pronunciations are allowed and both are on the MW website, but a bear ant does make my skin crawl.

    I love this website, you can hear the correct pronunciation of words. They have clothes both ways.

    Growing up spending August at the Jersey shore introduced us to the Pennsylvania pronunciations of chocolate, dog and towel (they say “tail”).

    • I think I was with you the first time I ever heard that pronunciation of aberrant. It was hard to get past it and focus on what was actually being said.

  2. Pat Abrams

    In Phila. they say prentzels instead of pretzels. Drives me crazy

  3. William Greene

    Vacationing in SC, permit me to contribute ‘howyamomannem?’ Don’t start me on southern accents. There is no place on earth where the ‘a’ always comes out ‘aaaa’ (hard a) as in ‘Ain’t she cute?’
    The correct response to the first question above is ‘Fine, how ya whole damn family?’.

    Perhaps there should be an accent exclusion for SC and, possibly, NJ?

    My favorite (intended) maddening pronunciation is ‘organ-NYE-zation’. International types don’t notice it as much, but the locals down here go bonkers.

  4. Mom

    I’ve heard some Canadians say “Skid Road” instead of “Skid Row.”

  5. Jew-dish-u-wary – drives me nuts everytime I ride the Red Line.

  6. tour-na-ment

    not “ternamint’

  7. thank you!!! you taught me something today 🙂 great great post

  8. rogo

    And when did the big walk down the streets of New York on the last Thursday of November become the “Macy’s Day Parade”?

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