how to correct someone’s repeated mispronunciation of the same word

Earlier this week, the subject of coworkers who routinely and regularly mispronounce a word came up in the comments, with several people mentioning that they have coworkers who keep mispronouncing the same word over and over.

So when that happens, is there a way for you to speak up and let them know? I say yes! Or at least, I say yes if you think the person would want to know. (I’d certainly want to know, and I’d bet you’d want to know.) The trick is figuring out how to do it in a way that isn’t humiliating for the person, especially if it’s a word they use all the time.

Here’s how I think you can do it fairly non-awkwardly:

1. Then next time it happens, pretend it’s the first time you’re noticing it, even if you’ve noticed it daily for the last year. This gives them some room to save face and makes it easier for you to speak up without having to explain why you’re only mentioning it now.

2. Let’s say the person keeps saying “mute” when they mean “moot.” Say something like this: “Are you saying ‘mute’ or ‘moot’? … Oh, yeah, it’s actually ‘moot’ — I used to get that wrong too!”  (You don’t have to add that last part if will feel condescending or not genuine, but it’s often an easy way to signal “I don’t think you’re an idiot.”) Also, your tone matters here; it needs to be non-mocking, slightly curious and slightly matter-of-fact. Here’s an example of what your tone might sound like:

3. If the person insists that you’re wrong and they’re right, say, “No, it’s really ‘moot.’ I think it’s a really common one for people to be mistaken about though. You can look it up if you want to be sure!” Again, tone matters here. Your tone has to convey “we’re just two imperfect people sharing information here; I’m not better than you.”

(Also, now your job is done. If they keep arguing or just ignore you, you’ve tried and now you may move on without guilt.)

4. If the person seems embarrassed, help them save face by reinforcing that we all do this with certain words. For example: “It’s so weird when a word gets lodged in your brain the wrong way, isn’t it? For years, I pronounced ‘foliage’ as ‘foilage.’” (Insert whatever is true for you. The “foliage” example is from my dad, a brilliant man who worked with words for a living but apparently had some confusion around plants.)

5. Note that this only works if you have some degree of trust with the other person. They need to think you’re someone who’s on their side. If you hate each other, this won’t work and you instead need to just let it go.

Relatedly, there’s an awesome This American Life episode about stuff we become sure we know, when in fact we’re wrong … including a woman who thought the “X-ing” on deer crossing signs was pronounced “zing” and went around referring to “deer zings,” “school zings,” and “railroad zings,” until someone finally corrected her as an adult. (You can listen here or read the transcript here.)

{ 1,006 comments… read them below }

    1. moss*

      Here in Kentucky people often pronounce “suite” as “suit” so, for example, on a Craigslist ad they will offer up a “living room suit” of furniture.

        1. TheLazyB (UK)*

          I live somewhere with a strong regional accent (newcastle upon Tyne if anyone is interested). It took me over a decade to realise that some of what I had been hearing as a difference of accent was actually difference in dialect. Better late than never :-/

          1. Merry and Bright*

            I have quite a lot of Newcastle colleagues although I work in London and I know what you mean. It’s an accent I like though.

            I sometimes get teased for using Yorkshire pronunciations and phrases with a south of England accent. I was born and raised down South but I’m half Yorkshire and visit when I can. It’s quite fun to confuse people a bit!

            1. TheLazyB (UK)*

              I do love the accent. When I first met my DH Iused to love listening to him and his best friend talking, found it dead soothing.

          1. Anie*

            HA! It’s like a foreign language. When I first moved to Boston, I remember being completely unable to understand what some people were saying. My boss once called me and after having him repeat what he wanted three times, I finally hung up on him, walked to his office, and asked him to write down what he wanted.

        1. Log Lady*

          I had never heard anyone call them ‘chester drawers’ until I went looking for a set of mid century drawers on CL. I nearly fell out of my seat.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yep, I just read an amazing book about the Bassett family and furniture making in the US and it said the same thing- they called them suits.

      2. Anyonymous*

        Wait, it’s not “suit”? Have I really been saying that wrong my whole life? I assumed it was like “suit” in cards, where everything matches.

          1. Anyonymous*

            I’ve never even seen it written as “suite”. It’s always been “suit” everywhere I’ve ever seen in written or heard it. Or, alternately, “set”.

            1. TheLazyB (UK)*

              That’s weird. In the UK ‘suit’ is what you wear, ‘suite’ is a group of things. Like three piece suit is jacket waistcoat and trousers. Three piece suite is furniture.

              1. Karowen*

                I think it’s regional in the US – In NJ it’s suite, in SC it’s suit. I was doing my wedding registry the other day and the woman leading us around was very helpful, but she kept referring to suits and I think I did a double-take each time.

                1. Liz in a Library*

                  I don’t think that’s always the case though. I’ve literally never heard “suit,” and I’ve lived in SC my whole life.

        1. Miss Betty*

          Bob Barker used to pronounce it as suit on Truth or Consequences. I remember once the prize was a new bedroom suite and what the contestant got was a pair of pajamas. (Of course I was very young then and didn’t get the joke. I could even be misremembering, but it’s very clear in my mind. Which doesn’t mean it’s right!)

        2. Artemesia*

          I lived in the south for years. It is ‘suit’ there. Always surprised me in furniture stores ads on TV and such. The word is totally misused there and everyone calls it s living room suit.

  1. moss*

    I used to mispronounce “debacle” as “DEBacle”. Pretty much everyone I know that reads a lot has some word they have read and know the meaning of but might miss on the pronunciation.

      1. cuppa*

        I also thought Penelope was “pen-a-lope”.

        Also, thank you Harry Potter for helping me with “Hermione”

        1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

          Until the movies can out I thought it mas “Her-moyn” (Like Des Moines)!

            1. Sara*

              I legitimately didn’t know how to pronounce syncope until I listened to the recent Sawbones episode about corsets and fainting. (It’s not a word that I encounter very often, so I didn’t really have a reason to know…but still.)

              1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

                There are so many words I only know because I encounter them frequently in written texts. Honestly though I’ve never been corrected by someone who didn’t do so in a “haha I can’t believe you said that when its this” (like saying epitome as “epi-tome,” which I thought was a whole separate word from “ipitomy”)

                1. Cruciatus*

                  This reminds me of seeing the name of the play Antigone. Really thought it was anti-gone. Even the smartest among us have at least that one word we get wrong. I have many! I also had issues with detritus until I actually heard it. Bu it’s my personal duty to get people to pronounce mischievous correctly and not say miss chee vee us.

                2. TheLazyB (UK)*

                  Antigone – I read a whole book about a girl called Tiggy short for Antigone and it took me right to the end to figure it out.

                3. manybellsdown*

                  The first time I read the word “usurp” I added a second “p” to it. It made sense to me: the king’s brother “upsurped” his throne. He just walked in there and surped it up!

              2. CherryScary*

                Yay Sawbones! Had to share that episode with a friend who sells leather corsets at a Ren Faire.

                1. HR Pro*

                  Cruciatus, how should mischievous be pronounced? I think I pronounce it the way you wrote it (miss chee vee us)!

                2. moss*

                  it’s “mischief-uss.” If you look at the word “mischievous” there’s no “e” after the “v” so the “vee” sound should not be there.

                  Similarly, modern parents seem to be naming their children “Chassity” a lot… the actual word is “Chastity” which is not pronounced “chassity.” Although “chassity” might be a lovely word and I think it’s a little problematic to name your daughter after the sexual habits you hope she will have, the word is “chastity” like “chass titty.”

              3. Rat Racer*

                At an old job, I used to get obsessed with the poetry of medical terminology. A particular love of mine is “Syncope and Collapse.” (Just love how those words sound together). I also like that there’s an imaging procedure called an “Axial Fiesta”

          1. Smelly Pirate Hooker*

            My mom insisted it was her-me-on. Since I was young, I only knew the correct pronunciation because my 4th grade teacher read a few chapters of the book to us in class, and I didn’t question it since she was the teacher.

            But I’m still not 100% sure how Zatanna is supposed to be pronounced, every time I try to talk to a fellow comic book fan about her they pronounce it slightly differently, and I always worry about being labeled a fake geek girl, even though my pronunciation is based on the way her father said it in the Justice League cartoon series when he introduced her to the group. Whatever, still one of my favorite DC heroines and my all-time favorite cosplay.

            1. cuppa*

              I’m an Outlander fan, and I’m still not quite sure on Laoghaire. I thought it was “L’heery” but I think in the show they said “L’heer”.

              1. Meg Murry*

                The audiobook reader pronounces it more like “l’heer-ah” but that “ah” sound is very faint.

              2. Sawcebox*

                Not sure about Outlander, but the Irish fishing village of Dun Laoghaire is pronounced “Dun Leery”. But Irish may very well have a different pronunciation than Scottish Gaelic!

            2. JessaB*

              Zatanna pronounced by people who’ve written her for comics (husband is in the business,) is Zah-tana really, just like it’s written.

          2. Natalie*

            I believe there’s a scene in the 4th book where she teaches the pronunciation of her name for exactly this reason, although it was easy to miss.

          1. Aunt Vixen*

            Hermione? Using an English word for each syllable, it’s her-my-oh-knee. (The fact that the ‘k’ is silent is just extra difficulty.)

            1. cuppa*

              I have trouble not reading it to myself as “Herm-o-ninny” after Goblet of Fire. Just because it’s fun. :)

        2. Squirrel*

          I had a friend in high school who, before the HP movies came out, swore up and down that the name was pronounced “Her-rom-mi-nee”, and she actually got mad at me repeatedly because I wouldn’t pronounce it that way. The look on her face when they said the name the way I did was priceless, and she actually glared at me during the movie! After the movie was over, she was mad at me for days because I was right. Needless to say we weren’t friends for much longer afterward…

      2. GigglyPuff*

        I did the “pen-a-lope” also! by the time I took classic courses in college, I knew better, but by then it had become a habit I really had to think about correcting when I’d speak. So of course I chose to do an oral report on Penelope’s tale, first instance of the name, totally came out “Pen-a-lope”, mortifying, especially when the professor corrected me, even though it was obvious I knew I had said it wrong.

      3. M*

        I was only recently corrected (by my mother) on the pronunciation of palatable — I said it the same way you used to. It’s confusing because in many other languages, there is a standard for which syllable gets the emphasis, but English likes to break the rules.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        I have a friend named Pennaloe (PEN-a-low), and she always has to correct people who think Penny is short for Penelope, or don’t know how to pronounce her actual name.

      5. So Very Anonymous*

        My mother was a church music director when I was a kid, so she was always going to what I thought was “quire” practice. Did not understand what the church bulletins meant by “choir” — what was this “choyr” thing? Was it a church-buildingy word like “narthex”?

            1. L*

              What about “quai”? Like Hemingway’s “On the Quai at Smyrna”? Is that just a different spelling? Because my English professor pronounced it “kay,” and now I’m just very confused. I thought “quai” and “quay” were both “kay.”

              1. Natalie*

                Quai is the French spelling as far as I know. I don’t speak French but the internet confirms that the correct pronunciation is “kay”.

            2. The IT Manager*

              I learned it thanks to very recent Doctor Who episode; although, it has never ever come up in my life before. Landing and dock do fine.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            And I’m pretty sure the more accepted pronunciation of ‘buoy’ is ‘boy’, not ‘boo-ey’. But, after reading some of these comments, I’m not completely sure of anything I say!

            1. Artemesia*

              It was boo-ey in the Pacific Northwest when I grew up. I knew that one because my uncle was a fisherman.

              My daughter pronounced W.E.B. Dubois correctly in a college class and was corrected by her professor — he said it was ‘Doo Bwah’. She had the good sense to keep her mouth shut instead of pointing out he was in error. I would have forged ahead.

              1. Al Lo*

                I have to stop and think about that one every.single.time. Dubois is French, so in my mind, it’s clearly Doo bwah. It would be like pronouncing Foie Gras as Foy Grass.

                Another one in my world is Foy-yay vs. Foy-er. Being from Canada, I’ve always pronounced it with the French influence on the word, but my mom, who grew up in Chicago, always called it a foy-er.

                1. ancolie*

                  I do, too! Although a big part of it is probably that I first heard the word (as opposed to reading) in The Addams Family Movie when Raul Julia as Gomez used it when talking to Morticia. Julia (really, both of them) were SO charming and charismatic that it strongly imprinted on me.

              2. Broke Law Student*

                How is it supposed to be pronounced? I always pronounced it like that and when I looked it up, the nice internet voice pronounced it “doo bwah” as well. I’m learning so much from this thread!

                1. Liz in a Library*

                  My lit professors always pronounced it Doo Boyz.

                  But I vaguely remember reading somewhere that his preferred pronunciation was actually Doo Boyce. I can’t seem to back that up online immediately, so that might not be true.

            2. Cath in Canada*

              I never heard anything but “boy” (as in “buoyant”) until I started watching Survivor about 10 years ago – Jeff Probst says “boo-ey”. I just about fell off my chair the first time I heard it!

            3. Turanga Leela*

              For me, the red thing hanging off the dock is a “boo-ey.” But if it’s a verb, it’s “boy.”

        1. JessaB*

          Quire is an absolutely okay spelling for that place you sing from or the group that does the singing, it’s just antiquated.

      6. Artemesia*

        Same on Pen-a-lope. Comes from learning so many words reading rather than from hearing them spoken. I was an adult before I learned the word facade properly. I had two such words. A ‘fah saawd’ was a psychological front. and a ‘Fa Kade’ was an architectural front of a building. I learned the later by reading and the former hearing it and they were two different words to me. I did not understand the soft c having not taken French. Many other words as a kid learned by reading and pronounced wrong until corrected. Even solar system which I pronounced ‘Saw-ler’ having read many books about it but not hearing it actually pronounced.

    1. hermit crab*

      Along those same lines, I’ve definitely heard “DEB-riss” for “debris.” English is weird, especially the parts of it that aren’t really English!

    2. Meg Murry*

      I thought epitome was ep-ih-tome, and didn’t realize it was the same as the word I spelled in my head as i-pit-o-me

      I also had college friends point out that I said “supposably” instead of “supposedly”. I just avoid the word altogether now, because I can never remember which is correct and which isn’t. I also rewrite sentences to avoid using effect and affect because it’s faster to change the sentence than to look up the rule. And in that sentence right there I had to add the apostrophe to it’s after thinking about it and I’m still not sure if I was correct in using than instead of then. Ugh, grammar – the more I learn it, the more I think I’m probably doing it wrong.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        Here’s a tip with “its” versus “it’s.” Possessive pronouns never take an apostrophe. :)

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          Also… its’ is not a word. It shows up on standardized tests of grammar, but it’s NEVER the right answer.

      2. Tau*

        But it’s simple! Affect is a verb except when it’s a noun, and effect is a noun except when it’s a verb. What could be easier?

        (Joking, joking…)

      3. TheLazyB (UK)*

        I can never remember whether its patriotic with a or ay sound. My mum was utterly incredulous when I said it wrong :(

        1. Tau*

          I would say that either way, honestly, but my accent is a sufficient mess to both explain and excuse any mispronunciation. (It’s basically mid-Atlantic with a side of German and a dose of Scottish – there’s very little I can’t justify when it comes to vowels.)

          1. KJR*

            My mom is from NYC and my dad from Pennsylvania. I was raised in Northeast Ohio. I’ve heard recordings of myself as a kid before I went to school…talk about a weird accent! Some words still slip through occasionally, mainly by dropping Rs…If I’m not paying attention, I still say “mirror” like my mom does — more like “mirra.”

      4. Pinkie Pie Chart*

        I always have to think about it’s too. I usually substitute ‘it is’ or I’ll get it wrong.

      5. Risa*

        I taught myself to remember effect and affect this way:

        the effect (the two e’s go together), meaning affect was the verb.

    3. OriginalEmma*

      I used to say “oogle” instead of “ogle” until I was unceremoniously corrected by an ex. I never mispronounced it again.

      1. Summer*

        I made the same mistake! I still think “oogle” makes more sense – if you see something you like, you say “oooo,” therefore, you are “oooogling.”

          1. Partly Cloudy*

            I was at lunch with my mom one day and she told me that a guy at a nearby table was “googling” me. She meant ogling. To be fair, she is not a native English speaker.

            I freaking hope he wasn’t actually Googling me….

          2. Trillian*

            Two eyes (usually), two “o”s. Makes sense to me.

            This is why I love and bless all copy editors. (Though I still tell that lightbulb joke.)

    4. Soharaz*

      Some from my life:
      – I thought Monopoly was MONO-poly
      – I had a friend who thought menus was pronounced MeeNoos
      – I still can’t say forward, I say foward

      1. JMegan*

        I actually do say MONO-poly when talking about the game, just because I think it’s fun. Whether anybody else agrees with me is up for debate, of course!

        1. Miss Betty*

          Feb-you-ary is what I was taught in grade school (“the R is silent”) and how everyone I’ve ever known in Michigan and Indiana pronounces it. Actually, I’ve rarely hear Feb-ru-ary. Another example of regional pronunciations, I imagine.

          1. Kiryn*

            I only ever say “feb-ru-ary” when I’m saying it silently to myself when trying to remember how it’s spelled. When referring to the month, it has always only ever been pronounced “feb-you-ary” (in California, so it’s a pretty wide region if it’s regional)

            1. Not So NewReader*

              The nuns used to say “feb BREW airy”. I think most of us put two Rs in the word, but some of us also added an extra B.

    5. Natalie*

      For years I thought misled was the past tense of a verb, misle, which was pronounced like missile in my mind. I picked up the correct meaning by context and everything, and just never ever noticed that I have never seen the present tense verb “misle”.

      Also missed the second T in detritus until I was like 28 or something.

      1. Daisy Steiner*

        I always thought ‘misled’ was my-zild (emphasis on the first syllable) – as you say, the past tense of ‘misle’ (my-zil), whatever I thought that meant!

        I thought ‘slavishly’ rhymed with ‘lavishly’.

        And my great-gran thought the name ‘Hugh’ was pronounced like the exclaiming word ‘huh!’

    6. ACA*

      I used to think “subtle” was pronounced “SUBtle.” Also, I didn’t learn how to correctly pronounce “offal” until about six months ago.

      1. Annie*

        Yup, I was so excited to go buy the book “The Sub-tle Knife” when I was 9 or 10. Another one I could not get right was chaos. I had read it and heard it, and did not realize they were the same word.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          The ones that I didn’t know were the same word were the written word “gauche” (which I heard in my head as gau-chay) and the spoken word “goesh.” I thought they were different words with very similar meanings until basically adulthood.

        2. Pinkie Pie Chart*

          Oh, good. I’m not the only one about chaos. I had heard it, and when we got it on a vocab test I thought it was pronounced chowse. So embarrassing.

    7. Tau*

      My family moved to the US when I was young, where I became a voracious reader of English books. There were so many words I pronounced wrongly because I’d developed a huge vocabulary from reading which my experience with spoken English just didn’t match (since I’d only started hearing it when I was five and never spoke English at home). “Catastrophe” is the one that stuck in my memory (what, you mean it’s not CAT-a-stroaf?) but there were many, many others – in fact, I still run across some now.

      1. A.D. Kay*

        Voracious readers with huge vocabularies always, ALWAYS have embarrassing stories about mispronouncing words.

        1. Nashira*

          Oh yes. Native speaker of English, in a house full of bibliophiles with huge vocabs, and I still didn’t know recalcitrant had one hard C and one soft C. I vividly remember my mom correcting me one day at the grocery store, when I grumbled about a ree-kal-kuh-trant cart…

          1. Tau*

            …you mean that’s not how you pronounce it?

            This post is turning out to be rather embarrassing for me, although I suppose it’s better than figuring it out the hard way…

          2. Jessica (tc)*

            My husband said it that way, too, but I hadn’t heard anyone else do it. I’ll have to tell him he isn’t alone! I told him that (generally, of course) Cs after Is and Es are soft and after As, Os, and Us are hard: cut, cot, cat, celebrity, cigar.

            Unfortunately, for every rule, there is probably at least one English word that violates it, because that’s what our language does! ;-) And I’m one of those whose reading vocabulary was a lot larger than my spoken vocabulary, so I’m sure I mispronounced things all of the time, but no one around me knew the difference until I was in school. I actually spent a lot of time in school looking at the dictionary there to figure out pronunciations — mainly because I’m a weirdo and we didn’t have a dictionary at home, so it was actually a privilege to be able to use it.

            1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

              Yes! I’ve actually become really interested in this lately. English phonics are such a mystery to most people because they’re not taught completely in schools anymore. You’re exactly right that C softens to /s/ in front of i and e (and also in front of y). I’ve been reading about some of these rules and it really explains most of the true English words fairly well. The problem comes in when English adopts words from other languages (like spaghetti and Hawaii) that do not follow the same rules because they’re actually foreign words.

    8. Karowen*

      Oblivious was Ob-live-us (live rhyming with give) for me for the longest time. I also still pronounce paradigm as par-a-dig-em. I know it’s wrong, but I haven’t retrained my brain yet.

    9. LibKae*

      Mine was Formica (the stuff they put on countertops) — I pronounced as FORM-ica through college until my mother gave me an odd look one day and asked what I was talking about. I pointed at the counter and said “that stuff! FORM-ica!” :)

      1. Monroe*

        Wait a minute. How is Formica pronounced then? I just googled it and Wikipedia doesn’t have the phonetic pronunciation.

          1. Natalie*

            The name is literally from “substitute for mica”, so yes, I believe for-MY-ka would be correct.

    10. inkstainedpages*

      There are lots of words I used to mispronounce, since I read a lot as a kid and never heard them out loud. For example:

      Aristocracy = a-WRIST-o-cra-cee
      Philosophical = phi-LA-so-fickle

      1. inkstainedpages*

        Although that is not as bad as a history major I went to college with who wrote a paper about the National Park System and then, while presenting the paper, pronounced Yosemite National Park as “yo-zuh-mite” the entire time!

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        Also late to the party (thanks, Alison, for the “Best Of 2015” post!). I used to think that rederic and rhetoric were two different words. It never occurred to me that I’d never seen “rederic” in print, but had only heard it spoken. Likewise, I never heard anyone say “rhetoric” unless they were talking about something being “rhetorical”. (Hence my mental pronunciation of “rhetoric” as “ruh-tore-ick”).

  2. Bend & Snap*

    I mis pronounced a French word in a work setting a couple of years ago and the way the person corrected me was really embarrassing. I like Alison’s suggestions.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Yes! I mispronounced “crotch” as “crouch” until I was embarrassing (ha! ha! you’re saying it wrong kind of thing) corrected during my college years. The girl correcting was a bossy bitch about many things which didn’t help matters, but I still remember the humiliation 20 years later. That’s not how to handle it professionally or nicely.

      I also mispronounced “telephony” during a class presentation in college. The teacher nicely corrected me privately. Even though I remember the flush of embarrassment after realization that I said it multiple times incorrectly in front of the whole class there’s no emotional sting left in that memory.

      How you say it makes a big difference.

      1. hayling*

        I have no idea how to pronounce telephony. I’ve only seen that word written – I’m not even sure what it means!

            1. Soharaz*

              My company sells telephony software and I can tell you that this is right…my first day I did say telephone-ey though

        1. The IT Manager*

          Well, it isn’t [tel-uh-foh-nee] – the first half of TELEphone with a phony added t0 the end. which is what I said. Which it should be because of TELEphone and TELEvision.

          They include the ph/f sound as part of the second syllable – [tuh-lef-uh-nee]. It means construction, architecture, operation of the telephone/voice system.

      1. fposte*

        Loan words are a double challenge, though, because it really is acceptable to say them in the accent and accepted pronunciation of the borrowing language–but you have to know what that is.

        (In other words, “Ee-lee-nwa” ain’t gonna fly for Illinois.)

              1. Ops Analyst*

                Possessive Arkansas – Are-can-saws or Are-can-saw-zizz?? I know it’s spelled Arkansas’s. But how do you pronounce it?

                1. Arjay*

                  Are-can-saws. Since the state is Are-can-saw, you just add the s to the pronunciation. If the state name alone was Are-can-saws, then it would be Are-can-saw-zizz.

          1. SaraV*

            No. No we don’t. ;) (can you tell I hate that?)

            But! We do say Dez Plainz for Des Plaines. I also know of a LOT of other places that are prounounced way differently than the more “famous” or common places.

            1. fposte*

              In my youth, Ber-BONE-is was an acceptable pronunciation for Bourbonnais.

              And then there’s Goethe Street. We should just tell people all the letters are silent.

            2. moss*

              Kentucky checking in… just right nearby we’ve got Paris (pear-iss), Versailles (ver-say-uls) and Athens (ay-thens). I was talking to my husband about the Treaty of Versayuls the other day and got a bit of a side-eye. Oh and Louisville (loo-uh-vul)! Living here will RUIN you for foreign languages!

              1. Mabel*

                On the way to Montreal last year, we stopped in Montpellier, VT. And since we were going to a French speaking city, and I was learning some French for the trip, I referred to Montpellier with the French pronunciation. My friend (from Rhode Island) corrected me. In VT, they say mont-pee-lee-er. It just seemed so wrong!

                When I was a kid, I thought chasm was pronounced as it is spelled, and I mixed up the letters in depilatory – I said it in my head as de-lip-a-tory. There were many others like that because, like many of us, I read a lot, and learned words from the context but didn’t learn the pronunciation. Fortunately I learned the pronunciation of a lot of words by hearing other people say them, but I did learn a few the embarrassing way. Now I can look them up on my phone as I’m reading them!

                And today (in these comments) I learned how to pronounce slavishly, and I also discovered that I hadn’t known what it meant.

            3. Charlotte Collins*

              And don’t forget: Huck and Jim were trying to get to “KAY-ro,” not “KY-ro.”

        1. Summer*

          Michigan is very confused on which cities should be pronounced the French way and which should be anglicized. My mother taught Michigan geography to 4th graders for many years, and was constantly correcting them for pronouncing Sault Ste. Marie “Salt Saint Marie” instead of the correct “Soo Saint Marie.” I always liked to point out to her that of course they are confused – they live in Detroit (rather than “De-twa,” the original French pronunciation).

          1. Annie*

            My favorite is Eau Claire, MI (pronounced Ah Clair).

            Or when Anthony Bourdain was in Detroit, and pronounced Cadieux Cafe (Cad-joo) the French way.

              1. Hlyssande*

                I’m a transplant to the Twin Cities and I’ve always heard it pronounced like ‘Oh Claire’.

          2. Daisy Steiner*

            I was actually 23 before I realised the correct pronunciation of Michigan

            (I’d been saying MITCH-i-gan)

        2. Turanga Leela*

          I’ve had a lot of trouble with Coeur d’Alene. In French, it’s (roughly) Cur Dah Len. In Idaho, it’s Cordelane.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            My other favorite loaner French place name is Terre Haute, Indiana, which I used to think was a separate place from “Tara Hoat.”

      2. Cube Ninja*

        Here in Minnesota, we have a town called Mille Lacs, which is of course pronounced “mil-LACKS” by damn near everyone.

        1. Anyonymous*

          Oh, lord, Ohio is awful at that.
          Lima is Lime-ah.
          Lancaster is Lank-a-stir.
          Bellefontaine is Bell-fountain.
          Gratoit is Gray-shot.

          Yet, they have zero issue with Chillicothe, Pataskala and Coshocton.

            1. Jessica (tc)*

              Yeah, I had to explain that one to my husband. In Little Egypt, it’s Cay-Ro; in the real Egypt, it’s Cairo.

              Illinois also has a Lima and things related to Bellefontaine near Waterloo, and we pronounce them the same way that Ohio does. A game I play with my husband when we go back to the Illinois area is “how do you pronounce this town’s name?” He’s getting better at it. ;) (Of course, he’s from Minnesota with family in Wisconsin, so we get to play that game when we’re driving around there, too.)

              Quincy, Illinois, is also pronounced differently than Quincy, Massachusetts, as we discovered during the 1993 flooding when people from MA came to help with sandbagging efforts.

              1. Mabel*

                Massachusetts has so many like this. Quincy is KWIN-zee; Peabody is PEE-bdee; Tremont is TREH-mont; Swampscott is SWAHM-skut; Leominster is LEM-inster; Hingham is HING-um; Wooster is WIS-tuh (and that includes the Boston accent – otherwise it’s WIS-ter); Haverhill is HAY-vrill; Billerica is bill-RICK-a. And to confuse things more, sometimes town names are pronounced exactly as you would assume. So you’re pretty much guaranteed to get it wrong. And that’s how I learned all of these pronunciations – by saying it wrong and being corrected.

          1. Althea*

            Dude. You forgot Toledo. Toe-LEE-doe.

            I just tell people we like to steal names from other places and mispronounce them.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            From what I’m told, Lan-ca-stir is correct because it comes from the English region of Lancashire.

          3. Elsajeni*

            Spanish-derived place names in Texas are a mess, too. I drove from Houston to Corpus Christi last week with my non-native-Texan husband and he entertained himself by asking “How do you say THAT one?” every time we passed an exit for a town. “What about this one?” Palashez, rhymes with splashes. Duh. (It’s “Palacios.”)

        2. MegEB*

          How is it actually pronounced? I’ve never been to Minnesota, but in case I do, that’s exactly how I’d try to pronounce it.

          1. fposte*

            Think “m’lax,” to rhyme with “chillax.”

            The French would be roughly Meal Lock, with a silent s and equal stress.

      3. The IT Manager*

        I also noticed in the late 2000s that the US army suddenly decided to pronounce cache [kash] (as in we found a cache of hidden weapons) as cachet [ka-shey]. I assume a General decided the word had two syllables and nobody wanted to correct him.

        1. Mabel*

          I work in IT, so I know how to pronounce cache (temporary memory), but I’ve noticed that a lot of people say ka-shay. I think that mispronunciation is fairly widespread. And actually, since it’s a French word being used in English, I don’t know if I can even call that a mispronunciation.

          And to tattle on myself, I used to write pronunciation as proNOUNciation. It made sense to me because it’s about proNOUNcing words!

  3. AnonyGoose*

    Not a mispronunciation but, when I was in a call center, my cubicle mate asked every caller “to whom am I speaking with?” It was like nails in chalkboard for eight hours a day.

    1. AnonyGoose*

      I’m also driven mildly mad by those who misuse “myself” to try to make themselves sound more educated/formal.

      “If you get that error, talk to Dave or myself.”

        1. hermit crab*

          I think hypercorrection with “I” and “me” is my #1 language pet peeve. I know it shouldn’t bother me so much but it’s definitely my nails-on-chalkboard equivalent!

          1. Jennifer M.*

            I hate this one too! Every single time I hear it on TV I get enraged. I think the theory is that they are trying to write “realistic” dialogue and realistically people overcorrect on this phrase but it still drives me bonkers.

            1. Charlotte Collins*

              For some reason grammar errors from newscasters bother me the most. Not when they’re in the middle of an interview and trying to get a story from someone, but when they’re announcing. If you go to school to speak in front of people, then get a job doing so, you should do it correctly. I don’t want you sounding like the guy off the street – I want you to sound like an authority whose information I can trust.

        2. Aunt Vixen*

          My husband does that. I adore him and can’t face the idea of nagging him about that for the rest of our lives, so I’m modeling correct syntax and word choice and otherwise letting it go, but man.

          (Better believe I’ll correct the kids if they do it, though.)

        3. Syler*

          I hate that one. Because it is done incorrectly more often than not around my workplace (my boss does it all the time), I know they all think that I’m the one with the bad grammar. I especially hate it in meetings when the higher level person speaking before me says “to Fergus and I” and then I have to say “to Fergus and me”.

          I am almost tempted to go with the flow sometimes when I hear it repeatedly in a meeting. I keep thinking they are all having lunch and discussing MY poor grammar.

      1. Axing*

        This drives me nuts, but it’s one of the easiest mistakes to explain and fix! Take the other person out of the sentence.

        “If you get that error, talk to Dave or myself.” Take Dave out of it.
        “If you get that error, talk to myself.” That’s obviously wrong, right?
        “If you get that error, talk to me.” That’s right! Now put Dave back into the sentence.
        “If you get that error, talk to Dave or me.”

          1. Snork Maiden*

            Fortunately, if Dave is looking for a script to address this with Axing, he’s come to the right place!

            1. Courtney*

              Lol! That’s funny. I used to have a history teacher that would say “Just ax me any questions”. Sure but won’t that hurt if we “ax” you?

              It sets my teeth on edge when people call Pittsburgh “Pixburg” and one even called it “Pissburg”. It took me a while to realize he wasn’t making fun of the city. That was just his pronunciation.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          There’s a similarly simple rule for who/whom: rework or reply to the original sentence using he/him, and see if the sentence still makes sense. It’s whom:him and who:he.

          To whom am I speaking? I am speaking to [he|him].

          Who used the eel tongs? [Him|He] used the eel tongs.

        2. BRR*

          It’s a pet peeve of mine too but sometimes it’s hard to think of it on the spot. I need to sometimes stop and check myself when talking.

        1. Cautionary tail*

          My pet peeve is ensure and insure. To insure something you have to purchase insurance. So many people write and tell me that they will insure that I get my widget.

          Ah no.

      2. Jessica (tc)*

        Oh, that “myself” thing. People think they sound better when they use it, but it grates when they use it incorrectly.

    2. alter_ego*

      IF YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO USE WHOM, DON’T USE IT. JUST SAY WHO. IT DOESN’T MAKE YOU SOUND SMARTER IF YOU USE IT WRONG!!!!

      sorry, clearly I feel some strong emotions about this

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Whom is going to disappear from the English language. Let’s all help it move along.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          I like “whom.” When you really need it, its there. But, then again, I still use “hence” and “whence.”

          1. alter_ego*

            I learned this recently! “ye” is actually “the”. but back in the day “th” was it’s own letter, the symbol for which kind of looks like a y, so it’s actually a modern thing that people would pronounce it “ye” rather than “the”, now that that symbol has fallen out of useage.

            1. Charlotte Collins*

              It was two letters: thorn and eth. Thorn is the letter that is the reason for “ye.”

          2. Charlotte Collins*

            I was watching a historical drama where a character used “thee” and “thou” incorrectly. Drove me crazy!

            Also, I would love it if we would bring back thorn and eth – it helps with pronouncing the “th” sound.

    3. Gandalf the Nude*

      This one drives me insane! Most folks I hear try it are just trying to sound smart without any understanding of the grammar behind it. So instead of actually removing their hanging preposition, they create a redundancy that’s even more annoying than the hanging preposition in the first place! Sorry, pet peeve, haha.

    4. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      I sent in an article for a formal printed publication for a national nonprofit I’m on the board of. The director changed EVERY SINGLE use of the word “who” to “whom”. I was furious. Absolutely none of the sentences needed a whom, and he made me sound ridiculous. I insisted they get it back from their printer and either (a) change the whoms back to whos or (b) take my byline off the article. And now I see the final draft of everything I’ve written before it goes out.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          He totally and completely disagreed with me, and insisted that “whom” was the proper replacement for “who” in all formal writing. Would. Not. Bend. I was especially mad because the article was to be distributed nationally within the field and was something that I put a lot of time into because, in part, it was great PR for my own organization (to the benefit of the national organization).

          I ended up enlisting the board chair to tell him that he just wasn’t going to print it like that, and all my whos were restored. He was one of the most ridiculous and stubborn people I’ve ever worked with. Fortunately, he is now gone (because of me, in large part).

          1. simonthegrey*

            I work at a community college and it is really common for my students to use whom when they should use who, because they believe it sounds more formal and therefore my educated. Most of them I can help understand the difference but there is this one older guy who just can’t. I love working with him, he is nice as anything, but he can’t get past who/whom.

            1. Turanga Leela*

              I’ve seen the same thing with I and me. “That was unfair to Leela and I” is a HARD habit to break, in part because people really think it sounds more educated.

              1. Natalie*

                I seem to recall being taught certain rules in elementary school that I would then have to re-learn in high school because the rule had been presented entirely without nuance when I was younger, including “he and I” rather than “he and me” or “me and him”. I suspect this is why so many people overcorrect.

    5. Al Lo*

      “I can help who’s next.” HATE it.

      When I worked in fast food, it was always, “I can help whoever’s next” or “I can help the next person in line” or (making eye contact) “I can help you over here”.

      1. Development professional*

        Still better than when they call for “the following guest.” This construction implies that they mean a particular person with a name: “I can help the following guest: Jamie Smith.” But they really just mean “next person in line.” Just say that! It drives me BANANAS.

        1. Mabel*

          Right! Like saying “next” is so much worse than saying “following.” And that customers will be fooled into thinking they’re guests. So weird and annoying!

    6. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Actually, it’s correct to use an object pronoun (whom) after a preposition (to/with). That’s why a letter would be written “To whom it may concern” not “to who it may concern”. “Whom am I speaking with?” is correct. If you answer the question, you’d say “I’m speaking with him” not “I’m speaking with he”. I don’t think it’s necessary to use both prepositions though… “to whom am I speaking?” or “whom am I speaking with?” not both.

  4. AdAgencyChick*

    Ever noticed that the same people who add an X to “especially” and “espresso” are also the ones who drop the second S in “asterisk”?

    Drives me BONKERS.

    1. Aunt Vixen*

      Law of the conservation of consonants. They have to get those Xes from somewhere, after all.

      I’m trying to remember the word my husband and I couldn’t agree how to pronounce some time recently; it was something with a ch in it that both of us had only ever met in print, which he wanted to pronounce at face value and which I assumed was Greek-derived so the ch should sound like a k. (Not that he isn’t wicked smart, but I have three degrees in linguistics and felt that these made me more likely to be right. ;-) )

      1. Sara*

        Slightly off topic, but are Greek roots the reason some ch- words are pronounced with a hard c? (Christmas, Christ, Christian, chrysanthemum, Christopher?) My boyfriend and I were just discussing this the other night, and he brought up Greek roots as a possible culprit, but etymology isn’t an area either of us are well-versed in.

        1. Lanya*

          All of the words you just listed that begin with Christ – in Greek, that word Christos (Χριστός) would be spelled beginning with an X which is the “kh” sound. And chrysanthemum according to Wikipedia is derived from the Greek ‘chrysos’ (χρυσός) for gold. So, you’re probably right.

        2. Sharon M*

          Yes actually! And in fact all of those words have the same root, Christos (except chrysanthemum, but it’s still Greek.)
          I majored in Linguistics with a focus on Ancient Greek in college. :)

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            But “schism” is properly pronounced “shizm.” (OK, this is the older pronunciation that few people use anymore.)

            1. Sharon M*

              “Schism” is one of the words I always had trouble with, even after college. >_< Because as you say, both pronunciations are accepted!

              1. hi fahlootin*

                then what about schism, schedule, schizophrenia? those follow the Greek-letter/hard C pronunciation. Also in botanical lingo: schizocarp, schizachyrium, Echinacea

          2. Nina*

            This reminds me of bruschetta. In the US, everyone pronounces it bru-SHET-ta, but the correct pronunciation is bru-SKET-ta, I think.

      2. Jessilein*

        Could it be chthonic? Just looked it up and apparently it’s pronounced thonic, which I never knew. Well, I’ll be.

      3. LCL*

        So how do you pronounce ‘chimera’? I sincerely want to know, I have heard every possible variation!

    2. Axing*

      I thought they were the same people who spell it “asterix.”

      Which is probably how I pronounce it, so I can only get so judgmental about it. Accents make things weird.

      1. Axing*

        Using the name “axing” for “asking -> axing” reasons, not the best feature of my own accent.

        1. NJ Anon*

          I used to have a co-worker who would say “can I axe you something?” I’d say “No, but you can ask me something!” She would laugh but never corrected it. Said it was too ingrained.

          1. Axing*

            I’ll check that out after work. It looks good!

            I also think some pronunciations function as class or educational markers. I’m careful to drop the southern accent around people who don’t share it for this reason.

            1. BananaPants*

              This is true. My parents are from a working class/middle class Midwestern background and as a child I picked up several pronunciation/enunciation issues that you just don’t hear coming from my New England peers from more affluent family backgrounds. For example, I tend to not pronounce the ‘g’ in words that end with ‘ing’ – so I’ll pronounce “something” as “somethin”. I try to be conscious of it since I have a white collar/professional job with colleagues who are generally from upper middle and upper class backgrounds. Perhaps irrationally, I worry that it makes me sound uneducated or poor. :-/

              1. Kelly L.*

                I got mercilessly picked on once by some (wealthier, more eastcoasty) co-workers when I pronounced “you’re” like “yer.”

              2. CheeryO*

                Oh god, same. I really have to focus when I’m speaking, or else I end up saying things like, “I’m takin a day off fer a campin trip.” (Real example from a few months ago!)

                1. Artemesia*

                  Re Fishin. I did a research project where students were interviewed across the county about community service related activities. I was reading one of the typed transcripts and learned that the subject have first become interested in service on a fishing trip. That seemed odd, so I listened to the tape myself. Yeah. It was a ‘mission trip’.

              3. Nashira*

                I had to learn to drop my native upper middle class Tidewater accent and learn to sound more “country” after moving to the middle of Missouri. I work as a clerk and I was coming across as an uppity Yankee, which made work relationships very awkward. It wad strange at first, since my mom was working class as a kid, and gave us lessons about How We Talk At Work.

                I hate how intensely we use accent as a mark of social standing and ethnicity. It’s about as bad as the UK sometimes, in the US. Especially on the coasts.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  But this is an important point- we (our society) do this. A friend grew up in a state with a well-known accent. (Not saying the state because this is not about that particular state.) She moved a little westward and realized she stuck out like a sore thumb with her accent. This was back in the 70s with less resources than there are now. She decided to make herself watch the news every night and copy the way the anchor people spoke. She described it this way, “If I did not do something about my accent, then my accent would hold me back at work.” Of course, this was the 70s and she was a working mother- she had enough battles right there. I have often thought that was a very clever solution to a problem that did not seem to have a solution.

              4. hi fahlootin*

                Sometimes what comes out of my mouth is “something”
                but “suhm n” does too. I am from the Midwest.

      2. AnonyMiss*

        This mispronunciation is so common in France they have a comic book character named Asterix. He’s a Gaul who regularly beats up Caesar and his legions with his friends Obelix, Getafix the druid, Chief Vitalstatistix, and their dog Dogmatix. They also had a pretty decent live-action movies made with Christian Clavier (Asterix), Gerard Depardieux (Obelix), and Monica Bellucci (Cleopatra). It’s one of those movies you need to watch multiple times to catch every little pun and subtlety… (And I’ve only seen it in various dubbings, not in French!)

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asterix

        1. Tau*

          I was about to make a comment about small Gallic warriors but I see you beat me to it. Although in all honesty, the comics were such an integral part of my childhood that the idea of Asterix in live action just feels… wrong.

      3. PhoenixBurn*

        My boyfriend has an accent…so “soil” comes out as “soul” and any variation with “oil” comes out as “oul”, except for the actual word “oil” which he says as “oyl.”

    3. km*

      My boyfriend does that some times, especially when saying “especially.”
      Him (for the 1000th time): that dinner was exspecially good
      Me: ES-PECIALLY, ES-PECIALLY, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD ESSSSSS-PECIALLLLLYYYYY!!!!!

      He’s a really smart dude with a great job and I’m concerned his use of “x” where it doesn’t belong makes him sound dumb in front of clients. Luckily he’s been responding well to my aggravation and slowly dropping the “x.”

      1. simonthegrey*

        I’m bad about it with Xavier. As in Charls Exavier or St. Francis Exavier, instead of Zavier for pronounciation.

        1. Lindsay J*

          Wow, I didn’t know that “Exavier” was incorrect – I’ve always pronounced it like that.

          1. JessaB*

            It’s NOT. In Marvel comics it is EX-avier, hence Professor X. It’s pronounced wrong by Marvel, but names are to be said the way people want them to be, not how the usual pronounciation.

      1. singer-linguist*

        The Boston accent’s “added R’s” are intervocalic — sort of like final T’s in French that are usually silent, *except* when coming between two vowels. It kind of bridges the gap, so you don’t have to have a glottal attack between final/starting consonants: “Maria(-r) and I aaahre going to the paaahrk.”

    4. Cath in Canada*

      I grew up reading the Asterix and Oblelix comics, so I sometimes accidentally say asterix for asterisk. Most embarrassingly, a couple of months into my PhD I sent an email to my supervisor saying that I’d marked some things in the text with an asterix, and he sent back his corrections with pictures of the cartoon character inserted randomly into various paragraphs.

    5. moss*

      In the movie “Orange County” Jack Black’s character yells something like “I am the master at EXcaping!” which has become a running joke in my house.

        1. Natalie*

          That’s a common misconception, but incorrect. “Avocado” comes from “aguacate”, the Spanish transliteration of a Nahuatl word.

    6. Cheddar2.0*

      Ahahaha, I grew up in MN and do this all the time. My husband’s “favorite” (biggest pet peeve) of my Midwestern words is when I say “across” because it comes out as “uh-crost” with a hard T sound. I also tend to make multiple contractions in words, like “shouldn’t’ve” and “I’d’ve”. I don’t know if these are actually real words or not!

  5. SLP*

    I am a speech language pathologist and we recommend that you simply work the word into the conversation with the correct pronunciation with some gentle emphasis. For example:
    Person: “I love the liberry”
    You: I love the library too!”
    It’s a gentler method and most people do catch on.

    1. Colorado Girl*

      That’s a great suggestion but I have found that it doesn’t work in my experience.

      I have an employee that regularly mispronounces the name of our biggest client and misspells a word that everyone in our department manages to spell correctly in print several times a day, every day.

      The client name is a national chain and everyone else in the company says it correctly. This is the equivalent of saying “Stirbuck’s” or “Burgle King” – it’s that common. I tried gently correcting the EE a few times and finally had to say that they needed to make an effort pronounce it correctly because if they ever said it incorrectly in the presence of said client it would be an issue.

      After seeing the word in print one too many times, I finally just sent an email with the dictionary(dot)com definitions of queue, cue and ‘que (not really a word but short for barbecue, apparently, and what they were using when they meant queue), which seems to have finally sunken in.

      If they weren’t in customer/client service and didn’t work off a queue on a daily basis my approach may have been different but, because they do, it had to be addressed in a much more direct way.

      1. alter_ego*

        Is it Chipotle? Because they aren’t like, a client of ours or anything, but one of my coworkers says Chi-pol-te and it drives me INSANE

        1. Kelly L.*

          Chipolte drives me nuts!

          One I’ve never quite understood is po-eem. I’ve met some people who pronounce poem with a long E, so it rhymes with “go team.”

        2. Colorado Girl*

          Yes! It drove me nuts before they were a client, now it honestly angers me, at least when it’s done by an employee.

          I also used to work for ING and it killed me when people would pronounce it “ing” – I would have to correct them and say that you don’t pronounce IBM “ihbum” or AT&T as “at” so please say I-N-G.

          1. Natalie*

            I feel like ING set themselves up for that, though – they had an ad campaign where they put their logo on the end of words as though it was the syllable “ing”.

          2. Cube Ninja*

            Once upon a time, I worked with some folks in the deep south who received many daily deliveries from UPS, as in “ups and downs”.

            1. Kiryn*

              Sometimes I’ll see a UPS truck with a phone number incorporating PICK-UPS and it takes me a second to figure out what pickup trucks have to do with a shipping company.

        3. Daisy Steiner*

          Oh, as a non-American I’ve always wondered – how DO you pronounce Chipotle?

          In my head I always say “chip-pottle” but I’m pretty sure that’s wrong…

          1. insert pun here*

            “Chipotle” is actually a Nahuatl (Aztec/indigenous Mexican) word, and that unusual-for-English-and-Spanish “tle” is common in that language. We also have Nahuatl to thank for “avocado” and “chocolate,” for what it’s worth. : )

            1. Hlyssande*

              I was coming in to say this! I took a class in the religions of ancient Mexico in college and proper pronunciation of the ‘tl’ was a big takeaway (the prof had done a ton of research; the subject was his baby, essentially).

          2. Witty Nickname*

            I learned how to pronounce it from the old Jack in the Box commercial. “Chip-uh-tup-lay! Chi-poodle! Chi-poat-lay!”

        4. KH*

          I pronounce it “CHI POT L” on purpose because it absolutely grinds my ears when i hear it spoken with an American accent. It’s not “Chi Poat Lay” – it’s Chi Poat le” . There is no diphthong.

      2. the gold digger*

        Heard someone from an investment company reading stock news on the radio yesterday. She said, “Shtlum-burger” with the “burger” as in “hamburger” instead of the “berz-JAY” it is supposed to be. (The “Sch” was wrong, too.)

        I guess I should not expect someone far from Houston and the oil industry to know how to pronounce it, but if you are in the investment business, maybe it should not be a mystery?

        1. Lindsay J*

          I always mentally think of it as Slum-Burger as I pass it, even though I know that isn’t correct.

      3. Natalie*

        That is an odd thing I’ve noticed in my office – certain people get stuck on a mispronunciation, I guess, and don’t notice that everyone else pronounces it differently. We had a client who used to say our maintenance guy’s name wrong in a pretty obvious way that is also not a name, and would never, ever pick up on it no matter how many times I said it during the call. Let’s say his name was Miles, she called him Mills. For years.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Is it the “e” in the first syllable that they’re messing up, or have I been mistakenly making the T silent all these years?

          2. Natalie*

            That’s probably not actually wrong. The t is silent, and either an a sound or an e sound at the beginning are correct.

          3. MegEB*

            Wait … isn’t that how you pronounce it? The T is silent; that’s how I’ve always heard it.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Oh, that person would be ME! I have slight scarring on one ear drum and once in a while, I miss words. It really helps if I can see your lips move when you say it. I work at it, but when I mispronounce a word- I REEEALLY mispronounce it. Time has been kind to me, I no longer care that I have said it wrong, just help me to say it RIGHT! grr.
          When AAM does a question on pronunciations I read and read and read….

      4. manybellsdown*

        I made a comment a couple of days ago about a guy I worked for. I was his PA and, apparently, pronounced his last name just slightly wrong for 3 years. He never said anything directly, and I guess I never caught on to the way he was saying it. Like, he said it “ROmanoff” and I was saying “RoMANoff.” I only realized when I was training my replacement and she said something about it!

      5. MsChanandlerBong*

        I used to work with a bunch of people who couldn’t spell queue properly. The best part? They were all freelance writers. Our group message board was filled with posts about the assignment cue and the assignment que.

    2. KT*

      And regionalism affects this as well. I’m from Philadelphia which is littered with bizarre pronunciations. “wudder” for water, “eggs-it” for “exit”, etc. When I moved to Florida, I found myself noticing that I was saying these words differently than everyone else and I sounded like a doofus, but it seemed so normal back home! If I’m super tired the Philly-speak slips out from time to time, but I’ve made a conscious effort to stop it. It’s hard to keep in mind though.

      1. KT*

        Case in point…I mentioned going to to the store to buy “crowns” and my coworkers stared at me…I realized my mistake and emphatically said CRAY-ONS! I BOUGHT CRAY-ONS!

        Ugh.

        1. hermit crab*

          Interesting! I’m from central PA, where most people say “crayon” as one syllable, but it’s like the first part of “cranberry” and doesn’t have an “o” sound. My mother, who grew up in a different state and says “cray-on,” hated it but gave up correcting me at some point.

        2. Former Diet Coke Addict*

          Weirdly, I grew up in the Midwest, pronouncing those things “crans.” “I got a huge box of crans for my fifth birthday!” and when I moved to Canada, everyone looked at me like I’d lost my mind and said “Do you mean CRAY-ONS?” I still can’t say “cray-on” without feeling like I sound like a moron.

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            Midwesterner here, and say it “crans.” Unless I am referring to actual art done in “cray-on,” because “crans” are bought in the toy store, and “cray-ons” are bought in the art store.

          2. hermit crab*

            Yes! I think my hometown must be just far enough west to be in “cran” country. Like, I remember laughing about some silly joke I had heard at school when I was a kid — it was something involving a pun on “cran” and “crayon” — and my mom just didn’t get why it was funny!

        3. Shortie*

          Ha! My spouse says crowns instead of crayons. I always try to reply with some version of, “When is the coronation”?

          1. Kelly L.*

            And speaking of coronation!

            Around here, there’s a lot of “ar” for “or,” especially among the older generations, and some years back there was a newspaper article about the “carnation” ceremony for a homecoming queen or something like that. No, she was not given the flowers. Someone spelled coronation like they pronounced it, and there it was.

      2. OriginalEmma*

        I was in a foreign country recently, with people with whom I’d never worked. As soon as this one guy said “hay-ome” (home) I knew exactly where he was from (south Jersey). It’s so crazy how regionalized language or shibboleths can pinpoint you. see: Italian ice vs. water ice (or worter ice).

      3. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

        Yes on regionalism. I grew up and now live in the greater Boston area, though New England as a whole is just a cluster of bizarre and often horrible pronunciations. I’ll never remember the time a friend corrected me for saying “aunt” as “ant” and I snapped back that until she pronounced my name with an “-ah” instead of an “-er” she needed to shut up.

        1. OriginalEmma*

          Louis CK has a good bit on this. “It’s not an accent. It’s an entire region of people saying things wrong.”

        2. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

          “I remember” and “I’ll never forget” apparently merge to become “I’ll never remember!” what was I just saying about the horrible speech patterns of New Englanders…

        3. manybellsdown*

          I grew up in New England and sometimes I feel like the only person in the world who DOESN’T say “ant”. Even my relatives who still live there say “ant”.

        4. Cath in Canada*

          “Ant” and “Anti” are the usual pronunciation in the UK, and I often hear it in Canada too. e.g. the time when we had family members unexpectedly stay over on Christmas Day because of a snow storm, and I had to work on something the next day, so I hid away in the spare room with my laptop while everyone else had breakfast and hung out. My niece said “you’re supposed to be Auntie Cath, not anti-social!” Pronounced the same way.

          I also hear some Americans pronounce things like pasta with a different “a” sound – kind of two-thirds of the way to sounding like the 2nd and 3rd syllables of imposter. In the UK it’s said past – ah

        5. Witty Nickname*

          I was born in Southern CA to a mom from Boston and moved to MS when I was 8. I grew up saying things like “Ya’ll I like totally have to go call my ahnt now.”

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Both my parents are from Boston, so I say “ahnt” and still think it sounds weird when people say “ant” for “aunt.”

            It’s continued to another generation; I am “Ahntie Alison” to both my nieces, who have lived in California their whole lives.

            1. Bostonian*

              Ahnt versus ant is one of the perennial disagreements of my marriage. The aunts on my side of the family are all “ahnt” and the ones on my spouse’s are all “ant”, which will probably confuse the heck out of my kids when they’re old enough to understand.

              1. Recruit-O-Rama*

                They will be ok. :) My kids say “aunht” for their Aunts on my side of the family. They say “ant” for their aunts on their Dad’s side of the family. My ex-husband is a native Californian and I grew up in New England, my whole family still lives there. My kids were born in CA, but we’ve lived in Arizona for most of their lives. They don’t even bat an eyelash at the difference between the pronunciations for either side of the family.

        6. RG*

          Southeast Texas here. When referring to the person, I’ll say ahnt, but when actually talking to them I say aint.

      4. Colorado Girl*

        My in-laws are Canadian and now live outside of Philly. They were so floored by “wudder” when they first moved there. I thought that was a good time to bring up how they said pasta and taco – I’m sure the Americans were making just as much fun of them for that!

      5. Aunt Vixen*

        I am not from Philadelphia and am not sure why “eggs-it” is a bizarre pronunciation of “exit.” Do you find people who say or expect to hear “ecks-it”? That would sound odd to me; that x is between two vowels and it’s going to get voiced by most native speakers.

      6. Stranger than fiction*

        Ha, my parents are from a small town in central PA and they say fillim for film, and thurapy for therapy.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            My entire Pennsylvania-based family redds up and goes to thurapy. Also, the big piece of furniture in the living room is a cahtch.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Ha no I haven’t heard the red’ up, but just remembered the sport of golf is gulf.

      7. Jesse*

        My mother’s family moved from Rhode Island to suburban Philly when she was a kid, and her brother got put into special ed because of his “speech impediment.” Because of his accent! The family thought this was especially ridiculous in Iggles country! They got him moved out, and he did lose his RI accent at some point.

      8. Lindsay J*

        I’m from Central NJ but live in Texas now, and “wudder” is one of my main accent tells.

      9. Lindsay J*

        Also, I’ve always said eggs-it, and I don’t think I’ve even noticed anyone saying it differently. I’ll have to listen more carefully now.

    3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      ooo! I like that. I might try that a few times first with my moot/mute person.

    4. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Question for you, SLP speech path: Both my parents, who are older and from the rural deep south, pronounce the name Alex (“AL-iks”) as “EL-ik”. They CANNOT say Alex. They think it’s just dialect variation, like the difference with Lauren (LOR-en vs. LAHR-en) (why does AAM not allow me to type in the international phonetic alphabet?!). I say it’s more than just a variation because other southern people don’t recognize “EL-ik” as “Alex”‘ – even in context (they are still in the south, but not in the deep south, and haven’t been for 4+ decades). There isn’t anything else wrong with their speech, and their southern accents are not extreme (think “big city southern”). What’s going on here?

      1. cuppa*

        I definitely referred to a girl as LOR-en once, and she not so politely told me that LOR-en was a boys name, and her name was LAHR-en. I’ve asked every Lauren I’ve met since how they pronounce their name, and not a single one has ever cared.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          Yeah – I think that’s just a slight dialect variation. You can still tell the person is talking to you.

        2. fposte*

          It’s regional. This is the Mary-merry-marry thing but with names. I know there are British versions where the two different vowel sounds (think “fat” vs. “father”) is a big class distinction, too.

          1. Cath in Canada*

            Not so much class as geography – Northerners like me say glass grass and bath with a short “a”, Southerners (and the occasional posh Northerner) say glahss grahss and bahth. The accents of the Starks and Lannisters in GoT are good examples. Sean Bean speaks in his usual accent as Ned Stark, and he’s from Sheffield, not far from where I grew up – my original accent was much like his.

            1. fposte*

              No, definitely class–I’ve been in conversations on Sharon vs. Sharon and Dana vs. Dana where they’re compared in strictly class terms.

              There may be a regional component to the class implications (once it’s been through an Essex accent, it’s probably doomed), but it wasn’t just an accent variation, it was two different pronunciations of the same name, and one of them was considered deeply vulgar.

              1. Cath in Canada*

                Oh, sorry, you’re talking specifically about that sound within names, whereas I was commenting on the short vs. long a/ah sound in general, e.g. in grass and bath.

        3. Charlotte Collins*

          To me, “Loren” and “Lauren” are pronounced the same (unless I’m told otherwise by the bearer of the name). However, “Loren” is generally a man’s name (it’s a version of “Laurence”), except I do know of at least one female “Loren,” who was given the name “Florence” after a great-aunt, but had the beginning and end lopped off so it would be less old-fashioned. It can cause some confusion until people meet her, though.

          1. Artemesia*

            When I was a kid, Lauren from Laurent or laurence or lawrence was a boy’s name. It’s use as a girl’s name (along with things like Madison, Taylor, etc) is more recent. Boys named Lauren were often called Laurie and that was not considered feminine.

            1. Charlotte Collins*

              Like in “Little Women.” :)

              I think Lauren Bacall was the reason it started being more popular as a girl’s name.

        4. LJL*

          Some care. Loren is spelled differently from Lauren; Lori from Laurie, and Lora from Laura for a reason. They are pronounced differently.

          1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

            Yes – but I know women named Lauren (and spelled Lauren) who pronounce their names differently – LOR-en and LAHR-en. That’s regional variation.

      2. Axing*

        Not SLP speech path, but did your parents grow up in the same area? It’s probably something very specific to that. Southern accents vary a lot by location and time (for example, rhoticity before and after the mid-1900s).

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          One Mississippi and one Alabama. The Mississippi parent is from a more rural area than the Alabama parent. At the time, it would have taken at least 12 hours to drive from one place to the other. They both have a lot of education (and have been in a very large city for most of their adult lives) that they have lost most of the unique speech markers. I don’t know if this is even one or not.

      3. Biff*

        Probably a lack of ability to make the word come out. Speech muscles are developed early and as I’ve gotten older I find that while I can certainly hear differences in how I pronounce things vrs other folks, I cannot always make the sounds like I used to be able to.

      4. SLP*

        They’re right- it’s dialectal- IF others from their area in the rural deep south or in their peer groups way back when pronounced it that way. Dialect can vary from town to town or region to region or even can vary from social group to social group.
        We don’t actually try to “correct” dialect. It just is…

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          I hear you about dialect and not changing it. This is a funny situation because there a younger child in our family named Alex who just can’t figure out why his great aunt and uncle can’t learn his name. He can’t see this as anything but a totally different name that isn’t his.

      5. HR Pro*

        Ashley the Nonprofit Exec: very recently there was an episode of Who Do You Think You Are (genealogy show) that involved an ancestor named Alex/Elik/Alec. The ancestor was from the deep south – maybe Alabama? I don’t remember. It was the Alfre Woodard episode.

      6. Arjay*

        I know an Alex from North Carolina who was called Elik by his family. He keeps thinking about trying to bring the pronunciation back, but I think that’s a losing battle.

    5. KJR*

      This is how I used to correct my children when they were very little and would either mispronounce a word or make a grammatical error. It seemed to work very well…they didn’t realize they were being corrected!

    6. short geologist*

      The problem with saying your correct version in response to their version is that you may get into a strange passive aggressive argument whereby each of you repeats your pronunciation as the conversation continues.

      We were discussing our fondness for Renaults (the car). Nobody was converted. It would have been better to just have a straight argument about the pronunciation.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        Also, what if you get caught up in a discussion about coupons and envelopes? You could go house to house where I grew up and get different pronunciations.

        An Olive Garden waitress once corrected my pronunciation of “bruschetta,” but she didn’t convert me. I also don’t drink “CHI-an-ti.”

      2. SLP*

        If you’re going to get into an argument then the effort is worthless anyway. I am thinking more for people who are unaware and would immediately correct themselves once they are aware.

      3. manybellsdown*

        I do this with my husband, who insists that the 1986 film starring David Bowie and muppets is pronounced “Luh-BRINTH”.
        “No, I want to watch LA-brinth, thanks dear.”
        “That’s what I said. Luh-BRINTH.”

      4. JessaB*

        I don’t mind that between friends, but I really don’t want to hear something said back to me by a server or cashier. If you know what I mean, I don’t need to be corrected at that point. Particularly if they’re pushy trying to require their customers to correct. I kind of get my back up when that happens. It’s not the right place to do that. Nor do they use a reasonable method. I’ve never had one say “by the way, here we call that an x, if you want it to be easier next time you order.” It’s always just them inserting the word in an annoyed tone at you. It really does not make me want to go back to those places.

  6. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

    So here’s a thing that happens with me: I have a really hard time hearing the nuances in a word so someone may correct my pronunciation and say “you said this but actually it’s this” and I truly cannot hear the difference at all.

    Honestly though I play by the rule if I can understand what the person is saying I don’t say anything. I get the point, I don’t need to make one.

    1. Just another techie*

      ooh that happened to me in high school. I’d just moved to Ohio from Mississippi, and my oratory & debate coached hated that I pronounced “get” as “git” and “sit” as “set.” She’d sit there throwing Cheerios at me every time I got one wrong. I still can’t hear the difference between “get” and “git” (or “pen” and “pin”) but I damned well learned the right mouth position for them eventually.

      1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

        “dwarf” is a word that I apparently mispronounce all the time (and had to say it a lot when I worked at a pet store… curse you dwarf hamsters!” I have no idea what I say vs what is supposedly correct because I just don’t hear how what they are saying is different from what I’m saying!

        1. manybellsdown*

          I have only just noticed that I seem to have trouble with the word “horror”, now that I have to say it regularly at work. I kind of slur it all together as “horrrrr”. It even sounds weird to me, but it also sounds weird when I carefully enunciate it!

      2. Kelly L.*

        I can hear the difference when somebody is differentiating marry/merry, but I didn’t grow up differentiating them and still say them the same.

    2. Bend & Snap*

      Me too. My native Texan ear can’t distinguish between “pin” and “pen,” “Mary,” “marry” and “merry,” “Erin” and “Aaron,” “Kerry” and “carry” (and “keery” because apparently that’s how I pronounce both those words.)

      I live in Boston now and people bust my chops on this ALL THE TIME.

      1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

        I (begrudgingly) grew up and live in New England, born in California to two Northern Pennsylvania’s and if anyone has no room to criticize someone’s pronunciation it’s the group of people that call sprinkles “jimmies!”

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          I remember the first time someone ordered a cone with “jimmies” when I worked in an ice cream store! They had to describe them for me to understand what they wanted. And then being a bunch of teenage kids, we made very inappropriate jokes when there were no customers.

          Also, “Hydrox” is not interchangeable with “Oreo,” people! At least not in the part of the Midwest I was in.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Jimmies, shots, sprinkles. I can remember running down the list until I would see the look of recognition on the customer’s face.

      2. Lindsay J*

        From NJ and moved to Texas and the Erin/Aaron thing perplexed me at first. I legitimately wrote down a guy’s name as Erin because that’s what I heard, and didn’t realize until I saw it later on an employee list that it was actually Aaron.

        1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

          There’s one I have NEVER been able to hear the difference between (in any part of the country I’ve been in!) Same with Ian/Ann

      3. Windchime*

        I’m a native Washingtonian and those word pairs (“pin” and “pen”,”Mary” “marry” “merry”, and “Erin “Aaron”) are all pronounced the same here as well. I don’t even know how you would pronounce “Mary” differently from “marry”, unless it would be to somehow roll the r’s!

    3. Ann*

      I’ve had several people tell me I pronounce “bagel” incorrectly, but their version and my version sound exactly the same to me. It’s not like I’m pronouncing the first syllable with a short “a” (which I have heard people do).

      1. AnotherAlison*

        My husband is a short-A bageler, and he doesn’t hear it. He also says my name differently than I do (wrt the “A”). Everyone in his family does it, so I suppose it is regional.

        He doesn’t say “bag”-el, it just doesn’t quite get to “beg”-el, which is how we say it here. I can’t even describe it.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            It’s really hard to describe. It’s not as noticeable with my name as it is with our son’s, whose name also starts with Al.

            It’s kind of like Ellen/Allen. They make our names more of an “e” than an “a.” Which is opposite from the whole bagel thing, so I have no idea what they’re doing. It’s lower in the throat “e” rather than high in the throat for an “a”.

      2. Nina*

        A friend of mine from Canada used to pronounce it “bagg-le” instead of “bae-gul”. She had never had a bagel before, though.

      3. Hlyssande*

        I’ve heard people in MN say bagel with the short a, all the time. It’s a long running joke to get my BFF to say ‘bag of bagels’.

        She says it like ‘beg of bagels (short a).’

        1. Jessica (tc)*

          This! The first time my Minnesotan husband said “bag,” I thought he said something like “beg” (although it kind of sounds like bayg instead, but I knew that wasn’t a word, so my mind translated it to “beg”). I now live in MN, and the whole bayg (bag), flayg (flag), and so on thing sounds so weird to me even today. (I’ve lived here about a decade now.)

          He also said “bag-uhl” instead of how I pronounce it (more like “bay-gull”), although he didn’t realize it at first. He can hear the difference now that I’ve pointed it out, but never realized he wasn’t saying baygul before.

          His mom pronounces karaoke as kuh-ROH-kee (and I’ve heard others who live up here pronounce it that way, too, but it isn’t consistent even by where people were born or where they currently live, so I can’t figure that one out), which I had never heard before.

    4. Natalie*

      I learned this here, actually – these are called mergers! I can’t tell the difference between cot and caught, which is a common one. Pin-pen is too.

      1. Tau*

        Merry/marry/Mary is another one, in AFAIK any of the possible constellations. In my case, I think I pronounce them differently but when I open my mouth the same sound pops out.

      2. CAA*

        Dawn / Don is another of those. Here in the western U.S. those two names are pronounced the same. My upper mid-west relatives find that very odd though.

          1. Windchime*

            I actually knew a family from New York who had a son named Don and a daughter named Dawn. To us in the northwest, they are pronounced the same. But they pronounced “Dawn” almost like “Du-wahn” (or maybe Dwahn).

    5. Althea*

      Similar, I’m from the Midwest and my husband says I pronounce “coffee” differently somehow in the COF part. Somehow I’m more nasal or have more of an A sound? He’s tried to demonstrate the difference a bunch of times, but I still can’t hear it.

  7. Bekx*

    This sort of thing recently happened at work to me. I was talking about Orange is the New Black and how I just started it.

    Coworker: Where are you in it?
    Me: Oh, they made it look like _____ hanged herself.
    Coworker: Hahaha, hanged?
    Me: Yeah?
    Coworker 2: You meant hung.
    Me: Nope. Hanged.

    I told everyone to look it up but they didn’t believe me and looked very skeptical. I know I’m right dangit!

    1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

      That’s a tricky one because you are right, but you’re only right in that specific context and hopefully most people don’t need to know the past tense of “hang as it refers to a cause of death”

      1. Bekx*

        I think I learned it because of The Crucible. I distinctly remember my English teacher teaching us the difference.

        1. ACA*

          I think I learned it because of The Crucible too, or else for some other book. “People are hanged; paintings are hung.”

        2. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

          You’d think the state that gave the world the Salem witch trials could get it right but we’re just as inconsistent about knowing the hanged/hung difference as everyone else!

      1. Beancounter in Texas*

        Once as a little girl, my mother brought me a gift and my father walked in on me beaming with joy. He asked where I got the gift and I answered, “Mommy buyed it for me.” :-)

        1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

          I taught English in South Korea for a year and past tense was literally the worst thing I had to contend with. Especially trying to explain why “buy” became “bought” or why “paid” wasn’t spelled “payed”

          1. Not So NewReader*

            If the plural of goose is geese, why isn’t the plural of caboose, cabeese? or moose, meese?

            English could use some housekeeping work and some organizing. I remember in grammar school, focusing on English grammar made it worse, not better. I watched as we UNlearned what we knew, because we just got hyper-focused and confused. Then they brought in something called the New English- there were no longer nouns and verbs. They said it was the New Thing and we had to learn the New English. We cried.

        2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          That is a normal part of learning verb conjugations called regularizing. You start to notice the pattern of adding -ed to the end of a verb to make it past tense and then you do it with all verbs. Next, you memorize the irregular verbs and stop regularizing those (ideally!). I’ve noticed this pattern with a Spanish interpreter I work with. He was in an all-Spanish household until he was 4, and then went to school in the US where everything was in English. Even though he is a native speaker, some of his Spanish makes him sound like he’s still 4, even though he is very educated and about 50 years old. I hear him say things in Spanish that are the equivalent of “I buyed it” all the time. The clients often do a double-take.

          1. the gold digger*

            In Paraguay, which for years was isolated from the rest of South America by its dictator, they have lost some of the irregular verbs. I saw a billboard encouraging people to “!Proba 7 UP!”

          2. JMegan*

            My four-year-old said to me the other day “Look at those soccer players socc-ing!”

            Which makes perfect sense to me, because if runners are running, and swimmers are swimming, why *shouldn’t* soccer players be socc-ing!

            1. Anon because putting this with the rest of my name makes me way too obvious*

              As a kid, I thought the sport was called soccerball. All the other sports had ball in their name, and shared their name with the actual ball! Basketball, baseball, football…

    2. dangitmegan*

      My freshman year English prof argued that with me! This was the second class. On the first day he asked the twenty or so of us to introduce ourselves and name our favorite book. Literally no one but my friend and I could name a favorite book or even one they’d read recently. Needless to say we switched sections before class three.

    3. Artemesia*

      A friend swears this really happened in her school. A kid was sent to the basement to get more books and came back and said ‘Mr. Humphries (the janitor) hung himself in the basement’. The teacher responded ‘hanged himself.’

      Can’t have happened but I never forget the difference between hanged and hung having heard it.

  8. cuppa*

    My husband pronounces a couple of words wrong. I’ve given up. Sometimes I think he does it just to annoy me. ;)

    He did finally give up on “irregardless”, so I guess I have to give him that one.

    1. Lucky*

      Mine says “admissions” instead of “emissions” (as in, getting the car’s emissions check to renew the registration). It drove me crazy for the first 10 years, now I think it’s adorable and try to come up with reasons for him to say it.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Mine too! Apparently “frustrated” is “fustrated” where he’s from. And apparently me saying, “Oh, you’re ‘frustrated’ by that, are you?” will either go unnoticed (because that *is* how you say it) or be perceived as really bitchy. I mostly let it go, along with “I seen that” and other things that are more based on growing up hillbilly than lack of intelligence.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        I’ve heard “flustrated,” but I think that is a great portmanteau word! People often are flustered when they’re frustrated, and vice versa.

    3. Mockingjay*

      Mr. Mockingjay says “mute” for “moot.” There are other words that sound strange in his speech; he uses a lot of flat vowels. I think part of it is that he is tone deaf and cannot hear nuances in certain words. (He also has some hearing loss from serving on board Navy carriers on the flight deck, which doesn’t help.)

      He is from the West Coast and I am from the South (we live in the South), so there are often great differences in how we speak. I’ve toned down my accent over the years because sometimes he can’t understand me (or people around us – I serve as interpreter.)

      On a similar note-
      When we lived in Germany, my neighbor once asked me to make hotel reservations for him. I was puzzled because he spoke excellent English. He was going to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. When he called initially, he could not understand a single word the hotel clerk said.

      1. alter_ego*

        That’s really funny to me, because when I was on an exchange program in Spain, there was a girl in the program with us who was from Poland. I’m from New Jersey, and another girl in the program was from Alabama. The girl from Poland said she couldn’t tell the difference between our accents at. all.

    1. GigglyPuff*

      When my brother was little, he would point out the “rrrrrr” signs, my parents thought it was hilarious so they didn’t tell him for the longest time “RR” meant railroad

      1. Beezus*

        My son pronounced “breakfast” as “breftist” when he was little, and I loved it, and I’m sad that he’s big now and doesn’t do it anymore. Also, “pasketti.”

          1. Al Lo*

            My 2-year-old nephew is really into his “heppacoptop” right now.

            Also — I tried to teach him “escalator,” and he made a valiant effort, but preferred to keep it as a “step on step off”.

    2. Kelly L.*

      As a kid, I pronounced it like “ex-ing” and got corrected by my dad, rather more sternly than was necessary!

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        My sainted dad got me in the habit of referring to the place where you go to buy stamps or pick up certified mail as the post orifice. It’s important to concentrate on saying it correctly if I happen to be talking to someone who won’t know I’m kidding around. :-) (See also the well-known DIY store, Home Despot.)

        1. Natalie*

          I same Home Despot, too, again, because amusing. A friend of mine also calls it Blood Bath and Beyond, which I would borrow if I ever went there.

        2. Jessica (tc)*

          Home Despot! My dad uses this one and has new names for a bunch of places, some that I really can’t say around people who don’t know that I’m using my dad’s joking names:
          Hardee’s = Herpes
          McDonald’s = McDildos
          Burger King = Booger Fling
          Pizza Hut = Pizza Slut
          Bergner’s = Bergnerds

          (I’ve never been able to figure out why so many are sex-related, because he is VERY Midwestern and does not talk about sex around me at all. That’s part of the reason I find these so freaking funny when we’re around him.)

            1. Jessica (tc)*

              Yes to Lens Crappers! ;) There was a Christian bookstore called Mustard Seed that he called Mustard Sneeze. (It’s no longer around where I grew up.)

              Wow, I’ve forgotten a lot of the ones we don’t use regularly until we started talking about this.

    3. TychaBrahe*

      In one of the Robert Anton Wilson books (maybe the Schroedinger’s Cat trilogy?) there is a Vietnamese character named Ped Xing, pronounced Zing.

  9. lulu*

    Recently someone corrected my use of the word “methodology” in a report, with a whole paragraph about how “Methodology is the study of methods, I think you just mean method”. Me: ok, fine. Then the same person went on to use irregardless in a conversation. I didn’t say anything.

  10. Bekx*

    Oh! some other words I still have to mentally correct myself with.

    Affiliate — I didn’t know what this word meant when I first read it at 10 so I started calling it aff-a-light. My first job out of college had “Affiliate Memberships” and I can’t tell you how many times I stumbled over that word. I still read it like that.

    When I write the word Wednesday I say “wed-nez-day” in my head as I type/write it out.

    My entire life I’ve added an “if” after unless. So, “I’m going to the store unless if it rains”. I have NO idea why I do this, but I imagine it must be a dialect thing.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It took almost the first 8 years of school to put one more syllable in Wednesday. I kept writing wedsday and I pronounced it wens-day. Thank you, Yankee grandmother! She also had a veranda and a parlor. I knew those words were not modern.

  11. GigglyPuff*

    Actually I have a question about the soundtrack in the post? Is that a computer voice? I’m currently working on a video that needs voice narration and I really don’t want to have to use my voice, so if that’s a computer voice was it from a program, or is it just a person?

      1. GigglyPuff*

        Nope! It sounded really nice, that’s why I was kinda hoping it was a software so I could use it for my video…but pretty much figured it wasn’t. :)

      2. Kate*

        I don’t know what I was expecting, but you sound absolutely nothing like I imagined. Way too… sweet, I guess?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I always get that when there’s a recording of me here (like a link to a podcast or whatever). Everyone expects to sound like an extremely serious tyrant, I think.

          1. Kate*

            Hmm yeah. Or just somehow tougher, I guess. It’s great though. I hope some people who meet you get lulled into a false sense of security. Like thinking you’re a pushover and then it’s like BAM, she don’t take no crap from nobody.

      3. Bio-Pharma*

        To be honest, I thought it was a bit computer-y, so I was scrolling to see if anyone else was confused! It sounds very flat/neutral, but maybe that was exactly your point!

  12. Althea*

    Hahaha, my go-to for sharing embarrassing mispronunciation is melancholy. I read it for YEARS without knowing what is sounded like, and when I did hear what it sounded like, I didn’t even understand they were the same words. I mean, the word is nuts, where did it even come from.

    My version was mel-AN-cho-lee.

    When I have to broach this with someone, I’ll usually say, “Yeah, you should hear how I used to say ‘melancholy.'” This will shift them into curiosity about my embarrassing issues, so they don’t have to think as much on their own.

    Other: hors d’ouevres (horse de vors), voila (voy-la). French is hard for kids.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I saw an invitation once with “hors devours.” I guess it described what was going to happen to them, as they were really good!

        1. Partly Cloudy*

          I’m half laughing, half cringing at this.

          Recently, I was talking to my boyfriend about an upcoming party we were attending and I pronounced “hors d’oeuvres” as “wh0res devores” on purpose just to be silly, and he had no idea what I was talking about. He knew the correct pronunciation but not the spelling (I’m sure he’d seen the term written before but I guess never put two and two together), so my little joke made no sense until I spelled it for him.

          Disclaimer: I had to Google it to spell it right in this post.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        One of my friends was planning her wedding and was very excited about all the can-apps they were going to serve.

        This was right around the time Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil came out so I just raised my eyebrow and said “Canape?” But we were close friends and she was happy to be corrected.

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          Friend of mine spoke of the bit in The Two Towers where Merry and Pippin drink the Entish “drawt.”

          It’s a thing that happens particularly to bookish children; they run across a new word in print, suss out its meaning from context, and never hear it spoken until one day they (mis)pronounce it themselves. How on earth is even a native speaker supposed to know that “draught” is pronounced “draft”? Especially as a kid; nobody talks about drinks using the word “draft” until they’re old enough to be thinking about drinking beer.

          1. Bostonian*

            If you’re a kid who reads old British mysteries, you come across a lot of draughty old houses. I pronounce it correctly now on the rare occasions it comes up, but I still say it wrong in my head.

            I do the same thing for “gauge”, which in my head will forever be “gawj” even though I’ve learned the correct pronunciation. For years I thought the word I heard people say was gage and didn’t quite connect it to the word that I saw when I was reading.

          2. Summer*

            I…..did not know “draught” and “draft” were the same word. I am very happy to learn it now though!

          3. cuppa*

            I was well over the legal drinking age before I learned that “draft” and “draught” were the same. Thanks, Guinness!

          4. Kiryn*

            I have a ton of obscure words in my head that I only ever see in books or fantasy-themed video games, that I’m constantly being surprised by the pronunciation when some new game works it into a section that has a voiceover. Just found out last month that I’d been pronouncing “aegis” wrong my entire life. Always thought it was “ay-giss”, and now suddenly it’s been “ee-jiss” all along and nobody ever told me.

            I wish all Gs could be pronounced as Gs and all Js could be pronounced as Js with never any crossover between them. Would make my life so much simpler.

          5. Jessica (tc)*

            My husband and I bonded over this when we were just first friends, because we both pronounced “draught” as “drawt” as well. I just looked over at him and said, “Someone else pronounced it the same way when reading English literature as a kid, too!” Darn those “drawts of ale” and stuff!

    2. Axing*

      I have to Google hors-d’oeuvres every time I write it, and it took an embarrassingly long time for me to connect that word in print to what I’ve heard out loud. French does not make sense to me at all.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Lingerie! That was behind one of my craziest misunderstandings as a little kid.

        So one day I’m at Kmart with my mom and read the sign over the underwear out loud, as ‘linger-y,” as if it were an English pronunciation. Mom corrects me that it’s “lonzheray.” OK, I internalize that, and then somehow get the idea that other words in stores are like that too. So for a while I thought “petite” meant the restrooms were in that area, because if you apply the “lonzheray” rules to it, you come out with something a bit like “potty.”

      2. Tau*

        …you mean it’s not?

        *Googles* Well, good thing that’s not a word I need to use out loud particularly often…

    3. AnotherAlison*

      My childhood was marred by my mom mocking me saying “butch-a-non” for Buchanan (a local street). Even now, she will say butch-a-non if we go by that street together.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        (Yet she was genuinely pissed off when my sister and I told her frontier is “fruntier” not “frawntier.” We had never heard anyone else say it her way, after ~20 years of living in a city with a school by that name, but she insisted that she was right.)

      2. tesyaa*

        Opposite situation…. when I was dating my husband, one of the streets near where his grandmother lived in the Bronx was labeled “Rochambeau”. Having taken French for 5 years in school, I pronounced the French way: “Ro-shahm-BO”. He laughed at me and told me that the native Bronxites referred to it as “Rock-AM-bue”. I was left shaking my head.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Lol. Maybe some day you can go to Versailles, MO. It’s ver-sails there. Good to know New Yorkers butcher French as much as Missourians. (Never mind Missourah, Missouree)

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            There’s a Houston Avenue in Chicago, pronounced like the city in TX. I did a double take when someone referred to it as “How-ston.” I didn’t correct her, because we were over 100 miles away from it and the likelihood of her needing to know how to say it correctly were pretty slim.

        2. Liza*

          Every time my dad comes to visit in Minneapolis, we seem to have some reason to travel on Nicollet Ave, which Dad will pronounce “nicollAY” no matter how many times we tell him that it’s “nickle-it”.

          1. Natalie*

            My fiance is from Wisconsin and pronounces it a teeny bit more French (nicollette) but not full french.

          2. AnotherAlison*

            Speaking of dad’s, I don’t know why I didn’t think of him for this instead of my mom. He’s THE WORST. He says “lish” for leash and “pen-in-shu-la” for peninsula. What? Those aren’t regional pronunciations anywhere. . .and he’s from here.

        3. Beezus*

          I’ve been to Milan, Illinois, and pronounced it ma-LAWN, like the city in Italy, only to be laughed at by locals, who pronounced it as MILE-un. (It’s a nice little burg, but definitely more of a MILE-un than a me-LAWN.)

          1. Kylynara*

            Illinois is full of these mispronounced international towns.
            We have:
            Athens = Ay-thens
            Cairo = Kay-ro
            Versailles = Ver-sales
            And several more I’m not thinking of at the moment.

        4. SaraV*

          Oh! There’s a town south of Omaha named Papillion. My dad saw it the first time he visited, and pronounced it “Pap-ee-yawn”, which in French is correct.

          In Nebraska it’s “Pah-PILL-yuhn”.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            We were there in June for a baseball tournament and could not figure out what to call it! I think my husband called it “Pap-i-lawn”.

      1. Nina*

        I did that one, too! When I asked about a “whore de over”, my father looked at me like I had lost my mind.

      2. alter_ego*

        Not a mispronunciation, but in high school, my best friend once said, in front of a big group of people “yeah, well you’re an H-O-R-E, whore!” We’re still making fun of her, and it’s been 9 years.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          LOL, when I was about 20 one friend called someone a whore, and another friend (who was in med school at the time) said “don’t use the H word!”. We still give her a hard time about that. She also used to say tedious instead of tenuous – as in “that’s a bit of a tedious link”. AND she didn’t believe us that phallic was a real word – we had to make her look that (and tenuous) up.

          1. Partly Cloudy*

            The H word reminds me of a guy I had a college class with who thought the name Jose was spelled Hose. Until we gently corrected him.

    4. ThursdaysGeek*

      I deliberately pronounce all the syllables (plus some) in Worcestershire. I know it’s pronounced “Woosh-te-shur” (or something like that), but I like to pronounce it “wor-chest-ter-shur-shy-er”.

      1. Anon for this...*

        Try working in marketing on a brand of worcestershire sauce. We all just call it “woozy.”

      2. simonthegrey*

        My mom just called it “hooster-sause” when I was little because I couldn’t say it no matter how hard I tried.

      3. Partly Cloudy*

        My boyfriend and I deliberately call it “wushusher” instead of trying to pronounce it correctly.

    5. HR Pro*

      I’ve seen more than one person write “walla!” on Facebook when they meant voila. Makes me wonder what they think when they see voila in print?

    6. Al Lo*

      I’ve seen people writing “wahlah” recently instead of “voila”. Not kids. Adults. It makes me very ragey.

  13. The IT Manager*

    That “This American Life” episode is excellent – two acts are definitely winners.

    But for the part about mispronunciations and misunderstandings, they make the point that long silence is where the embarrassment begins. The long silence where people try to work out if you’re making a joke or if you’re serious and very confused. So Alison’s advice about being matter of fact and blasé about the correction is great. You don’t think it’s an embarrassmentt or huge mistake so they shouldn’t either.

  14. AnonyMiss*

    On the crossing signs… When I first moved to the US about 8 years ago, I had no idea what those meant! We just don’t have them in my country – we do everything with pictograms rather than spelling it out, so a school crossing sign would show the silhouettes of kids, or a railroad crossing would be a little locomotive. The first one I ever encountered was one painted on the pavement – I even read it in the wrong order, as Xing School. I was thinking to myself “oh, wow, what an inclusive culture, they have a Chinese elementary school so immigrant kids can stay connected to their roots.” A week later, we were driving in a whole another part of town, and I saw another Xing School. Somewhat startled, but hey, it may be the high school. And another, at another part of town, and yet another… “Man, this town must have a HUGE Chinese community!”

    And then it slowly dawned on me… X-ing. Cross-ing. I was so embarrassed, despite not having actually voiced almost any of this!

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      LOL

      I remember driving in Germany along a one-car width road lined with trees and seeing several signs of a car hitting a tree with a line through the picture to indicate, “Don’t do this.” I thought they were hilarious!

    2. Jerzy*

      I have a friend (born and bred in the US, mind you) who when he was first driving saw a sign on the side of the road that said “DO NOT PASS.”

      This means, no overtaking other cars on this part of the road.

      He slammed on his brakes and wondered why he wasn’t allowed to pass that sign, and he just turned around and took another route.

      Philosophy major, btw.

      1. Bostonian*

        I was disconcerted for a long time growing up by signs that say “In case of fire, do not use elevator.” Well, I thought, if you aren’t supposed to use the elevator in case there happens to be a fire, why do they even have an elevator at all? And then at some point I realized they meant “If there is a fire, do not use elevator.”

        Language is weird.

      2. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

        I’m used to seeing signs that say “Thickly Settled” to mean that it’s a residential area with a lot of houses/driveways crammed in. The future in-laws, born and bred a mere 5 hours away, had NO IDEA what that could possibly mean

        1. Vanishing Girl*

          I have never in my life seen a sign like that. Is it a regional thing? I am in the Southern US.

          1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

            I’m in New England and they’re everywhere in NH and MA- haven’t spent enough time in residential parts of the other states to know if they all have them.

      3. Arjay*

        When I was a child, I thought one way street signs applied to pedestrians too. “Oh, we can’t walk down there; it’s one way!”

      4. Not So NewReader*

        The construction trucks that say “do not follow” crack me right up. “We are on a bridge. I AM going to follow you. DEAL with it!”

    3. Marcela*

      Yours is a great story. Mine is quite boring, because we first saw the signal with a cat picture and the XING. We could not imagine any rational explanation, so we googled it. And then, bah, it was obvious, it’s the same thing as Xmas!

    4. Cath in Canada*

      A friend’s brother used to live in San Francisco, and when he said he was going home to Canada for “May long” (the May long weekend), someone thought there was a multicultural Chinese-Canadian festival called Mae-long.

  15. Christy*

    Be really really sure you’re right about correcting someone, because they might be correct that ethos is pronounced ee-thoss and not ee-thohss. I was really glad I bit my tongue on that one.

    1. BRR*

      My in-laws all say “sees” instead of “saw.” I sees Jane yesterday at the grocery store. The minority who know it’s saw have ignored all of Alison’s advice though and offer blunt correction.

      1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

        When I lived in Oregon everyone used “seen” exclusively instead of “saw” (“I seen one of those at the store!”) I never corrected anybody- figured it had to be a regional thing since it was so rampant- but it drove me bonkers.

  16. tesyaa*

    I heard a co-worker – a native English speaker – refer to a someone named Pamela as Pa-MELL-a. Pamela isn’t someone we regularly work with, but still. I was so flustered I didn’t correct him. He also didn’t realize that someone named Erin was a female and referred to Erin as “he”. I did correct that.

      1. Lucky*

        I love the Wakeen thread, because I grew up by the San Joaquin river and went to church at St. Joachim’s, and was in my teens before I realized they were the same name, in Spanish and French.

      2. Beancounter in Texas*

        I’ll never forget the Northern gal who took a call center job and in a dead serious tone asked for Jee-zus Gonzalez when someone picked up the phone. She was apparently completely ignorant of the Hispanic pronunciation.

      3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        A friend of mine met (and did not recognize) Joaquin Phoenix at an event. Joaquin was wearing a name tag, so said friend never hear the pronunciation – but proceeded to introduce him to several other people (who did recognize him) as joe-a-quin.

    1. Meredith*

      My aunt’s name is Pamela but is pronounced Pa-MELL-a. My grandparents were odd ducks. She goes by Pam.

      1. fposte*

        I worked once for an Amaryllis, but it was pronounced uh-MER-uh-lis. She said wryly that her parents had probably never seen the flower anyway.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        I had a great aunt Mercedes, who pronounced it MURS-uh-dees. This became more confusing to me later, because I knew my aunt before I was familiar with the car.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Interesting. The only other women with the name that I have known were Hispanic, and they did say it like the car (more or less).

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                Ok, I’ll update my knowledge base. It can be pronounced both ways. The lady I knew was very old (80s?) about 35 years ago, so I think she pre-dated the car.

                1. AnotherAlison*

                  My aunt would be in her 90s now, but she died in the early 1980s. I looked it up, and it looks like the American pronunciation of the car brand is a raging debate itself. I won’t even try to guess on this one, next time I come across a Mercedes I will just pay attention to how she introduces herself, and maybe I’ll buy a Ford. Can’t mess that up.

      1. Hermione*

        It’s funny, because a fair amount of the country cannot hear a difference between Aaron and Erin. My name is Keryn, which is pronounced like Erin with a hard k sound in front – “Keh-rin” – but I often (“offen”) am incorrectly called Karen – “Kaah-ren.” My explanation when correcting people is always first asking if they can hear a difference between the boy’s name Aaron and the girl’s name Erin. If they can, they can understand the difference between my name and Karen. If not, I just let it be.

        “Kaah-ren” goes straight through my mom and two of my close friends, though. They’re constantly correcting people who mispronounce it.

        1. Hermione*

          *a fair amount of people in the U.S., mainly Midwesterners and Southerners. I’m from the Northeast.

          1. cuppa*

            Midwest here! :)
            I’ve been saying them to myself here, and I don’t hear the difference. I like your name, though! Very pretty.

        2. HR Pro*

          I can’t hear a difference between Aaron and Erin… or I never thought there was supposed to be a difference.

          1. Hermione*

            Yeah, a lot of people say that to me. Usually I stress the differences as “Ahh-ron,” and “Ehh-rin,” but most still can’t hear it. When I was little, my godmother would mention me on occasion to a friend of hers from the midwest, and he would always pronounce it incorrectly. Then one day, years later, he calls her out of the blue to say, excitedly, “I can hear it!! Kehh-rin, Kahh-ran!” Amused us all greatly, haha.

        3. Tanith*

          Hmm…I am from Maryland and I pronounce and hear all of those names exactly the same.

          Aaron: Air’-in
          Erin: Air’-in
          Karen: Care’-in

          Taryn, Maren, Sharon, Baron, Faran, Keryn…they all have the same sound to me.

        4. A.D. Kay*

          That’s a good example of the cot/caught merger. I know there is a difference–but I simply CANNOT say those two words differently. My husband nails it every time though!

      2. IrishGirl*

        I’m Irish, and have always pronounced Aaron as ah-ron and Erin as Ay-rin. Having recently moved to North America everyone here pronounces them identically, where as I don’t see them as being anymore alike than James and Jones

    2. MegEB*

      I used to work with someone also named Megan, except she pronounced it MEE-gan and I pronounce it MEH-gan. I’ve never heard anyone pronounce the name the way she did, either before or since, and for the longest time I was convinced that her parents simply pronounced her name wrong and she absorbed it growing up. Sometime last year I looked up my name on a baby-name website and it listed MEE-gan as an alternate pronunication.

        1. some1*

          I’m a Meghan and a lot of my older family members default to MAY-GUN, even though my parents intended the common pronunciation. So much so that when my dad introduces me as “Meggie” (family nickname), people think my name is Maggie.

        2. MegEB*

          I’ve heard that once or twice, although it seems to be pretty rare. I simply went by Meg for awhile just to avoid the mispronunciations and spelling confusions (because there are like 582 ways to spell my name, apparently), but when Family Guy started to become a pop culture staple, I got a lot of Meg jokes and switched back to Megan.

        3. Maygin*

          I’m another Megan. Family pronounces it “May-gin.” I even didn’t realize there was a “Meh-gin” pronunciation until I was a teenager.

          I actually prefer “Meh-gin,” but good luck getting aunts and uncles to change at this point…

        1. Anon because putting this with the rest of my name makes me way too obvious*

          Cole-leen is my middle name. I actually switched to telling people it was pronounced coll-een because they would look at me like I had three heads.

      1. Blue_eyes*

        I once had a hairstylist named MEE-gan. She may have spelled it with two Es though, I can’t remember.

      2. Charlotte Collins*

        There was a girl in my high school who used this pronunciation. She’s the only Megan I know who did, though.

    3. The IT Manager*

      It still requires a good bit of thought on my part, but by watching the BBC series Twenty-Twelve which had a character named Siobhan allowed me to learn that people think that name should be pronounce “shu-von”. It is of obviously foreign origin, but, really, there is zero way to use phonetics to sound that out. Of course I had first encountered that name a few years earlier because of the actress on another British tv show.

      1. Tau*

        The fun thing is that AFAIK shu-VON is actually the completely regular, expected pronunciation for that in Gaelic. It’s just that Gaelic pronunciation rules don’t resemble English ones in the slightest…

      2. MegEB*

        It took me FOREVER to realize Siobhan = shuh-von. Like, I’m pretty sure I was in college before it dawned on me. If you don’t know the rules for Gaelic phonetics, it’s pretty hard to figure out.

      3. Turtle Candle*

        I had an email-list friend in high school whose name was Niamh, which I mispronounced in my head as NEE-am for years. Fortunately I got clued in before I met any Niamhs in person.

    4. Blue_eyes*

      That’s actually the correct pronunciation of that name in Spanish. Perhaps your coworker had known another Pamela who pronounced it that way.

  17. Althea*

    Oh, and one of my pet peeves, which feels like it’s getting worse lately, is actually a usage mistake. Lots of “weary” when people really mean “wary.” I once corrected a good friend on it, because she used it all the time. She insisted she was right, so I dropped it and have never corrected anyone on it again. But I still hear it more and more. I’m starting to wonder if it will eventually become like “literally” and just take on another meaning, considering “literally” now means “figuratively,” too.

      1. Jerzy*

        Never? People use literally wrong all the time.

        “I was literally dying!”

        Were you? You were dying? Are you better now?

        1. AnonForThis*

          This is not very appropriate, but it made me laugh anyway… one of my college roommates was mad at her boyfriend for something, and she told him, “You are LITERALLY so gay.” Alriiiight.

    1. Mephyle*

      Or like “lay” used for “lie”. I see that one across every level of literacy – they abound in published work by people who write professionally.

      Try searching for an exercise or yoga video that doesn’t tell you to “lay down” – they are rare birds.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yep I don’t know hardly anyone that says lie down, they all say lay down. I’m beginning to think that one is becoming obsolete.

    2. alter_ego*

      I’ve been seeing weary vs. wary A LOT lately as well, and I hope it doesn’t become the new literally. Though that one I don’t mind, I use literally to mean figuratively as well.

    3. Laura*

      Yes! I see people using “weary” when they mean “wary” all the time. I was surprised by how common it is.

      1. Althea*

        I find it particularly strange because generally no one says “weary” when they actually *do* mean “weary.” They say “tired.” So where are they picking up this weary business?

        1. Natalie*

          Given that “wear” is pronounced with a long a, I wonder if people are guessing at the spelling of wary, and their misspelling just happens to form another, different word.

    4. out of sick leave*

      Those make me crazy, as do “nonplussed” to mean “unbothered” and “disinterested” to mean “uninterested.”

        1. alter_ego*

          Bemused shouldn’t be a portmanteau of befuddled and amused if it doesn’t want people to think that’s what it means!

    5. Partly Cloudy*

      How about “balling” vs. “bawling” (I have a Facebook friend who does this All. The. Time. She cries a lot.) or “backpeddling” vs. “backpedaling.” Grrrr…..

      1. Althea*

        Come now, that’s hilarious! Every time she posts it, you need to troll her by posting a rap or hip-hop song where they use the term ballin’.

  18. BRR*

    #4 If they’re embarrassed, I’ve shared with others how I have difficult pronouncing the word “failure*.” While it’s not exactly the same because it’s an inability to say a word, I usually botch my attempt at saying it and that distracts them from their embarrassment.

    And there’s nothing to be embarrassed about, there are a lot of words in a language, dialects, and people’s background varies. Due to growing up with a mother who cannot pronounce nivea or neosporin correctly, I have difficult saying these correctly. Thankfully I never developed her habit of saying Mozart as my fellow music majors would have laughed at me.

    *That line sounds like it could be very business jargony. I can’t even say the word fail.

    1. Josh S*

      My mouth has a remarkably difficult time saying the words “rural” and “rear wheel”. If I think about it as I say it, I’m good. But if I’m just talking without particularly engaging my mind in how i’m forming my words, they turn out as “ruuuuhl” and “re-wreel”.

      Thank goodness these are not words I have to say frequently.

      1. BRR*

        A director in my department has a difficult time saying rural. A couple of us are big 30 rock fans and couldn’t help a slight giggle when we learned this. I’d like to add we have a good sense of humor about these things.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          I once watched a horror movie with a non-American cast and lost my ability to say “werewolf” correctly for a few days. (It comes up in my life more than you’d think.)

          1. Kelly L.*

            I don’t even say that consistently. I say “warewolf” and “weerwolf” interchangeably.

            I also have never made up my mind on “caramel.”

            1. Charlotte Collins*

              Spend an hour and a half hearing people say variations of “wurWOFF,” and you’ll question your ability to speak clearly.

              When I was a kid I thought the Carmelites had something to do with candy. It was very disappointing to realize they didn’t.

    2. Partly Cloudy*

      “*That line sounds like it could be very business jargony. I can’t even say the word fail.”

      Awesome!

      I used to have a hard time with “oil change” for some reason. I could hear it in my head correctly and then it would come out sounding like “oolchange.” I’ve gotten better at it though.

      1. BRR*

        I’m going to add that to my cover letter.

        I’d love to do a super jargony cover letter just once. Like “I improved synergy by creating dynamic collaboration.”

    3. moss*

      I work with statistics. I can’t say “statistics” half the time. It comes out as “stastisstics” or somesuch.

    4. Elsajeni*

      I can’t say “lecture” without putting an X in it. No idea why — I can say “picture” and “fracture” and “architecture” fine. Just not “lecture.”

    1. TheLazyB (UK)*

      I hoped that would be someone else’s first thought.

      “It doesn’t matter… it’s moo”

  19. Gene*

    The one that still sticks in my head, after 45+ years, was when I said something to my aunt about her crocheting (I pronounced it CROTCH-et-ing) and she corrected me in a non-AAM approved manner; but with love.

    Which brings up the question, what if the person is a genuine PITA and your goal is to make her feel stupid(er)?

    1. Biff*

      “Oh come now, only a child would call it a ‘telfawny.’ Try telephony when you are in front of clients.”

    2. Interviewer*

      As a kid, I had read a lot of books way above my grade level, and had occasionally come across the word “crochety” to describe grumpy people, but had never heard this word out loud. So I was telling a story to my mother and my grandmother, describing some I had met as a “crotch-eh-tee” old man, and they both doubled over with laughter. Between gasps for breath, my mother corrected me.

      My husband heard this story for the first time earlier this year, and now he never misses a chance to use the word so he can pronounce it the way I did as a kid, just to tease me.

      I think I would have preferred the AAM way of notification, but I probably never would have remembered that I originally got it wrong, all these years later. Their reaction definitely seared it into my brain.

  20. Buggy Crispino*

    One of my biggest pet peeves is when people pronounce the T in often. What makes it worse to me is that it is now an acceptable pronunciation of the word as listed in most dictionaries. I know languages grow and evolve, so I can’t correct someone who says it, but it “offen” makes me lose track of what the speaker is saying since I am on my own personal silent tirade about my ever favorite silent T.

    1. Mephyle*

      That’s one of my pet peeves, too. I think the cause is dead. I hear pretty much everyone who talks for a living (media presenters, hosts, newspeople) saying ofTen. I thought I was the only person left who says “offen”.
      Also, pronouncing February as “Febuary”.

      1. nofloyd*

        Oh I’m another one. Generally ok with language evolution (but inwardly shakes fist at the t in often)

        Since it’s a lost cause now, I console myself with an inner monologue:
        Listen, fasten, hasten, soften, OFTEN

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          But the first words are verbs and “often” is an adverb. I wouldn’t expect them to be said the same.

    2. Sara*

      I know a guy who pronounces a lot of silent Ts and overemphasizes final Ts, like the words “silent” and “don’t” somehow need an extra punch at the end. It’s very strange to listen to; definitely not regional, because nobody else I’ve ever met from that area speaks that way.

      1. Buggy Crispino*

        I might be okay if I heard him say SOFTen and LISTen and FASTen, etc. I would just consider it a quirk of their particular speech pattern. But if I’ve heard you soffen lissen and fassen I know something’s up and it annoys me (which now reminds me of someone I know who thought that annoy and anoint were the same word!)

        1. Cajun2core*

          Great Example.

          “Of-ten” is one I always wondered about but your examples make perfect sense.

        2. Sara*

          I’ve never heard him fail to pronounce the T (that I can recall, anyway), so I do think it’s legitimately the way he talks, as opposed to something he switches on and off (for whatever reason someone might do that).

      2. Kelly L.*

        The twins on Big Brother right now do this thing where they add an extra “uh” onto the end of words, especially when annoyed. “James-uh!” “Steve-uh!”

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      I’m kinda weird in that I don’t pronounce the T in often, but I will in oftentimes. I know, weird.

      I also pronounce the TH in clothes. Softly, but it’s there. I picked it up on a visit to London as a young kid when I heard a saleswoman at Selfridges pronounce the TH and thought it sounded fancier than “kloze.”

    4. OriginalEmma*

      I moved to the Midwest recently and noticed the silent t’s of my youth living happy little lives here. This is the farm they were sent to when they were given away.

    5. shirley*

      Wait…I pronounce the T in often. It has never occurred to me not to. OH NO! (PNW accent, maybe?)

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        Nope. You’re fine. These two pronunciations have lived side by side for centuries. People just notice them more now for some reason.

    6. Charlotte Collins*

      Actually, both “of-ten” and “of-fen” are acceptable pronunciations (this is not a new thing). But “of-fent” drives me a little crazy sometimes.

    7. simonthegrey*

      One of my parents says of-ten. The other says off-en. I’ve never been able to be consistent. I change depending on which parent I am talking to.

      Also, the name Elton John is hard for me. El’on is how it ends up coming out. There’s no t sound, just a hard absence.

  21. Boop*

    If I’ve had a drink I have to focus really hard to say “strategy”. I want to say “stragety”, for some reason.

    1. puddin*

      Will Ferrell was doing an impression of President Bush the Later and pronounced strategy as stra-tee-gury. To this say, I still have to think about how to pronounce it correctly. I want to say it the wrong way all the time now for some reason!

      1. Chrissi*

        Will Ferrell is also responsible for my indecision of whether misunderestimate is a word. Or maybe President Bush. Not actually sure which :)

    2. GoingAnon*

      My husband loves Looney Tunes and Bugs Bunny, so he’ll say “stragety” all the time. The problem? He’s a radio sports broadcaster. I was listening to a game he was broadcasting once, and it took him four tries to say “strategy” correctly.

    3. Turanga Leela*

      I have a relative who can’t say “comfortable.” Many people say “comf-ter-bull,”; he says “cumb-ter-ful.” Not sure if this is a joke or if he doesn’t know how to say it.

  22. Elizabeth West*

    I was an advanced reader as a kid (twelfth-grade level in second grade) and was such a good speller from it that I learned many, many words silently, without knowing pronunciation. For some reason, even simple words didn’t get into my brain right. Some of my gems follow.

    Potomac: POT-o-mack
    Idiot: EYE-die-oat. Yes, really.
    Succumb: Soo-KYOOM

    I sometimes avoid using words in conversation because I don’t know how to pronounce them–I’ll go for the simpler synonym instead. All I can say is thank you Baby Jesus for Google and online dictionaries with pronunciation links!

    1. dancer*

      I have this issue too… add to that immigrant parents who are native English speakers from a country with different pronunciation, and you get some seriously weird things coming out of my mouth. It’s pretty embarassing sometimes.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That one came from reading Johnny Hart’s B.C. comics as a small child (anyone remember those?) and they said idiot a lot. Also misanthrope, which I completely bleeped over because I had NO clue how to say that one.

    2. shirley*

      I only learned how Potomac was actually pronounced in my 20s. I don’t think I’d ever heard it said aloud (I grew up on the West Coast.) I still read it in my head as “POT-o-mack.”

    3. CherryScary*

      I had this happen in 2nd grade with Diabetes. I came home one day saying I needed do to a report on die-bets.

    4. PontoonPirate*

      Me, too! Same grade levels and everything. Two that still haunt me: Vinyl — I thought it was “vinnul” forEVER. We still say it that way in my family. And the other was bosom which I pronounced, well, how you’d think it should be if you’ve only ever read it in a book.

    5. Searching*

      Same here, English is not my native language but I was always a voracious reader and started reading English books around the age of 12 or so. Not until about about 35 years later (and after living in the U.S. for about 30 years by that time) did I figure out that the verb “ascertain” did not rhyme with the adjective “certain” – it always did in my head when I read it! In the middle of an important business meeting no less, where we were negotiating contract language. At least it was a colleague who figured out what I was really trying to say, and not the other party.

  23. CrazyCatLady*

    I would totally want to know and don’t get embarrassed at all when someone corrects me (even when they do say it in a condescending way). I often know the meaning of words because I read a lot, but have NO idea how to pronounce them because I rarely hear them. So, sometimes when I hear one of those words said aloud, I have no idea it’s the same word until I try to pronounce it on a separate occasion on my own, and someone corrects me. Examples: paradigm, caveat, respite, solder.

  24. Muriel Heslop*

    I was a middle school English teacher for years and the mispronunciations and grammar errors were rampant. (Myself was the biggest misuse, by far.)

    The word I got wrong for years was “albeit” that I pronounced as “all-bite”, sadly. No one pointed it out for years – possibly because they had no idea what I was trying to say. But it’s my go-to for an example as the word-I-always-got-wrong.

    The best part of this post: Allison, I am so glad I got to read about your dad. He sounds like a true gem.

    1. David*

      Thank you on “albeit”! I actually knew the meaning of the word, the correct usage and how to pronounce it, but for some reason never saw it in writing. So whenever I was reading a book and the word was used, I mis-pronounced it in my head and thought it was a completely different word. I suppose you could say I totally Wakeened that one.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Same here with segue! For years I heard it and knew what it was but the first time I saw it in print I was like ‘oh my god it’s not segway?!’

  25. jen*

    MOOT: that is actually the exact word my old boss constantly mispronounces, and in that exact way (well, there are several, but that was the most common). i just never felt like i could say anything to him because he was my boss at the time. he isn’t any longer, but there’s still a level difference.

    1. David*

      I was once in a meeting with two people that easily weren’t my favorites. One of them said it was a “mute” point, which is like nails down a chalkboard to me but I didn’t want to say anything. The other person wasn’t so willing to let it go and corrected her. That lead to a debate where I was just happy to sit back and watch as one tried explaining the difference while the other kept insisting there was none, and even if there was, it didn’t matter.

    2. Cruciatus*

      My sister, a doctor of Osteopathy and one of the smartest people I know, still stares daggers at me when I remind her of the time she got moot and mute wrong. Way wrong. As in, was adamant that I was surely wrong and being stubborn about it.

  26. Bostonian*

    I think it’s easier to get the tone right when you really don’t think the person is an idiot. If you each know that the other person is generally smart and articulate and that we all have these silly quirks or words that we learned via reading, there’s less embarrassment.

    Also, make sure you account for regional differences and accents if you correct someone. I had someone correct me that “route” is pronounced “root”, not “rowt.” That seemed weird to me, so I googled it and starting listening to other people more carefully, and discovered that it totally depends on where you grew up and what the exact context is, and people really aren’t consistent. My natural inclination is to get on the bus at a stop along the root, but then to look at a map to see where we’ll go since they had to re-rowt traffic due to construction. No idea why.

    1. SaraV*

      Weird thing w/”route” – I’ll say “Root 66”, but “Rowt 30”. Probably because of the song “Get your kicks/on Route (Root) 66”

    2. Anonyby*

      For me it’s opposite! It’s a bus rowt, but you re-root traffic, or drive along a root. At least I think that’s how it generally falls for me… If you said it the other way I wouldn’t even notice, though, I’m sure. lol

  27. David*

    My boss was a journalism major in college and takes great pride in correcting people’s grammar mistakes. Unfortunately, she does so in writing where she often makes more mistakes than the person she’s correcting.

    My most recent favorite came about when I used the phrase “out of the chute” in a meeting. She latched on to this one (as she seems to do whenever she hears a new euphemism or expression), and started putting it in a lot of e-mails. The problem was that she kept writing it as “out of the shoot”.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          In the US it’s Chutes and Ladders. The chutes look like what I’d call a slide. (To me, a chute is enclosed, like a laundry chute.)

  28. Cajun2core*

    One must also take into account the regional dialect.
    Is is “God” or “Gawd”, “bird” or “boid”, “roof” or “ruf”, are “Mary, Merry, and Marry” pronounced the same way?

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      “Wash” or “warsh”? “Orange” or “Oi-ange”? My mom is from Pennsylvania. I say the former; she says the latter.

        1. Nina*

          Yeah, the famous “orange you glad” joke makes more sense if you pronounce it “arrnge.” As a kid that joke never made sense to me, because I always pronounced the o in orange.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            This is an excellent point, and I will use it to defend my pronunciation of “are-enge” to all the haters. (I get a surprising amount of flak for how I say this word.)

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      My coworker says “KOMP-ess” for compass. He says the local pronunciation sounds too much like “come-piss.”

      1. Kelly L.*

        I knew people who were really adamant that the thing you tell directions with and the thing you draw circles with are pronounced differently–one of them is come-piss and the other is KOMP-ess. But I forget which is which.

    3. Lady Bug*

      As a NYer I own 2 dawgs and drink cawfee. I’ll always remember yelling at the TV while watching Jeopardy for a rhyming category question that dog and log don’t rhyme!

      1. Kelly L.*

        They do for me, but I think I say both dawg and lawg. I’ve never been able to figure out what mispronunciation is meant by “dawg,” to be honest–most people I’ve met say what I would describe as “dawg.”

    4. simonthegrey*

      For me, I have a pastiche of pronunciation (southern mom, northern dad, grandma was from Ohio which has its own dialect in some ways, grew up in Missouri which has a mix of hillbilly and non, live in Iowa which again has interesting regionalisms) and so for me, Merry and Marry sound the same, but Mary is pronounced Mairy. I don’t know why. I can’t fix it. Also, plastic baig.

  29. bridget*

    I think it’s iomportant to remember with this sort of thing to 1) pick your battles – not every mispronunciation needs to be corrected; 2) be sure you are in fact pronouncing something correctly; and 3) be very very sure you’re not just mocking a regional pronunciation or accent that may be different than yours, but not “wrong.”

    I have a friend who routinely bemoans that people in my state, Utah, (to which she is a recent transplant) pronounce EVERYTHING wrong and it drives her NUTS. We do have a fair bit of regionalism, especially in rural areas, but she’s from another rural western state so glass houses and all. Her most recent irritation was that we say “zion” as “zahy-uhn” (the correct pronunciation in terms of you know, biblical hebrew where it originated), instead of ZI-ohn, which is how she happens to think it should be pronounced. After a long rant about how people here just don’t UNDERSTAND how the ENGLISH LANGUAGE is pronounced I couldn’t help but correct her and point out that it is not, in fact, English, and we Utahns didn’t invent its English spelling or pronunciation, even though we say it a lot because of the national park.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, I plain don’t think I’m on the same side as Alison here. I believe in general that unsolicited correction is inappropriate, and that’s true at work as well as in social life. There are a few loopholes–names you personally know, people you’re supervising, situations where it genuinely hurts the business–but in general this to me is randomly correcting a co-worker’s work, or clothes, or anything else. If it ain’t hurting you and you don’t know for sure she’d be keen for the info, let it go.

      1. bridget*

        I agree. I try to limit all corrections to situations where it would have an actual work-related impact, like the story above about someone who pronounced a major client’s name wrong. I’ve corrected interns and law students about the pronunciation of latin phrases or other terms of art that are hard to know unless someone’s told you (e.g., “pro hac vice” is “VEE-chay”) before they say it wrong in front of a judge or partner. But that’s about it.

        1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

          I think names are a whole different beastie in general, a person could be using a technically correct pronunciation that isn’t how that particular name-haver wants it said (Tear-uh vs Tar-uh for Tara, as an example)

        2. Charlotte Collins*

          Also, as someone who learned both classical Latin and a bit of Church Latin, it can be hard to keep straight how to pronounce a Latin term. :)

          1. Natalie*

            Eddie Izzard has a funny bit about the Latin accent he was taught in school, and how it’s obviously made up because no one speaks Latin anymore.

          2. Mephyle*

            I was sure that a choir director was very mixed up when she gave us the wrong pronunciation for the Italian words of a song, explaining that it was different from “classical Italian”, since it was “church Italian”.
            Or am I mistaken, and is this a thing? I thought only Latin had that distinction.

            1. fposte*

              I don’t know Italian, but now I’m curious–what were you singing that was sacred but in Italian and not Latin?

            2. doreen*

              How wrong was the pronunciation? I’ve never heard of “church Italian” but I have heard songs with the Italian equivalent of “o’er” for “over” – it’s never said that way in normal speech but pops up in poems and songs.

            3. Not So NewReader*

              Italian is very regional. I was told by an teacher of Italian that people in the north cannot (or barely) understand people in the south. What your teacher could have been talking about was regional differences. Maybe the church Italian was the dialect found in Rome?

      2. Stranger than fiction*