10 More Commonly Mispronounced Words

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This week’s grammar post is a follow-up to this one with more commonly mispronounced words that tend to score high on other people’s pet peeves list.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran a list of 10 Commonly Mispronounced Words along with the proper ways they should be pronounced. It was a popular post and a few people offered a few pet peeves of their own.

So here’s another set of 10. Which commonly mispronounced words grate your nerves the most?

1. Water

The T proves problematic for some people. It should be pronounced as somewhere in the middle with regard to its strength. It’s distracting when it’s pronounced too harshly, like “wat-ter” but it’s annoying when it’s pronounced too softly, like “wadder”. So imagine pronouncing the word watt. Now add the er after it, without adding strength to the T sound at the end. Whatever you do, don’t an R sound.

2. Wash

Phonetically, it should be said the way it’s spelled. If you’re adding an R to produce “warsh”, please stop now!

3. Carafe

A carafe is a container used to pour water, wine or coffee. The proper pronunciation makes it rhyme with giraffe, as it is correctly pronounced with a stress on the second syllable: kuh-RAFF.

4. Kibosh

To “put the kibosh” on something means to stop it. But the word is pronounced with a stress on the first syllable: it’s KY-bosh, not “kih-BOSH”.

5. Arctic

What people too often seem to overlook is the fact that this word contains two Cs. As such, it’s correctly pronounced “ARK-tik”, not “AR-tik.”

6. Mischievous

When I was a kid, I heard this word mispronounced so often that I honestly believed there were two different words involved and that what turned out to be the mispronunciation referred to a higher level of mischief.

The correct way to pronounce this word is with three syllables: MISS-chuh-vus.

The way it is often mispronounced, miss-CHEE-vee-ous, isn’t a possible way to pronounce the word as it is actually spelled: the e and v would have to be reversed before it could be pronounced this way. Then again, I suppose it’s not unreasonable to suggest that people who can’t pronounce it correctly probably can’t spell it correctly, either.

7. Sherbet

When you think of this frozen treat, think of sorbet, which nearly everyone gets right. There is only one R in sherbet, which means it’s correctly pronounced SHER-but, not SHER-bert.

8. Athlete

Here’s another word that people seem to insist on inserting an extra syllable into: athlete is pronounced “ATH-leet,” not “ATH-uh-leet.” Oddly enough, when the word is incorporated into the word athletics, no one I’ve ever heard say it out loud has ever attempted “ATH-uh-let-iks.”

9. Spayed

For 20 years or so, Bob Barker ended each episode of The Price is Right with these words: “Help control the pet population: have your pet spayed or neutered.” Obviously, unless there is a medically-unusual situation involved, a pet can’t be spayed and neutered.

Spayed is the past tense of spay, and is pronounced like SPADE. There’s no second D, which means it can’t be correctly pronounced “SPAY-ded”, despite the fact that there are plenty who try.

10. Wintry

Several months from now, we’ll be entering winter, and depending on where you live, you may hear local meteorologists refer to the increasing probability of a “wintry mix.” The natural assumption, if you hear the word, is that because it refers to winter, it should be “wintery” and that it should therefore be pronounced, “WIN-tur-ee.”

But this adjective takes a slightly different form, dropping a letter, and with it, a syllable: it’s pronounced “WIN-tree.”

Your Turn:

Which commonly mispronounced words are at the top of your pet peeve list? Let me know in a comment below!

18 comments
psalm23
psalm23

You have me on tenterhooks: WHAT am I not supposed to do with the "r" in "water"??

And OMG, Aisling, "realitor" makes me want to cry, especially when the person saying it IS a Realtor! This, along with "nyu-cyu-lur" and "jew-lur-ee," are my despicable triad, the ones that I will actively correct.

However, can I just say that some of these that you call out, Patrick, are regionalisms and just part of life. No one, I mean NO ONE, speaks perfect English because such a creature doesn't exist. I grew up with people around me saying "warsh" because that's how people in the West (used to?) say it. My sister-in-law, from Philly along with Alli, does say "wudder" (and "towk" instead of "tok" for "talk") and I tease her, but I find it kind of charming. She and my brother now live in Texas, not a place I love, but definitely a place with some pretty amazing English usage!

Re "kibosh"--I only recently started hearing it with the "kye-" first syllable; most of my life I've ONLY heard it as "kib-". So I use it both ways, depending on where I'm at. (ahem) Because, FUN! Then again, I suppose people hate that construction, too....lol

To Christopher: I absolutely adore hearing about weird dialect things like "skrimp" and "skreet"!  I wonder where that switch came from. I may start using "skrimp," in fact, since I often feel restaurants skimp on the serving sizes of those little critters. ;-)

AislíngeKelloggdeGómez
AislíngeKelloggdeGómez

The word that just kills me, pushes me right over the edge of sanity and makes me want to scream is when someone says "realitor" instead of realtor. Where in the name of all that's holy does THAT come from?! The next one after that is is jewelry, which somehow gets truncated to "jewlry". Quite frankly, there are far too many butchered words for me to keep up correcting people, not that anyone likes it. But I cannot help it. They need to be corrected! Oh, and let's nt get into ending a sentence with the word "at"!

ChristopherManee
ChristopherManee

Running rampant down here.. nuclear. New-cue-lar. I often ask people "where's the second U in that word?"  Oh, and aks or axe, as in let me aks you a question. What?

I would lump some other Charleston words...skreet, skrawberry, skrimp, but I think those are less mispronunciations and more evidence of degenerate-speak.

AlliPolin
AlliPolin

I don't have a strong accent except for two words: water and gas... both tell you I was raised in Philadelphia.  In Philly, we don't say wat-ter  or wadder but wudder - terrible, I know!  My daughter tries to coach me on the correct pronunciation and I love teasing her that I just can't do it. 

AislíngeKelloggdeGómez
AislíngeKelloggdeGómez

Is this something similar to how people here say "coffee"? For reasons passing understanding, it is pronounced caw-fee. I seem to be lost even in the area I've been in my whole life! I say cough-ee. Is this not correct?! Maybe it is just me, since I only drink tea... I hope "tee" is how this is pronounced!

"Shrimp". Yikes!

AislíngeKelloggdeGómez
AislíngeKelloggdeGómez

Wudder! Whoa, Nelly! I'm in New Jersey and have been to Philly numerous times but never heard that! Goodness. How funny is that? My husband mispronounces things just to see me go crazy - as a form of entertainment.

psalm23
psalm23

@AislíngeKelloggdeGómez Oh, yeah, I'd forgotten that she drinks "cwofee" instead of "coughee"--which is often pronounced "caw-fee" through the nose around here in the upper midwest! She butchers my brother's (her husband's) name too: "Powle" instead of the name of the cute Beatle.