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The Most Common Mispronounced Words in the English Language

It may be hard to believe there are certain words you’ve been pronouncing wrong your whole life, especially for an English and grammar nerd like yours truly. However, if you really inspect the words you write, you may see that a lot of them are spelled slightly different than the way you pronounce them.

And there are many words throughout history that were actually changed to fit the way people were pronouncing them.

Take the word “brid.” Did you think that said “bird?” If you did, that’s because many other people did too. The Guardian writer David Shariatmadari points out that some words in old English got the old switcheroo after being pronounced wrong for so long.

Perhaps that will eventually happen with the many words today we are mispronouncing, but perhaps not.

Maybe we should just learn to say them right? Nah.

Mischievous

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Like pretty much everyone, you probably say, “mis-chee-vee-ous,” instead of “mis-chie-vus.”

Take a closer look. There’s no “i” after the “v.”

Prescription

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OK, guys. It’s “pree-scription” not “per-scription.”

You know this. I know you know this.

Ask

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Everyone knows someone who says, “aks,” which makes a lot of their sentences sound like, “Can I ax you a question?”

No, but you ask me one.

Espresso

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I’ll admit this one took me an embarrassingly long time to realize.

There is actually no such thing as “expresso.” It’s “espresso.” However, because so many people now say “expresso,” it’s sometimes considered an alternate spelling.

Cavalry

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When speaking about a group of soldiers on horseback, it’s proper to say, “Cavalry.” Notice the “l” after the second “a.”

However, the word is commonly mispronounced as “calvary.”

Niche

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Niche is supposed to be pronounced as “neesh,” and some people do say it that way, but others say “nitch.”

Technically, you can use either and have it be correct, but the original pronunciation is “neesh.”

Banal

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No, banal doesn’t rhyme with anal, much to everyone’s disappointment. It’s actually pronounced “buh-nahl.”

Often

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Did you know that “often” is actually supposed to be pronounced “offen?” The “t” is silent, just like in “soften.”

Yeah, me neither.

But nowadays, both pronunciations are generally accepted.

Et cetera

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This one is tricky because we usually see the abbreviated version “etc.”

So, it’s really no wonder we pronounce it wrong.

The way to say it is how it’s spelled, “et cetera,” not “ect cetera.”

Picture

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This one should really be a no-brainer. It’s “pic-ture,” not “pit-shure” or “pitcher.”

A pitcher belongs on a baseball field, a picture belongs in a museum, well, only if it’s a good picture.

Target

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I’m not talking about something you shoot. I’m talking about the popular retail chain.

As John Oliver so hilariously pointed out, everyone loves calling Target, “Tar-jay.” Why? I don’t know. But maybe one day “Tarjay” will be a thing of the past.

Specific

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This word can be tough for people with lisps.

But even people without lisps pronounce this word wrong. For some reason, the first letter will be skipped, saying, “pecific,” instead of “specific.”

You might as well just be saying “pacific” then, which is an entirely different word.

Chipotle

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There’s something about the letter “l.” You always just want to put it somewhere it doesn’t belong.

Such is the case with popular burrito chain Chipotle. A chipotle is actually a smoked and dried jalapeño pepper – not just a made-up word as you might have thought.

It’s easy to mix up the “l” though. a lot of people say, “Chip-ol-te,” or “Chip-ol-tle.”

But alas, there is just one “l,” and it’s after the “t.”

Sherbet

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I know I got you on this one.

Everyone says “sherbert,” but there’s no second “r.”

It’s supposed to be pronounced “sher-bit,” and actually derives from the Persian word “Sharbat.” The popular frozen dessert was first introduced to the West from the Middle East.

However, I feel like if you were going to an ice cream parlor and asked for “sher-bit,” they might look at you weird.

Candidate

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A frequent pronunciation of this word is “can-a-dit,” but if you don’t want to sound like an idiot, you should say, “can-did-it.”

Prerogative

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This one is just the opposite of “prescription.” You might say it with a “per” at the beginning, but it’s actually pronounced with “pre,” making it, “pre-rog-ative.”

Seuss

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That’s Seuss as in, Dr. Seuss.

You may not have known that you’ve been saying Theodor Seuss Geisel’s name wrong all these years. It’s actually pronounced “soyce.” (Like “voice” but with an “s.”)

Dr. Seuss eventually just accepted the erroneous pronunciation though.

Bruschetta

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You most likely order “bru-shet-a” at Italian restaurants, and if they ever gave you a weird look, now you know why.

Bruschetta is said with a hard “k” like this, “bru-sket-a.”

Nuclear

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There is only one “u” is nuclear, yet for some reason people continue to say, “nuc-u-lar.”

Just look at it this way: “Nu-clear.” It even spells out “clear,” people.

Arctic

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This one gets a lot of people.

No, it’s not, “art-ic” or “Ant-art-ic-a,” but “arc-tic” and “Ant-arctic-a”

Dilate

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I’ll admit, this one got me, too.

Your pupils don’t “di-a-late,” they “dilate.”

February

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I’m pretty sure everyone is guilty of this one. What’s commonly said is “feb-yu-ary.” We all say it. I know you do, too. Even if you know it’s wrong, you still probably say it.

The correct pronunciation, though, is “feb-ru-ary.”

Gif

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This one is really up for debate.

The man who invented GIFs, Steve Wilhite, says its pronounced with a soft “g,” like “jif.”

However, a lot of people say it with a hard “g,” like in “gift,” since GIF is an acronym for graphics interchange format.

So, do we go by the creator or by the actual fully-spelled-out noun?

Choices, choices.

Source: definition

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