Monday, April 25, 2011

I Now Pronounce Thee Incorrectly ... Again.

One of my favorite posts from last year centered on words that we read and understand but totally mispronounce in real life. The comments became a hilarious stream of "Me too!" and embarrassing stories of lifelong pronunciation errors and our "Aha!" (or "Oh crap -- really?") moments.

Who started this whole thing?

This sweet, innocent...

... and now totally badass Hogwarts student.

Many of us pronounced her name as...

But of course, thanks to a phonetic spelling on book four to Viktor Krum (and of course, all the movies), we now know her as Her-MY-oh-nee.

Here are the others that we added to the mispronunciation list:

French Failures

hors d'oeurves (or-DURVES)
- whores d'VORES
"Have you ever met a person,
you say, 'Let's get some parfait,'
they say, 'Hell no, I don't like no parfait'?
Parfaits are delicious."

lingerie (lawn-jah-RAY)
- lin-GEAR-ee
- linger-EE

suites (sweets)
- sweeties

queue (cue)
- kway

parfait (par-FAY)
- par-FATE
- para-FAT

bouquet (boo-KAY)
- boo-KET

What's in a name?

Aislinn (from the Wicked Lovely series) (ASH-lynn)
- ASS-lynn
It was my favorite blue crayon!

Maire (from Circle of Friends) (MOY-ra)
- Muh-REE
- Mare

cerulean (the Crayola color) (sir-OO-le-in)
- sir-U-lean

Persephone (per-SEPH-oh-nee)
- Per-SEH-phone

Sean (Shawn)
- seen
- SEE-un

Location, Location, Location

Illinois (ill-uh-NOY)
- ill-uh-NOISE
"Chicago, Chicago,
that toddlin' town..."

Gateshead (from Jane Eyre) (GATES-head)
- Gate-SHEAD

Pompeii (pom-PAY)
- pom-PEE-eye

Connecticut (kun-NET-ih-kit)
- kun-NECKED-ih-cut

Chicago (shi-CAH-go)
- CHICK-ago

Random wrongdoings.

poignant (poin-YINT)
- po-IG-nant

epitome (eh-PIT-uh-me)
- ep-EE-tome
- ep-IH-tome

misled (MISS-led)
Let's admire the admiral!
- MY-zulled

stoic (STOW-ick)
- stoyk

kiosk (KEY-osk)
- koysk

elite (ee-LEET)
- ee-LIGHT

deny (dee-NIGH)
- DEN-ee

admiral (ADD-mur-ull)
- ad-MY-rull

macabre (muh-COB)
- muh-CAY-burr
- muh-CAH-burr

mischief (MISS-chiff)
- MISS-chief

monotony (muh-NOT-oh-nee)
- moe-no-TONY

chic (sheek)
- chick

gyoza (gee-YO-za)
- GOY-za

geography (gee-OG-ruh-fee)
- gee-oh-GRAF-ee

indict (in-DITE)

Ahem. And on that note...
This is a pretty extensive list of mispronunciations! But we have a whole new crop of followers since the first post went live, and I know there are plenty more words to add to the list.

Also, I'm wondering -- who of you have first and/or last names CONSTANTLY mispronounced? Like, my last name - Gambale - is pronounced "gam-BAH-lee" and I always get "gam-BULL" or "gam-BALE." And, funny enough, it's an Italian name, so it technically SHOULD be pronounced "gum-BAH-lay" and my family's Philadelphia accent switched it to "gam" and "lee"!

Alright, leave it in the comments!


  1. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that the word 'adjacent' was not pronounced AD-juh-kent. I'd heard it spoken, sure, but I never realized the word I was hearing was the same one I was reading.

  2. Heehee! From Stasia Kehoe (pronounced KEY-oh, not KEE-HOE-EE (though I am often asked if I am Hawaiian)). Oh, yeah, and STAY-SHUH, not STAH-SEE-UH and not Stacy either). Such a fun name to haul through life!

  3. My married name is also the victim of the Italian-name-gone-American syndrome. Me (and everyone in my husband's family) pronounce DeSabato as: dee-SA-buh-toe, but I often receive calls for Sara Dee-suh-BAH-toe.

  4. ARE YOU SERIOUS? How do you get Shawn from Sean? ( I was prononcing it seen.) So random :)

    1. In Irish (Gaelic), when "s" is next to an "i" or "e," it is pronounced "sh." also, "a" gets an "aw" sound when it is accented: "á." actually, in Irish, sean means "old" and is pronounced "shan," whereas Seán is a name (pron. "shawn"). strangely enough, séan in Irish is pronounced "shane" and means fortune, with no connection to Shane, which is an anglicization of Seán.

  5. I love all the Celtic spellings - my fave at the moment is Caiomhin, which is the original spelling of Kevin. Also Niamh (Neve). Sean (original-ish celtic spelling) isn't so bad in comparison... a bit like asian - there's a kind of sh in there. I always have trouble with gesture (hard or soft g?)

  6. Ha HA. I recognize some of my mispronunciations in there. Great post, Donna.

    My name is pretty straightforward. But I still get called "Joan" all the time. Go figure.

    Reading through this incredible list of yours reminds me I had a college professor who mispronounced Orion (o RYE in) as OR ee un. I giggled every time. Wouldn't you think a college prof would know better?

  7. Yes, I grew up with macabre as mac-a-bree. Never understood why I never heard anyone say it.

    Speaking of names, my last name is Wenner (like winner but with an e). I have been Weiner just about my whole life.

  8. I have most definitely pronounced many of those words/names wrong. I have not read Circle of Friends, but now that you say you pronounce Maire (Moy-ra) I guess I must. Moyra (spelled like that- just how it sounds - what a relief) is my grandma's name! It is such an uncommon name I was surprised when I saw it on your list! Thanks for the post. I was laughing. Hard.

    -Meredith (Mare-dith)
    Mint Tea and A Good Book

  9. Funny. I probably create some words that are easy to mispronounce in my book too.

    And yes, my name is always pronounced wrong.

  10. My last name is Morrill ... and I always get More-ILL or More-ELL (that one gets me ... there's no E!). It's really pronounced like "moral." So I'm the author who walks around going "My name is Lauren Morrill, like moral of the story!"

  11. Anonymous - "AD-juh-kent" makes total sense! I was the same way with epitome. I thought they were two separate words!

    Stasia - Yeah, that's a tough name!!

    Sara - hahaha I FINALLY broke myself of saying "Dee-suh-BAH-toe." And my last name should really even be "Gum-BAH-lay" -- not "lee."

    Bethany - See Anonymous's answer below yours!

    Anonymous - Celtic spellings are pretty, but so tough to read and say!

    Joanne - Or should I say Joan?

    Anonymous - Another person stumped by "macabre"! And "Wenner" is so easy!!!

    Meredith - I spent all of Circle of Friends saying "Mare"! I literally looked up how to say it before typing this post!

    Natalie - It's "Ah-GEAR-ray"!

  12. Lauren - At least you have a cute phrase to go with it! I'd be like, "Gambale, like gamble with an A." Definitely not as catchy!

  13. What about "misled?"
    Mis-led (well, duh) but a friend and I discovered we always read it as MY-zuld!

    I have a character in a short story named Felicia who pronounces it with a short i, rather than eesha. A lifetime of correcting people has given her a prickly personality (hope not true for Stasia.)

    In Italian, Donna your last name is Gahm-BA-lay. Bellissimo.

  14. Ann - Oh, misled's definitely in the post list! I like the idea of using character name mispronunciation as a personality factor. And I actually did correct myself with the Italian pronunciation of my last name in my reply to Sara's comment, but I should probably fix it in the original post! Silly me with four years of Spanish.


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