Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pronunciation Aggravation

You know what’s pretty much always awkward? You’re having a discussion with some friends and suddenly you notice them all looking at you strangely. You inquire as to why and they laugh and mention that you just pronounced a word incorrectly. This is not the awkward part. The awkwardness sets in when you realize that this was not just a one time slip up. You really thought the word was pronounced that way.

You feel the weight of awkwardosity settle on your shoulders.

How many people have heard you pronounce it that way? Sweet heavens, how many??

Even as you’re asking yourself this, you know what the answer is – a lot.

You’re so horrified by this, that you can’t even laugh it off for your friends. So, now they know that it wasn’t a one time thing, too. Which makes them laugh harder. When you realize this, you try to save face. Play it off with the old, “I’ve heard it both ways.” But you all know you haven’t. So, you get annoyed at them. Why didn’t they ever tell you this before? Why hasn’t anyone ever told you this before?

These questions haunt you, even as the voice in the back of your head reminds you of all the times someone else has pronounced something incorrectly at work and you kept your mouth shut. 'Cause calling someone you're not close to out on their word wrongness is as awkward as being the person committing the word wrongness.

Still, your friends are suddenly in the position of having to explain that you rarely discuss missiles with them, so how could they know that you always used the British pronunciation for it (even though you’ve never been to England). And search engines just don’t come up in conversation as frequently as you’d think, so how were they supposed to hear that you say Moxilla, instead of Mozilla?

We’ve all done this. I used to pronounce epitome, ep-ee-toe-m instead of ih-pit-uh-mee. Embarrassing.

Sadly, there’s really only one way to deal with this. Accept the fact that your friends will never forget it and make fun of you for the rest of your natural life, whenever anyone mentions the word. Make sure you don’t say it wrong in front of anyone else. And wait, in horror, for this to inevitably happen again.

In the meantime, though, you can just laugh when it’s happening to someone else.


  1. I read "epitome" as "ep-ee-tome" until high school, but always pronounced it as "e-pit-o-me" when speaking aloud; I thought they were two different words with very similar meanings. Same for "colonel," "hours-devours," and many others.

    That's embarassing.

    1. and clearly spelling hors d'oeuvre will always be an issue.

    2. That it will be.

      And "colonel"?? It's like they're trying to trick us. Who "they" are, I don't know. But they're definitely trying to trick us.

  2. I definitely had this moment when my friend and I were recording our junior year project for Brit Lit and I pronounced cajole "ca-ho-lay" as I thought it was of Spanish origin??? Sad day. Still think about it in embarrassment every time I see, speak, or read the word. Glad this happens to others, too!