Monday, January 31, 2011

The Epitome of Hyperbole

In today’s crossword, one of the answers was “cicadas” (the insect that makes that long, weird noise in the summer). I never knew that this was the name of the insect. I always heard Mr. Jones say it, but just figured that it ended in an ‘r.’ Only because he had a thick Long Island accent, he left it off at the end (like going to get a haircut from the “baubuh” – don’t even get me started on the word ‘drawer’). Anyway, I finally figured it out and it helped me to solve the rest of the puzzle.

This occurrence reminded me of another story that happened to Mrs. Jones when she was just starting to drive. Because she grew up in a family of European immigrants, the letter ‘w’ was non-existent; in its place was a ‘v’ (“Vhere is my vallet?”). It happened one day that my mother was lost while driving, so she found a police officer to give her directions.

“How do I get to the Van Vycke,” she asked.

She soon found out that aside from people who did not grow up with a ‘w,’ it was not pronounced that way.

On a different, but related note, it’s often that way with people who think a word is pronounced based on its spelling. Erachet recently told me about someone she met that thought that the word “intrigue” was pronounced “intrigyoo” for much of her adult life (and she had a PhD!). I also know someone who mispronounced the word “paradigm.” In both cases the person knew internally that the words (pronounced correctly) existed, but never thought they saw it written, and probably would have gone through life thinking that a word was supposed to be pronounced one way if nobody would have corrected them.

So all of these stories got me thinking – are there any words that I think are supposed to be pronounced one way that I am actually pronouncing incorrectly? I would have no idea. But I guess the best way to find out is by asking others.

So here is the question I am posing to you, my 4 readers: Are there any words that you thought were pronounced one way that you found out later are actually supposed to be said differently? Words like “often” and “forest” don’t count; those are pronounced differently by different people and have multiple correct ways of pronunciation. Let me know what words you have. Either others will have a common experience, be enlightened because they were making that very mistake or make fun of you because it was the most ridiculous verbal mistake ever.


  1. Radio version of This American Life had a segment on this. I can't remember any of the words they talked about, but it's worth a listen if you can find it.

  2. An issue I face frequently, since I read more than I speak. The only one that pops to mind though is
    boudoir. I only recently found out that it was "boodwa."

    And when I was a kid for a while I walked around being "a-damn-ent" instead of "adamant."

  3. I always had a problem with preferably. I actually still don't know: Is it Pree-FER-ubh-ly or PREF-er-ubh-ly?

  4. Relative of mine thought "istinis" was an English word, until she used it at her job at AT&T.

  5. Rhetoric. I thought it was "rheTORic," like a rhetorical question.

    Also, as a kid I pronounced "Episcopal" as "Epis-COP-al" and got made fun of by my family for years.

  6. So where are you watching the hyperbole this Sunday?

  7. seriously when i was 5 i thought recipe was pronounced re-SIPE

  8. Thanks for all the words, everyone.
    a- I have a wedding :( (or :) depending on how you look at it).

  9. It vasn't vhile driving. It vas on the NYC Subvay system. I vas going to the Van Vyck station vhich vas sometimes local, sometimes express and I didn't know vhat type of train I vas on. So I asked the conductor if the train stopped at Van Vyck.

    Mrs. Jones