Say what?

Mispronounced words?

Where? (aka, Who me?)

You might be surprised.

To-MAH-to, po-TAH-to.

Don’t you wanna know?

Seriously, though …

There’s quite a queue of words that we’re likely to mispronounce on any given day.

(A sandwich spread or a prodigal poet—you might mispronounce and not even know it.)

Persnickety, you say?



Photo by allen watkin via Wikimedia Commons

Although you should know that it’s technically pernickety.

Well, it is.

Anyway, if you want to feel just a little bit smarter than you did when you woke up this morning, here’s an easy means to that end:


Don’t say: a-FLU-ent

Do say: AFF-lu-ent

Either (Neither)?

Well, just watch:


Don’t say: mannaize

Do say: MAY-o-naize



Don’t say: minichur

Do say: miniachur (yup – the short “a” sound should be heard)



Don’t say: pottable

Do say: potable (long “o” is the way to go)



Don’t say: pre-STEE-jus

Do say: pre-STI-jus (short “i”)



Don’t say: respite (rhymes with despite)

Do say: respit


Seuss (as in, the good doctor of children’s literature)

Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, adopted his pen name from his German mother’s maiden name, which was properly pronounced in the native tongue as “Soice” (rhymes with voice). But, the American inclination to say “Soose” stuck, and Geisel gave in, realizing that it was potentially profitable to rhyme with another famous name in children’s lit—Mother Goose.


Don’t say: silicone

Do say: silicon


The (nope, not kidding)

Technically speaking, there are some instances when one should say “thuh” and others when this word’s pronunciation should be “thee.” According to Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty, pronunciation of “the” depends on how you pronounce the word that follows it. If the following word begins with a consonant sound, you say “thuh” (as in, “thuh” farmhouse). But if the following word starts with a vowel sound, you say “thee” (as in, “thee” egg).

Thee egg and me, prestigious. Pass the mayo please.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    This is all very interesting. I would add that regional location has a lot to do with how we learn to pronounce words too. When everyone speaks a certain way, you just grow up not knowing anything different. Here in the South, we have a lot of “alternative” ways words are pronounced. For that matter, it differs from state to state with certain words. When I was in New Orleans, with it’s Cajun overtones, I had a hard time understanding the locals at times. The cadence also gets tricky in some areas too. I understand that in Britain, some of the local dialects and pronunciation makes it almost non-English sounding. So, what is the correct way to say something? Mignon Fogerty’s recommendations or the local interpretation? LOL!!!

  2. Darlene Ricotta says:

    Well that was really interesting and I learned a lot from that today.


    Have a good Sunday.

  3. Cindi says:

    First off, I am completely astounded that this is the subject for the day ~ since earlier this morning I was bemoaning the loss of my pronunciation guide to advancements in technology that rendered my old program useless. To Winnie’s comment about growing up not knowing anything different ~ I completely agree, often wondering how I knew to change the way I pronounce “the” depending on the following word. I don’t remember ever being taught to do that. Then we come to mayonnaise. A word of many wonders! Ugh. Defying the regional location theory, my oldest daughter says “mannaize”. How can that happen?! I raised her! I think. But then… she also says “am-blee-anz” instead of ambulance. I hang my head in dismay 🙂 🙂

    • MaryJane says:

      My kids had fun saying pasketti instead of spaghetti, si-LA-ble instead of syllable. My mother said liar instead of lawyer:), chimley instead of chimney and in Utah where I grew up they go to great effort to get their tenses wrong–I tense wrong, therefore I belong. “We was just getting ready to leave.” “She weren’t aiming high enough.”

      • Cindi says:

        Ahh hahaha! My sister-in-law gets her tenses wrong, as well as using the most irritating “and I says…”

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