Nonmispronunciations

Today, I stumbled on an article at YourDictionary.com entitled "100 Most Often Mispronounced Words and Phrases in English". The article was so presumptuous and downright annoying that I decided to respond to a few bits for your benefit even though the site claims to be "the last word in words".

Antartic / Antarctic: Just think of an arc of ants (an ant arc) and that should help you keep the [c] in the pronunciation of this word.

Thanks, dude! And ant arc! Wait . . . actually, I don't understand what that means. Maybe an ant ark? That's still pretty bizarre. Seriously, it might be better to pronounce the C in theory, but that's a little hard to do, and none of the major dictionaries mind if you simplify the word a little.

cannidate / candidate: You aren't being canny to drop the [d] in this word. Remember, it is the same as "candy date." (This should help guys remember how to prepare for dates, too.)

It might be best to keep that D sound in there, but you'd better not go so far as to say "candy date". You'll sound pretty dumb if you do. I prefer the shortest of the popular forms: /kan@d@t/.

card shark / cardsharp: Cardsharps probably won't eat you alive, though they are adept at cutting your purse strings.

My uncle told me the same thing. I didn't change the way I use the term, though, because I don't want to sound like a weirdo like my uncle.

close / clothes: The [th] is a very soft sound likely to be overlooked. Show your linguistic sensitivity and always pronounce it.

You can try to always pronounce that TH, but don't strain yourself. Converting /Dz/ to /z/ is such a normal feature of American English that "asthma" is often hypercorrectly pronounced /aDzm@/ instead of simply /azm@/.

dialate / dilate: The [i] in this word is so long there is time for another vowel but don't succumb to the temptation.

What's going on here is that this word (in its most respectable form) contains two stressed syllables in a row: /dAyleyt/. There is a strong tendency to insert a schwa in this situation to smooth things out a little: /dAy@leyt/. It's probably best to follow this guy's advice and try to avoid the superfluous schwa.

Febyuary / February: We don't like two syllables in succession with an [r] so some of us dump the first one in this word. Most dictionaries now accept the single [r] pronunciation but, if you have an agile tongue, you may want to shoot for the original.

I've tried shooting for the original, and it's darn near impossible with an American R. /fEberwErey/ isn't so hard, but you'll sound totally weird. Actually, you'll sound pretty weird even if you succeed in pronouncing that tricky R perfectly. So why try?

flounder / founder: Since it is unlikely that a boat would founder on a flounder, we should distinguish the verb from the fish as spelling suggests.

Actually, I've never noticed people misusing "flounder" to mean "fail". I'm sure some do, but I've mostly heard people using it to mean "struggle", which is perfectly valid. This would be more of an issue with misuse than with mispronunciation.

'erb / herb: Does, ''My friend Herb grows 'erbs,'' sound right to you? This is a US oddity generated by the melting pot (mixed dialects). Initial [h] is always pronounced outside America and should be in all dialects of English.

Absolute crap. If you're a speaker or student of American English (the most prominent variety in the world), who exactly will you impress by going against the grain and pronouncing that H just because it used to be pronounced a long time ago? You won't sound careful; you'll just sound silly, as if you were pronouncing the H's in "hour" or "honest", other words of French origin in which the H was pronounced a long time ago.

It's beside the point, but according to the dictionary on my computer, the H was generally silent in British English until the 19th century and was always silent in American English.

jewlery / jewelry: The root of this word is "jewel" and that doesn't change for either "jeweler" or "jewelry." The British add a syllable: "jewellery" (See also its spelling.)

What's going on here is very similar to what's going in in the word "real". Do you pronounce it differently from "reel"? Probably not because in American English, consonant clusters such as /yl/ and /wl/ like to have a schwa break them up (rendering "reel" [riy@l] and jewel [dZuw@l]). Because the schwa is obligatory, it's just not important and is pretty much ignored phonologically. For me, the word is something like /dZuwlr@y/. For others, it's /dZuwl@r@y/ because there's less consonant clustering.

Laura Norder / law and order: The sound [aw] picks up an [r] in some dialects (also "sawr" and "gnawr"). Avoid it and keep Laura Norder in her place.

This isn't a word-specific issue. If you don't distinguish "father" from "farther", it's only natural to insert an /r/ between two vowels. Most of us insert a glottal stop in careful speech; it's really no different.

mannaise / mayonnaise: Ever wonder why the short form of a word pronounced "mannaise" is "mayo"? Well, it is because the original should be pronounced "mayo-nnaise." Just remember: what would mayonnaise be without "mayo"?

What's going on here is called vowel "breaking" or "diphthongizing". That just means you equate a short vowel sound like /a/ with something like /ey@/. This is especially common in the /a/ sound before a nasal. So a distinction between /maneyz/ and /mey@neyz/ becomes impossible. The second version is probably preferable, but no one's really going to notice.

nother / other: Misanalysis is a common type of speech error based on the misperception of where to draw the line between components of a word of phrase. "A whole nother" comes from misanalyzing "an other" as "a nother." Not good. Not good.

True. Isn't it silly that we spell "another" as one word but "the other" as two? Isn't it similarly silly that we spell "altogether" as one word but "all right" as two? Wait . . . you don't? Well, you might want to start if you want linguistic snobs to think you're "in the know".

parlament / parliament: Although some dictionaries have given up on it, there should be a [y] after [l]: [pahr-lyê-mênt]

Wow. That's not even possible in American English. The closest thing would be /pAr@ly@m@nt/, and that's three schwas in a row. This guy should just let the /y/ go as in the word "lewd". It might be /lyuwd/ for some British speakers, but that's pretty fancy as far as I'm concerned.

wet / whet: In the Northeastern US the sound [hw], spelled "wh," is vanishing and these two words are pronounced the same. Elsewhere they should be distinguished.

Are you kidding me? The only place where the H sound is dropping in /hw/ is the Northeastern US? That's ridiculous. The /w/ pronunciation of WH is by far the most popular and has been for a long time.

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