from Daily Writing Tips:
Fred Astaire drew laughs back in the Thirties with his song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” in which the lovers can’t agree on the pronunciation of words like either, neither, and tomato.
On a personal level, I cringe when I hear someone sound the “t” in often or pronounce pecan with a short “a,” but I have to acknowledge that both these pronunciations are widely accepted alternate pronunciations that can be justified by the spelling.
Alternate pronunciations, however, are a different matter from out-and-out mispronunciations. The latter, no matter how common, are incorrect, either because of the spelling that indicates another pronunciation, or because of what is widely agreed upon to be conventional usage. Word of caution: I’m writing from an American perspective.
Here are 50 frequently mispronounced words. The list is by no means exhaustive, but provides a good start.
1. aegis – The ae in this word is pronounced /ee/. Say EE-JIS/, not /ay-jis/. In mythology the “aegis” is associated especially with the goddess Athene. It is her shield with the Gorgon’s head on it.
2. anyway – The problem with this word is not so much pronunciation as the addition of an unnecessary sound. Don’t add an s to make it “anyways.” The word is ANYWAY.
3. archipelago – Because the word is from Greek, the ch is pronounced with a /k/ sound. Say /AR-KI-PEL-A-GO/, not /arch-i-pel-a-go/.
4. arctic – Note the C after the R. Say /ARK-TIK/, not /ar-tik/.
5. accessory – the first C has a “hard” sound. Say /AK-SESS-OR-Y/, not /ass-ess-or-y/.
6. ask – The S comes before the K. Say /ASK/ not /aks/.
7. asterisk – Notice the second S. Say /AS-TER-ISK/, not /as-ter-ik/.
8. athlete – The word has two syllables, not three. Say /ATH-LETE/, not /ath-uh-lete/.
9. barbed wire – Notice the AR in the first syllable. Say /BARBD/, not /bob/.
10. cache – The word is of French origin, but it does not end with an accented syllable. A cache is a hiding place or something that is being hidden: a cache of supplies; a cache of money; a cache of drugs. Say /KASH/, not /ka-shay/.
11. candidate – Notice the first d. Say /KAN-DI-DATE/, not /kan-i-date/.
12. cavalry – This word refers to troops that fight on horseback. Say /KAV-UL-RY/, not /kal-vuh-ry/. NOTE: Calvary refers the place where Jesus was crucified and IS pronounced /kal-vuh-ry/.)
13. chaos – The spelling ch can represent three different sounds in English: /tch/ as in church, /k/ as in Christmas, and /sh/ as in chef. The first sound is heard in words of English origin and is the most common. The second sound of ch, /k/, is heard in words of Greek origin. The third and least common of the three ch sounds is heard in words adopted from modern French. Chaos is a Greek word. Say /KAY-OS/, not /tchay-os/.
14. clothes – Notice the TH spelling and sound. Say /KLOTHZ/, not /kloz/.
15. daïs – A daïs is a raised platform. The pronunciation fault is to reverse the vowel sounds. The word is often misspelled as well as mispronounced. Say /DAY-IS/ not /dī-is/.
16. dilate – The word has two syllables, not three. Say /DI-LATE/, not /di-a-late/.
17. drowned – This is the past participle form of the verb drown. Notice that there is no D on drown. Don’t add one when using the word in its past form. Say /DROWND/, not /drown-ded/.
18. et cetera – This Latin term is often mispronounced and its abbreviation is frequently misspelled. Say /ET CET-ER-A/, not /ex cet-er-a/. For the abbreviation, write ETC., not ect.
19. February – Just about everyone I know drops the first r in February. The spelling calls for /FEB-ROO-AR-Y/, not /feb-u-ar-y/.
20. foliage – The word has three syllables. Say /FO-LI-UJ/, not /fol-uj/.
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