There are a ton of words that you may or may not have been pronouncing wrong your entire life. Some of them are pretty obvious, but some of them are trickier. See if you pass the test. (And for those of you who are currently learning English … I am so, so sorry!)
1. Picture vs. Pitcher
There is, indeed, a difference in pronunciation between the thing hanging on your wall and the thing filled with water on your table. If you’re talking about the hanging thing, it’s PICK-churr. If you’re talking about the water thing, it’s PIT-churr. (Same for the baseball dude.)
2. Mischievious vs. Mischievous
This is actually something I learned pretty recently. I’ve been mispronouncing “mischievous” my whole life, and so have many others. It’s not pronounced “mis-cheev-EE-us”–it’s pronounced “mis-CHIV-us.” For some reason, we keep wanting to add extra i’s. Only three syllables, folks!
3. Kill-AH-meh-tur vs. KILL-oh-mee-tur
Kilometer … this one’s tricky. The stress isn’t on the second syllable (kill-AH-meh-tur), but on the first (KILL-oh-mee-tur). If you get confused by it, here’s the rule of thumb: if it describes distance, the stress is on the first syllable (centimeter, millimeter, decimeter).
4. Jif vs. GIF
Yep. I thought it was a hard ‘G,’ too. And logically, it should be–since it stands for “Graphic Interchange Format.” But whatever. Now you know.
5. Expresso vs. Espresso
Get that ‘x’ out of your espresso. It doesn’t belong there.
6. Supposably vs. Supposedly
Supposably is technically a word, but it doesn’t mean what you think it means (*insert Princess Bride meme here*). It means “able to be supposed.” Generally, you won’t be using that word. In the sentence, “Supposedly, Taylor Swift is an excellent musician,” you’ll want to use the ‘ed’ version.
7. Sherbert vs. Sherbet
This is one that I refuse to accept, although it’s true.
Supposedly, here’s no second “r” in “sherbet.”
8. Irregardless vs. regardless
There are three schools of thought here.
#1: Irregardless can and should be used interchangeably with regardless.
#2: Irregardless isn’t a word.
#3: It technically is a word, but you should not use it.
The first two are incorrect. You shouldn’t use “irregardless,” but it’s also not fair to say that it’s not a word. According to Merriam-Webster, it is a word that originated in 20th century America, but it is still a long way from general acceptance. According to MW, you should ditch it and use “regardless” instead.
So pretty much, you can use irregardless … but people will notice and think you’re speaking incorrectly. If you absolutely must use it, just don’t use it in a job interview.
9. Nucular vs. Nuclear
Nuclear is pronounced “noo-KLEE-UR.” There is no extra ‘u’ in there. Most people have started to say this correctly, though … thanks, George W.
10. Febuary vs. February
Don’t forget that first ‘r.’ It’s a little hard to say initially, but you’ll get used to it.
11. Liberry vs. Library
Good lord, this is one of my biggest pet peeves. Don’t forget that first ‘r’–and unlike the above, it’s not hard to do.
12. Expecially vs. Especially
This is another case of the “expressos.”
13. Close vs. Clothes
It can be a little difficult to fit that “th” sound in there, so a lot of people just skip it entirely. If you have trouble with this one, don’t worry–after a few tries, you’ll get the hang of it.
14. Excetera vs. Et cetera
I have known this for a while, and I still get it wrong every time. Et cetera is the correct pronunciation, but a lot of people tend to use that ‘x’ to mush it together into one word.
15. Athelete vs. Athlete
This time, people are adding in an extra syllable that doesn’t need to be there. Save yourself some time and credibility here by cutting out that middle syllable to make it “ATH-leet.”
16. Heighth vs. Height
This pronunciation probably started because of “width,” but don’t let yourself tag that extra “th” sound on the end. It’s “height and width,” not “heighth and width.”
17. Mawve vs. Mauve
This one looks tricky–but it’s not “mawve,” it’s “moave.” Like, rhyming with “grove.” I know, right?
18. Larvay vs. Larvae
If you’re talking about multiple baby insects (ew), it’s “LAR-vee”–not “LAR-vay.”
19. Triathalon vs. Triathlon
We’re all sticking another syllable in that doesn’t need to be there. It’s three syllables, not four–you can get rid of that third syllable. Though personally, I think the wrong way sounds more epic.
20. Jewlry vs. Jewelry
And for this one, we’re cutting out a syllable. It’s JEW-ell-ree–not JEWL-ree.
21. Zooology … ? vs. Zoology
So many people pronounce it “zoo-OLL-oh-gee,” when really, it’s just “ZOO-loh-gee.” And that’s probably the reason we never write that word down … though a word with three o’s in a row would be pretty sweet.
This one sounds crazy, but I’m not making it up. Don’t pronounce the ‘t’ in “often.” It’s silent.
Why, English? Why?