The conversations of life

Embarrassing mispronunciations – Part one


Are you someone who bristles with high dudgeon when you hear someone say ‘Ant-artica’ when referring to the frozen continent to the south? Or who insists on ordering a ‘cup-a-chino’ when you go for a coffee? Know any blokes having problems with their ‘prostrate’?

It can be awfully embarrassing to discover that you have been pronouncing a word incorrectly your entire life but the reality is that, despite our best efforts, most of us mispronounce a word or two from time to time.

Here’s a list we have gathered together of commonly mispronounced words. Some of them are so commonly mispronounced that alternative spellings and pronunciations are being included in online reference tools!

It’s a big list so this is just the first half.  Look for the second instalment in next week’s news.

Let’s start with the north and south poles:

Arctic – NOT ‘Artic’  (There’s a ‘c’ in there, and it is pronounced ‘Ark-tic’)

Antarctic – NOT ‘Ant-art-ic’ (see above…  it’s ‘Ant-ark-tic’)

affidavit – NOT ‘affidavid’ (Even if your lawyer’s name happens to be David!)

cardsharp – NOT ‘card shark’ – even if your Blackjack partner is a ruthless predator

ostensibly – NOT ‘ostensively’  – it is a ‘b’, not a ‘v’  (meaning is similar to ‘apparently’)

percolate – NOT ‘per-cu-late.  Coffee does it and so do ideas (they drip down)

mischievous (pronounced miss-chuh-vus) – NOT ‘mischievious’ (mis-cheev-ee-us).

asterisk (pronounced ‘ast-er-risk’) – NOT ‘asterix’ (as-ter-rix).  Astérix is the heroic character of a popular French comic book series.

espresso (pronounced ess-presso in English) – NOT ‘ex-presso’.  It refers to coffee brewed by forcing a small amount of nearly boiling water under pressure through finely ground coffee beans; eg. espresso machine.)

cappuccino (pronounced kap-oo-CHEE-no) – NOT ‘cuppa-chino’, or worse, ‘cup-of-chino’!)… since we are talking about coffee.  It may be served in a cup but the name comes from the colour of the habits of Capuchin friars (brown and white).  Cappuccinos are made using an ‘espresso machine’ (see above)!

et cetera – (Pronounced ‘et-set-er-ah’, NOT ‘ex-cetera’. It is Latin and it means, ‘and the rest’, ‘and other things’ or ‘and so on’ . Abbreviated to ‘etc’.

prostate (pronounced pross-tate) – NOT ‘prostrate’ (pross-trait).  There is no ‘r’ when we’re talking about a gland found close to a bloke’s family jewels. Add in the ‘r’ and you have the act of lying flat out on the ground)

specific – NOT Pacific! This one drives us crazy!  Same goes for ‘pacifically’ – the word is ‘specifically’ (pronounced  ‘spunless you are referring to a calm, serene way of moving.

pronunciation (pro-nun-see-ay- shun) – NOT ‘pronounciation’ (pro-nownce-ee-ay-shun)

Apparently the word, ‘pronunciation’ is among the most commonly mispronounced words. That’s kind of fitting, isn’t it?

You live and you learn.  Look out for part two next week!

Editor at Large

Frank and Earnest love to have conversations about the things that matter in life to most people but especially to those of us with a few years behind us. We start some conversations, we pick up others, we share stories and ideas and try to stimulate thinking.

Discussion2 Comments

  1. And then there’s the Australian pronunciation of the letter H, taught in schools (in WA at least) has “haich” with the aspirate. The OED and the Macquarie give the correct pronunciation as “aich”; sorry I can’t write the phonetic spelling here.

    It drives me bananas!

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