The Five Best Mispronunciations I've Ever Heard

“All the bells and whistles” as “all the Belgian whistles.” Someone said this on a phone call I was on once. I had to put myself on mute to snort.

“Providence” as “Pro-VYE-dence.” That was my friend Victoria when she was visiting me in Connecticut from England a million years ago and we saw a sign on the freeway. I still can’t read about Pro-VYE-dence, Rhode Island without pronouncing it like that in my head. It sounds kind of nice I think.

“Fleur de Lys” as “Florida Lee’s.” That one was on the Real Housewives of Orange County the other day. I swear Alexis kept saying “Florida Lee’s” when they were eating at a San Francisco restaurant called Fleur de Lys. Did anyone else catch it? Did she?

A “pint” of milk, with “pint” to rhyme with “hint.” That was my sister Susie, reading me the instructions from the back of a package of instant pudding. She was five, so we’ll forgive her.

"Albuquerque” as “Al-ber-CUE-er-cue.” Ladies and gentlemen, this one’s a doozy, and it was yours truly who said it. I read it in a Babysitter's Club book when I was nine or ten. (Remember the Babysitter's Club? Which one did you want to be? I always wanted to be Stacey, the diabetic one who moved from New York, or maybe Claudia, the arty one who kept all that junk food under her bed.) Everyone laughed, but I still call Albuquerque "Al-ber-CUE-er-cue," if we're being honest, because it just makes a whole lot more sense. Only in my head, though. Out loud I force myself to say it properly.

Feb 19, 2010

I always wanted to be Stacy too!!! My sister used to make me cry by calling me Mallory (the bookworm whose parents would not live her do certain things) 15 years later she still sometimes says 'God you are sooo like Mallory from BSC' and I still get mad! I am cool, I am NOT a Mallory!

The Girl Who
Feb 19, 2010

Okay... I have two fantastic ones for you. Both said by me. IN WORK MEETINGS.

First: imagine, if you will, a group of journalists sitting around a big table discussing the day's events and what stories we should cover. I was youngish and trying to impress the crowd. We were talking about a building that was getting a makeover and I dove in the conversation to discuss the building's facade. You know, the "fake-ade" of the building?


The second one, I called something the epitome of something. Ep-it-ome (sounds like home). The horror.

Feb 19, 2010

*Leave* not live...

Feb 19, 2010

So funny. I wanted to be Stacy too! I used to think it was cool to have diabetes because of her. Messed up, I know... I was more like Mary Ann, but would never admit it. At least she was the one with Logan!

Feb 19, 2010

Not a mispronunciation, but I loved when the development director at a job I hated had to ask what "philanthropy" meant. Appalling!

Feb 19, 2010

I was on a conference call with a coworker once, and we were speaking with an important event sponsor. My coworker actually said "moo point." MOO. NOT MOOT. So it's apparently not limited to Joey from Friends.

Feb 19, 2010

I think I always imagined myself to be a combination of Claudia and Stacey...creative and sophisticated but not diabetic, I guess (you know, one of those terribly sophisticated fourth graders you see everywhere). But in reality I was much more like Mallory, a socially inept bookworm/creative writer with strange hair.

Oh, and my husband's grandmother (who has lived the last oh, 60 years in southern California, so she has no excuse) loves to take her grandkids to Pollo (Pole-o) Loco. Which after about 1,000 times is no longer amusing.

Feb 19, 2010

when i was young i tried to order "horse doovers"


Feb 19, 2010

Oh, and now that you've got me thinking, I can't stop giggling over the time I was at a family Passover dinner and one of the guests reading from the book kept pronouncing the Hebrew word Pesach pee-satch. I almost fell off the piano bench laughing. And yes, sometimes your mother make you sit on the piano bench when company comes for dinner, even if you're fully grown and introducing your parents to your fiance for the first time.

Feb 19, 2010

My favorite recent mispronunciation was walking with a friend along a street: "What is a Polish [like the people from Poland] nails manicure? Why would anyone get a Polish [again, like the people from Poland] manicure? I've never heard of it."

Another one was "No rest for the wicket." Which, in cricket terminology is actually kind of clever and true but it's still "No rest for the wicked."

Feb 19, 2010

So, one of my fellow med school students pronounces "platelets" as "plat-a-lets". It makes me laugh every time, and every time someone corrects her. To this day, she still pronounces it wrong. We're graduating this June, so it will be 4 (four!) years of mispronunciation.

Can you imagine your doctor discussing the results of your most recent lab work and telling you "your plat-a-let count is..." Ha!

jennifer in sf
Feb 19, 2010

My longtime favorite is from when I worked at a bookstore. It involved Anaïs Nin. Which yes, they said it how you're thinking. I almost fell over laughing.

Feb 19, 2010

To the Girl Who:

You are not alone on epitome--I said it the exact same way while I was reading aloud (it was a trivial pursuit card I think). My husband and family still haven't let me live it down! (and it happened probably 7-8 years ago)

Feb 19, 2010

At work all the time I am told that something is a "mute" point.

Feb 19, 2010

Are we invited to share ours too?

My sister and I had a heated argument over the telephone regarding the word "helmet". She insisted it was "helment" and I thought she must be joking. She wasn't and we argued to the point of shouting.

She also said "abdomenen" when she meant "abdomen" but this time believed me when I corrected her.

Finally, my former co-worker insisted on saying Jose Cuervo tequila with "Cuervo" pronounces "Swervo". At first I thought she was trying to be funny, like tequila makes you swerve, ha ha, but she wasn't.

Feb 19, 2010

So, I guess this is actually fairly common, people will say, "for all intensive purposes" instead of "for all intents & purposes"? Wrongly? Right. Except I, until I was IN MY TWENTIES, took it one step further and thought it was, "for all extentsive purposes". You know. For the extensive mass of purposes that are out there!

And I think I wanted to be Stacy or Dawn, but I knew I was Mary Anne. I'm still Mary Anne.

Nothing But Bonfires
Feb 19, 2010

You guys, these comments are HILARIOUS. Fake-ade! Jose Swervo! No rest for the wicket! I'm dying of laughter.

And oh Chelsea, "for all intents and purposes" is one of my favorites. Has been much discussed here:

Amy --- Just A Titch
Feb 19, 2010

I am queen of "for all intents and purposes" which I said "for all intensive purposes" until I don't know...SIX MONTHS AGO. For shame.

Also, the first time I said "Pilates" I pronounced it "Pee-lots" much to the chagrin of the spandex-outfitted woman I was talking too. Whoopsie!

Feb 19, 2010

My little sister is the champion of mispronunciation! My personal favorite occurred while road-tripping north of Kansas City when she informed me that we needed to take the Dez Moh-nez exit. DEZ MOH-NEZ.

(Des Moines. OMG, I laughed for days.)

Feb 19, 2010

Last year I was watching Anderson Cooper report on a plane crash and he kept refering to the plane's manufacturer, Bombardier, as Bom-ba-deer. It was killing me.

Feb 19, 2010

I think you might like this one... I said it out loud in high school once, and was shamed for it. But frankly, I still prefer it. melancholy = Muh-LANK-uh-lee

Pinkie Bling
Feb 19, 2010

The ones that grate on my nerves are super common: expresso, real-a-tor, jew-la-ree, nuke-u-ler (thanks, Dubya!).

I'm loving the other comments. Great entry, Holly!

Feb 19, 2010

1. I want to be Claudia, because she was stylish. I still do. I cannot accessorize to save my life.

2. The is a new Babysitters Club book coming out in April. I mean, I know its for kids, but so were Harry Potter and Twilight, right? Its called The Summer Before. I've totally preordered on Amazon.

Nothing But Bonfires
Feb 19, 2010

April, I think you might have made my day.


Feb 19, 2010

I used to tell people that Ann M. Martin was my mom because my last name is Martin. I also used to tell people that Ricky Martin was my cousin. Weird, irrelevent to anything lies.

Feb 19, 2010

An Australian roommate of mine pronounced Arkansas as Arr-Kansas... which, based on spelling, makes perfect sense!

My sister also pronounced cinch as kin-ch.

Tracy H.
Feb 19, 2010

My husband says "Leave the door open ajar." I explained it's either leave it open or leave it ajar, that he is saying the same thing, but he argued with me and said "No, you are leaving it open a jar, like leaving open a little bit, like the size of A JAR!!" OMG, I almost died. He still thinks he is right. He said that is what his Mom meant when she said ajar when he was a kid. Whatever!

Feb 19, 2010

I mispronounced "Duquesne" University. (I think that's spelled right). It's Du-CAIN, but I said it Du-kez-nee. Now I insist on still saying it that way.

jess in boston
Feb 19, 2010

Until i was in my 20s, I actually thought there were two words: one was pronounced "miss-led" and the other was pronounced "MY-sld".

I don't think I ever said "my-sld" out loud until the day I realized the error (while I was ranting -- to some fellow editors, no less -- about being both "miss-led and my-sld" about something). I was horrified, and they haven't let me live it down! But when I'm reading, it's still the latter pronunciation in my head. By the way, both words mean the same thing, but they've never been seen in a room together . . .

Feb 19, 2010

Once in high school I looked down at the doodles on the desk and said out loud, "caw-nah-dah..." and to my friend, "hey someone wrote caw-nah-dah on this desk," intending to ask what it meant, realizing as soon as it was out of my mouth that it was Canada. SERIOUSLY. THE COUNTRY OF CANADA.

Feb 19, 2010

i once worked with a woman who said "draw" instead of "drawer". my mom does it too so i just thought it was an accent thing (apparently people in new england and/or south say draw?), but then one day she sent me an email asking me to remove some files from a "draw".

Feb 19, 2010

I always wanted to be Claudia or Dawn, but I was definitely Mary Ann.

I remember having to read out loud in History class in high school and pronouncing the Potomac River as the POH-tuh-mack River. And no one corrected me!

As a kid, I pronounced subtle as SUB-tull.

Feb 19, 2010

When I was little I would put honey on my cereal, and the honey bottle had a recipe on the back, and I would always read it while eating breakfast and think, "re-cripe" for the word, "recipe." I knew the correct pronunciation of the word "recipe," but not the spelling, so I assumed they were two different words for a while.

Also, my grandpa orders pâté in restaurants and pronounces it so that it rhymes with "ate." He also owns a Hyundai and pronounces it "Hi-YUN-duh."

Feb 19, 2010

I recently found out that my husband has been pronouncing "pundit" as "poon-dit". I laughed and laughed when I found out, even after he explained, mortified, that he had just used that very word in a discussion at work.

Val M
Feb 19, 2010

I always loved Stacy too! I watched all of their shows on the Disney Channel. I also had a very nice collection of almost all 50 billion books in the series and was devastated to find out that my parents gave them all away about 10 years ago to a friend of theirs with a young daughter.

Another mispronunciation that I absolutely despise is when someone says "It's a MUTE point" instead of "It's a MOOT point"!

Feb 19, 2010

My husband is from Norway, so English is his second language.

He was quite old when he found out "ferris wheel" wasn't infact "paris wheel". Also that "naked as a jay bird" wasn't "naked as a jail bird"

A lot of noggi's also have trouble with the "V" and "W". He was in Houston way back when and kept calling Vince, Wince. I dare say it went on for awhile until Wince made it perfectly clear what his name wasn't! :)

Feb 19, 2010

My sister pronounced "semi-liquid" as "similuhquid" for a couple of months of her junior science class before the rest of us finally relented and wised her up.

And my fella's old office in Amsterdam had a picture of an ostrich wearing knickers on the wall because his colleague insisted on pronouncing "alstublieft" (please) as "ostrich briefs".

Feb 19, 2010

I had a co-worker once who referred to sigh-rah-cuz, NY!

Feb 19, 2010

My family always says I read too much and talked too little as a kid, which is why I pronounced things so wrong. Like "Cheerio-key" for Cherokee and "june-a-vuhl da-quilly-ent" for juvenile delinquent. Oy.

Feb 19, 2010

Oh, I'm sure I have plenty of these. But when I was younger, we passed a little restaurant and I'm all "What's a g-EYE-ro?"

So now I still call it that.

Feb 19, 2010

During a conversation over IM with one of my closest friends about someone who had said something rude, she declared that that what the person had said wasn't very "peacy"... I had to re-read our conversation a few times to realize that she meant PC - and then I had to explain to her that PC stands for "politically correct". Oy.

Feb 19, 2010

My aunt refers to very overweight people as "obeast" instead of obese. We ALWAYS correct her, but the next time it is right back to "obeast"...

Alison of a Gun
Feb 19, 2010

When I was in first grade Mandy McHugh was reading out loud in front of the class and pronounced pigsty as "pig stee". It still kills me!

Feb 19, 2010

If Kristy and Mary Ann had a baby, that would be me, but I always wanted to be Dawn. I can't pronounce halogen for the life of me. And I only just figured out I've been pronouncing subtle incorrectly for the last 30 years after reading Tara's comment. Oops.

Feb 19, 2010

I wanted to be Claudia, but I was totally Mallory.

Feb 19, 2010

When I was beginning my career in radio, I worked for a small public radio station that read newspaper and magazine articles for those who can't read. Lovely organisation, 2RPH Sydney. BUT the mispronunciations! My favourite, which remains with me to this day to the extent I rarely manage to pronounce it correctly, was you-bee-kwish-us - for "ubiquitous". Snerk.

Feb 19, 2010

My Welsh cousin, visiting us in Oregon, said he hoped to visit "Yose-mite" (2 syllables.) VERY logical!
And my daughter watched the movie Annie and was impressed with the song "It's a Hard-Knock Life." Every once in a while she'll say resignedly "Well, it's a sad-not life!"

Feb 19, 2010

ok... so this post made me realize that i pronounce Albuquerque 'al-ber-CUE-key', which is similar to yours, although you managed to squeeze an additional syllable in there. our excuse is that neither of us grew up in this country, right? Albuquerque... i've never thought of it till now. how is is pronounced? 'al-buh-KIRK-ee'? anyone?


A sampling from a paper by one of my dear college students:

"From the gecko, Phaedra is caught in a metaphorical labyrinth."
What she meant to say (I think) is "From the get go, Phaedra..."

At least, I don't think that Phaedra's metaphorical labyrinth begins at the green lizard, but literary scholarship has indeed made stranger claims.


I remembered one more:

When I first learned the Pledge of Allegiance in pre-school, I said "with liberty and juices for all" instead of "with liberty and justice for all."

My mom *LOVES* to tell that story.

Feb 19, 2010

LOVE these. I have two:

My brother's ex-girlfriend was telling us over dinner about this great computer class she had taken at Compoosa. Over and over, she kept saying "Compoosa." We had no idea what she was talking about—was this a new school? Finally, I had to ask her, "Are you talking about CompUSA?" (pause) "Um, yeah."

The other is from a friend who, while at a fabulous, hip restaurant very seriously ordered the "flatter-on" steak. We made her repeat it a couple of times (for our own amusement) before we told her it was a "flat-iron" steak.

To this day we still use Compoosa and flatter-on.

Operation Pink Herring
Feb 19, 2010

On the pilot episode of Jersey Shore, Snookie is walking down the boardwalk with her friends, showing off how rowdy and fun she is, and she yells: "Guido obligations accepted here (pronounced hee-yah)!"

Obligations. I rewound it three times to make sure that's what she said and there is no doubt: OBLIGATIONS. She meant applications.

That's when I knew it was going to be a great show.

Feb 19, 2010

For all intensive purposes - meaning to say "for all intents and purposes".....I find that's a pretty common one.

And one that I have been mispronouncing for the past 25 years....

Let's "play it by year".....I JUST found it was "ear". So sad!

Tracy D
Feb 19, 2010

My co-workers ALWAYS get "flesh out" (as in to add substance to a plan) mixed up with "flush out" (which makes me think of a toilet) as well as "Touching bases with you" instead of "Touch base with you". Also, supposably is not a word. It is supposedly. There is no b.

It drives me nuts not to correct them!

Feb 19, 2010

Oh, man. I loved this entry! One of my oldest and dearest friends always read the word "placebo" as PLACE-BO, which worked out fine in her head...but resulted in fits of laughter when, in front of a dozen or so people she said, "Taking vitamin C when you are sick doesn't help, it is like the PLACE-BO effect." We died. And 15 years later, we still tease her about it. (And now I usually say place-bo as well.)

Feb 19, 2010

I've heard so many, but "all intents and purposes" spoken as "all intensive purposes" has stuck with me.

Feb 19, 2010

Its not so much of a mispronunciation, but instead of saying virgin OLIVE oil, my mom says VIRGIN oil. EVERY single time. It kills me.

Feb 19, 2010

I used to say epitome as epp-ih-toe-m. Ouch.

PS, hi, I'm new. Found your site via Kristin's Camels&Chocolate blog.

Feb 19, 2010

My ex-boyfriend once referred to some budget stuff he had to submit at the end of the "physical" year... It took 5 minutes for me to reign in my laughter enough to explain.

Feb 19, 2010

I will forever hear "Belgian Whistles" in my head when anyone says "Bells and Whistles" for the rest of my life. I have no funny ones except my Mom always says "I've got beau coup to do" but pronounces it "boo coo" so it comes out "I've got boo coo to do".

Feb 19, 2010

My mom pronounces chicken thighs as tights. I laugh every time and then correct her.

To be fair her English is her second language. I just wish I could remember more of her funny pronunciations. Somehow my dad doesn't have this issue at all (also non-native speaker)

Feb 19, 2010

As a kid still learning to read, I was reading aloud to my parents and came across a word I didn't know. I pronounced it "SO-shi-tee", which they quickly informed me was society. I felt like such a fool, even back then!

Feb 19, 2010

Also, my boss says "CON-tri-bute" every time. I want so badly to tell her it's "con-TRI-bute", but after three and a half years, maybe it's too late.

I loved the Baby-sitters Club books! I was totally Mary Anne. I think I still am.

Feb 20, 2010

Nikki, I totally did the same thing with society when I was younger and oddly enough living in France it is one of the words I always used to mispronunce in French too! I still say it in my head before I say it out loud in front of people.

I have another one.....when I was in debate class when I was 15/16yrs old we were talking about how Ireland needs to move with the times and legalise abortion, same sex marriage etc (I am Irish) and I stood up in front of 30 other teenagers and declared "OHMIGOD, like contraption was only made legal in the the 80's" Yes I said contraption instead of contraception in front of everyone because I thought thats what it was....a contraption to not get pregnant. Still have not lived that one down!

Feb 20, 2010

Knead. as in knead the dough. I have been teased so much about my mispronounciation of it that I actually don't even know which is the correct version and have to be very creative to avoid the word.
how should Yosemite be pronounced?

Feb 20, 2010

Just last week I was talking to some kids I work with who were ADAMANT that goodbye in French is "olive wah". We could not convince them otherwise.

Of course, now we all use it.

Olive wah!

Emily R.
Feb 20, 2010

Hi Holly! Random beauty question for you: do you still love your Clarisonic? I have been thinking of getting one as a birthday present to myself and was wondering if it was still working wonders. Thanks for your input.

Feb 20, 2010

I overhead "ALL INTENSIVE PURPOSES" the other day at work. heehee.

Feb 20, 2010

Dude. I TOTALLY wanted to be Claudia!! I L-O-V-E-D her!! Although if we're going to be honest about the whole thing, I probably was most like Kristy; especially as a young-un. I swear to all holy babies everywhere, add some purple glasses and Hermione was based on me.

Starla Miller
Feb 20, 2010

Speaking of mispronouncing places, you hear it from tourists in London a lot. How do I get to Lyecester Square (pronounced Lester spelt Leicester) and Tot-ten-ham Court Road, which is curiously pronounced Tottnam, but spelt Tottenham! There are so many more.

Bunnie W.
Feb 20, 2010

I love all these comments! My 5-year-old daughter refers to intestines as "intesticles" Oh, how we laugh! I'll be so sad when she wises up.

Saucepan Man
Feb 20, 2010

I used to be an inveterate spoonerizer as a child. My favorite would be to tell my mother I'd heat up the soup on the 'goos cacker' To this day I have to think about it before I say it.

English people struggle with the names of some US locations: Michigan is always 'Mitchigan'; Chicago is 'Tchicago' and even Connecticut gets the full 'Connektikut' treatment.

The best for me was a boy at school when we were reading Webster's White Devil. mistaking it a Fench word he rendered the well-metaphored "He was buffeted to death.." as '..."buffayed" to death' - as though the poor man had spent a bit too long helping himself at the "all-you-can-eat-for-ten-bucks" food counter!

Saucepan Man
Feb 20, 2010

I'm obviously still having trouble with my language...

That second sentence of the third para should, of course, say "Mistaking it for a French word,.." Apologies

Feb 20, 2010

My comment does not refer to a mis-pronunciation, but a case of bad hearing. Many years ago I inquired about the price of something a business associate was wearing. She responded by telling me it costs "a nominal egg". Those with better hearing knew she said "an arm and a leg".

this new place
Feb 20, 2010

we're opening a bar and for the life of me, I can't say "Pinot Noir".

Feb 20, 2010

I was reading comments to a news article where the person wrote:

I don't care if he went to Ten Buck Two...

As in Timbuktu.

Feb 20, 2010

love these! Kali,
Yosemite = you-sem-it-tee. I can never remember how to spell it unless i say yo-simite in my head!

I have a question is it:
we'll see what comes "down the pipe" or "down the pike"? anyone?

Feb 20, 2010

In a high school speech I gave, I said Catholic-ism instead of Cuh-thol-i-cism. Made sense to me!

Twice Five Miles
Feb 21, 2010

These are awesome! I will never forget the day my little sister was reading something aloud and came to the word "crocheting"... and of course, pronounced it as CROTCH-it-ing.

CROTCH-it-ing. Still makes me laugh after 20 years.

Feb 21, 2010

You have never commented on (or read?) my blog, but just this once, could you stop by? I'm in need of some sort of serious advice. Bring your friends.


Feb 21, 2010

This is one I will never live down. I was seriously sleep deprived and over-caffeinated, on a conference call with my boss and our client discussing litigation strategy. Somehow, there was a disconnect between my brain and my mouth, and instead of "element of surprise," I said "elephant of surprise." I nearly died. Though I have to say, an elephant would indeed be surprising.

Anne in SC
Feb 21, 2010

I had a friend once who's husband thought the Commodores' song, "Brick House", was "Brick OUCH". No kidding. And to make it worse, she used the word "Mute" (you know, to make something quite - having no sound) in place of "moot" (insignificance - having no importance).

Feb 22, 2010

I had a friend who used to pronounce Moet (of the champagne variety) as 'moat'.

We also had an English teacher who used to pronounce the 'g' in 'poignant' as you would in 'pregnant'.

I also used to think that old song that goes 'Yoooung at heart' was actually saying 'Juuuuggernaut' - I was about 14 at the time so where that came from I've no idea.

Feb 22, 2010

here is one for you:

The lyric should be:
blinded by the light, revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.

Instead, from a 7yr old, it is:
blinded by the light, set up like a doosher in the middle of the night.

Hilarious to his 13 yr old brother!

Feb 22, 2010

no way! I totally wanted to be the one with diabetes too!

Feb 22, 2010

When my then-boyfriend, now-husband and I were just starting to date, he said to me, "I'm pretty mediokra at that." INSTEAD OF MEDIOCRE. Isn't that fantastic?

Feb 22, 2010

It gets me a bit frustrated when people say "pacifically" instead of "specifically". I also have relatives in the West Midlands who can't say "alcohol" properly - they drop the h so it becomes "al-co-ol".

Mind you, I can't say anything: like one of the commenters above, for years I pronounced "melancholy" as "me-lan-cho-lee" - soft "ch" like "cheese" and with the wrong stresses. And to this day I still have to hesitate over words such as "Maldives" and "lido" as I'm never 100% sure how they're supposed to be pronounced.

Feb 22, 2010

Had to come back here and share this one I just heard while watching men's curling... The announcer said someone 'looked at me with disarray' instead of 'dismay'!!

Feb 22, 2010

I love this! I am a bit of a grammar snob, and it pains me to no end when people mispronounce popular MIL is a great source of these. My favorite is using "thongs" instead of "tongs", as in "I used thongs to turn the meat..." Hilarious.

Not surprisingly, my husband also tends to this problem. :) Thankfully, he rarely says "should have went" anymore. And I still have not gotten used to the Canadianism that is "I'm done the book." No, you're done WITH the book. Prepositions are important.

And...I believe it is "down the pike."

Funnelcloud Rachel
Feb 22, 2010

We were having dinner at a nice restaurant in the Virgin Islands. The waitress came over to recite the dessert list, which included "cream brewly" (creme brulee). We had to bite our tongues to keep from laughing in front of her!

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