English as she, er, isn’t spoken. Here are our most mispronounced words …

Posted: December 22, 2012 in Popular Culture et al
Tags: , , , , ,

Tongue twister
Is there a word you always somehow say wrong? There is? I’ve got one, too. Nuclear. For some reason I always pronounce it nukeyoular. Drives Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink batty.

Well apparently, “phenomenon”, “remuneration” and “statistics” have topped a list of the most commonly mispronounced English words.

That rings true to me. I have heard countless people talk about renumeration – which means re-numbering, of course – when they’re trying to talk all posh abut something you or I probably call “pay”.

Speakers also have a problem getting their tongue around “ethnicity”, “hereditary” and “particularly”, according to the UK body charged with recording public utterances.

The British Institute Of Verbatim Reporters (BIVR) is the UK’s leading organisation for professionals involved in taking down speech at court and tribunal hearings.

A poll of its members found the 10 words that Britons consistently find the most challenging to pronounce.

Completing the list are “conjugal”, “specific”, “processes” and “development”.

Leah Willersdorf, of the BIVR, said: “We work with many different types of professionals and hear all kinds of voices during our work.

“However, when it comes to the English language it always seems to be the same few words that verbally trip people up, with the speaker having to repeat the word in order to get it right, or just abandoning their attempts and moving on.”

BIVR members were quizzed by the team behind the popular word game Scrabble.

According to the words buffs, one in 10 players admit to being reluctant to produce words that they cannot pronounce.

Which could quite spoil Christmas for some people. Scrabble is a favourite with British families over the festive period, with an estimated 11 million going head to head on Boxing Day, according to its makers. (It’s banned in the Wellthisiswhatithink household. Now Pictionary, on the other hand …)

University of York sociolinguistics expert Paul Kerswill said the English language has evolved to compensate for tricky pronunciations but some words remain a challenge.

“People always find a way of simplifying words that they find difficult to get their tongues round, so that an everyday word like ‘handbag’ sounds like ‘hambag’,” Professor Kerswill said.

“Our forebears simplified ‘waistcoat’ to ‘weskit’ – but we’ve turned our backs on that.

“We certainly don’t pronounce Worcester and Gloucester the way they are spelt any more. And ‘York’ used to have three syllables, not one.

“And most people talk about ‘Febry’ and ‘Wensday’.”

So what’s your personal tongue twisting word? Let us know!

  1. Peter Morley says:

    Hi Yolly, with me it’s ‘Clitoris’. For some reason, I can never get my tongue around that in our house!


    (sorry mate-I couldn’t resist it!)


  2. Not me, but my 10 year-old says “weder” instead of weather. Love that. =)


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