If you know the correct pronunciation of a word, but pretty much everyone mispronounces it, do you say it correctly or submit to the masses?
I don’t remember it coming up (i.e., where everyone seemed to be mispronouncing the word), but I believe I’d pronounce it correctly. I can also picture wondering if I was getting it wrong if it was a word that I didn’t use frequently or hadn’t looked up.
Can you think of an example where it happened to you? Or do you mean local pronunciations, which I wouldn’t even count–e.g., in Philly, where I grew up, people pronounce Acme (a local supermarket chain) with three syllables. Ack-a-mee.
I say it correctly. I don’t make a big deal of it, but if anyone tries to “correct” me I tell them no, they’re wrong.
It really depends on circumstances. There’s no set rule I try to follow with pronunciations.
If it’s a local pronunciation, such as “Jordan” pronounced as “Jur-den” or “Marion” pronounced as “May-run” I will try to abide by local custom, at least as long as I’m in that area. I won’t adopt those pronunciations for everyday use elsewhere, although I have heard the counter-examples used (and stressed as “correct”) by others.
“Nu-Ku-ler” is just wrong. If people insist on saying that that way, I’ll just continue with “Nu-kle-ar” as if they had said it right. The only hassle arises if they “correct” me, and then things get nasty.
The gray area comes when most people are mispronouncing words like “Iraq” or “Iran” or “Massachusetts” or other commonly confusing place names. In those cases, I just continue saying them the way I always have until or unless issues of “correctness” arise.
Many times, there are more than one “correct” ways to pronounce some words or phrases. As often as not, a dictionary worth its salt will show alternate pronunciations if they are standard enough to be regionalisms. If they are, I allow for the variations. If not, and if I’m pressed, I’ll appeal to a dictionary. If I’m wrong, I will try to adjust my way of saying the word(s). If I’m right, that’s good enough for me and I usually don’t push the issue with others.
Do you have specific pronunciations in mind, or is this generalized answer adequate?
My husband and I are living in Okinawa right now, and he is stationed on Kadena air base. The correct pronunciation of that, according to the locals and Japanese syllabary, is ka-day-na, but all the Americans pronounce it ka-DEE-na. Pretty much none of the Americans are trying to learn the language, except us, and are going to think we are mispronouncing it. What to do?
My suggestion would be to say it correctly, but not to make an issue of it. If “corrected” you could say you’re saying it the way the locals do. If that’s not sufficient, and if others persist, resort to gunplay.
I will usually use the same word correctly immediately after the incorrect pronunciation, without actually correcting the person.
I have a friend who calls “sequins” “sequences.” She’ll say, “I bought a new top that has black sequences all over it.” Then I say, “Yeah, black sequins really look great on a dressy outfit.”
I’ve had fights with people over the pronounciation of “sauna.”
In these parts, we have lots of people of Finnish descent; there’s even a Finnish-language local show on TV. Saunas are common, and even very modest homes often have saunas. We all pronounce the word in the Finnish manner - “sow-na.”
Back when I lived far, far away, or when I go out of town, invariably if the word comes up, I get corrected.
I know the standard American pronounciation is saw-na, but I’m not going to use it. “Sow-na” is the correct pronounciation up here, where they’re ubiquitous. I don’t care if you think it sounds funny. You all can’t build 'em, you don’t know how to use 'em, and you certainly can’t pronounce the word. So back off.
Along with Nu-kyu-lar, what drives me crazy is Ree-la-tor when people mean to say Realtor. I even hear it occasionally on TV, and that makes me want to scream. They sell “real estate” not “reela state”.
I have a coworker who at least once a day will mispronounce a patient’s name, usually pretty badly. About 2 weeks ago, she kept saying Elsie instead of Elisa. Finally, Elisa yelled at her. I walked away and laughed my ass off, because this particular coworker is the only real source of stress at my job.
I’m sure I’ve got other pronunciation rants, but that’s all I can think of on this lazy Sunday morning.
This is about as aggressive as one needs to get, as far as I’m concerned. If the person mispronouncing something is obviously intent on mispronouncing something, and you don’t want to call attention to that, finding a synonym may work to avoid the issue, or just a smiling “what he/she said” response can be effective. It’s usually possible to avoid repeating the mispronunciation by some clever alternative word in its place. Skirting the issue is best, if possible. Especially if the other person isn’t trying to make a big deal over the mispronunciation.
There are even occasions where deliberate mispronunciations can be fun.
I try to pronounce words correctly, but will not correct other people, except my kids and my hubby. And I don’t correct hubby in front of other people. He has this, uh, thing going on, where he often really cannot discern the difference in pronunciations. For instance, he still says “liberry” instead of library. And he can’t hear the difference, so he can’t learn to pronounce it properly. But there are other words he mispronounces just because he’s read them but never heard them. I’ll correct him on that, if we’re alone.
My big irritant is “comfterble”. No, no, no, no! The “r” comes before the “t”. Com-for-ta-ble. It’s not that hard.
Then there are times when you’re so outnumbered the situation is hopeless.
There is the well-known (to Marylanders anyway) city of La Plata.
It is universally pronounced as [la-PLAY-ta] even though its origin has roots from the Spanish language.
In this year’s state tennis tournament, I heard someone “mis”-pronounce it [la-PLAH-ta] who was immediately corrected and who then didn’t make this mistake again.
Then after a moment’s thought, I realized that la-PLAH-ta is the “correct” pronunciation and that everyone else has it wrong.
Upon telling my wife who hails from this area that I had resolved to make use of the “corrected” pronunciation from now on, she assured me that I would subject myself to a lifetime of ridicule and scorn from everyone in the know were I to go forth with this mission.
I have wisely chickened out. ¡Viva la-PLAY-ta!
Exactly what I do too.
(I think “sequences” is funny …).
For me the difficulty arises when I try a new placename phonetically only to learn the local pronunciation has almost nothing to do with its spelling. Louisiana and Texas are good about this sort of thing. Nacogdoches is “nack-a-tish” and how you get that from the spelling beats me.
I worked on a radio station for a while in my youth and was presented with some copy on a local situation to read cold on the air. When I pronounced Bethshears as it was spelled, the boss stormed in and reamed me out with, "You idiot. Don’t you know that’s “B’shers”? I didn’t. Nor did I know that Taliaferro was “Tolliver” and oodles more like that. I said, “If you want it pronounced differently from how it’s spelled, then spell it that way.” He started doing that, oddly enough.
What’s sad is for a new weatherman or newscaster to try to adapt to local placenames that violate spelling. “Maury” is “murry” for instance, and it betrays someone’s lack of familiarity with localized ways of saying things. I often suspect that may be why things are deliberately mispronounced: to catch outsiders!
You pronounce “comfortable” as a four-syllable word?
I usually don’t correct people, but I’ll use the word right myself. If I’m corrected, sometimes I’ll change my pronunciation, but other times I won’t (I’m stubborn, even when I’m wrong. )
Me, too. I used to get really mad at myself for that, but my mom told me that I shouldn’t be upset. I should try to pronounce them correctly, but that most readers mispronounce words and that it’s just a sign of being a reader. (I was probably seven, and my life goals at that point were probably to be left alone by my siblings and to read a lot, so this was excellent psychology by mom.)
Most of the people I hang out with are readers, and so there’s a fair amount of mispronunciation going on. Most of the time, just letting it go seems like the right response.
Ditto. And Wednesday is a 3 syllable word.
I’ll usually let blatant mispronunciations slide, allowing for regionalisms or the desire to keep a job; but when friends or family talk about fah-kades, and such, I call 'em on it.
Geographical pronunciations are tricky though because they’re entirely regional, and even people who wouldn’t normally be so rude as to publicly point out a mistake will correct the “outsider”.
I still can’t figure out how Washingtonians get “Ponderay” out of Pend Orielle…
Hello! A grown woman with a high-paying job. I was floored…but it is a good laugh!
I’ll pretty much only correct someone if they are speaking in their second language, or “borrowing” a word or a name that’s from a different language. I do it politely, often just by using it correctly myself in my response, but if it’s someone I know very well (eg, my in-laws are all francophones, and a lot of my coworkers were Chinese) I’ll tell them straight up that they mispronounced something and I’ll correct them and help them learn the proper pronounciation. Usually, these people are ones that have asked me in the past to help them with their English, so I do!
One hilarious (to me) occasion occurred relatively early on in my relationship with my now-husband. We were having dinner with his family, including a few aunts and uncles, and my future-father-in-law decided to put on some music. He asked me if I liked “Vo-ghin” and I said I’d never heard of him.
He goes to the stereo, puts a CD in, and it starts up…
It was Stevie Ray Vaughan.
I cracked up. It was actually a little embarrassing because I was laughing so hard at “Vo-Ghin”. I managed to explain the source of my humour, which pretty much embarrassed everyone there, as they had been mispronouncing it their whole lives. But, at least, they now use the correct name!
I try and be much more polite about this sort of thing, though!