Words You’ve Never Heard Pronounced

Absolutely. I say GAZE-bo at every opportunity.


The official pronunciation for the Royal Navy is loo-tenant. The British Army pronounces it leff-tenant.

I recently heard detritus said out loud for the first time. Luckily I don’t think I’ve ever said DET- tri-tus in public like I do in my head.

40+ years later I can still hear my brother laughing at me for pronouncing the musician’s name Bruce COCK- burn (it’s supposed to sound like Coburn).

I once had a college English professor who held strong views on this topic – her position was that no one is pronouncing it wrong, just pronouncing it differently. I tend to agree, and always thoroughly enjoyed her corrections of those noxious students who sneered at others for pronouncing a word “wrong”.

Near the end of The Pirates of Penzance, Gilbert rhymes “long-lived” with “contrived.” So he certainly thought it was pronounced with a long I sound.

I don’t know; it makes sense to me. You have a long life, so you are long-l[eye]ved. The only way you could be long-livd is if you have a long liff.

But a liff is something completely different!
Anyway: As an interpreter, I have two remarks. First, I almost fell off my stool the first time an English native speaker uttered the word “hitherto” for me to interpret. That was not how I expected it to be pronounced, and though I recogized it immediately, I was so flabbergasted that I almost forgot my sentence.
Secondly, and much more confusing, are the many ways words are pronounced wrong (yes, wrong, whatever @Ziberian’s teacher argued) by non native speakers. An Italian TV presenter spoke about a movie with the title “mystic r-EYE-ver”, a waiter in Spain suggested today something to the guests next table that had a hint of “v-EYE-nager”, French speakers often have a good “Eye-dee” (idea, in case you were wondering) to propose. Darn! English does not deserve the prominence it has acquired in the last decades! But don’t worry: we will ruin it for you soon enough.

AV-ril la-VEEN

Close enough for government work, anyway.

How would you pronounce “Abraham Lincoln lived from 1809 until his assassination in 1865”?

He was, sadly, not very long-lived.

I would pronounce both ‘livd’, not ‘l[eye]ved’ If you accept that the first is ‘livd’ then it would seem to follow that the second usage is pronounced the same.

“Long-lived” is a description of someone who has had a “long life,” not a “long live.”

“Long-lived” = Having a long life


“Long-legged” = Having long legs

It’s derived from the noun, not the verb.

… is one way of looking at it.

I would analyze it largely in the way that Acsenray does. “Long-lived” is an adjective. The pronunciation of the verb “lived” isn’t really relevant to how the adjective is pronounced. The adjective comes from the noun “life.” The f turns into a v because that’s what happens to words that end in an f sound when you add a suffix.

Is it derived from the noun and and not the verb? I would say someone who is ‘long-lived’ is someone who has lived for a long time.

Let’s see, according merriam-webster.com, the definition of ‘long-lived’ is:

“having a long life : living a long time”

It references both the noun and the verb. maybe I’m wrong, or maybe both are correct.

Oh boy, how right I turned out to be!

OTOH, long-legged can be said with three syllables, because it’s an adjective, same as ragged as an adjective has two syllables. For legged it’s both, even as an adjective, but for ragged as an adjective it’s only ragg-id. Same as the “blessed Virgin Mary” being “bless-əd” or “bless-id.”

Segue was mine. I was laughed at for getting it wrong, but in retrospect those people were awful human beings - normal people accept that unusual words will not always be pronounced correctly.

A friend at sixth form college once wrote a fairly good poem called From Bathos to Pathos, and didn’t know that they don’t rhyme, because how would most people know? I did because I’d looked it up when I encountered it (and didn’t really understand the meaning), and I understood IPA, but he’d used the meaning correctly, and it definitely looks like it should rhyme. It still worked as a semi-rhyme, and TBH I prefer semi-rhymes anyway.

If you are ever unsure of a pronunciation or get flak for yours, lean into it. That way you look mildly witty as opposed to ignorant/unlearned/stoopid.

Outre. Supposedly pronounced “utter”.

I learned of this from a story that Charlie Chaplin kept a dictionary in a room adjacent to his office at United Artists - so he wouldn’t be stumped by any word. If the occasion arose he would excuse himself, look up the word, and return to the meeting.

From “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” (sung by Admiral Cockburn):

…“Coburn,” not “Cockburn” - though for that you are excused,
'Tis spelled C-O-C-K, but only half the cock is used!

But he also rhymed ‘general’ with ‘mineral’.

Serious verse sometimes stretches the way words are said to make a rhyme, or to fit the meter. Gilbert often did it deliberately for comic effect.

So, not a convincing argument.

or if you lived a long time.

By whom? Where are you people getting some of these supposed pronunciations?

Here’ are two relevant recordings.

OK, I’ll bite.