More Mispronunciations

In an earlier installment of “The Language Perfectionist,” I presented a list of the most commonly mispronounced words, courtesy of Charles Harrington Elster, a leading expert on pronunciation. In that column, I pointed out that if you don’t pronounce words properly, your image and reputation could suffer.

That Top Ten list, however, hardly exhausted the roster of words that are frequently mangled. So I asked Charlie for a sequel. He emphasizes that the following list, like the previous one, isn’t necessarily in order of offensiveness.

  • Pronouncing the “t” in often. Say AWF-in, not AWF-tin.
  • Rhyming assuage with massage. Correct: uh-SWAYJ (rhymes with “a sage”), not uh-SWAHZH.
  • Putting a spurious “beast” in bestial. Say BES-chul, not BEES-chul or BEES-chee-ul. The word has two syllables, not three.
  • Inserting an extraneous “moment” in memento. Pronounce it muh-MEN-toh, not moh-MEN-toh.
  • Pronouncing height as if it were highth or height-th. The word rhymes with “right.”
  • Stressing the “par” instead of the “dis” in disparate. It’s DIS-puh-rit, not dis-PAR-it.
  • Putting a “he” or a “he nee” in heinous. Say HAY-nus, not HEE-nus or HEE-nee-us.
  • Finally, two pronunciation crimes often committed in courtrooms: saying “or” at the end of juror and “ant” at the end of defendant. It’s JOOR-ur, not JOOR-or and dih-FEN-dint, not dih-FEN-dant.

Charles Harrington Elster is the author of the quintessential guide, The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations. The current paperback second edition contains 200 new entries.

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Thanks again, Charlie. You have our GRAT-uh-tood!

[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book recently published by AWAI that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]

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