Picture this scenario. You’re seated across a linen tablecloth from the best-looking person you’ve ever seen. If a man, he’s the love-child from an unholy alliance between Don Draper and Barry Zito. If a woman, she shimmers with an ethereal glow. The meal is going to set you back a couple of hundy, and you could not care less. Your order placed, he or she folds his or her hands and says, “Maybe after we can have an expresso with our sherbert.” Great Balzac, poof, there goes the illusion! It’s enough to make you chew your tongue in two. Words matter to you, and you wouldn’t respect the characters on The Big Bang Theory if they mispronounce everyday words.
You react this way because you respect the words that make up the English language (and because you may be a little anal.) Be that as it may, this stuff matters to you. Words are the toolkit of a civilized society. It is important to correctly get them out!
All good, but it never hurts to brush up on your own usage. Has anything changed? Pronunciations do evolve over time, you know. I know one woman who never got over it becoming acceptable to pronounce “February” as “Feb-u-ary.” She considers it the touchstone to the end of polite discourse and, perhaps, even Western Civilization.
Today, Gildshire Magazines examines words that are commonly mispronounced. A few of them surprised us (we double-checked with dictionary.com to make sure.) and we are betting they will surprise you, as well. This is the English language as an art form.
Almond: Right off the bat, one that surprised us. The “l” is silent. It’s pronounced “ah-mund, or “ahm-und.” Your English teacher will only experience Almond Joy if you get this one right.
Cache: This is one we had right, but so many people went a different direction that we started to doubt ourselves. It’s pronounced “kash” like the money in your pocket. Not “kaysh” which isn’t a word.
Caramel: A widely mispronounced sweet treat, but perhaps not mispronounced the way you think. Both “kahr-muhl,” and “Kahr-a-muhl” are correct. Don’t pronounce it starting with “care,” however. It isn’t a “care-a-mell.” Bonus points if you pronounce the word correctly and bring me some over vanilla ice cream.
Epitome: Rumor has it people are out there saying “eppi-tohm.” I may need an aspirin because that would be the “eh-pit-uh-mee” of relief from a headache such a thing is bringing on.
Espresso: We already discussed this one. Not an “x” in sight, except on the exit sign when you leave your ill-spoken date at the table.
Facade: You can put up a good “fuh-sahd” in the face of your date’s mispronounce words if you would like. Make sure you don’t think it’s a “fuh-kayd, or a “fuh-sayd.”
Haute: Some like it hot, but that isn’t the way to say this word. Don’t get cocky, though, because you may be mispronouncing this one too, but in a different way. The “h” is silent. Properly said, it’s the same word as the breakfast grain.
Hyperbole: “When them (*shudder* it should be “those” cotton bolls) cotton bolls get rotten, you can hear very much cotton. Fine and dandy when it comes to cotton, but incorrect in the case of “high-per-buh-lee.”
Mischievous: This is one of those times when our mouth runs away from us, adding syllables will-nilly. Read the word carefully and you’ll see that the word is “miss-chi-vuss,” and not “miss-chee-vee-uss.”
Niche: Occasionally our “hoity” gets a little too “toity,” and we gussy up a word that is actually pretty simple. Put your little finger down when you drink your tea. This is “nitch,” and not “neesh.”
Quinoa: There are two acceptable pronunciations for this food, and you’re probably nailing one of them. “Keen-whuh” or “Keen-oh-uh” is fine. Don’t pronounce this member of the spinach family (Yeah, we thought it was a cereal grain too, but it isn’t.) “queen-oh-uh.”
Sherbet: See above: “Shur-bit.”
Turmeric: This one is a simple misreading of the accented syllable. Put the emphasis on the first syllable and you’ll be as golden as “TER-mur-ik,” not to be mistaken with “ter-MERR-ik” which is nothing at all.
Worcestershire: Probably the mother of all mispronunciation. Just be glad you don’t live there, 28 miles west of Stratford-upon-Avon in the U.K. Then you would have to say it every day and learn to spell it before you were old enough to go to Hogwarts. There are a hundred ways to say it wrong and only two ways to say it right. Take a deep breath and say “woo-ster-sher”, or “woo-ster-sheer.” Then just add the word “sauce.” You get no points for “wer-chest-er-shire,” “wer-suh-shurr,” or “wash your sister” sauce.
How did you do? I’m guessing you did pretty well. You read Gildshire, after all. It’s your niche and that’s not hyperbole. I see the mischievous gleam in your eye. Go ahead and have some sherbet.