The talking head on the TV screen ranted on about the error in his political opponent’s reasoning. And then suddenly he began squawking about how this particular issue was not one in which one should err. What? He said errrrr. Made it rhyme with “burr.”
Wait. He had just rhymed it with “bear” when he said “error” – so which was correct? I simply had to know.
So a little research turned up some surprising revelations about commonly mispronounced words. Almost ALL of which, I’m sad to say, I am guilty in the first degree. (But that’s not really a shocker considering how we Southerners tend to take pronouncetory shortcuts with our ma’ams, you’uns and y’alls. )
But, mind you, these ten words (condensed from a 3/3/17 article, “19 Words Even Smart People Mispronounce” on urbo.com) are misspoken upwards and downwards across the Mason Dixon and east-to-west from RI to LA. So it ain’t just me, folks. Could be you, too.
- Err: The official ruling is that it should rhyme with “burr” not “bear”. But you try to do that with the word error. Go ahead. See if your tongue can navigate all those rrrrrrs better than mine can. Sounds like you’re trying to hock up a hairball. Or start your engines. Rubbish. I must take issue. I have never in my life heard anyone say “To errrrrrr (burr) is human but to forgive, divine.” It’s Air. Like bear. And fair.
- Almond: If you’re like me, you can’t imagine why this nutty word is on the list; how could you possibly pronounce it any other way? But surprise! The “l” is supposed to be silent. As in: Do you like your Cadbury bars with or without “ah-munds”? Go figure. Those silent l’s are tough for folks from Georgia. My 90-year-old mama, just like her mama and her mama before her, likes to make salmon croquettes for lunch, referring to them as sal-i-mun cro-kays (like the lawn game where you hit a little ball with a mal-lay). Delishus.
- Vallet: Yep, those French words are killers (notice how many are on this list). If you, like me, have ever shouted “Val-lay! It’s val-lay!” at an inanimate screen when a British actor calls for his trusty val-let (this happened frequently during my Downton Abbey days), you understand my dismay at learning they are right. Contrary to popular belief, the “t” is not silent in vallet. Unlike ballet, when it is. Sigh. (Why the heck NOT?)
- Banal: Another word Americans have French-fried. It’s not supposed to be pronounced “bay-nal” as we’ve done for centuries (I suspect George Washington frequently referred to the bay-nal British generals during the War of 1812). It’s supposed to rhyme with “canal,” as it actually does in the banality of youth. As much as I hate to admit it, this one does make sense.
- Transient: Okay, go ahead. Say it out loud. Did you make it three syllables … tran-zee-ent? Of course you did. So did I. That’s the way it’s spelled. Phonetics rule. Don’t they? Apparently not, at least not in this case. It should be only two syllables, “tran-zhent.” Can’t seem to make that one smoothly roll off my tongue no matter how much I practice. It kind of trips awkwardly and falls flat on the floor. Ker-plunk.
- Gala: Woohoo! I got one right. Turns out all the “gay-luh” events I’ve attended were not really “gal-luh” after all.
- Cache: Yet another word we tend to French-fry. All those years reading crime mysteries as an adolescent had firmly imbedded this word as “ca-shay” in my head (I don’t believe I ever heard it spoken aloud until adulthood; after all, it’s not exactly a word we use every day, is it?) So I’ll admit I was wrong. But so are a lot of other people. It’s pronounced “cash” exactly like the stuff you wish you had in your wallet (no, not wal-lay). So if you’re thrifty, maybe one day you’ll actually have a cashe of cash to confuse people about.
- Prelude: As a church pianist for decades, this one is near and dear to my heart. I must’ve played a thousand “pray-ludes” in my lifetime (which always seemed to me to be a lovely way to prepare to pray), but now I find out they were “prel-yudes.” Eeeek! I simply cannot wrap my head around that one. I strongly suspect that Handel (composer of the Hallelujah Chorus) pronounced it as I do and would positively cease decomposing (get it???) to consider otherwise.
- Status: Well, looks like I’ve struck out again. “Stay-tus” is correct. Booooooo.
- Either: A good one to end on because we can all be winners. I used to secretly roll my eyes when my Yankee mother-in-law (a true blue New York Yankees fan when the rest of us were Boston Red Sox diehards) would wince and reply, “eye-ther one” when I asked whether she preferred ‘taters or ‘maters with her sammich (of course she called them “po-tah-toes” and “to-mah-toes” so I just had to annoy her whenever I could). But it turns out her “eye-ther” and my “ee-ther” are both acceptable. Either will do (‘fess up – which way did you say in your noggin when you read that?). Same applies to “neither.”
So dearest BBFFs (Blessed Blog Friends Forever), I hope this is a smidgeonly helpful for the scholarlyness of your verbalizations to reflect the profundity of your inner brain workings today. Or maybe you’ll just sound smarter.
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