Da (muckefuck) wrote in linguaphiles,

When your eyes are bigger than your mouth (and that's no hyperbowl!)

In a comment on the previous post, member dieastra said of learning a language through reading:
The only downside is that I sometimes pronounce words the wrong way, as I did make up some pronouncations in my head.
We've all done that, whether in our native language or one we learned later. Let's all take a moment to laugh at our younger more ignorant selves.
Tags: learning languages, pronunciation
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muckefuck

February 24 2014, 17:48:52 UTC 6 months ago Edited:  February 24 2014, 17:49:29 UTC

I'll start us off with one from way back: When I first read up about Egypt, I pronounced the name of the country with a hard g. (I don't recall having done this, but it's a story my parents love to tell. Apparently for a while there I had them absolutely baffled.)

stoutfellow

February 24 2014, 17:56:10 UTC 6 months ago

I recall the day I realized, with shock, that the written form "hors d'oeuvres" and the oral form "ordurves" belonged together.

muckefuck

February 24 2014, 18:05:02 UTC 6 months ago

I had a similar moment where it dawned on me that the Illinois town of /ˈsoːʒeː/ I heard mentioned in traffic reports and the place called "Sauget" on our street map were one and the same.

thefish30

6 months ago

electricdruid

February 24 2014, 18:20:43 UTC 6 months ago

There is a town here in NJ called Metuchen. For most of my life I had no idea how to pronounce it. I was absolutely sure it was supposed to be "META-chin" but I wasn't sure how to make my mouth make those sounds, and I'd never heard anyone say that before. Then one day I realized that this town called "meh-TUCH-in" that I kept hearing about was the same place. To be fair to myself, it's a Native American word so I didn't really have any way of knowing. But still. It was embarrassing.

muckefuck

February 24 2014, 18:35:00 UTC 6 months ago

I know that town! There's a fairly significant publisher there called "Scarecrow Press", so I've been seeing the name for years but never knew how to say it aloud. (It doesn't help that there's a British publisher named "Methuen" and I've gotten the two names confused before.) Thanks for this!

spamsink

6 months ago

wasureneba

February 24 2014, 18:23:20 UTC 6 months ago

I used to pronounce "elite" as "ee-light" because, well, didn't know any better.

I still have difficulties with Neil Gaiman's last name, too.

(My mother never heard anyone pronounce "chasm" until she was in college, and so she pronounced it with a soft ch. She discovered it was a hard ch in her English professor's office hours. She still looked mortified when she told me this story over thirty years later.)

stoutfellow

February 24 2014, 20:08:50 UTC 6 months ago

In the video game Skyrim, half the NPCs pronounce "archmage" with a soft "ch" and half with a hard "ch". Drives me nuts.

biascut

6 months ago

teaoli

February 24 2014, 18:24:26 UTC 6 months ago

Pain helps me remember asking my sister, when I was around eight years old or so, why "epitomy" (ɪˈpɪt.ə.mi) and "epitome" (ˈɛp.ɪ.tōm) were both necessary since they had the same meaning. Thinking that I was teasing her in some way, she cuffed across the back of my head and said, "Pretending to be stupid isn't cute at your age."

I still want to mispronounce it in my thoughts sometimes, but then I remember the shock of being hit (pretty hard, too!), and my mind shies away.


She is not quite two years older than me.

limonatafic

February 24 2014, 18:31:19 UTC 6 months ago

Native English but "courtesy" tricked me by not being spelled more like curtesy, so it was years before I grew out of reading it as court + esy.

wuglet

February 24 2014, 18:51:52 UTC 6 months ago

Non-native English speaker... I did the 'epitome' (ˈɛp.ɪ.tōm) one mentioned above in front of a senior colleague who, thankfully, promptly corrected me (both language teachers, so we were really professional about it. I hope). Another one was 'spinach' as 'spy-nack', this time a good friend corrected me (after laughing herself silly).

What baffles me all the time (when reading) is the pronounciation of the written '-ea-': 'jeans' vs 'jealous', 'means' vs 'meadow', etc. I have to remember this by individual case (is there even a rule for this?).

Also, the position of word stress in Latin/Ancient Greek loanwords.

dieastra

February 24 2014, 21:47:03 UTC 6 months ago

As for jeans, I remember when I just started to read my first books at a young age and stumbled about this foreign word and asked my mother, what "je-ans" were. Read it in German, just like the letters are. My mother enlightened me then about it, this was the first time I encountered a word that was pronounced differently than spelled.

paulistano

February 24 2014, 19:16:30 UTC 6 months ago

Growing up in the US, I thought "awry" was pronounced ['ari] instead of [ə'rai] until I was 14 or so.

scfrankles

February 24 2014, 21:26:43 UTC 6 months ago

I'm British - I thought "awry" was pronounced ['ɔ:rɪ] well into adulthood.

maju01

6 months ago

scfrankles

6 months ago

whswhs

February 24 2014, 19:32:10 UTC 6 months ago Edited:  February 24 2014, 19:34:52 UTC

The word "clitoris" was an eye word for me; it was many years after it became part of my vocabulary that I learned that the accent was on the first syllable, rather than the second. There's a subcategory of this phenomenon: words you don't know how to pronounce because the subjects aren't considered appropriate for conversation.

On a different track, for many years, I pronounced the word "forte"—as in "correct pronunciation isn't my forte"—as "fortay," as most people I encounter do. It was only a year or two ago that I happened to spot it in the dictionary and learned that it comes not from the Italian, but from the French, and "fortay" is a hypercorrection—the standard pronunciation is "fort."

muckefuck

February 24 2014, 19:50:53 UTC 6 months ago

I can't recall ever hearing anyone I know give forte a monosyllabic pronunciation. At this point, /ˈfɔrteː/ is so well established than anything else would sound affected. Plus it has the advantage of not being homophonous with any other English word.

whswhs

6 months ago

lilacsigil

6 months ago

come_to_think

6 months ago

whswhs

6 months ago

houseboatonstyx

6 months ago

fencer_x

6 months ago

demarafis

6 months ago

whswhs

6 months ago

muckefuck

6 months ago

dieastra

6 months ago

muckefuck

6 months ago

lignota

February 24 2014, 19:35:59 UTC 6 months ago

When I was younger, I thought the word "turquoise" was turk-voise. I have no idea where I got that from! And I wanted to pronounce "iron" and "women" the way they're spelled.

muckefuck

February 24 2014, 19:52:27 UTC 6 months ago

What do you mean by "the way they're spelled"? For "women", I assume that means */ˈwoːmɛn/, but I'm not sure how else someone would interpret "iron".

lignota

6 months ago

dorsetgirl

6 months ago

dieastra

6 months ago

squishykat

February 24 2014, 19:55:28 UTC 6 months ago

Persephone (per-seh-fone) and Hermione (her-mi-own) were two of mine, though I am familiar with many of the pronunciations mentioned! Also au revoir was not spelt that way in my head until many years of French lessons later.

muckefuck

February 24 2014, 20:01:13 UTC 6 months ago Edited:  February 24 2014, 20:10:56 UTC

Growing up, I think we all thought voilà was spelled "wah-lah". In fact, I'll bet you can find that written somewhere in our juvenilia.

[Proofreading this made me realise that all this time I've been pronouncing juvenilia as if it were spelled juvenalia, i.e. with stressed /eː/ rather than with /ɪ/.]

squishykat

6 months ago

dorsetgirl

6 months ago

squishykat

6 months ago

wosny

February 24 2014, 21:27:22 UTC 6 months ago

I may have said this before...but my embarrassing moment came when I was trying to show off my knowledge of the French idiom and I said;
"C'est pas la bite qui fait le moine" for "C'est pas l'habit qui fait le moine."
(not the dick that makes the monk/not the habit that makes the monk)
Awkward.

firerosearien

February 25 2014, 00:11:58 UTC 6 months ago

Still laughing.

tinimaus

6 months ago

karinmollberg

6 months ago

scfrankles

February 24 2014, 21:32:32 UTC 6 months ago

I'm a native English speaker. I thought "albeit" was pronounced ['ælbeɪt] for an embarrassingly long time. As a child I understood it and could use it correctly but the fact it was made up of "all, be and it" just went over my head.

dieastra

February 24 2014, 21:53:16 UTC 6 months ago

*is taking notes*
I confess, I just learnt something ;) LOL

Great post muckefuck!

I don't remember the exact word, but one time I said something so wrong that my friend (from Prague) could not understand me at all and I actually had to write it down before she got what I meant. Heh.

rirakkumiru

6 months ago

laudre

6 months ago

scfrankles

6 months ago

kleios_kiss

6 months ago

shizuku_san

February 24 2014, 21:54:30 UTC 6 months ago

I thought prix (as in Grand Prix) was pronounced "pricks" ... yep, gave my family a good laugh with that one.

lobolita

February 24 2014, 22:04:18 UTC 6 months ago

When I had just started to learn English I had a penpal in Gloucester. I had never heard the pronunciation of that town, so I imagined it to sound like Clou-chester, until my Enish teacher corrected me ;-)

dieastra

February 24 2014, 22:55:02 UTC 6 months ago

Oh yes, those English cities and places are a nightmare! Leicester Square...
At least I sort of knew about this already back in Eastern Germany, as we used to have that Worcester Sauce and someone had told me how to pronounce it correctly.

iddewes

6 months ago

firerosearien

February 25 2014, 00:12:22 UTC 6 months ago

I still think 'medicore' is a word (even though I know it's mediocre)

come_to_think

February 25 2014, 01:42:07 UTC 6 months ago

When I was little, I thought that "infrared" was the past tense & participle of "to infrare". It was something you could do to light, I had no idea what.

Perhaps most of us at some point invented the verb "to misle" by the same route. See Quine, _Quiddities_ s.v. misling.

houseboatonstyx

February 25 2014, 06:53:40 UTC 6 months ago

Well, my father said he pronounced it 'MYS-eld' till boot camp, iirc.

taversham

February 25 2014, 02:47:17 UTC 6 months ago

It took me a while to reconcile the word that sounded like "dowt" with the spelling "doubt", which until I was 7 or 8 I read like "dubbit". But I then managed to hypercorrect, and think "debt" and "debit" were the same word, until I asked someone if they have a "debt card" and they put me straight.

When I am Queen and I can enforce my spelling reforms, the silent Bs will be first to go.

muckefuck

February 25 2014, 02:53:27 UTC 6 months ago

Compared to English, German must seem pretty foolproof. But when you don't recognise the roots, it's easy to misdivide compounds. I know I've made some catastrophic mistakes in my time, but right now the only example I can think of didn't happen to me but to one of my ex' students: Umgebung pronounced /ˈuːmgəbʊŋ/.

biascut

February 25 2014, 11:05:47 UTC 6 months ago

My entire A level class said um-guh-bung. Used to drive our teacher mad!

dorsetgirl

6 months ago

arrowwhiskers

February 25 2014, 04:26:50 UTC 6 months ago

I used to think the Pacific Ocean was the Specific Ocean.

Also I remember once my friend tried to pronounce the word "coax" as "ko-axe".

kleios_kiss

February 26 2014, 00:31:43 UTC 6 months ago

It's a pretty specific ocean. :)

lilacsigil

February 25 2014, 05:29:12 UTC 6 months ago

My own language, sort of, but I always thought "voila" was spelt "viola". I did play the cello, so I suppose that's understandable!

On that note, never try to learn French from your mother's old textbook that doesn't have a pronunciation guide!

demarafis

February 25 2014, 05:45:35 UTC 6 months ago

Chaos is pronounced chows when I see it. I still stumble over this one and have to do a check before pronouncing it out loud as KAY-os.

I have a similar problem with chasm. Cha-zm instead of Kazm.

Penelope. I thought it is pronounced PENneh + lope (like the gait). Took a long time to match it up with the name pen-EL-op-ee.

Celtic - can't decide if it should be keltic or seltic.

That's enough embarrassment for now.

muckefuck

February 25 2014, 15:41:19 UTC 6 months ago

Celtic is a case of genuine variation among native speakers. I originally learned it with the /s/ pronunciation, because that was all that was used in my milieu (middle-class St Louis), but switched to the /k/ at some point either out of personal affectation (I was learning Welsh at the time) or because that was the dominant pronunciation at my university.

In the names of sports teams (notably Celtic FC and the Boston Celtics), the initial consonant is always /s/.

demarafis

6 months ago

mack_the_spoon

February 25 2014, 06:04:40 UTC 6 months ago

I'm only now getting used to "respite" being pronounced with the accent on the first syllable and the final syllable not being [ait].

A whole lot of British place names would fit in this category, too.

houseboatonstyx

February 25 2014, 07:11:58 UTC 6 months ago

For real embarrassment, in junior high I once said of some literary critic that I thought he was "sort of pseudo-something-or-other". Unfortunately I pronounced it as in 'blue suede shoes'.

With hindsight, I still think I was right about that critic, though.

vilakins

February 25 2014, 08:02:07 UTC 6 months ago

Penny-lope, but at least I heard the right pronunciation before I made a fool of myself.

Epitome to rhyme with "Rome"; this one I said out loud in front of a middle-aged guy who laughed at me. Before that, people had thought I was being funny - a positive side-effect of being the class clown.

IndefatEEgable: well, look, the accent goes on the second syllable of fatigue, fatigued, fatiguing etc. So WTH?

I know there are more but those are the ones that spring to mind. Damn you, English, for not having logical and predictable pronunciation like German or Italian.

muckefuck

February 25 2014, 15:46:09 UTC 6 months ago

I narrowly missed doing that with hyperbole. My sophomore English teacher asked if anyone knew the literary term for "exaggeration", I had my hand raised to answer, and before he could call on me, he went off on a tangent and told us an anecdote about an upperclassman who had mispronounced the word because he'd never heard it spoken. Another upperclassman never lived down saying "Aunty Gonn" for "Antigone".

It all made such an impression on me that I began to keep a list of English words in which final e was not silent. I also began writing them with diaereses.

vilakins

6 months ago

muckefuck

6 months ago

come_to_think

6 months ago

vilakins

6 months ago

dieastra

6 months ago

vilakins

6 months ago

dieastra

6 months ago

vilakins

6 months ago

dieastra

6 months ago

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