A recent study by a British newspaper found that "80% of British people struggle to pronounce common words" which seems to be a surprisingly high statistic.
Among the most commonly mispronounced words in English are foreign words that have made it into everyday language, including the word espresso. However, even months of the year are leaving people tongue-tied.
Here are ten of the words that I find are commonly mispronounced:
1. February: Correct: 'Feb-roo-ehree' Incorrect: 'Feb-yoo-ehree'
Very commonly pronounced as 'Feb-yoo-ahree', which is becoming an accepted alternative. Nevertheless, for precise speakers 'Feb-roo-ehree' is the standard British English pronunciation.
2. Specific: Correct: 'spuh-sific' Incorrect: 'pah-sific’
Not to be confused with the Pacific Ocean.
3. Bought: Correct: 'bawt' Incorrect: 'brawt’
The past participle of the verb ‘to bring’ is ‘brought’ and the past participle of the verb ‘to buy’ is ‘bought’. This one I feel is not so much a mispronunciation issue but people mixing up verbs. It’s quite noticeable however, as both are very common words.
4. Ask: Correct: 'ahs-k' Incorrect: 'aks’
More common for Americans, this is becoming more common this side of the pond. The problem with it for most people is that when mispronounced it sounds like ‘axe’, which is a tool for chopping wood. It sounds rather strange (and violent) when misused!
5. Schedule: Correct: 'shed-ule' Incorrect: 'sked-ule’
An Americanism in our midst. The British pronunciation is definitely ‘shed-ule.’
6. Picture: Correct: 'pic-tchur' Incorrect: ''pit-chur'
Pronounced incorrectly, 'picture' sounds more like 'pitcher' which is another word for a jug - very confusing!
7. Lieutenant: Correct: 'lef-tenant' Incorrect: 'loo-tenant’
Oxford Dictionaries explains “In the normal British pronunciation of lieutenant the first syllable sounds like lef-. In the standard US pronunciation the first syllable, in contrast, rhymes with do. It is difficult to explain where the f in the British pronunciation comes from.” Many Britons remember Lieutenant Columbo, the Los Angeles homicide detective from popular crime series Columbo, which I think may have something to do with the American pronunciation being used in the UK.
8. Espresso: Correct: 'ess-presso' Incorrect: 'ex-presso’
The French are guilty of ordering ‘expresso’ and it seems the habit has sailed over the channel. Most coffee-related vocabulary used in the UK follows Italian terminology such as cappuccino and americano, so we say ‘espresso’ also.
9. Prescription: Correct: ‘Pruh-skrip-shun' Incorrect: 'per-skrip-shun’
Perhaps there is a pattern here of people forgetting ‘r’s’ as in February.
10. Regularly: Correct: 'Regg-yoo-lar-lhee' Incorrect: 'regg-yoo-lhee’
A simple slip of the tongue seems to mash all the syllables together for some.
Written by Laurence Clayton-Trotman, Community Manager.