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7 Comments

  • Two mispronunciations I remember from my home city of Glasgow are both examples of people who wanted to avoid sounding common or uneducated.

    The first is because some people, from poorer, less well-educated backgrounds, pronunce ‘three’ as ‘free’ – sounds horrible, doesn’t it? The speaker, who had heard people saying physiotherapists and thought they were using the wrong pronunciation, used to say ‘thysiotherapist’.

    Another was because, in the north of England and Scotland, ‘head’ (the part of the body) is commonly pronounced ‘heed’. ‘You’re off your head’, in a Scottish dialect would become, ‘yer aff yer heed’. So, in an attempt to avoid sounding ‘common’ a friend of mine would say ‘to head a warning’, rather than ‘to heed a warning’.

    Neither of these mistakes are in common usage but I was tickled by the irony.

  • Like Beth, I find myself irritated by some of these…but I’m not sure why, since my usual position is to be non-prescriptive about what is and isn’t ‘correct’ in language.
    A couple of common ones you haven’t mentioned, Beth, are ‘vunrable’ (vulnerable) and nucular (nuclear) – the latter a great favourite of George W. Bush. Britain’s answer to Bush, our former deputy prime minister John Prescott, was talking only yesterday about the ‘universiality’ (universality) of state benefits, but Prescott is in a league of his own really.
    Regarding ‘(h)aitch’: was your headteacher Irish by any chance? In Hiberno-English , ‘haitch’ is standard.

  • Just this morning, I was discussing a blog carnival I’m participating in today, and in the discussion, the phrase “indie author” came up frequently. My wife stopped me and asked “Why do you say ‘indie’ like it hurts?” To which I replied “Because it does! I’m not an ‘indie.’ I’m independent. Why not just say the whole word?” This led to a discussion of fax, phone, and modem (none of which bother me) and convo, info, and burb (all of which curl my toenails).

    The fact is, language is supposed to evolve, but it’s supposed to do it before I get there. I’ve never called a fax machine a facsimile machine, and I only barely remember the long-gone high school English teacher who insisted we apostrophize phone (as ‘phone), but I do have conversations about information in the suburbs, so those words are never ever supposed to change!

  • Not that I’m condoning the use of “expresso”, but isn’t that the French word for it? And just guessing from how it is brewed, it’s considerably faster than what Americans call ‘regular’ coffee.

    One thing I really don’t like: pronouncing ‘drawer” as ‘drawrer”

    I think the ‘haitch’ is a regional thing, Northerners tend to say ‘haitch’, Sotherners ‘aitch’. Some dictionaries even list ‘haitch’ as an alternative pronunciation.

  • I have to say, I don’t think the use of ‘expresso’ has anything to do with the speed of the coffee (!) but is simply down to the fact that in English ‘e’ is much more likely to be followed by ‘x’ than by ‘s’. There are many more pages of ‘ex’ entries in the Macmillan English Dictionary than there are ‘es’ ones. I always have to make a conscious effort to say ‘espresso’, because ‘expresso’ just sounds so much more natural.

  • We can still tell in Australia if you went to a catholic school if you say haitch. Nuns and brothers are fairly firm about their rightness…