English mispronunciations that became common usage


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Quixotic pronounced as kwik-SOH-tik is my least favorite. It should be key-HOE-tik. Give Don Quixote his due!


This is CRAZY. You arent making any sense!!!

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That’s a really interesting article.

I gave a talk in English to a Hong Kong audience once during which I used the word “data” quite often, pronouncing it in the Australian-English way - “darta”. Someone raised their hand and at the end and said they really liked my talk but what was this thing called “darta”. Since then I’ve always used the American pronunciation and have become so used to it that “darta” sounds quite odd to me now.

I’ve found that native English speakers in non-native English speaking environments either quickly get used to unexpected pronunciations and adopt them, or become complete pronunciation Nazis and try to correct every “mistake”. The latter option is a sure fire way to a nervous breakdown… :smile:

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It is not ok to be sloppy, not even when everybody else is sloppy. If you go to another country where they talk funny, then you talk funny the same way they do; it’s still not ok to be sloppy.


The irony with your comment is that it’s clear that you have no idea how language works and how it has evolved through time. None at all.


Eyup, the classic “Mexico” problem. Most english speakers just say “Meksico”, but the proper pronunciation is more like “May-hee-koe”.

I’m personally fascinated by the compounded linguistic trainwreck that leads English speakers to mistakenly switch in an ñ into “habanero”. The assumption is that it’s like “jalapeño”, perhaps because they’re both spicy Latin peppers, but “habanero” is in fact derived from Havana, the place of origin for the peppers, and the actual non-Anglicized name for the capital of Cuba (actually pronounce Koo-bah, not Kyoo-bah) is “Habana”!


I always have to tell tourists that it’s pronounced the way it’s spelled: O,R,Y,G,U,N.


I’m as guilty as anyone of thinking that my English is the best English, but the next time I wince at “nukular,” I’ll remind myself that “bird” started out as “brid” and “wasp” started out as “waps,” but were mispronounced into common usage.

I prefer a more direct approach. When people say “nukular” around me, I just axe them to stop.

And any witnesses.


Well, that’s the pronunciation in Spanish. I can do that one, but have sympathy for people who don’t insist on the local language for each place name, since otherwise I can’t manage to say Beijing or Riyadh.


If Comcast/NBC weren’t such dicks I could link to the Jimmy Smits SNL sketch about silly white people going out of their way to “correctly” pronounce words like “burrito” and “enchilada” in his presence.


Except Beijing and Riyadh are pronounced essentially properly in English.

北京市 sounds like “Bay-zyuh-ing” (which we pronounce with no problem, despite the odd non-phonetic spelling derived from Pinyin) and الرياض is Anglicized as “ar-Riyāḍ”, and since “ar-” is just a form of Arabic’s definite article (the name means “the gardens”) we just drop it and refer to the city as “Riyāḍ”, which is exactly how we say and it almost exactly how we spell it.

The Mexico situation is more akin to the Turin / Torino situation. Many English speakers will know the famed Shroud of Turin, while the actual Italian name of the city is Torino.

A lot of Italian names get Anglicized like this, come to think of it. Venezia becomes Venice, Roma becomes Rome, Milano becomes Milan, Genova becomes Genoa, Firenze becomes Florence, Napoli becomes Naples, et cetera. And perhaps most famous of all, when the fair city of Bologna lent its name to their regional sausage, we ended up corrupting it into “Baloney”!

Spain has a similar problem. “Toh-lee-doh” versus “Toh-lay-doh”, “Seh-vill-uh” versus “Seh-vee-yah”… perhaps even Toh-may-toh versus Toh-mah-toh? :stuck_out_tongue:

I wonder if there’s some unifying cause? England historically had a lot of trade with Spain and Italy, spanning many centuries and typically occuring through the medium of sailors, who certainly weren’t the best educated or well spoken folks around.

In contrast, Beijing and Riyadh were far distant places, far less easily visited, far less frequently, far later historically, and typically by far more educated and erudite travelers. This might explain why their pronunciations were not corrupted, as was the case in the Mediterranean.

(To be fair, Beijing was for a long time known as Peking, but that was the accepted local “Southern Pronunciation” that Europeans experienced in Chinese ports cities far to the South of the capital city.)


On the other hand, Spanish people say Londres for London and Cornwalles for Cornwall (with the Spanish pronunciation of ‘ll’). Mandarin versions of European placenames are also pretty far from the term in the native language at times. With the Don Quijote example, I think the translators used the ‘x’ from the phonetic alphabet (which is pretty close to the Spanish ‘j’), but people just pronounced it the English way.

Marylebone is pronounced “Marley-bone”, when I’d always assumed it was a more French “Marry-le-bon”. That would make more sense to me, as historically the name means “Mary the Good”

No, he has a perfect idea how language works. As the article entailed, language does change, but as Jewels_Vern was commenting about, the reason for those changes, more often than not, are because people are ignorant or lazy (i.e. sloppy) about their speech. Eventually, enough other people follow suit and it becomes official.

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Interesting example from Spanish:

A photo is called una foto, i.e. it’s female gender. That’s because it’s short for una fotografía.

However, the “-o” ending is usually used for as a marker of male gender, e.g. in adjective endings.

So in some places, especially Andalusia, this becomes “un afoto”, plural “los afotos”.


Say-vee-jah, to some.

Edited to add: Leicester and Worcestershire.

(Tones are lost when non-speakers of Chinese say “Beijing/ 北京”, and toneless Chinese is rather not “essentially properly”. To get an idea of what the Chinese say, head over to Google Translate, enter Beijing, and set left to English and right to Chinese… then hit the audio button to the right.)



That’s always a fun one. Are you Team Duck or Team Duct?