Saturday, October 3, 2015

Say what?

There is no doubt that we all make mistakes every day; what I try to do through this blog is help us make fewer grammatical and communication missteps. The research I put into each blog post helps me become better at writing, editing, and communicating; and my goal is that you will find this information useful and practical. 

Grammar carries over to situations where we converse with others, either informally or formally. Today, I am focusing on some words that are often mispronounced in media, government, and our day-to-day lives. My opinion on each of these words is based on recent research and opinions from practitioners in the field; as a result, if you go with what I suggest, you’ll be fine. The suggestions are intended for those who are English-speaking and living in the USA; you’ll find different pronunciations that are correct in other countries. Since often there is more than one correct way to pronounce a word, I’ll give you the most common and preferred way. I always want to be relevant to you the reader, so the following list of mispronounced words is topical and will help us as we chat with others each day.

1. Pronunciation. The core part of this word is spelled differently than in “pronounce.” Notice that there is no “noun” in this word—just “nun”— so “pro-noun-see-ā-shun” is not the way to say it.
- “Pro-nun-see-ā-shun”

2. Iran and Iraq. These countries have been in the news for decades, and I’ve heard each of them pronounced at least five different ways by people who should know better. No wonder we are confused.   
- Iran: “ear-Ron”—Not: I-Ron, I-Ran, E-Ron, E-Ran, Ear-Ran.
- Iraq: “ear-Rock”—Not: I-Rock, E-Rock, I-Rack, E-Rack, Ear-Rack.

3. Utmost. Your use of language is of utmost importance to your company and those with whom you work. Many times this word is mistakenly pronounced as “upmost.”

4. Calvary. This special word of religious significance is often swapped accidentally for “cavalry,” which is a specific term pertaining to special types of military organizations or soldiers.

5. Applicable. This is a helpful word that we use quite frequently. It’s common to hear its first letter “a” sounding like Hay or Day; but it’s not correct.
- “uh-Plic-uh-ble”—Not ā-Plic-uh-ble.

6. Verbiage. Here we have a word that is nicely used in describing a style or manner of writing or speech (according to one of several definitions of the word), and it is known to be pronounced in several interesting ways. Notice the “a” in the word is silent when pronounced correctly.
- “Vur-be-ij” is correct and preferred with three quick syllables.

7. Espresso. At the coffee shop, some coffee drinkers order “expresso” for their morning drink. This may, in turn, explain the puzzled look on the barista’s face.

8. Prescription. After visiting a doctor, she gives us a prescription, not a “perscription.”

9. Nuclear. Various people have been ridiculed (not nice to do) for pronouncing this scary word as “Nu-ca-lur.” It’s “nu-clear” with just two syllables.

10. Presley. As in Elvis. Elvis Presley, that is. Most everyone in the world knows how to pronounce his first name, and most people refer to him at least once or twice a year. Now what about that last name?
- “Press-lee”—Not Prezz-lee.

Once again, it’s been a pleasure to pass along some grammar tips to you, and I hope today’s post has served you well.

Randall Ponder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA      @randallponder

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