6 words that everyone pronounces wrong
Sometimes it turns out that knowing how to use a word in a sentence and knowing how to pronounce it are two very different things. Here are several words that lots of people tend to get wrong and have no idea.
Any coffee lover worth their beans has had this argument. Technically, the pronunciation with ‘s’ is correct; it is faithful to the original Italian word caffè espresso, which literally means ‘pressed out coffee’. However, the pronunciation (and spelling) expresso, with an ‘x’ instead of an ‘s’, has grown greatly in popularity, probably due to the influence of ‘express’.
If you take a close look at the word for this scrumptious treat – either a dessert of frozen fruit juice in North America or a flavored, effervescent powder in the UK – you may realize, with a sinking feeling, that there is no ‘r’ in the second syllable. In fact, the tendency to add the ‘r’ into the pronunciation has crept into the spelling. According to the Oxford English Corpus, around a quarter of the citations for the word reflect this misspelling.
Both prescription and prescribe offer a challenge to many speakers. The initial syllable is not pronounced as PER or PRO, but rather as PRUH, with the ‘r’ sound immediately following the initial ‘p’ sound.
For those who only encounter this word when pondering candidates in a voting booth, the pronunciation of comptroller may seem obvious; you might be surprised to learn that the word is pronounced the same as controller. So how did that pesky -mp- end up sounding like an ‘n’? The frustrating answer has to do with a late 15th century spelling reform. The spelling comptroller was established as a variant of controller because of an erroneous association with the French term compte, ‘calculation’ and its late Latin source computus. If the change was based on an error, you are probably wondering why we have bothered keeping it around. A practical reason behind the maintenance of this spelling is because the word has been established as an official title of office. The OED additionally observes that the ‘retention [of this spelling] has probably been partly due to a desire to separate the title from the general modern sense of control’.
Before anyone goes bashing political figures for botching this pronunciation, it’s worth observing that lots of non-politicians say it incorrectly as well. While many people pronounce the word as NUKE-yuh-luhr, the proper pronunciation is actually N(Y)OO-klee-uhr.
In the case of quinoa, it’s not that there is a single alternative pronunciation that everyone is mistakenly using; it’s simply that no one seems entirely sure of how to pronounce the thing that is appearing in health-conscious salads everywhere. The correct pronunciation of the word is KEEN-wah. However, variants ranging from kee-NO-ah to KWIN-wah. You can credit the troublesome pronunciation to the word’s origin; quinoa comes from the South American Spanish term quinua, and ultimately from the Quechua kínuwa.