Anyone who’s spent enough time with me knows that I don’t sound like a central New Yorker. Let’s take a look at some words that you and I may/probably pronounce differently.
Please note that any of these pronunciations may be overridden by a different pronunciation when I’m singing or when I’m imitating a character who uses a different pronunciation.
Also, all these pronunciations have the potential to shift over the course of my life.
Catch – Rhymes with match. “Catch up” ≠ “ketchup” for me.
- Leisure – rhymes with pleasure
- Patronise – The A is short, not long. Oddly enough, this is not the case in patron.
- Data – “day-ta”
- Route – “root”
- Basil – “bazzle”
- Enquiry – “enquire-y”
- Prelude – “PREL-yood”
- Deluge – “DEL-yoozh”
- Tomorrow – “to-MORE-oh”
- Aesthetic – basically “ees-thetic”
Either/Neither – “EYE-ther” and “NIGH-ther.”
- Lawyer – “law-yer,” not “loi-yer”
- Scenario – rhymes with Mario (as in “It’s-a me”), not Ontario
- Because – I pronounce it “be-caws,” not “be-cuz.” I do say the clipped form ‘cuz, though.
- Tournament – first syllable sounds like “tore” and not “turr”
- Get/Forget – I do NOT change these to “git” or “forgit.” I might use “git” if I’m singing Get Back by The Beatles.
- Envelope – I pronounce it “EN-velope,” not “ON-velope.”
- Epoch – I say it like “EE-pock,” not “epic.”
- Vicarious – For me, the first I is short, not long. Think “vick-arious.”
- Simultaneous – Same as above: first I is short.
- Cyclical – Same still (kinda): the Y is a short /i/.
- Trauma – For me, the first syllable rhymes with “cow,” not “law.”
- Wont – As in the construction “wont to do something.” I say it just like I say the contraction won’t.
- Albino – “Al-BEE-no”
- Plaza – “PLAZ-a,” not “PLAH-za”
- Kindergarten – I don’t say “kinder garden,” but rather “kinder garten,” with a /t/. It’s closer to the German pronunciation.
- Luxury – I say it more like “luck-sher-ee.” Not “lug-zher-ee.”
- Citadel – “Citta-dell.” Not “cittadle.” Subtle difference.
- Irony – “Eye-rin-y.” I do not say “iron-y.” Unless I’m describing the taste of blood. *cue vampire laugh*
- Resourceful – Basically, the S is a Z. “Ri-ZOURCE-ful.”
- Merry – For me, merry ≠ marry. Merry sounds more like “MEH-ree.”
- Cordial(ly) – For me, the /d/ is unchanged by the /i/. I do not say “corjal.” It’s more like “cord-ial.”
- Sentient – Opposite of above; the /t/ IS modified by the /i/. I do not say “sent-ee-ent,” but rather something like “SEN-shint.” It follows the same sound pattern as quotient.
- Congratulations – The first T makes the /ch/ sound, not the /j/ sound. Think “gratch.”
- Student, Stupid – For me, the T’s morph into CH’s. Think “chewdent” and “chewpid,” but with S’s before the “chew” parts.
*Post factum insert from author: See my “Stage Choo-Choo” post from April 2017 for a more in-depth analysis of the sound changes observed in words like cordial, sentient, congratulations, student and student above.
- Difficult, Culminate, Pulp, Indulge, etc. – For me, the “ul” letter combination takes the pronunciation “uhl” instead of the vowel in pull.
- Anti-, Multi-, Semi- The I in each of these prefixes takes the long /e/ vowel. Unless I’m talking about a semi truck. Then I say “sem-eye.”
- Pure, Sure, Lure – The U’s in these take the /oo/ vowel, as in foot.
- -ile words (missile, hostile, fertile, versatile, etc.) – These words always rhyme with tile.
To The Letter
- Suggest – I don’t pronounce the first G.
- Herb – I pronounce the H. Same goes for any derived terms such as herbivore and herbology.
- Fifth – I pronounce the second F.
- Width – I pronounce the D.
- Clothes – I pronounce the TH.
- Twenty – I pronounce this word exactly as it’s written. For me, it rhymes with plenty, not funny. (I do sing “twunny-one guns” when singing along to the Green Day song)
- Exit – The X sounds like an X. I don’t say “egg-zit.” (ew)
- Citizen – I pronounce the Z like a Z, not an S.
- Arctic/Antarctic – I pronounce all C’s and T’s in these two words.
- Folk(s) – I do not pronounce the L. It rhymes with poke.
- Almond – Like in folk, I don’t pronounce the L here. The L was actually added BY MISTAKE hundreds of years ago. “Ah-mond.” Kinda like how one doesn’t pronounce the L in calm.
- Associate (noun & verb) – The C takes the /s/ sound, not the /sh/ sound.
- Grocery – Same as above: treat the C as an S.
- Species – Again: the C is an S.
Often – I do not pronounce the T. You don’t pronounce the T in soften, do you?
- Candidate – I pronounce both D’s in this word. Also, the second A is long. “Candid-eight.”
- Bounty, Winter, Centre – I pronounce the T’s. When I say them, they never sound like “bouny” and “winner” and “cenner.” This goes for any “nt” letter combination like these.
- Words with “guttural T” (certain, important, forgotten, etc.) – If you do not know what I mean by “guttural T,” say “uh-oh.” That break you feel in the throat between each syllable is called a glottal stop. In many words, T’s are replaced with glottal stops for most speakers. Not for me, though. I typically fully pronounce the T’s in words like those listed here.
But That’s Too Many Syllables For Me
- Mayonnaise – I pronounce all three syllables. I don’t say “man-aise.”
- Crayon – I pronounce both syllables; “cray-on.”
- Orange – Two syllables. Not “ornj.”
- Interesting/Interested – I pronounce the first E in both words. I don’t say “intresting” or “intrested.” Think more “inter-esting” and “inter-ested.”
- Caramel – I pronounce all three syllables. I don’t say “carmel.”
- Veteran – Again, all three syllables. I don’t say “vetren.”
- Comfortable – I pronounce four syllables. “Comfort-able,” not “comfterble.”
- Elementary – pretend the A isn’t there; “elementry”; same goes for some other “-ary words” like sedimentary and rudimentary
- Syllabic – For me, the A is short, not broad. I don’t say “syll-AH-bic.”
Les Misérables – I pronounce the “les” at the end of the second word. You see those three letters after the B? That’s not a silent syllable. It’s just a short “luh.” Think “meeza-RAH-bla.” Absolutely NOT “mizza-RAHB.”
Renaissance – When I talk about where I worked over the summer, I’m referring to the “Renée since” festival. Because I don’t want to receive weird looks from people, I usually just shorten it to “Ren festival.”
Penchant – I use the French approximation “PAHN-SHAHN” instead of the Anglicised “PEN-chint.”
- Ambience – I pronounce this word like I would pronounce its adjectival form ambient – except with an /s/ sound at the end instead of a /t/. I believe they should follow the same pattern as that of patient–patience.
- Homage – “Om-idge.” I use the Anglicised pronunciation.
- Debacle – somewhat Anglicised; roughly “dibackle”
- Via – rhymes with Kia
Devereux – There’s a street in Utica, NY with this name. You’ll hear me pronounce it the French way – not “Dever-oh.”
Cliché – “Clee-SHEY.” More like the French pronunciation.
Notre Dame – Again, French pronunciation here. “Noh-tra DAHM.”
- Quasi – Remember the hunchback’s name? Quasimodo? The first element of his name is how I always pronounce quasi, whether I’m using it as an adjective or a prefix. “KWAH-zee.”
- Macabre – I pronounce all three syllables. Rhymes with chupacabra.
- Bouquet – First syllable is pronounced “boo,” not “boh.”
- Melee – I pronounce it more like “meh-lay,” not “may-lay.”
- -eur words (connoisseur, entrepreneur, etc.) – These do not rhyme with “sewer.” More like an “urr.” It’s as if they end with a stressed [-er] suffix (which [-eur] essentially is, anyway).
Some That Might Anger You
Zebra – For me, the E is short, not long. “ZEB-ra.” Not “ZEE-bra.”
Zenith – Same deal as zebra. Short /e/.
- Advertisement – Stress on second syllable; think “ad-VERT-iss-ment.” For the record, my grandmother and my great uncle — both Americans — pronounce it this way as well. I usually shorten it to ad, though.
- Harass(ment) – traditional pronunciation — with emphasis on first syllable; sounds almost identical to the surname Harris; I use the “ha-RASS” pronunciation if I’m imitating the Sexual Harassment Panda from South Park
- Waistcoat – I use the traditional pronunciation “WES-kit.” Why, do you ask? Why don’t I just say “waist-coat?” Well, when YOU say breakfast, do you say “break-fast?”
- Flaccid – I pronounce both C’s in the word. Should be “flack-sid,” not “flassid.” Do you say accident or “ass-ident?” Not sure I want to know what an “ass-ident” is. Also, there’s coccyx.
Coitus – Three syllables. Think more “COH-it-us” and less “coy-tus.”
Privacy – The I is short, as in privy.
- Imbecile – Final syllable rhymes with teal.
- Vermouth – Say Plymouth, as in Plymouth Rock. Now replace “ply” with “ver.” That’s how I pronounce vermouth. “VER-mith.”
- Forte – If I’m referring to a strength I possess (or don’t possess) or the thickest part of a blade, I pronounce it “fort,” which is the traditional way, believe it or not, as it comes from French. If I’m using the musical term (which comes from ITALIAN), meaning “loud” or “strong,” I pronounce it the way you’d expect.
- Aluminium – “Al-you-MIN-yim” (note the spelling, too)
- Bade/Forbade – You likely will never hear me utter these words outside a Renaissance festival, but I use the traditional pronunciation “bad,” not “beyd.” They are the simple past tenses of bid and forbid, as in, “I bade him farewell,” or, “I forbade her from going out.“
- Pecan – Right, so, I almost didn’t include this one because I NEVER SAY IT. The only time I say it is when I’m telling people that I never say it. I feel like there’s an unwritten law that requires that there be prolonged pointless debate about the word’s pronunciation whenever pecan pie is served because you’ll never find a room in which everyone says it the same way. For me, if ever this word must pass my lips, it rhymes with beacon. Not “pi-CAHN.” Not “pi-CAN.” Not “PEE-cahn.” And most certainly not “pee-can.” (ew)
- Uranus – Another lose-lose word. Say it with stress on the second syllable, and people giggle because you just said “your anus.” Say it with stress on the first, and you just said urinous. So, I’ve come up with my own pronunciation: “yi-RAN-iss.”
- Z – Get ready for a bombshell here. Yes, I say zed. Not zee. To be fair, though, this one is affected on my part. After all, no child in American public schooling is taught to say zed. We are taught zee so as to rhyme with V when we sing our ABC’s. But once I realised just how etymologically unfounded zee is, I stopped using it. It is an Americanism – a corruption of zed, which comes from the Greek letter zeta. HOWEVER, I still use the pronunciation zee if it is part of a name – like Dragon Ball Z and ZZ Top.
Proper Nouns Aren’t Sacred To Me, Either
- Appalachia(n) – For the third syllable, think “latch.”
- Aussie – “Auzzie”
- Aryan – First syllable is “are,” not “air.”
- Sahara – Similar case as with Aryan. Think “sa-HAHR-a” and not “sa-HAIR-a.”
- Oregon – Final syllable is unstressed. It does NOT rhyme with con. Think the word organ, but with that extra syllable between the R and G.
- New Orleans – “OR-linz.” Crucify me.
- Clinton – Whether I’m talking about Billary or the village in NY, I fully pronounce the /t/. “Clin-tin.”
- Badminton – see Clinton above
- Halloween – The first part of the word is hallow, not hollow. With an A.
- Moscow – I pronounce it like “MOZ-coh.” I blame The Beatles’ Back in the USSR for this one.
- Charlemagne – Believe it or not, the name of the great Frankish king has come up in conversation amongst friends enough times to warrant itself a place on this list. I use the French approximation [shar-luh-MAHN-yuh]. I don’t do this for champagne, however (unless it’s in a play and it makes sense for the character).
- Oedipus – I pronounce it “EE-dipus.” Yup. Sorry.
- Godot – As in the play Waiting for Godot; stress on first syllable; “GOD-oh”
- Nietzsche – I do not say “Neechee.” I use the German pronunciation [NEE-chuh]. The second syllable is unstressed. For those of you not versed in IPA, this is known as a schwa. Take the word comma, for example. The /a/ at the end is a type of schwa. If I were to Anglicise the spelling, the philosopher’s name would be “Neecha.”
- Python, Phenomenon – The final syllables are unstressed. See Oregon above. By the way, these are also schwas. And, yes, when I say “Monty Python,” it’s probably different from the way you say it.
Musicians Hate Him!
- Pianist – Stress on first syllable. Laugh it up.
- Adagio – Musical term meaning “slow.” I use an Italian approximation “a–DAH-joh.” Not “a–DAH-zhee-oh.” It’s not French.
- Arpeggio – Another musical term. I approximate the Italian with “ar-PEH-joh.” Not “ar-PEH-zhee-oh.” Again, it’s not French.
- Trespass – Second syllable is unstressed. Think of it more like “trespus.” Or, say the word compass. Now replace “com” with “tres.” That’s the way I pronounce it.
- Applicable – Stress on second syllable.
- Address (verb AND noun) – “a dress”
- Nonsense – Second syllable is unstressed. Sounds roughly like “non-since.”
- Trapeze – First syllable is unstressed. I do not say “trap-ease.” Think more “tra-PEASE.”
- Laboratory – “La-BORE-atory.” (I usually just shorten it to lab, though.)
- Fastidious – First syllable is unstressed. Does NOT sound like “fast-idious.”
- Subject, Object (noun) – The second syllables are unstressed. They sound more like “jict” than “ject.” Remember, this is only for the noun forms. It’s different for the verb forms.
- Evidently – “Evident-ly.” Just like that. Say the word evident, but add -ly. For some reason, many people put artificial stress on the third syllable, like “evi-DENT-ly,” perhaps by association with words like accidentally.
R You Annoyed Yet?
- Surprise – I pronounce the first R. Think “Sir Prize.”
- February – I pronounce the first R. “Feh-broo-ary.” Not “Feh-byoo-ary.”
- Governor – I pronounce the first R.
- Horror, Terror, Error, Mirror, etc. – I make sure to pronounce both syllables here so as NOT to make them sound like whore and tear and air and mere. To people who are not used to hearing me speak, it might sound like I’m putting an extra R in these words.
- Drawers – I can go a little overboard with the whole “pronounce both syllables” thing. I say drawers with an intrusive R immediately after “draw.” It sounds like “drawrers.” This is the ONLY pronunciation of mine for which I give you permission to make fun of me. Incidentally, I don’t have an intrusive R when I say drawer, as in “one who draws.” This also does not happen with withdrawal.
Don’t Dwell On The Past
- Spin ⇒ Span (I still use spun as the past participle)
- Sneak ⇒ Sneaked (Snuck is actually nonstandard.)
- Dive ⇒ Dived (Dove is a type of bird.)
- Lean ⇒ Leant (Do you say meaned or meant?)
- Dream ⇒ Dreamt (I reserve dreamed for figurative use, as in, “I had always dreamed of being an actor.“)
- Learnt, spilt, spelt, etc. (For me, some verbs take the [-t] suffix in lieu of [-ed].)
And, before you label me a Brit, let me remind you that there are PLENTY of words for which I use pronunciations that are more aligned with my region, that is to say, more or less how you might expect. A few:
- Evolution (unless I’m singing Revolution by The Beatles)
- Project, Progress (the nouns)
- Baton (but not in Baton Rouge)
- Strawberry (or blueberry, raspberry, etc.)
Your Pronunciation May Vary
- Sorry – I seem to say “sore-y” exclusively to strangers – like when I bump into them.
- Aunt – By itself, it’s pronounced “ahnt.” Combined with a name, it becomes “ant.”
- Adult – If I use it as an adjective, I put the stress on the first syllable. Otherwise, stress on the second.
- Fortune – I typically say “FOR-choon,” but not when it’s followed immediately by cookie.
- Been – When it’s stressed, it comes out “bin.” Like, “How’ve you been?” I never say “Ben.”
- -isation words – sometimes it’s “is-ation” and other times it’s “eyes-ation”
- Niche – The age-old debate. My solution: I say “nitch” when referring to a literal recess in a wall – but I say “neesh” when referring to a figurative “suitable place or position.”
- Boulevard – I say “boo-levard,” unless I’m talking about a named road, in which case it’s “bull-evard.”
Nice to meet you.