Kan yooh pruhnowns dheez werds kuhrektlee? 9 Comments

Kan yooh pruhnowns dheez werds kuhrektlee?

Yes, the title of this post is ridiculous. But not as ridiculous as the English language. It’s ridiculous! Really, it is.

The other day I applied to be a book narrator and had to do a variety of reading tests in a recording studio. Apart from confirming that I speak too fast, and that I drop syllables in words like ‘humiliation’, it also embarassed my knowledge of English pronunciation. The nice producer man  gave me a single A4 sheet of hard-to-pronounce words, and I scoffed inside my head. ‘Pfft. Words? I know words. I spend all blinking day reading them, and have all my life. You shall not pass, mere words.’

But alas, although I read words all day, every day, I very rarely read them out loud. And therein lay my demise. Like the millions who thought the female lead in the Harry Potter series was called Hermoyn (not Her-myn-nee), I knew what all of these words meant, but didn’t actually know how to say them.

Anyway, I started reading with confidence, but very quickly found myself stumbling, and overthinking, and before long I was as upset as a screamapillar.

So, my point…as a whole the English language is ridiculous, and as you may have noticed, the particular bone I’m picking today has to do with pronunciation. You see, it’s blinking illogical. It even extends to our ‘simple’ numbering system. Take ‘one’, or ‘two’. Easy, hmm? Except that’s not how you say them, of course. Instead, it’s ‘won’ and ‘too’. Ridiculous.

Below are some of the words that were on that cursed piece of A4 paper. Have a go at reading them out loud, and then listen to the real prounciations at this online dictionary.












slough (snake’s skin)













Samuel Pepys

How’d you go?

Anyone have any more doozies that defy belief?

Blinking ridiculous.

  • Maddie

    I’m pretty sure I could pronounce all of these – although I do tend to pronoune words in my head as a I read them, and it bugs me if I don’t know how a word should be pronounced and always look it up or ask my Dad to check. Otherwise I’d just have to avoid ever reading that word because I’d be too annoyed that I wasn’t sure.

  • http://www.avocadoandlemon.wordpress.com Soph

    Nothing makes the ridiculousness of the English language clearer than trying to teach a small child to read, which I’m doing at the moment. How best to explain to a curious six-year-old (and she’s not afraid to keep asking questions!) why the same combination of letters can be pronounced in three or four different ways?

    The English language is a strange one, that’s for sure.

  • http://www.toothsoup.com phill

    I stumbled on sioux, segue, ennui, viscount, Wagner, boatswain, and gunwale. If I were a Frenchman I might’ve been a bit better off 😛

    Of course we can’t have a discussion of English pronunciation without the obligatory reference to ghoti and ghoughpteighbteau: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghoti

    (P.S. Did you put Samuel Pepys in there just for the online dictionary’s suggestion of ‘valueless’? Haha!)

    • http://www.samuelcooney.wordpress.com Sam Cooney

      Samuel Pepys was on the piece of paper – i swears. but i too saw the ‘valueless’ link.

      i had not idea about ghoti and ghoughfkdhsklghfqk. how good is it? so good. and there is a band named ghoti hook. makes sense now.

  • http://www.expressmedia.org.au/voiceworks/ Johannes Jakob

    fugue is another one where I can only remember the pronounciation or the meaning, but never both. Like, one knocks the other right out of my head.

  • Bel Schenk

    I used to look at the word ‘segue’ and have no idea what it meant. I’d skim over it if I saw it.

    But this other word ‘segway’ – I used that all the time!

  • http://littlegirlwithabigpen.wordpress.com Samantha van Zweden

    I’m terrified by the amount of words I cannot pronounce. Names are even worse.
    Inogolo is a good pronounciation website for names and places…
    Bel, I love in first-year philosophy classes, people have the same problem that you do with the word segue. They’ve heard of a guy named Daycart. But who is this Descartes fellow?

    • http://jennasten.wordpress.com/ Jenna

      Yeah, that Michael Foecoe is also a pretty popular dude. But Michel Foucault? Never heard of her.

  • http://sketches-of-blue.blogspot.com/ Hannah T

    Boatswain? Isn’t that the same thing as bosun? I think I’ve been thinking it wrong for years.

    Half those words aren’t even technically English, but are taken directly from other languages – “Wagner” is German, “sioux” is native American, “fracas”, “ennui” and “viscount” French.

    Ethereal was one that I mispronounced for a long time. Shame, because the proper pronounciation is far more elegant.

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