With words borrowed from myriad sources and root languages, along with some plain old made-up words, English pronunciation rules aren’t really rules. You can try to sound out words phonetically, but you’re just as likely to be wrong as you are right. Sometimes you only know words from reading, and you’ve never heard the correct pronunciation. Be proud of that! It means you’re well read.
Below are ten commonly mispronounced words in English; some are older, some are new, and some are extremely British. Please enjoy!
Chicanery means “the use of trickery to achieve some purpose.” It is mistakenly pronounced “chi-CAN-er-ee,” however, the correct pronunciation is “shi-CAHN-er-ee.” It’s a tricky word to describe tricks!
This word, meaning “the right or privilege exclusive to an individual,” is often mispronounced by forgetting the first R, turning the word into “PER-og-a-tive.” When speaking it, be sure to pronounce the first syllable. Pronounce that prer- like the word prayer. “PRAYER-og-a-tive”
Americans often pronounce this empirical measurement as “kil-AW-meh-ter.” This, unfortunately, is not correct. The correct pronunciation is “kill-oh-mee-ter,” with no special emphasis put on any of the syllables. This is also a very British pronunciation.
All the O’s in this one can make pronunciation confusing. You’ve got the word zoo, which you know how to pronounce. But what about the -logy? This suffix changes the pronunciation of the word. You break up the first two O’s into two separate syllables: “zoh-AWL-uh-jee.”
Here’s another very British one. A boatswain is a member of a ship’s crew — the person in charge of equipment and crew. This word looks like it would be pronounced as two separate words, boat and then swain. But a sailor would look at you in confusion. It’s actually pronounced as “BOH-sun,” dropping out the T and the W.
Soldering is the act of bringing metal pieces together with a low-heat metal alloy through higher heat. It looks easy enough to pronounce, right? But it’s another word where the pronunciation doesn’t match the spelling. Your first instinct might be to pronounce it as “soul-der,” but the L is silent. The correct pronunciation is “SOD-er.”
You might not have much cause to use this word, but the pronunciation is interesting anyway. A viscount is a lord, ranking above a baron and below an earl. It looks like it should be pronounced as “VISS-count.” However with this British aristocratic rank, the S is silent, and instead it should be pronounced “VIGH-count”. Now you can read those period romance novels with the correct pronunciation.