9 Words You’re Saying Incorrectly

Friday, May 312 min read

Have you ever stumbled-mumbled over a word you’re not entirely sure how to pronounce? You’re not alone. Here are nine of the most commonly mispronounced words and how to say them properly in American English so you can speak clearly and confidently.

Acaí

Healthy food lovers know the benefits of this Amazonian fruit – but how many of them know how to say it properly? Four letters, three syllables: "ah-sigh-EE."

Meme

Memes aren't a millennial invention; they've been around since the 1970s. However, the advent of social media allowed this word — coming from the Greek mimēma, meaning "that which is imitated” — to take on a life of its own. If you’ve ever said "mee-mee," "may-may," or "mem," to quote a meme, “You’re doing it wrong.” The proper pronunciation is simply "meem."

Cache

It’s easy to get confused with this one. A lot of people say "cash-AY" because it’s so similar to "cachet," which actually does have that two-syllable sound. But say "cash" because that final "e" is silent.

P.S. "Cache" is a collection of items in a hidden place, and "cachet" is prestige.

Valet

Ever since Cher Horowitz declared in "Clueless" that there was no point in practicing parking for her driving test, because “everywhere you go has valet," a generation adopted this French-ified take on the word. Follow Cher’s lead and pronounce it "val-AY."

If you're referring to the out-of-date job as a man's personal wardrobe attendant, then you can pronounce that "t" — "VAL-et."

GIF

This one’s a little controversial. The inventor of Graphic Interchange Format files declared that GIF should be pronounced with a soft “g.” In fact, jokes were made that “choosey developers choose GIF,” riffing on Jif peanut butter’s famous catchphrase. But since then, the internet has gravitated toward a hard “g” sound, basically "gift" without the "t." Some dictionaries list both versions as correct, but if you want to go with the inventor's intent, just remember the peanut butter when you share your next GIF.

Electoral

If you’re into debating politics, "electoral college" is likely in your vocabulary. For the 2020 election, make sure you have the pronunciation down. It's pronounced "e-LEK-tor-al," not "e-lek-TOR-al."

Gyro

Next time you're ordering a lunchtime gyro, resolve to say the word properly. This varies somewhat based on location, but you can get it right by asking for a "YEE-roh" or "ZHIHR-oh." And don’t forget the tzatziki, or "tsah-tsee-key."

Mauve

Many colors are so ubiquitous that everyone knows how to pronounce their names. That's not the case when it comes to the not-so-often-mentioned mauve, which has slightly different pronunciations in British and American English.  Hint: In the Queen's English it rhymes with "stove," but in the U.S., say "mawv."

Rooibos

The next time you’re ordering a tea latte, do it with confidence. This caffeine-free tea, which means red bush, is often mispronounced as "roo-BE-ohs," "rooh-IH-boos," and "ROO-bus". The proper pronunciation is "ROY-bus."

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