Gyro, mascarpone, chiton, bouillon, and many more such words take up a significant fraction of the English dictionary. According to Mark Roemer, there are tricky consonant and vowel pairings that have the potential to become a stress test for your tongue. If you think you know someone who has nailed proper pronunciation, think again! Here are a few of the most mispronounced words in the world:
- Chiaroscuro – The word has a weird spelling, sounds weird, and doesn’t come up in daily conversation. The word refers to the artistic technique where light and shadow are interplayed with balance. The English language borrows the word from the Italian language and is pronounced the Italian way to this day. “Chiaro” means clear or bright, while “oscuro” means obscure or dark. To pronounce it properly you need four words that have no connection to this one. “Key arrow skew row”.
- GIF – Acronym for Graphics Interchange Format, this word refers to a computer graphic image and is used more often since just a few years back due to the ever-evolving meme culture. However, the internet is divided into camps of the soft g and hard g for this word. Some like to pronounce it as “jiff” with a soft g, while others opt for the hard one with “giff”. However, if you ask Steve Wilhite, who developed the format for Compuserve, he will strongly agree with “jiff”.
- Niche – The word was derived from a French word and refers to a position or place appropriate for a thing or person, a market segment, or a recess in a decorative object or sculpture or wall. The pesky part in the word is the final “che” and throws millions of people on a daily basis. You may pronounce it as “neesh”, the 14th-century version of the French word or stick to “nitch” as it has been accepted by many dictionaries.
- Mischievous – The word refers to causing or wanting to cause trouble in a playful manner. Ironically, the word itself has played more often with your tongue to land you in mildly embarrassing situations. While it is correctly pronounced with three syllables as “MIS-chuh-vus”, a lot of us still pronounce it with four syllables as “mis-CHEE-vee-us”. This mistake often translates in the text form as well when we write this word on a physical or digital document and an editor or spell-check function corrects us.
- Karaoke – The innocent word is uniformly mispronounced throughout the world except in its country of origin. There are no vowels other than ‘a’, ‘o’, and ‘e’, nor are there any consonants like ‘y’. Yet, people mispronounce it as “kariyokey”. The proper way to say the word is “kara-okay”.
Mark Roemer believes that we should learn the proper pronunciations of the common words that pop up in everyday life and may be derived from other languages. It saves us from embarrassment and also helps us to spell words more correctly.