Misspoken or Mispronounced Words and Phrases

Writing serves us well in communication by providing us with a framework for arranging words into clear and thoughtful statements, including opportunities for eloquence.

Applying ourselves to concise writing can also reinforce articulate speech. We are often moved or impressed by those who express themselves with precision and power. Think of the historic public addresses by Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Conversely, misspeaking and mispronouncing words and phrases can quickly sabotage and discredit our intellectual or persuasive standing with another person. Plus, beyond sounding wrong, these verbal glitches can contaminate our writing. If our mind’s ear hears or spells a word a certain way, we might wind up writing it as such as well.

For this reason, we’ve compiled some words and phrases to watch out for. Maybe some of us have tripped over a few, and perhaps a few have caused us all to fall. Some of the entries might surprise even the most well spoken among us.

Word or Phrase (Glitch: S=misspoken, P=mispronounced) Correct Treatment
affidavit (to mean written statement sworn before an official) (P) (af-i-DEY-vit), not (af-i-DEY-vid)
all the sudden (S) all of a sudden
Antarctic (P), Arctic (P) (ant-AHRK-tik, AHRK-tik), not (ant-AHR-tik, AHR-tik)
Calvary (to mean military service that fights on horseback) (S) cavalry (KAV-uhl-ree)
chomp at the bit (S) champ at the bit
et cetera (to mean “and the rest”) (P) (et SET-er-uh), not (ex-ET-er-uh, ek-SET-er-uh)
escape (P) (ih-SKEYP), not (ex-KEYP)
espresso (P) (e-SPRES-oh), not (ex-PRES-oh)
for all intensive purposes (S) for all intents and purposes
forte (to mean strength or talent) (P) (fort), not (for-TAY)
genome (to mean full set of chromosomes) (P) (JEE-nohm), not (geh-NOHM)
jaguar (P) (JAG-wahr, -yoo-ahr), not (JAG-wire)
larynx (P) (LAR-ingks), not (LAR-niks)
mayonnaise (P) (mey-uh-NEYZ; MEY-uh-neyz), not (MAN-eyz)
meme (to mean cultural item transmitted by repetition) (P) (meem), not (mehm)
niche (to mean suitable position; distinct market segment) (P) (nich), not (neesh)
nuclear (P) (NOO-klee-er), not (NOO-kyuh-ler, NOO-kyoo-ler)
prescription (P) (pri-SKRIP-shuhn), not (per-SKRIP-shuhn)
probably (P) (PROB-uh-blee), not (PROB-lee)
realtor (P) (REE-uhl-ter), not (REEL-uh-ter)
take for granite (S) take for granted
veteran (P) (VET-er-uhn), not (VEH-truhn)
veterinary (P) (VET-er-uh-ner-ee), not (VEH-truh-ner-ee)
voilà (to mean “here it is”) (P) (vwah-LAH), not (wah-LAH)

You can find more often mispronounced words in our entry “You Lost Me After ‘Feb’.”

When we open our mouths, our minds are on parade. By devoting attention to proper phrasing and pronunciation, we can make sure what marches out sounds and lines up as it should.

If you know of or come across other misspoken or mispronounced words and phrases that are becoming more prevalent, feel free to share them with us for possible inclusion in a future article!

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