Updated on July 23, 2016
Tricky pronunciations and how to get them right
You say Dun Laoghaire, I say, er… From commonly mispronounced words to bonkers place names, here’s a list of tricky pronunciations that might just blow your mind
Photograph by Alexis Brown
If you read a lot, the chances are that you have a pretty decent vocabulary but have never heard some of those words spoken out loud. Sometimes you guess at their pronunciation before realising – maybe decades later – that you were somewhat off the mark. Which is so weird, like having to relearn a good friend’s name. And, if you tend to read the news rather than watch or listen to it, you may know that the president of Turkey is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – but would you fancy saying his name in public?
As someone who tends to subvocalise (ie, articulate the words in my head as I’m reading), especially with a relatively complex news story, I find it REALLY annoying if I don’t know how a word or name should be pronounced. I have a secret terror that one day I’ll need to bring Dun Laoghaire up in conversation and be shown up as the fool I must surely be.
Even worse are those words that you really do think you know how to say – and have been happily saying in public for years – only to find out that you were beyond wrong. I only found out a few months ago that Cadogan was pronounced “Caduggun”. I know. Apparently everyone in the whole world knew this apart from me. But here’s the thing – no one ever corrected me, so I blame British reticence and manners for that one (ahem).
So anyway, here are a few common culprits. Are there any that surprise you? And do you disagree with any of them?
vice versa vi-suh ver-suh (although vice is commonly said and perfectly acceptable)
Cadogan ca-dug-un (darn it)
Elwes (as in Cary of “The Princess Bride” fame) el-wez
Groening (as in Matt of “The Simpsons” fame) grayn-ing
Johansson If you’re talking about Scarlett, it’s joe-han-sen
St John sin-jun
Plus some national leaders for you:
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rej-ep tie-ip erd-o-wan
Aung San Suu Kyi ong san soo chee
Dilma Rousseff joo-ma roo-sev (the joo is kind of juh-yoo, but said as one syllable)
Xi Jinping shee jin ping
(Narendra) Modi mor-dee
(Shinzo) Abe a-bay
(I’m sticking to the UK/Ireland but broadly ignoring Wales on the basis that I can’t even begin to pronounce those names)
Dun Laoghaire dun leery
Lough Neagh lock nay
Magdalen (College, Oxford) mord-lin
Magdalene (College, Cambridge) mord-lin
Georg Jensen geeyor yen-sen (hard g)
Ikea ih-key-ah (but seriously, who says that?)
Miu Miu mew mew
Ralph Lauren ralf loh-run
Tag Heuer tag hoy-yur
Which pronunciations have surprised you in the past? Do you know any more crazy place names? I’d love to hear some more so please comment below or on The Wordy House Facebook page.