If you’re like me, you first encountered your 50-cent vocabulary words through reading. Which means, when the time came to say them out loud, you sounded pretty silly. I still cringe when I remember the first time I pronounced the following words:
In the U.S., we tend to be tolerant of certain forms of mispronunciation—mangled foreign language terms, for instance. We also have a range of dialects and accents, so it’s not always clear how a word is supposed to be pronounced.
The picture is further clouded by regional speech. In Pittsburgh, the proper pronunciation of Versailles is “ver-SALES.” Southerners say “git” instead of “get.” Midwesterners like to visit “Shi-CAW-go.”
That said, there are certain pronunciation errors that immediately mark the speaker as uneducated, unworldly or just plain dumb. Here are some you should take pains to avoid:
1. Ex-CAPE. I flee when I hear this version. Same with “ax,” as in “Let’s ax for an extension.”
2. Li-BEAR-y. For some reason, “FEB-u-ary” is OK but this mispronunciation of “library” is not.