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The Editing Hour: Mispronunciations

I have this awesome book called The Beastly Book of Mispronunciations. Here are some random samples, mostly from the Ds:

Dubois, as in W.E.B.—I remember the first time I heard his name pronounced in college, I flinched at my professor’s “awful” pronunciation (doo-boyce), but alas, that’s the correct way to pronounce it, not “doo-bwah,” the French way.

desuetude—who knows what this word means, let alone how to pronounce it? It’s “DES-wi-T(Y)OOD” and it means “a state of disuse,” which seems kind of obvious once you know it.

indict—I embarrassed myself many years ago by pronouncing this (in front of a group of people) as “in-dict,” but as most people probably know, it’s “in-dite” and the noun version is “indictment.”

deluge—it’s temping to say “di-LOOJ,” the way Tattoo on Treasure Island might have called it if a sled had arrived instead of a plane, but it’s “DEL-yooj,” accent on the “del.”

demur—this is not the same as “demure” and not pronounced the same. “Demur” is pronounced “di-MUR” and means to object, while “di-MYOOR” means characterized by shyness and modesty.

debridement—a wonderful word that means the cutting away of dead or contaminated tissue or foreign objects from a wound to prevent infection and is pronounced “di-BREED-mint,” not “di-BRIDE-ment.”

dais—”DAY-is,” a raised platform in front of a room. Many people mistakenly pronounce this “DIE-is,” but for that to work, you’d need to “I”s.

zoology—there’s no zoo in “ZO-ology” (for that to work, you’d need three “O”s).

ducat—DUHK-it, a type of coin, usually made of gold, formerly used by many European countries.

dour—now here’s one I’ve been pronouncing incorrectly my whole life. It’s supposed to be “door,” rhyming with “poor” and ” “lure,” but most people mispronounce it “DOW-er.” And for that matter, I’ve been pronouncing “poor” wrong, too, like “pour.”

11 comments to The Editing Hour: Mispronunciations

  • Desuetude was new to me. Maybe that's because that particular term was in a state of disuse. 😀

    Hey, there's a little something for you over at my place. Enjoy!

  • Whoa, did not know about "dour"! The rest I might not have known but am not necessarily surprised by. I've been saying "DOW-er" all this time!!!

  • This is all good to know. I'm going to walk around correcting people from now on, and soon everyone will hate me for being an IN-SUF-FER-A-BULL pronunciation Nazi. I can live with that. 🙂

  • People are going to look at me funny when I start pronouncing "poor" and "dour" like "lure." More coming from other parts of the alphabet in the future! Last night I kind of got hung up on the Ds.

  • […] Writerland » The Editing Hour: Mispronunciations […]

  • The absolute worst one is forte, as in "that's my forte." It's not pronounced "FOR-tay", as most people think, but "fort". Yes, that's right–fort. The reason is that it means strength, not loud. I hated learning this awful fact so much that I had to stop saying forte altogether, because if I said it incorrectly, it grated on my nerves, but if I said it correctly, people thought I was saying it wrong. Argh! Now you're sharing my pain. 🙂

  • witort

    Morrissey pronounces it "DOW-er" and I believe he's somewhat of an authority on the matter.

  • Okay, Jackie, you almost blew my mind with "forte," but I looked it up in my Big Bible of Mispronunciations and it says that 1) You are absolutely right, it was originally spelled "fort" and later the "e" was mistakenly added to make it feminine, and then people mispronounced it "FOR-tay." BUT as of the late 80s – yes, the 1980s, "FOR-tay" has become the dominant pronunciation on both sides of the Atlantic and is accepted in all dictionaries. (Just don't say "for-TAY.") If you listen to it on, for example, they give both pronunciations, "fort" and "FOR-tay," but, witort, they just give one for "dour" and it ain't pronounced the way Morrissey says it. I hate to see mispronunciations become the accepted norm, but in this case I am glad that I can go on saying "FOR-tay."

  • witort

    Looks like they have 3 pronunciations to me: dʊər, daʊər, ˈdaʊər.

  • Maybe I need to learn to read pronunciations. I think you're right, since "dou" is "dow," but strange that they don't give more than one recorded pronunciation, like they do for "forte." But if I can go on saying "DOW-er," that's fine with me.