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Get this!…Even native speakers often say these 5 words WRONG! I’ll get you all set up to say these words right every time.
The reason why so many words in American English end up being mispronounced, even by highly educated native speakers, is because English isn’t phonetic. Letters don’t have a 1-to-1 relationship with sounds. This word is ‘love’, Uh vowel. This word is ‘move’ OO vowel. This word is ‘stove’, OH diphthong. Why? They’re all part of the sequence OVE. This is how people get mixed up.
Or look at this. CH can be sh like in ‘chef’, or a K sound like in ‘choir’, or a CH sound like ‘choice.’ Sh, k , ch. No wonder I found examples of people taking this word, where it’s an SH, echelon, and pronouncing it like a CH, ‘echelon’ \
Who Xi Jinping brings into the higher echelon of party leadership–
or a K, ‘ekelon’.
I don’t know if putting it into the echelon of high dining necessarily does anything to the cuisine.
Lots of us learn words by reading, so if we’re not hearing the pronunciation, well, we may guess wrong. Today I’m going to go over 5 words that people mispronounce or get mixed up in English. If you’ve mispronounced one of these words, or a different word, please put it in the comments below!
This is not meant to insult people, but more to say, look at this whacky language. It’s no wonder it’s so hard for people to learn English as a second language. Not to mention the difficulties we native speakers can face when it comes to spelling
First, this first one, I was definitely mispronouncing before researching this video. It’s pronounced:
I was pronouncing it ‘pæ θoʊs. Why? Look at this word. It’s common. Path. I know it, and I know the pronunciation. It has AA, not AY. This is not ‘paith’. So I saw this, and I thought PATH-ohss. But this word is [‘peɪ θɑs]. Or, less commonly, [‘peɪ θoʊs].
I went to Youglish to see, am I the only one mispronouncing this? No, I was in good company. Lots of native speakers were mispronouncing this. By the way, the phrase ‘in good company’ means to be in the same situation as others you respect, in this case, I found other people mispronouncing this word, just like me.
Story is an influential tool which can mold the most obstinate of minds by means of appealing to an individual’s pathos.
So, acting as if you’re forever young means you get this set of pathos and this fear–
Isn’t that crazy? I mean, these are people giving talks. Planned speeches. And still, mispronunciations. Now, if so many people mispronounce a word, does it start to become an acceptable pronunciation? Maybe. We’re going to cover that later with another word in this video. Pathos means a quality that makes someone feel pity or sadness. For example, the death scene in the play was full of pathos. The scene had the power to make me feel really sad. Pathos. Uhuhhu. So sad.
Our next one also has a TH. It’s this. What? How do you say it? It looks kind of like a tongue-twister, Isthmus, but the TH is actually silent. It’s just Is-miss. Very simple actually. It’s like ‘Christmas’ without the beginning ‘kr”. Isthmus. Well, okay. I did check 5 dictionaries and one of them did list the TH pronunciation as an additional, acceptable pronunciation. But the other four did not list it at all.
So, you could say
in the narrow isthmus of land at the heart of the refuge–
This person did such a nice job pronouncing all those sounds. But for my English language-learning students out there, I know the S-TH combination is tricky, so just drop the TH. Simplify. What is an isthmus, anyway? It’s a narrow strip of land with sea on both sides, connecting two large pieces of land, like this, the isthmus of Panama.
One pronunciation of this word that I noticed that you won’t see in any dictionary is to put the TH at the end, “is-muth”.
–south of Panama, the Isthmus of Panama.
“is-muth” – I could not find any dictionary where that was listed as a pronunciation. Stick with a silent TH.
Bonus word, okay. TH not very common to have that be silent but there is another word with a silent th that you may come across and it’s “asthma”. This is a condition where your airways become inflamed and narrow making it difficult to breathe and it’s somewhat common. Ashtma, asthmatic. Both of these have that silent th.
The most common pronunciation for this S in American English is a Z. Azzzz. Asthma.
Now this next word, it’s really a grievous mistake to mispronounce it. The word means to cause grief or sadness, to be outrageous or oppressive. It’s grievous to mispronounce this word. I’m just kidding, it’s not grievous, it’s okay, everyone mispronounces words sometimes. The word I’m talking about, in case you hadn’t guessed yet, is “grievous”. Several times I’ve heard pronounced with three syllables, GRIEV-ee-ous . GRIEV-ee-ous instead of GRIEV-ous. It’s just two syllables. Grie-vous.
If you’ve been mispronouncing it, you’re not the only one.
I’ve been reading a lot of studies lately that suggest that despite our grievous unemployment figures–
As he continued to direct fire, he was struck again this time suffering grievous damage to his abdomen.
He engaged in grievous immoral conduct and was being counseled by Emma–
Color scheme to describe the electoral landscape of the US it’s generally considered a grievous error.
not ‘griev-ee-ous’, three syllables, but ‘grievous’, two syllables.
If you’re one of my students out there, learning English as a second language, I hope you’re starting to see that it’s okay to mispronounce or misspell a word. It doesn’t mean you aren’t bright, or that you’re failing at learning English. We all mispronounce things sometimes.
And sometimes we start to mispronounce things so much, that we start to misspell them too. That’s what’s happened with this next word. The word is Sherbet. No silent letters. No letters doing weird things. But somehow, many people’s minds have added an R. And so a lot of people pronounce this Sherbert. Bert instead of bit. Sherbert. But there is no R there in the second syllable. In fact, if you type it into google, it’s going to let you know that what you’re asking about isn’t an actual word. What is sherbet? It’s a frozen dessert made with fruit juice added to milk or cream, or egg white, or gelatin. Personally, I don’t like Sherbet. So many people are saying ‘sherbert’, with that extra R.
Red roof orange sherbert popularized mad men–
I didn’t mind using that and a little sherbert cup too that I had.
But it’s just “sherbet”.
When you’ve hear so many people mispronounce a word for so long, it can be very hard to believe that that’s not the pronunciation. I mean, here’s an example: Hank Green, on his channel “Crash Course”, teaching a lesson on sensation and perception.
The way we register the brightness of a color the contrast between the orange of a sherbert and the orange of a construction cone–
Someone’s just told me that sherbert doesn’t isn’t a word that exists. His name is Michael Aranda and he’s a dumb head. Did you type it in the dictionary? Type it into Google. Ask Google about sherbert. So sherbert is a thing.
Poor Hank. It is hard to learn that you’ve been pronouncing something wrong the whole time. But wait. I did actually find one dictionary that’s taken this common mispronunciation and its subsequent misspelling and actually put it as an entry in the dictionary.
Merriam-Webster put it in as a variant. And it didn’t say it was a misspelling. But from the research I’ve done it does seem clear that the word ‘sherbert’ is just a mispronunciation and misspelling of the word ‘sherbet’. This dictionary.com article says sherbert (pronounced “shur-bert”) is a common misspelling of sherbet that resulted from a common mispronunciation. Its prevalence has resulted in its inclusion in some dictionaries as an alternative spelling.” So there you have it. If you’re interested in Hank’s actual lesson Sensation and Perception, I’ll put the link in the video description.
So, there are some words that Americans mispronounce, etcetera, etcetera. Wait. Etcetera. That’s another word, or phrase, that gets mispronounced. You can spell it with a space or without. I, personally, prefer with a space. What does it mean? It means other related things that you don’t name. For example, you can choose any color you want: purple, blue, green, etcetera. In other words, all the other colors too. So how does it get mispronounced?
If we look at the word in IPA we see a couple different pronunciations. Some dictionaries say EH for the first syllable, some say IH. I say ‘eh’. Et cetera. It can be four syllables with a Flap T, etce, dadadadada, that’s a flap. Etcetera.. But if I make it three syllables, then we have a TR cluster, and Americans usually make that CHR. Like in the word ‘train’, has the ch sound. Train. Etcetera. Chchch. Both of those pronunciations Etcetera and Etcetra , you’ll find in the dictionaries. So where is the mispronunciation happening? In the first syllable. I think because of the letter C, which can be kk, a K sound, or sss, an S sound, like it is here, people want to put a K sound in that first syllable. They say IKKKK-cetera, Ik-cetera instead of EETTTT-cetera, et cetera.
But the first consonant is definitely a T not a K in all listed pronunciations.
Now, the difference is subtle, because T and K are stop consonants, we don’t usually say the whole sound when the next sound is a consonant like here. So the pronunciation I want you to use if you’re my student learning English is: Et-sed-er-a. Et-sed-er-a. This is most common and that first T is a stop T: et, that little quick stop of air, that’s what we hear as a T: et-sedera. The the rest of the word is smooth with that Flap T, et cetera. Second syllable stress: etcetera. So the next time you’re listing things you can name a few and say “etcetera”.
If you’ve ever mispronounced a word, please share the word and the story in the comments below or tell the story in a video, post it to your Instagram stories, and tag me, Rachel’s English, so I can share it. It just normalizes it, you know? English spelling and pronunciation is incredibly challenging! If you’ve mispronounced a lot of words in your life, it probably means you’ve learned a lot of vocabulary from reading, and that’s something that I think is pretty cool so kudos to you. If you love looking at the quirks of the English language, please keep it going now with this video, and be sure to subscribe to my channel with notifications on so you never miss a lesson. I love being your English teacher! That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.