The French Don’t Care
“The French don’t care what you do, actually,” says Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady, “as long as you pronounce it properly.”*
Oh, that Americans had the same reverence for their vital communication tool. Of course, some pronunciation differences are regional, even charming and generally understood. Some are confusing outside their region. (“Pin” meaning “pen” and “pen” meaning in “pin” in the southeast.) Generally, the “correct” pronunciation will ensure that most listeners understand you unless you are addressing a specific audience and want to “talk their language.”
Here are some words whose mispronunciations grate like fingernails on a blackboard if your audience is in the know.
nuclear—mispronounced NOO-KYOO-lur, a special favorite of a recent political figure. No “u” between the “c” and the “l.”
Correct pronunciation is NOO-klee-ur.
jewelry—an amazing number of voice-overs on TV jewelry ads mispronounce this word, saying JOO-la-ree. (Apparently these shops are selling items made from the joola bean.) Just say the root word and ads an “ee” sound: JOO-ul-ree.
affluent—something many wish to be, but can’t pronounce properly. The accent is on the first syllable, not the second: AF-flu-ent, not af-FLU-ent.
Realtor—a real estate agent, usually capitalized to indicate a member of the National Association of Realtors. Like “joolaree,” Realtor often suffers a reversal of the letters of its second syllable and comes out REE-luh-ter. Say REE-uhl-ter.
chimney—even before the Mary Poppins song lyric (“Chim chiminey, Chim chiminey, Chim chim cher-ee!”**), some people were adding an unneeded syllable and saying CHIM-en-nee. You only need two: CHIM-nee.
* Written by Alan Jay Lerner
** Written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
©Eleanor Dugan, 2011, email@example.com Eleanor is my editor and a great resource if you need help with writing.
At the Patricia Fripp Speaking School June 24, 2011 we will be working on the the power of words.