25 words you're probably pronouncing all wrong

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You might be going into this thinking there's no way you'll be fooled by the words on this list. You're a pronunciation pro! You know "nuclear" isn't pronounced how George W. Bush said it in 2001. You know there's no "x" in "espresso." And you know you can say "either" either way and it'd still be correct.

But bid your confidence goodbye, because the words on this list might have you eating your words. Pronunciation varies widely in American English, and you might be surprised to hear that the dictionary offers more than one correct way to say some of your favorite words.

Of course, there are reasons why certain pronunciations might be preferred over others - sometimes because they will be more readily understood, sometimes because they better follow the spelling of the word, and sometimes because they better reflect the word's history or its language of origin. All this variation means that, no matter how much you think you know, someone somewhere thinks you're saying these words all wrong.

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Asterisk

There is no asterisk at the end of this rule, and there is no X at the end of "asterisk." You should end your pronunciation of this word on the K, like in the word "risk." K?

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Bruschetta

Americans can't make bruschetta as good as Italians can, and they can't pronounce the word for it as well, either. If you want to sound authentic, "bruschetta" is pronounced "broo-sket-ah." Preferably with a rolled R and a "buon appetito!" to follow.

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Celtic

You can blame sports for this one if you want. The Boston Celtics pronounce Celtics as "sell-ticks," but Irishmen would think you were trying to pawn off parasites. While this pronunciation is considered acceptable in U.S. English, the preferred way to say this ethnonym is "kell-tick."

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Clothes

The "th" doesn't have to be silent! Stop being lazy and pronounce this word "clothes," not "close," and there won't be as much confusion. Case clothesed.

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Comfortable

It might feel more comfortable to pronounce this word "cumf-ter-bull," but why not let yourself relax a little bit and just sink into each letter and syllable of the word? Try pronouncing it "come-fer-tuh-bull." It's tough to say at first, but give it a little practice and it'll feel cozy in no time.

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Crêpe

You probably pronounce this delectable French treat as "crayp," but the street food actually goes by another name. The word and the food are both French - and so, as any Frenchman will sneer at you, it's better to pronounce it "crep." The E sounds as flat as the pancakes themselves.

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Electoral

This one's divisive, and it's all in the emphasis. Most people say this word "ee-lek-tor-al." Emphasis on the "tor." But that's actually incorrect. The preferred pronunciation is "ee-lek-tor-al." But if that sounds too awkward to you, you can elect to say it however you want, because both pronunciations are so widespread that few people will even notice.

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Err

Err on the side of caution when trying to pronounce this word. The vast majority of people say it such that it rhymes with "hair" - in other words, exactly like "air." But someone who pronounces it "ur" (so that it rhymes with "her") has not erred. This too is an acceptable pronunciation.

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Forte

Speaking English is really not your forte, huh? The term "forte" in music is pronounced "four-tay" because it's from Italian, but in the phrase above, it should technically just be pronounced "fort." That's because this sense of the word comes from a fencing term for the sturdiest part of a sword, and our language borrowed the word from Middle French. Both senses are ultimately based on a Latin word that means "strong," so whether it's your forte or your fort, you'll probably come off looking pretty capable.

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Hummus

Prepare to be annoyed. Like many of the greatest food debates of our generation, the pronunciation of "hummus" never fails to ruffle feathers. That's because this delicious Mediterranean dip made of chickpeas, oil, tahini, and spices is a popular food in such a wide range of countries that the exact pronunciation varies based on language and dialect. You may be surprised to learn that many pronounce it more like "hoo-mus" - often with a throaty H sound at the beginning - rather that "hum-us," which is the most common way to say it in the US. Take your time digesting that.

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Larvae

You might pronounce this "lar-vay." How you think of the word for baby bugs probably depends on the way your science teacher said it, but the only two pronunciations listed by Merriam-Webster are "lar-vee" and "larv-eye."

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Liable

If you're skipping the A in "liable," you're liable to be corrected. Skipping the A makes it sound exactly like "libel," which is a different word with a different meaning. Think about how you say "liability," which you'd correctly pronounce as though it meant "the ability to lie."

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Mauve

Your pronunciation of mauve may be a little off-color. Because the word comes from French, you can get away with switching out the more common "mawve" for the fancy, continental-sounding "mohve," which rhymes with trove. Or drove, grove, or stove.

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Mischievous

There's no sneaking around this one. The I is before the V, not after. It just makes more sense to pronounce it how it's spelled - "mis-cheh-vus," not "mis-chee-vee-us."

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Often

You'll often run into folks who pronounce this "off-ten," but you'll also often hear "off-en," which isn't just a lazy byproduct of saying this word too often. The T is actually more often silent, according to Merriam-Webster.

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Prescription

Prescribe yourself a pronunciation lesson, because it might help you to better understand this word. While most people pronounce prescription as "pur-scrip-shun," the correct pronunciation is "pre-scrip-shun." The "pre" and "script" are actually clues to the word's meaning - you probably can't pick up your prescription if your doctor didn't write it first.

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Pronunciation

Oh, the irony! Your pronunciation of "pronunciation" is all kinds of messed up. You pronounce pronunciation "pro-nun-see-ay-shun," not "pro-now-n-see-ay-shun."

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Quasi

You're probably pronouncing this quasi-correctly, because as with many words that originally come from Latin, the pronunciation in English can be all over the map. Pronunciations listed in the dictionary include "kwayz-eye," "kwa-zee" and seemingly everything other variation between.

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Recondite

Recondite actually has quite the recondite pronunciation. Recondite, which means "difficult for someone of ordinary understanding or knowledge to comprehend," is pronounced either "rek-un-dyte" or "ri-kon-dyte."

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Seuss

Let's let the words of Theodore Geisel's friend Alexander Laing explain this one: "You're wrong as the deuce/And you shouldn't rejoice/If you're calling him Seuss/He pronounces it Soice." Seuss was actually the famous author's middle name and his mother's maiden name, and the family pronounced it just as Laing's poem describes. Professionally speaking, however, Dr. Seuss was fully comfortable with the fact that people thought his nom de plume rhymed with "Mother Goose."

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Sherbet

No, this word is not spelled "sure, Bert." Most people pronounce it that way, though, and there's no reason we should be mistreating this sweet treat. "Sherbet" is pronounced "shur-bit." Not "shur-bay." "Shur-bit." Like the nonsensical phrase "sure bit," it rhymes with "curb it."

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Spherical

Prepare to have your mind blown. "Spherical" doesn't have to sound like "sphere" at the beginning. A less common but also acceptable pronunciation is "sfer-i-kuhl."

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Supposedly

Supposedly there are people who pronounce "supposedly" as "supposably" - which is actually a totally different word. It's supposable that they're using "supposably" in its correct context, in which it is a synonym of "conceivably." But they're probably not.

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Victuals

You might think this old word is pronounced "vikt-chew-uhlz," but you'd be wrong. Meaning "supplies of food," victuals is pronounced "vit-uhlz" - just as in the synonymous word "vittles." Victuals, which could include anything from dozens of eggs to baskets of bread, rhymes with riddles.

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Zoology

Based on the spelling, you might think it's pronounced "zoo-loh-gee, and based on the fact that we all know that we can study animals in a zoo, you might think it's "zoo-ah-loh-gee." But the preferred pronunciation is "zoh-ah-loh-gee" because of the Greek roots the word is built from. Another wild word fact: Oology is also four syllable word - "oh-ah-loh-gee" - and it refers to the study of birds. Now study these baby birdies and enjoy the quasi-cute photos of them!

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