Common words you've been mispronouncing this whole time

English is a difficult language. It has more words than most other languages, the spellings don't make sense, and then some new fruit will come along to throw everything off (we're looking at you, acai). So, to make things a little easier, here's some common words you've probably been saying wrong and how you can change that.


Time Magazine listed quinoa as one of 12 words that were most often mispronounced by TV broadcasters. It makes total sense. You'd assume quinoa would be pronounced "kwin-oh-ah." If a first grader sounded it out, that's what they'd say, and we'd all commend them for reading books with such difficult words. But it's pronounced "keen-wah."

It's tricky because the word originated in 17th-century Spanish, where a "qu" is pronounced "k." You know, like quesadilla. Still, it's hard to know the word origin from the label of a bag of seeds. Even Time was fooled. In that article about mispronounced words? They gave the wrong pronunciation for quinoa.


If building a fort was your forte, you'd likely think those two words have different pronunciations. But they don't. "Forte" comes from the French word of the same spelling, it's pronounced "fort." But there's also the Italian forte. That version is pronounced "for-tay," and since anyone who's ever looked at sheet music (forte means to play or sing loudly) got exposed to the Italian version, it seems our enunciations got mixed up.

Now, most Americans say "for-tay" and it's usually not that big of a deal. Unless you're Penn Jillette. When he was on Celebrity Apprentice, Jillette was on a team called Forte and he proceeded to correct everyone's pronunciation. No one seemed to care, and even our current president continued to say "for-tay" till the very end.


Here's a word where most of us add in an extra sound for no real reason. If the ophthalmologist is going to dilate your eyes, she'll say "die-late" not "die-uh-late." The word has Latin roots, but the word never had an extra syllable.

Why did we add in the "uh?" It's not clear, but the "i" diphthong next to an "L" sound is a little hard to say. Say "I'll go to the store." You probably said something closer to "Ahl go to the store" than "Eye'll go to the store." You're not an idiot—"i" and "L" are just a tough match. So, when you add in the extra vowel sound, the word flows a little easier off the tongue.


Another example of adding in more sounds than we need, you should be saying "mis-che-vus" instead of "mis-chee-vee-us." This word has been tricky for ages since the it has been written as "Mischievous" and "Mischievious" since the 16th century.

Whether the misspelling led to the mispronunciation or vice versa, we're not sure. Either way, "mis-che-vus" is the way to go. When you're yelling at the street urchins outside your abode, you don't want to embarrass yourself as you scold the mischievous little scamps.


"Woohoo! I broke my leg so now I get a prescription for codeine." You probably pronounced "codeine" like a pro, but messed up the more common word.

When getting a drug demanded by a doctor, it's a "pre-skript-shun" not a "per-skript-shun." This mispronunciation probably comes from it being a lot easier to say "per-skript-shun" and we got a little lazy. Plus, whenever you're going to get heavy drugs from the pharmacy, our enunciation usually isn't at its best.


If people ever give you grief about mispronouncing words, tell them to shut up. Why be so angry? Though a teacher might tell you to sound out a word, or someone might go "say it like it's spelled," that's all pretty useless. Every letter combination has a wide variety of potential pronunciations, like how "quinoa" and "Questlove" both start with "qu" but sound totally different.

Half the time we know that one's right just because we've heard someone else say it enough times.

"Bury" is a perfect example of this. By the spelling, you'd say "Bur-ee." But that's wrong. "Bury" and "berry" are pronounced exactly the same way. Why? Because English is a tricky beast.


No one will blame you if you have no idea how to say "acai." We were all set with our simple fruit names like banana and apple, but South America had to bring its fancy superfood to the table with the weirdest name ever. So, when you order an acai bowl, how do you say it so that the vegans at Whole Foods won't mock you?

It's "uh-SIGH-ee." Or just listen to the pronunciation video at the top, since this one is so odd. Or you could avoid acai completely and never have to worry about it. Honestly, this is the most you'll probably ever see the word "acai" in one paragraph, so you've now filled your acai quota for the rest of your life.


If you want to say someone's a graduate of a certain school, but like being a little fancy, you have a few versions to choose from. Alumnus is the masculine or unisex term, alumni is plural. But if you want to specifically talk about a female graduate, it's alumna with the plural alumnae.

So, if you want to impress this recent group of female graduates, you should probably pronounce their term correctly. It's "uh-lum-nee" not "uh-lum-neye." Sure, this word doesn't come up a ton, but when it does, it's always mispronounced. Plus, this could come up at bar trivia and make you the hero of your team.


You've been making a fool of yourself at Olive Garden! Not because you were seen eating at an Olive Garden but because you've probably been saying one of their signature appetizers the wrong way.

Since the lovely bread, tomato, olive oil, and basil dish is obviously an Italian word, it means we can't pronounce it in our normal English way. It should be "bru-sket-uh" not "bru-shet-uh." Also, just because this is an Italian word, it doesn't mean you need to add an over the top Italian accent to it to prove how educated you are on world pronunciations. Just make the "ch" a "k" sound, and you'll be fine.

Chaise Longue

Most furniture is super easy to say: chair, sofa, couch. No problem. Then we had to go and throw chaise longue into the mix. In French, chaise longue literally means "long chair." But we couldn't just say "long chair." No, we had to get real fancy.

So, how do you say it? In French, it's pronounced "shay lon." In English spelling, it looks like it should be said "chez lon-goo." The right answer is a little in between. "Shayz lon" is the proper way to refer to the fancy long chair. You can fully blame the French for this complicated living room piece.


Earlier, we said no one should judge others for mispronounced words and that's true. Except for nuclear. Sorry to say, but it just sounds bad when you say "nook-yoo-ler." Sure, George W. Bush pronounced it that way and so did Homer Simpson, but that doesn't make it right.

For nuclear, we don't have spelling to blame for the common mispronunciation and how it originated is unclear. But please, there's only one way to say this word: "noo-clee-er"


Whatever "periods are gross" thoughts you're having, set them aside for a moment and learn how to properly describe a woman's monthly cycle. It should be said "men-stroo-ay-shun" not "men-stray-shun."

This mispronunciation comes from us getting a little lazy over time. Saying an "oo" vowel next to an "ay" diphthong is a little tricky. So, if you just cut out the "oo" entirely, it's much easier to say. Still, it's good to say things the proper way, so keep that "oo" in "menstruation." Or just say "period," and call it a day.