77 Common Mispronunciations

demaerre iStock via Getty Images
demaerre iStock via Getty Images

You, of course, aren't mispronouncing these words, but some people do. Maybe it's the spelling, or the origin, or the trickiness of language itself, but these words tend to tie tongues in knots. Even if you're a master linguist, it's always good to double-check to see if you're saying the words on this list—adapted from an episode of The List Show—correctly.

1. Colonel

After his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt's preferred nickname was "The Colonel."Hulton Archive/Getty Images

You know those weird looks you get when you play Clue with your friends and you accuse 'Call-in-null' Mustard with the candlestick in the hall? That's because it's 'Kern-el' Mustard. Also, it was probably Professor Plum.

2. Awry

RomanBabakin/iStock via Getty Images

Something has gone awry if you're saying aw-ree because it's ah-wry.

3. Epitome

Need a perfect example? Ep-it-tome is the ep-it-tom-ee of mispronunciation.

4. Edinburgh

bnoragitt iStock via Getty Images

You don't go to Ed-in-burg, you go to Ed-in-bur-ah.

5. Ethereal

This is almost too perfect. It's not e-ther-real, it's eth-eer-ee-ul.

6. Meme

AntonioGuillem iStock via Getty Images

Share this with everyone you know. It's not a me-may, or a mee-mee, it's a meem (at least we're trying to make it one).

7. GIF

The creator of the Graphical Interchange Format calls it Jif. According to the dictionary, which is all that matters, both pronunciations are correct, but the battle rages on.


EvgeniiAnd iStock via Getty Images

Not pawned or pweened. If you've been totally dominated, you've been powned. Owned with a P.

9. Facetious

Fay-tious? No, fa-see-tious. No kidding.

10. Hyperbole

aga7ta iStock via Getty Images

If people keep on pronouncing 'hi-per-bo-lee' as 'hy-per-bowl,' the universe is going to implode.

11. Nuclear

New-clear? New-cue-lar? No, new-clear.

12. Hermione

Olga Ionina iStock via Getty Images

If you're talking about Harry Potter's best friend, it's 'Her-my-oh-nee' (Hermione). A Gentle Hermione is also a rose, so now you know how to pronounce two Hermiones.

13. Ralph

Speaking of Harry Potter, it looks like the name of the video game character that wrecks things, but the name of the actor who played Voldemort is pronounced Rayf.

14. Manolo Blahnik

InnaMartynova iStock via Getty Images

You can probably think of a dozen wrong ways to say it, but the name of the famous Spanish designer is Ma-NO-low Blah-nick.

15. Accessory

And the shoes Manolo Blahnik makes are an ak-sess-oh-ree, not an a-sess-oh-ree.

16. Versailles

risamay iStock via Getty Images

It's Ver-sigh, unless you're in Kentucky or Indiana, in which case you are in Ver-sales.

17. Illinois

And speaking of the Great American Midwest, it's 'Ill-i-noy' (Illinois).

18. Arctic

Mario_Hoppmann/iStock via Getty Images

Arc-tic, not Ar-tic. There are two Cs in there.

19. Alzheimer's Disease

It's Alls-high-merz disease, not old-timers disease.

20. Asperger's

And its Ass-per-gers. There is no B in there.

21. Et Cetera

JLGutierrez iStock via Getty Images

Just how it looks. Et cetera, not Eck cetera.

22. Pinochle

Pee-knuckle may be the pinnacle of card games that are difficult to pronounce.

23. Forte

Photo_Concepts iStock via Getty Images

Four-tay is an Italian word that means loud. It's used all the time in mew-zical arrangements.

24. Forte

Here's where it gets confusing. Your fort (no "-ay") is something that you're good at, or the strongest part of a sword. However, this mispronunciation is so common that you will either seem like you don't know the word or so pedantic that the person you're speaking with will walk off without saying another word.

25. Recur

francescoch iStock via Getty Images

If you use the word Reoccur, it means something is occurring again. Recur is the correct pronunciation for something that happens again and again.

26. Parentheses

Unless you're referring to a single parenthesis, use pa-ren-tha-sees.

27. Mauve

jessicahyde iStock via Getty Images

It's mawv in the United States and mowv in Britain, so chaos reigns. Either way, it's still just slightly purple.

28. Irregardless

No matter how you pronounce it, irregardless is not a word. You mean regardless.

29. Anyway

Deagreez iStock via Getty Images

Anyways, always say anyway because anyways is not a word. No extra S required.

30. Gnocchi

Elena_Danileiko iStock via Getty Images

If you're ordering at the Italian restaurant, it's nee-oh-kee, not guh-knock-y.

31. Penne

You can follow that course with a bowl of penn-nay, not pen.

32. Merlot

Uladzimir Zuyeu iStock via Getty Images

And wash the carb explosion down with a nice bottle of mer-low. Keep that T silent.

33. Prosciutto

Then wash down the wine with a pile of thinly sliced pro-shoot-oh.

34. Crepe

Mizina iStock via Getty Images

In the French restaurant, it's krep, not krayp. 

35. Quiche

Or you might order a keesh there.

36. Quinoa

sasimoto iStock via Getty Images

At the health food store, you'll want to pick up some keen-wa.

37. Hors D'oeuvres

You'll want to serve or-dirves at your party, not hoars-doov-rez. The literal translation from French is "outside the works," referring to a part of the meal outside the main course.

38. Chipotle

carlosrojas20 iStock via Getty Images

If you're still hungry, you can roll through chih-pote-lay. Please don't call it Chi-pot-al. Or you can just eat a bowl of chipotle peppers. They're great by themselves. Or with...

39. Guacamole

And don't forget to pay a little extra for some gwac-a-mol-eh, not gwac-a-mo-lay.

40. Caramel

SMarina iStock via Getty Images

Chipotle doesn't serve flan, or else it would be really easy to segue into discussing care-a-mel. Care-a-mil is also acceptable.

41. Thyme

wmaster890 iStock via Getty Images

It's time, like a clock, not thigh-me.

42. Mayonnaise

We probably all shorten it to man-ayze because may-oh-nayz is a mouthful. A correctly pronounced mouthful.

43. Prescription

SARINYAPINNGAM iStock via Getty Images

That thing you get from your doctor that you take to your pharmacy is a pre-scrip-shun, not a pur-scrip-shun.

44. Realtor

It only has two syllables, not three.

45. Jewelry

Kwangmoozaa iStock via Getty Images

That goes for jool-ree, too.

46. Asphalt

It's ass-fault, not ash-fault.

47. Ptolemy

Photos.com iStock via Getty Images

The Greek mathematician's name is pronounced tall-a-mee.

48. Bacchus

And a party with Ptolemy and Bacchus (back-us) would be a blast.

49. Veteran

alekseykh iStock via Getty Images

Napoleon was a veh-teh-run (three syllables, not two) of the Napoleonic Wars.

50. Veterinarian

And Chewbacca resents having to go to the vet-er-in-air-ee-an.

51. Comfortable

DGLimages iStock via Getty Images

It might make you squirm, but kum-fur-ta-bull has four syllables.

52. Supposedly

It's sa-poze-id-lee, not sa-poze-ib-lee. Don't turn that D into a B.

53. Triathlon

GlobalStock iStock via Getty Images

Somehow it's tri-ath-lon instead of tri-ath-a-lon, which is admittedly much more fun to say.

54. Especially

And resist the temptation to throw an X in to make it ex-pesh-il-lee when it's es-pesh-il-lee.

55. Larvae

VladK213 iStock via Getty Images

Getting back to squirmy things, it's lar-vee or lar-vai, but not lar-vay.

56. Asterisk

We should note that it's ass-tir-isk, not aks-tir-isk.

57. Affidavit

VladK213 iStock via Getty Images

And it's officially aff-i-day-vit with a T at the end, not a D.

58. Schadenfreude

If you're chuckling that people actually mispronounce some of these words, then you're experiencing shaw-din-froy-da. 

59. Chauvinist

happyphoton iStock via Getty Images

It's show-va-nist (chauvinist), not cho-va-nist.

60. Mischievous

It's like the word itself is playing a sly prank on all of us because it's just so tempting to say miss-chee-vee-us when there's no extra I at the end. The right way to say it is miss-chuh-vus.

61. Dr. Seuss

ErikaMitchell iStock via Getty Images

Another way to sound silly while being correct is to pronounce the legendary author's name as doctor soyce. He said his name as if it rhymed with voice, but everyone says it like it rhymes with juice, which is wubbulously wrong.

62. Chiaroscuro

vololibero iStock via Getty Images

The key to getting this art technique wrong is in the chee. The right way? Kee-uh-ruh-skyoor-oh. It's the use of darkness and light in contrast, not a Brazilian restaurant where they keep giving you meat until you beg for them to stop. That's a...

63. Churrascaria

All together now: Shoe-rah-scah-ree-ya.

64. Gyro

bhofack2 iStock via Getty Images

Please, please when you're ordering one, don't call it a jy-ro. It's yee-ro, which should be easy to remember because it rhymes with hero and both are sandwiches.

65. Kiton

The cute little mussels are kai-tens. They're not kittens.

66. Acai

Luis Echeverri Urrea iStock via Getty Images

Ack! It's a soft C, but you also pronounce the letter I at the end. Uh-sigh-ee.

67. Cache

If you've got respect and clout, you've got cachet (cash-eh), but if you're storing your loot in a cache, it's pronounced simply cash.

68. February

Jariya Phaisankanjana iStock via Getty Images

It's feh-brew-ary, but we all know that we should officially change it to feh-boo-ary.

69. Regime

It's ray-jeem, not ruh-jeem.

70. Solder

Eblis iStock via Getty Images

Silent Ls should make everything tricky. Surprisingly, it's sah-der, not soul-der.

71. Often

Tons of people get this one wrong with great regularity. It's off-en. The T is silent.

72. Dilate

Mark_Kuiken iStock via Getty Images

This one might make your eyes bug out. We have the tendency to add another A in there, but it's di-late, not di-uh-late.

73. Preternatural

It's not pray-ter-natch-uh-rul. It's pree-ter-natch-uh-rul. Spooky, right?

74. Hierarchy

Radachynskyi iStock via Getty Images

It's high-er-ar-kee, not the simplified high-ar-kee.

75. Lambaste

There's no need to soften this one. It's lam-baste, not lam-bast.

76. Recondite

BrianAJackson iStock via Getty Images

It may be difficult to understand, but the word is pronounced reh-kin-dite.

77. Pronunciation

You pro-nown-ce a word, but you don't pro-nown-cee-ate it. Stick with pro-nun-cee-ay-shun, and you'll be fine.

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29


This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28


The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24


Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19


If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275


The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24


Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Wa Wa Wee Wa: The Origin of Borat's Favorite Catchphrase

Wa wa wee wa! Sacha Baron Cohen is back in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2020).
Wa wa wee wa! Sacha Baron Cohen is back in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2020).
Courtesy of Amazon Studios

When Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan was released in 2006, a new audience was exposed to Borat Sagdiyev, a “journalist” portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen who had made frequent appearances on the comedian’s Da Ali G Show.

Soon, in our country there was problem: People mimicked Borat’s catchphrases, "very nice" and “wa wa wee wa,” incessantly. The latter phrase was used to denote surprise or happiness on Borat’s part. While some may have assumed it was made up, it turns out that it actually means something.

Wa wa wee wa is Hebrew, which Cohen speaks throughout the film and which helped make Borat a hit in Israel. (Cohen is himself Jewish.) It was taken from an Israeli comedy show and is the equivalent of the word wow. Reportedly, the expression was popular among Israelis, and they appreciated Cohen’s use of it.

The original Borat also sees Cohen singing a popular Hebrew folk song, “Koom Bachur Atzel,” or “get up lazy boy,” among other Hebrew mentions. It remains to be seen how much of it he’ll be speaking in the sequel, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. It premieres on Amazon Prime Friday, October 23.

[h/t The Los Angeles Times]