The Huawei spying allegations raised one big question in my mind. And it wasn’t “Did they do it?”, but rather, “How on earth is the company name pronounced?” If you experience similar problems, I’m pleased to say help is at hand with the publication of a survey showing the most commonly mispronounced words.
The British Institute of Verbatim Reporters (BIVR), a professional body for captioning, subtitling and advising newsreaders and the courts, surveyed its members to identify the words and names that frequently cause pronunciation problems.
Huawei came in at number three on the list – it’s pronounced “WA-way” – behind Coorie (“COO-ri”), a lifestyle trend encapsulating cosiness, and Tour de France winner Geraint (“ger-AINT”) Thomas. When Irish-American actress Saoirse Ronan was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Lady Bird, it gave reporters a quandary. It turns out her generously-vowelled first name is pronounced “SIR-shuh”.
Jamal Kashoggi, the Saudi Arabian journalist who was assassinated in mysterious circumstances, dominated the headlines for weeks, creating numerous opportunities for newsreaders to practise their pronunciation of “ka-SHOG-gi”. Another name that causes difficulty is that of disgraced Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein. The experts say it should be “Wine-steen” but others maintain that it should rhyme with Einstein.
A couple of French names caused difficulties. Firstly, Fergie’s daughter Princess Eugenie (“you-JAY-nee”) came under the spotlight when she married Jack Brooksbank. And we discovered the correct way to pronounce Ypres (“EE-pru”) when it became a focal point of the First World War centenary commemorations.
I was pleased to see a word that has long been a pet hate of mine included in the top ten list. Mystifyingly, “specific” (spe-SI-fik) is often mispronounced as “pacific” and, worryingly, this is a trend that’s on the rise.
With Brexit swamping daily news reports, European Council President Donald Tusk has become one of the most mispronounced names with many innocently saying it in the same way as an elephant tusk when it should, in fact, be pronounced “toosk”. Another Brexit naming casualty is “Taoiseach”, the job title of Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar. (FYI it’s pronounced “tee-shockh”).
I hope that’s cleared that up. Feel free to comment and share the words, if any, that you often mispronounce. To get the ball rolling, as a small child who’d never heard the word spoken, for a long time I believed “recipe” (“RES-ipee”) was pronounced “REE-sigh-p”!