15 Words Where We're Totally Overdoing The Pronunciation

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Americans tend to view the English language as rough and unsophisticated compared to foreign languages. Perhaps because we feel the need to make up for it, we have a knack for overdoing the pronunciation of loanwords: terms that we adopt that are derived outside English-speaking countries. Whether we are adding an “ay!” to every word of French origin to make it sound fancy and lively or softening ‘g’s, ‘ch’s, and ‘j’s in an attempt to make words sound more fluid and less English than they were originally intended, our attempts to sound more intelligent and worldly are really just making us sound kind of dumb. 

It's not uncommon for us to completely butcher the pronunciation of a name or word and then have it so widely used that it sinks into our minds as correct. However, just because a loanword sounds familiar and is widely accepted doesn't mean that we've been saying it accurately. This list comprises 15 of some of the most commonly over-pronounced words in The United States.

  • Coup De Grace
    Photo: Edmond Morin / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0
    150 VOTES

    Coup De Grace

    Sometimes, we misconfigure a loanword so much that it turns into a completely different term with an entirely different meaning. This is the case with “coup de grace,” a French word referring literally to the “stroke of grace,” the final blow of a sword that a person delivers to their enemy. 

    While Americans tend to leave out the last “s” sound, pronouncing the term “coo-de-gra," it incorrectly changes the term to “stroke of fat” when translated to French. If you want to say what you really mean, it's best to give the ending ‘s’ sound a place in your speech. 

    You'll definitely sound more sophisticated (and accurate) to the French if you pronounce it “coo-de-gras.”  

    150 votes
  • 2
    136 VOTES

    This one may surprise you since even national broadcasters of the Olympic games pronounced the city as “bey-ZHING.” In reality, there's nothing beige about pronouncing China's capital city this way, and we've been saying it wrong all along. 

    The “j” is hard, making the word that translates to “northern capital” sound like “bey-JING.” This loanword mispronunciation is so prominent that Chinese-speaking Americans even slip to the softer pronunciation in an attempt to sound less obnoxious. 

    136 votes
  • 3
    126 VOTES


    Easy there, Pierre, the entrance hall to a hotel or theater is a wee bit more understated than you might have thought. While it may seem fancy to pronounce the word with the celebratory-toned ending of foy-YAY, it's actually pronounced phonetically: “foy-er.” 

    The term originated from the Old French word “foier,” used to describe the hearth of a home or business. 

    126 votes
  • 4
    98 VOTES


    Don’t be intimidated by the accents on the letters, it’s pretty straightforward to pronounce correctly. Though it's tempting for many Americans to add a “SCH” sound to the beginning of the word, it's pronounced exactly as it looks: “smor-gas-bord.”

    98 votes
  • 5
    119 VOTES


    This word rhymes with ‘stash,' and there's really no need to add an extra “ay” to the end of it. Like other words that derive from a French origin, we often needlessly make the term sound more frivolous and fancy than it actually is. 

    While old habits die hard, it's time to stop saying “cash-AY,” and just pronounce the word as it was intended:  “cash.” 

    119 votes
  • 6
    114 VOTES

    Completing one of these races is grueling enough without adding a phantom letter to the mix. Just like decathlon and biathlon, there's no extra a between “th” and “lon.” The word "athlon" means "contest" in Greek. 

    To pronounce this one correctly, all we have to do is add the number of events (tri=three) to the root word. We actually save time and sound smarter just by saying the word as it's meant to be said: “tri-ATH-len” instead of “tri-ath-a-lon.”

    114 votes