Weird History

15 Words Where We're Totally Overdoing The Pronunciation

List Rules
Vote up the most overdone words

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.

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  • Coup De Grace
    Photo: Edmond Morin / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0
    1
    110 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.”  

  • 2
    113 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. 

  • 3
    84 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.”

  • 4
    95 VOTES

    Habanero

    The word Habanero is sometimes said as Habañero. This extra hot pepper’s actual pronunciation is a bit more room temperature than you might have thought. The term is a classic example of hyperforeignism: when one language over-annunciates or incorrectly places extra emphasis on words in a vain attempt to make them sound more culturally authentic.  

    Just because the word “jalepeño” has a tilde over the end doesn't mean that all foods from the Spanish language do. While we're talking about it, we can cool down on overemphasizing “empañada,” when we're talking about pastries, too. “Empañada” actually means “fogged up," a completely irrelevant word to use when discussing food.