2023’s Most Mispronounced Words

12/11/2023
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    Lord Lyon King of Arms Joseph Morrow reads in front of the Stone of Scone during an event at St. Giles’ Cathedral on July 5, 2023, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Jane Barlow/Pool photo via AP)
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    Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy answers questions from reporters on November 4, 2023, in Florida. (AP/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
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As 2023 draws to a close, people publish year-end lists of poetry, podcasts, song playlists, movies, politicians, and more. The compilations detail people and events that garnered attention in the last 12 months. The latest list catalogs the “Most Mispronounced Words of the Year.”

According to online language learning company Babbel, 2023’s most talked-over topics range from the name of a U.S. presidential candidate to the name of a slab of sandstone.

Babbel released this year’s lists of the most mispronounced words in the United States and Great Britain on Thursday. The company commissioned The Captioning Group and the British Institute of Verbatim Reporters to identify the most-flubbed words. They’re the ones news anchors, politicians, and other public figures struggle with most. The words also reflect the topics people focused on in 2023.

Babbel teacher Malcolm Massey says words from several different languages made the list.

“I think a lot of it is due to . . . how globalized things are,” Massey says.

After research, here’s our best effort at how to say the following most mispronounced words properly:

Pronunciations making the U.S. list include the name of biotech businessman and Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy (Vih-VAKE Rah-mah-SWAH-me). Two volcanos also made the list: Mexico’s Popocatepetl (Poh-puh-KAH-teh-peh-til) and Hawaii’s Kilauea (Kee-lah-WAY-uh).

The coronation of King Charles III in May helped put Scotland’s Stone of Scone (Skoon) on Britain’s list—and receive an honorable mention on the U.S. list. The famous slab lay under the seat of the Coronation Chair when the crown was placed on Charles’ head. There are at least three pronunciations for the word scone. But it seems most Scottish citizens pronounce the word as “Skoon”—and since it’s their rock . . .

Also on the U.K. list was Bharat (BUH-ruht [British English] or BAH-ruht [American English]). Bharat is an ancient Sanskrit word meaning “India” in Hindi. In September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government signaled that Indians should shed the name India and instead use its other official name of Bharat.

Speakers “can learn how to pronounce things in different ways than what they’re used to. It just takes more exposure,” says Kristie Denlinger, a linguistics lecturer at the University of Texas in Austin. She says being exposed to a new word enough times can help someone master it.

Massey adds that when learning new pronunciation, it’s important to “not stress perfection but progress over time, so [practice] these words again and again.”

In many cases, the correct pronunciation depends on personal factors. One word on the U.S. list was the last name of Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. His connection with pop music megastar Taylor Swift grabbed countless headlines this fall.

Whether his last name should be pronounced with one or two syllables—Kels or KEL-See—has been a topic of discussion even in his own family.

Both he and his brother, Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce, pronounce their last name KEL-see. On a recent podcast, they discussed that pronunciation with their father, Ed Kelce.

How did the famous footballers’ father, Ed Kelce, arrive at the pronunciation? He says co-workers always called him KEL-see instead of Kels. “I got tired of correcting people.”

As you head into a new year, what could you list about God’s blessings to you?

Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works! — Psalm 107:8