News reporters, politicians and public figures have had trouble saying some of the words that relate to the top stories of the year year. Last week, the online language learning company Babbel released its lists of the most mispronounced words in the United States and Britain.
The two lists are a reminder of the year’s news on everything from scientific discoveries to politics.
Babbel teacher Malcolm Massey noted the diversity of the words. This year’s words come from several different languages.
"I think a lot of it is due to how close our cultures have become because of how globalized things are," Massey said.
Singers, actors and politicians
A popular singer who spells her name S-Z-A is on the U.S. list. Babbel notes her name is pronounced SIZ-uh,[short I sound].
The first name of another entertainer is also on the list. Cillian Murphy is an Irish actor who starred in this summer's hit as physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. His first name is pronounced KI-lee-uhn.
Other pronunciations on the U.S. list include the name of biotech businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, who is a Republican presidential candidate. The correct way to say his name is Vih-VAKE Rah-mah-SWAH-me.
Two volcanoes were also on the list — Mexico's Popocatepetl, (Poh-poh-kah-TEH-peh-til), and Hawaii's Kilauea, (Kee-lou-EY-uh).
The winning word at this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee also made the U.S. list. That word was psammophile (SAM-uh-file.) It means any animal or plant that prefers sandy soils or areas.
The coronation of King Charles in May helped put the Stone of Scone, (Stown uhv Skoon), on Britain’s list. The holy stone rests beneath the Coronation Chair where a new king first receives his crown.
Kristie Denlinger teaches linguistics at the University of Texas in Austin. She said hearing an unfamiliar word often enough can help someone master it.
"Anything that is kind of different from what a speaker is used to, they can learn how to pronounce things in different ways than what they're used to, it just takes more exposure," Denlinger said.
A personal choice
Massey said that as one learns a new pronunciation, it is important to "not stress perfection but progress over time, so practicing these words again and again."
In some cases, the correct pronunciation is just a matter of personal choice. Earning a place on the U.S. list was the last name of Travis Kelce, the Kansas City Chiefs' American football player. Whether Kelce should be pronounced with one or two syllables, Kels or KEL-See, has been a subject even his own family talks about.
Both Travis and his brother, Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce, say their last name as KEL-see. On a podcast, they discussed with their father, Ed Kelce, how that pronunciation came to be.
"I got tired of correcting people," said Ed Kelce, who said that his co-workers always called him KEL-see.
Jason Kelce then asks: "Should we go by Kels or KEL-see?" His father answers: "Do whatever you want. I did."
I’m Jill Robbins.
Jamie Stengle reported on this story for the Associated Press. Jill Robbins adapted this story for Learning English.
Words in This Story
figure – n. a person who is well-known and important in some way.
mispronounced – adj. not said in a correct way
diversity – n. containing many very different elements
globalized – adj. when people from one country link with people
from another country in order to work or communicate with them
coronation – n. the ceremony at which a king or queen is crowned
linguistics – n. the science of language
exposure – n. publicity, being seen or heard
podcast – n. an audio file similar to a radio broadcast, that can be listened to on a website or app on your phone or computer
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