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Top 10 Words You’re Saying Wrong

by Jamie Frater
fact checked by Jamie Frater

The western world has become so multi-cultural that half of our daily discussions now involve terms that are borrowed into English from other cultures or references to people who were not born in English speaking nations. It is, consequently, no surprise that we all pronounce many of these terms wrongly. This fun little list will help you get it right!

See Also: 10 Famous Quotes Everybody Knows—And Gets Wrong

10 Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel is the chancellor of Germany. She was elected in 2005 and has held the position for 14 years due to the fact that the German government is built of a grand coalition rather than a dominant ruling party! She was born in East Germany and, until last year, was the leader of the Christian based political party called the Christian Democratic Union of Germany.

So how are you getting her name wrong? It looks pretty basic right. Angela as an English name is, rightly, pronounced with the “g” pronounced like a “j” (as in jello). But in German, the ‘g’ is hard so the letter in her name is actually pronounced like the ‘g’ in “angle”. So she is actually “Angle-uh” Merkel (pronounced, somewhat appropriately perhaps, like Urkel as in Steve Urkel).

9 Kim Jong-Un

Kim Jong-Un (or Kim Jong-Eun) is the current dictator of North Korea. Koreans (like most Asians) write their names opposite to us, with the last name first. That means that Kim Jong-Un’s last name is “Kim”. Kim is the most common surname in Korea . . . it is as common as John as a first name in the United States or Mohammed in the United Kingdom.

We all know how to pronounce Kim, but what about that weird first name? Most people pronounce it like two distinct words: Jong . . . Un (with the “un” being pronounced a variety of ways – mostly wrongly). The “un” part is actually “eun” which doesn’t really have a counterpart in English being something like a cross between “err” and “uhh”.

But “Jong-Un” is actually pronounced as a two-syllable single word rhyming with “Tongan” (a person from Tonga). If we wrote it more plainly in English using our own conventions, the great dictator would be Jongin Kim. So next time you are discussing the great leaps forward in relations between the US, South Korea, and North Korea under President Trump, you can say Kim Jong Un correctly!

8 Che Guevara

Che Guevara, the horrific murderer whose face adorns the chests of thousands of young American “rebels” (ironically on one of capitalism’s finest achievements: the tee-shirt) is probably one of the most well-known communists in western society. The lowest estimate of his death toll comes in a meagre 105, but numbers escalate into the thousands when less restrictive definitions of “murder” are applied.

So, considering how much love this monster receives, you’d think people would mostly say his name right. On the contrary, I would posit that most of you reading have probably never heard it said correctly. “Shay” is wrong. “Chay” (with the ‘ch’ pronounces like “chase”) is right. And his last name is pronounce gay-VAH-rah.

7 Espresso

Espresso is a delightful coffee that Americans are just starting to appreciate. It is usually made when steam is forced through ground coffee beans and it is the starting liquid for many other great coffees such as cappuccinos and lattes. The mispronunciation most common with this word is one in which an ‘x’ sound is inserted—giving us “express-oh”. In fact the correct pronunciation is “ess-press-oh”. The term “espresso” itself is from the Italian meaning “to express”, because the coffee flavor is expressed from the beans. It is probably that this similarity in terms is what has led so many to misuse the word.

6 Bruschetta

While we are on the subject of Italian delights, let’s take a quick look at another slightly less common one. Bruschetta is a delicious piece of toasted bread upon which is spread some equally delicious topping—typically the likes of tapenade or other spreads. This word is most often pronounced “brush-etta” and Italian does indeed have a “sh” sound, but the “sh” sound in Italian is written “sc” as in “lascia” (pronounced la-sha”). In Bruschetta we have the typical Italian pronunciation of “ch” which is hard. So the correct way to say these yummy treats is “brusketa”.

5 Huawei

President Trump’s hated Chinese brand is Huawei. Hated for using stolen technology and for doing to their customers what the likes of Apple, Google, and Facebook do to their customers: spy for the government; though in the case of Huawei it’s for the communists not the NSA. This is a word that looks totally unpronounceable from the get go. How do you even tackle it? There are clearly way too many vowels in there.

Fortunately this is actually a really easy one: “wah-way”. That’s it. Wah—like a baby, and way—like a direction.

4 Quinoa

This odd herb with edible seeds originates in pre-Columbian America and is now adored by that strange breed of human animals that refuse to eat animal life: vegans and vegetarians. The seed was actually largely superseded in the Americas by western cereals upon the arrival of Europeans but it has definitely seen a surge in popularity in the middle-classes of Europe and America with a strong media drive towards environmental living.

So how do you say the name of this weird plant? Probably incorrectly. Thank God for Listverse—you’ll never get it wrong again. It’s “keen-wah”.

3 Joaquin Phoenix

Back to personal names. Joaquin Phoenix is the brother of the dead actor River Phoenix who was a rising star in the firmament of Hollywood before it was swallowed whole in the black hole we now know as Chinese finance. Joaquin’s start as an actor was under his self-given name of “Leaf” but he later returned to the birth name his parent’s gave him. Hilariously, his sister is named “Rain Joan of Arc Bottom”.

Anyway, Joaquin is Puerto-Rican born and his name is the Spanish form of Joachim, a Hebrew name meaning “lifted by Yahweh”. He was undoubtedly given that name because of his mother’s Jewish heritage. Like quinoa, the word looks more confusing than it actually is. It is simply pronounced: “hwah-keen”—almost exactly the inverse of quinoa!

2 Treatise

A treatise is usually a long and drawn out exposition of a subject in written form. It is longer than an essay and tends to give very deep consideration to a particular subject. The most famous treatise of all is probably The Art of War by Sun Tzu with a close second being The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli.

Being able to correctly pronounce this word will give you the appearance of being a person who might also spend his evenings deeply engrossed in a treatise or two. So you would do well to learn it if you wish to appear to be at the acme of intelligent society. The word is said: “tree-tiss” with the emphasis on the “tree”.

1 Nuclear

For the life of me I can’t find an example of this being discussed elsewhere on Listverse, yet it seems to me the most likely candidate for a list like this. I am going to keep it short. The word is “nuke-lear” not “nook-you-lah”. It is 2019—we are far too long past the cold-war to be pronouncing this wrong.

fact checked by Jamie Frater
Jamie Frater

Jamie is the founder of Listverse. When he’s not doing research for new lists or collecting historical oddities, he can be found in the comments or on Facebook where he approves all friends requests!

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