Annoying mispronunciations: do they make you go nucular? Probly - International Burch University
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Annoying mispronunciations: do they make you go nucular? Probly

How did specific become pacific and neckties become assessories? If you’re regularly annoyed by the misuse of language, a new survey shows you are certainly not alone.

Name: Annoying mispronunciations.

Age: No pacific age.

Wait, what? Hey, shouldn’t this be the “Appearance” line?

That can wait. What did you just say? I said I don’t have a pacific age for mispronunciations.

Do you mean “specific”? I don’t know, probly.

You mean “probably”. Oh God, you’re one of those people who go nucular whenever someone doesn’t get every word exactly right, aren’t you?

It’s “nuclear. I’ve been reading about people like you. Insights agency Perspectus Global recently surveyed 2,000 British people about hated mispronunciations. Apparently, while 65% of people are cool enough to let a mispronunciation go unchecked, 35% like to correct their friends, with 10% making a point of correcting strangers.Advertisement

I don’t see anything wrong with that. You must be a specially pedantic person, then.

Especially”. Please stop doing this. The most important thing about language is that it can communicate meaning. When I said “probly” earlier, you knew what I meant. You didn’t have to correct me. In fact, I’d argue that you only did it to grasp at a wisp of intellectual superiority.

You’re right. I’ve never really thought about it like that before. Sorry. It’s OK. And to be fair, you’re not alone: 35% of respondents were annoyed by people saying “pacifically” when they meant “specifically”, making it the biggest offender. And 28% took issue with “probly” instead of “probably”, making it the next. But it’s important you don’t persistently correct people or you’ll become a pariah. Nobody wants to end up in the social artick.

ARCTIC. The word is ARCTIC. It really sounds like you have a problem, you know. Have you ever tried treating people like people, and not assessories for your own small-minded cultural preservation campaign?

Freshly brewed espressoGettyImages-153328331
Fancy an expresso? Not so fast … Photograph: Jorn Georg Tomter/Getty Images

ACCESSORIES! There is no such thing as an assessory. Calm down, you’re going red. You look like you’ve been drinking too much expresso, or running too many triathalons.

ESPRESSO! TRIATHLON! Why are you doing this to me? You know you’re in the wrong here, don’t you? Even Dr Alex Baratta, a linguistics lecturer at the University of Manchester, agrees with me. “Changes in pronunciation are a natural part of language evolution,” he says. “Once the new pronunciation takes hold in a society, then it’s no longer an error but an innovation.”

So one day everyone on Earth might refer to it as the Artick Circle? Could be.

I cannot sanction this utter degradation of my beautiful language. Or you could just go along with it. It’s only words, after all.

Perhaps you’re right. Maybe … Yes?

David Shariatmadari

Maybe … Keep going. I’m on tenderhooks.

TENTERHOOKS! TENTERHOOKS! TENTERHOOKS! As in the hook used to prevent wet cotton from shrinking on a 14th-century device known as a tenter. Oh, look at Mr Pacific over here.

Do say: “There is no such thing as linguistic decay, only linguistic change.”

Don’t say: “Good luck selling that to the internet.”


Department of English Language and Literature