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What word in the English vocabulary do you find the hardest to pronounce?

(Strictly pronounce-wise, not because of political/ideological beliefs or other convictions.)

5 years ago by marenmor with 21 comments

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Conversation 14 comments by 6 users
  • Triseult
    +7

    My first language is French, and as a young adult the English word I had the hardest time pronouncing was "croissant." See, English speakers don't really pronounce it like the French... They pronounce it like they think the French pronounce it. It's close, but not quite the same. (The French pronounce it something like "Crowassan" with a soft 'n' at the end, while English speakers pronounce it something like "Cross-ant.")

    So there I was, trying to imitate an American trying to imitate me pronouncing "croissant." Not the easiest thing in the world.

    Mind you, I could have just pronounced it the French way, but then my English is good enough that it would have come across as snobbishness. Sigh.

    • Bastou (edited 5 years ago)
      +7

      I know exactly what you mean! Being a French native fluent in English myself, I never know quite for sure how I should pronounce accepted-badly-pronounced-French-words in English, when I speak English... Do I exaggerate the bad pronunciation? Do I pronounce it properly in French? The sweet spot in the middle is often elusive.

      • spaceghoti
        +8

        As a native English speaker with little familiarity with the French language, I say go for the proper French pronunciation. English is a melting pot to begin with, and it never hurts to be reminded of the roots of a word. I think it's criminal the way the US stopped teaching Latin in schools, which robbed us of an understanding of the foundations of our own language.

        • redalastor
          +6

          As a native English speaker with little familiarity with the French language, I say go for the proper French pronunciation.

          The problem is, odds are you won't understand it.

          I once had to refer to the city of Grande Prairie (Alberta) in a conversation with someone that lived there and she had no clue whatsoever what those words were. And I was unsure how they were mispronouncing it. I had to write it down.

          • Bastou (edited 5 years ago)
            +3

            I once had to refer to the city of Grande Prairie (Alberta) [...]

            You got me curious. How do they mispronounce it? (bonus for using the IPA)

            • redalastor
              +3

              I really don't remember. That was a decade ago.

              Do we have an Albertan around to try pronouncing it? :)

            • Bastou
              +3
              @redalastor -

              Well, my Google-fu gives me "grand prehree", or IPA, [grænd pɹɛəɹi].

        • Bastou
          +4

          I tend to agree and usually do just that, but the problem remains the base goal of any language : to get understood. I usually end up saying words the closest that I can to their original pronunciation in the language they were borrowed from, but too often people just don't understand. So I end up having to exaggerate the bad pronunciation after 2 or 3 tries. But if the situation seems appropriate (receptive interlocutor, not in a line with people waiting after me...) I'll explain how and why I pronounced it the way I did, and if I can, what the word means and what language it came from.

          I'm a bit passionate about languages, speaking 6 (among which 3 fluently). I always kind of hope that I'm not annoying people with it. And especially that I don't sound elitist, or pedantic because of it, since it couldn't be farthest from my personality. But I know it sometimes feel like it, it goes with general education, knowledge and language ability.

          • spaceghoti
            +5

            If someone fails to understand you, you can then follow up with the bastardized version with the explanation that you learned to say it the first way. That way you get to make yourself understood while also educating the person you're speaking with.

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    • Bastou (edited 5 years ago)
      +4

      Incidentally, I have no problem at all for the opposite : any English word I'd use in French I'll pronounce in perfect English (well, as perfect as a second language English speaker can get), because that's the way anyone from French Canada expects to hear it, but in France, this will get me in the same kind of trouble as the anglicized-French-words-pronounced-in-proper-French in English, because there, they got no clue how to pronounce English properly.

      Anecdote time ! I had a Frenchman roommate and he once told me about a tupèroire (English tzuhpehrwahr, IPA [typɛʁɥɑʁ]). When he saw my confused expression, he went on to explain : you know, small plastic containers, that's actually a brand... And then it hit me ! Oh! You mean Tupperware (pronounced as the company itself does)!

      • RockyTron
        +4

        Haha that's hilarious, "tupèroire"

      • Triseult
        +4

        Haha! French Canadian here, I totally get what you mean. It gets confusing to talk to French people for native French speakers too. :)

  • jenjen1352
    +4

    I once had an embarrassing moment with 'paradigm'. In my defence I was quite young.

  • g4zz (edited 5 years ago)
    +4

    What I find the most is the names of people or places in fantasy books.

    I have recently took to listening to audiobooks and the amount of names that I have read perfectly fine in my head have then turned out to be totally wrong when I have listened to them in audiobook or discussed them with a friend.

  • amphetamine
    +2

    February. I have one of those weird voices with a super old-timey dialect, and saying "February" makes me sound and feel like an alien.