What Words Did You Mispronounce Because You Read More Than You Spoke?

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 10.854% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

All good readers will know the problem: You’re talking to your friends, and there is That Embarrassed Pause in the conversation.  And you realize you just used a word you’ve read often, but never heard spoken out loud.

“…is that the way it’s pronounced?” you ask.

“Nope,” they say.

Which, for us bookworms, is a constant peril.  We know how the words sound in our head.  But that’s stupidly not the way words should be.

My personal nightmare?  “Bouquet.”  That word is the sole reason I do not speak French to this day, because it is a stupid word that I still maintain should be pronounced “boo-kwet.”  I was in fifth grade, and they expected me to know foreign vowels?  Unfair.

But I had my friend Jim who staunchly pronounced it “annie-hill-ate” because, confoundingly, Star Trek had an episode with a cool title – “Operation: Annihilate!” – yet nobody in the episode actually spoke of annihilating anything.

So, beloved readers, share your embarrassment: What word did you stumble over?


  1. Tracie
    Nov 30, 2016


  2. Gayle
    Nov 30, 2016

    Mischievous. It is pronounced Miss-che-vus. I always said miss-chee-vee-us. Apparently, it’s such a common mispronunciation that it has made it into the dictionary, but when I was a kid, it was made clear to me that I was WRONG.

  3. Steve Bein
    Nov 30, 2016

    Autodidact. So appropriate that I had to teach myself how to pronounce it.

  4. Rosemarie
    Nov 30, 2016

    Phlegm, when I was reading Harry Potter for the first time. I got the first sound right, but at the end I was using a soft “g” sound.

  5. Yvette
    Nov 30, 2016

    My husband was adamant that grandiose is pronounced grand-wa because of the -ios- (never took a day of French in his life). I finally made him listen to French speakers pronounce it grand-ee-ohs (or grand-yos). He still grimaces when he hears the correct pronunciation but I’m not sure if now it is because he still believes he’s right, or because he’s reminded of being wrong for so long

    • Tegan
      Oct 25, 2023

      Hello!! I know this was posted 7 years ago but THANK YOU. I also grimace when I hear people say “gran-dee-ose” and I thought THEY were the incorrect ones until TONIGHT lol.

  6. Pamela
    Nov 30, 2016

    My sister loved Peanuts cartoons. In one, Snoopy had thrown his food dish in the neighbor’s yard. After reading Snoopy’s pronouncement that it was gauche to be served dog food in his water dish, My sister declared, with an air of extreme dignity, that we, (her siblings’), were sooo gawchee!

  7. Ariel
    Nov 30, 2016


    “Brazier” and “Brasseire” (pronounced the same, right?!)

    “Conscience” isn’t pronounced con-sci-ence, as it turns out.

  8. Kioni
    Dec 1, 2016

    Macabre. I’m into my twenties and still have no idea how to pronounce it…

  9. Garfield Lee
    Dec 1, 2016

    My sister was reading Gone with the wind and loved the name Swaylan. My mom goes, What? It was Sue-Ellan.

  10. DavidS
    Dec 2, 2016

    SOOT-er-fudge. That’s how I mentally pronounced subterfuge until, in my mid twenties, I had occasion to say it out loud.

  11. Jennifer
    Dec 2, 2016

    Ombre. I always pronounced it om-ber.

  12. Helbling
    Dec 5, 2016

    Subtle – “sub-tile.”
    Penchant – “Pen-chant.”
    Segue – “Seeeeguh.”
    Original – “Ori-guh-nal.”

    And so, so many others that are fandom specific, but those are the ones that stand out because I used them in conversation outloud and got mocked for them…

    …I was also an early enough reader that I used punctuation that other kids in my class hadn’t encountered before. Therefore I had a classmate try to read out a sentence I’d written and pronouncing the brackets ‘forward big C and it’s not relevant anyway backwards big C’…

  13. J
    Dec 10, 2016

    Corps. I read a *lot* of military fiction, but it’s not really a word that comes up in conversation often.

  14. Gina
    Dec 10, 2016

    Melancholy. I put the emphasis on the wrong syllable until I was probably 18.

  15. Liz
    Dec 25, 2016

    French was my downfall, in the exact opposite way it was yours. I tried to convince someone that was less than 3 minutes from being on nation-wide radio reading from their recently published novel that chamois was pronounced as if it were in french, Sham-wah. Apparently it’s more like Shammy.

    And don’t ask me to order a round of draught (pronounced draft, spelled stupidly) without traumatic flashbacks.

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