“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.” But what if we use them wrong?

By Laura Sears

To those of us in communications, who use words all day every day, it can be irritating when someone doesn’t quite use them correctly. But for those who say them in the wrong way, well apparently that’s even worse.

A survey published last week by linguistics experts revealed that if you’re annoyed by the mispronunciation of words, you’re certainly not alone. A study of 2,000 people revealed that 35% listed “pacifically” – a mispronunciation of “specifically” – as the most irritating mispronunciation, shortly followed by “probly” instead of “probably”.

We conducted our own in-house survey among our SEC Newgate colleagues to find those incorrectly pronounced words that grind our gears here, and while the top two from the professional survey came in second and third, our biggest bugbear appears to be caffeine-based: with 41% putting “expresso” as their number one mispronunciation (said miss-pro-NUN-ciaton, not NOUN, before anyone says anything!).

I won’t name and shame anybody who volunteered their own personal slip ups, but some of our favourites include “quin-oh-uh” for “quinoa” (is it obvious we like our food and beverages at SEC Newgate?), “vica versa” instead of the singularly syllabled “vice”, or my personal highlight: “hyperbowl” instead of “hyperbole” (hy-per-bol-ee).

We don’t all need to cast spells with our words like dear Dumbledore, but at least pronouncing (that one is NOUN) them right is a start.