In my nod to the GDPR rules (in force since last week), I made mention of what I believe to be the correct pronunciation of the word ‘privacy’ – whereby I pointed out that the letter ‘i’ should be pronounced the same way as when it appears in the word ‘if’ – as opposed to the American version which pronounces the ‘i’ the same way as when it appears in the word ‘identify’.  It is hardly surprising I suppose, given the American propensity to pronounce countries like Iran and Iraq using the same long ‘i’ sound.

I am glad to report that no readers have responded in defence of the American way. I was further heartened to read yesterday, that many of the faithful audience of the much-loved, Today programme on BBC Radio 4, have also been flying the flag for the correct British pronunciation of certain words.

This time it was the word ‘aluminium’ that somehow managed to get pronounced ‘aloominum’ by one of the presenters – simply because his interviewee was from America! It makes one wonder if the interviewee offered a cash incentive to adopt the American version in a vain attempt to continue the onslaught against British versions.

Please don’t get me wrong, I love many, many things about America. It was my boyhood dream come true when I got to live there as a very young man for over a year but when it comes to their approach to the English language, I have to declare my allegiance to the ‘old country’.

Another word that regularly falls foul of us self-confessed ‘Pronunciation Police’ is, and this most definitely is another of the American variety…

Niche (pronounced ‘neesh’).

It is from the French word ‘nicher’ (which means to nest) but our American cousins – for some bizarre reason – feel the need to pronounce it as if it was spelt ‘nitch’.

There are a number of websites that have lists of commonly mis-pronounced and mis-spelt words and you can visit one of them here if you want; but here are a few of the more common words (as identified by the linked website)…

Don’t say: irregardless | Do say: regardless

Comment: “-less” already says ”without” so there is no need to repeat the same sentiment with “ir-.”

Don’t say: heighth | Do say: height

Comment: The analogy with “width” misleads many of us in the pronunciation of this word because we try to end the word with the “th” sound. The initial [h] and the final [t] is always pronounced.

Don’t say: probly, prolly | Do say: probably

Comment: Haplology is the dropping of one of two identical syllables such as the [ob] and [ab] in this word, usually the result of fast speech. Slow down and pronounce the whole word for maximum clarity and to reduce your chances of misspelling the word.

(I get accused of this one myself by my wife, so I am not entirely innocent!)

Don’t say: pronounciation | Do say: pronunciation

Comment: Just as “misspelling” is among the most commonly misspelled words, “pronunciation” is among the most commonly mispronounced words. Fitting, no?

Ironic that I was pronouncing ‘pronunciation’ incorrectly when I was writing this very blog! Never again!


Paul Hatcher

I am at heart, a communicator. I love to use words, whether written or spoken and maximise those words to hopefully, bring some encouragement - literally, to put courage into the hearts & minds of those who read or hear them. In my work as an executive coach, speaker, workshop facilitator, I love also to listen...deeply, and then respond with some encouragement.