Callum Fox: English. It’s a bastard (when you can’t pronounce certain words)

Posted on March 25, 2013

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It’s happened more times than I can count. I’m in the middle of a sentence. I come across a word that I don’t know how to pronounce. I stumble over the word.

My housemates lean forward in anticipation. They can smell blood, like circling sharks.

I summon up the courage, I utter the word.

Almost immediately, the room descends into hysterical laughter. 

English. It’s a bastard.

It happens quite often. As it happens, most of my vocabulary has come from years of reading books or playing video games in my childhood. I normally come across new words and phrases this way long before I hear them in conversation. This lends itself to quite a few unfortunate, but hilarious, situations. None more so than at university. Having lived with five lads for nearly two years, my pronunciation was exposed quite often much to their amusement.

The English language is a minefield. Historians would have me blaming the likes of Julius Caesar and William the Conqueror for polluting English with their Latin and French ways. But even taking that into consideration, English seems uniquely suited to tripping up poor souls like me.

I’ve had a laugh compiling this list, I’m sure you will too. Here’s a select few howlers from yours truly.

Creme Egg

For some reason, I thought that Cadbury’s Creme Egg had an accent over the last letter. Cue much hilarity when I called it a ‘crem-ie egg’ in front of pretty much all of my mates.

Morecambe

The town somehow came up during conversation. I called it ‘more-cam-beh’. ‘Nuff said. Also applies to the comedy duo Morecambe and Wise.

Spectacular and Speculation

This is special, even by my standards. I managed to conflate it once. ‘Spectaculation’. That’ll catch on with football commentators, trust me.

Czech Republic

‘Kek’ Republic. I know, I’ve no idea where that came from. This duly embarrassed me when I was playing football with my mates during Euro 2004, where the mighty Czechs with Jan Koller, Milan Baros and Pavel Nedved were at the height of their powers. A game of singles where each of us had to chose a team. I was last, all the good ones had been taken. Czech Republic was the only one left. Still, they were better than Latvia.

Hughes

‘Hugs’. An oldie, but a goodie. I used that pronunciation for a secondary school classmate of mine with that particular surname. It’s a wonder they knew who I was talking about.

Doubt

Silent ‘b’. I never knew about any silent ‘b’ when I was commenting on a footballer’s availability for the next Premier League fixture.

Corona

Mexican beer. I pronounced it coro-nah. Turns out it’s Co-rone-nah. Wish I knew that before ordering a Corona from a bewildered bartender in Malia who obviously had no idea what I was on about.

Ruud Gullit

Is it Gullitt, or is it Hullitt? I don’t care. I’ve had enough of him to last me a lifetime. There’s a special place in hell reserved just for his name alone.

Aaaand that’s it.

I’m sure that you all have plenty of anecdotes in this particular area. Or am I alone in thinking English is the worst thing ever invented? I’d love to know all about your experiences in navigating the minefield that is the Queen’s English.

This article was first published on Callum’s blog here: http://walkthedivide.wordpress.com/

Callum Fox is walking the divide between the hearing and deaf worlds. Profoundly deaf since birth and CI user. In his spare time he balances being 22 years old, being a football fanatic and trying to make it as a writer, journalist and human being. Follow him on Twitter as @WalkTheDivide

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