16 Words People Mispronounced Because They'd Only Seen Them Written

The English language is wild. C's can sound like a K or an S, E can sound like I, and the whole thing is topsy-turvy when you think about it. We try our best, which is why I find it cute and oddly heartwarming reading these Quora stories of people who realized their pronunciations were wrong just a little too late.

1."In my high school, seniors put up signs for which colleges they got accepted to. Like, 'Joe got accepted to Harvard!' or 'Jane got accepted to NC State!' They did this for every big college acceptance. One day, when I was a sophomore, this sign appeared: 'Chloe got accepted to ECU!' I looked at it and, in all sincerity, said, 'Who is Shlow?' I had no idea how to pronounce the name Chloe."

Matthew Bates

Closeup of Chloe Grace Moretz
Roy Rochlin / Getty Images for Netflix

2."Epitome. How it’s pronounced: Eh-pih-tuh-mee. I’ve been pronouncing it 'eh-pi-tome' (tome rhyming with home) my whole damn life until I was corrected a few months ago. (To the people who never corrected me, I’m still bitter.) Also, I caught myself mispronouncing the word 'reputable' more times than I’d like to admit. I’d say 're-put-able,' putting the emphasis on the second syllable rather than the first. I guess it’s supposed to be 'rep-utable'"

Rebecca Hallie

3."When I was 5 or 6 and learning to read, my mother and I would read The Baby-Sitters Club book series together. Well, mostly I would read to her in order to practice. The author was fond of using the contraction 'c’mon' instead of writing 'come on,' and for some reason, I decided that was pronounced 'c-mon,' which sounded exactly like 'semen.' So every third paragraph, I’d be saying something like, 'Semen, Mary Anne.' My mother would giggle or smile, and when I’d ask what was funny, she’d just answer, 'The book.' I never understood what she found so funny, figuring that maybe I was too young to understand the joke. Years later, I stumbled across someone else using that contraction in their fiction, and suddenly recalled all those nights of my mother giggling but NEVER CORRECTING ME. Thanks, Mom."

Janice M

"Come on"

4."The only one I can think of was that source of embarrassment when I was in elementary school class. Maybe fourth grade, maybe fifth? I had to read my geography report to the rest of the class, which was a regular routine in that particular classroom. My report had one phrase which was repeated, again and again and again, at least six or seven times. 'The Yoo-Kate-Un Peninsula is believed to have a large deposit of oil reserves, just off shore. In recent years, the Yoo-Kate-Un Peninsula has become one the favorite tourist attractions for people who live in California.' And on, and on, and on. It was my mother who finally corrected me when I got home from school later that same day, and told her excitedly how well my speech to the class had gone."

Bruce Spielbauer

5."Pubic. When I was young and saw this word written, I read it as public. How odd, I thought. I was very confused by this. How could hair that was so private be called public? I had to grow up a few years before I realized my mistake."

Karen Carmichael

GIF of Oprah

6."As a kid I mixed up bear and beer a lot."

Sanyukta Shukla

7."Magenta. I was probably 9 or 10 at the time, and was reading a book describing something pinkish and purplish. I read the new and interesting word incorrectly, however. In my young mind, the word became Magneta (pronounced magnet-ah). I told my parents about this fascinating new word ‘magneta.' I thought it was a cool word since it was really similar to ‘magnet,' and I thought at the time magnets were awesome."

Clide Richter

Screenshot from "Blues Clues"

8."I used to pronounce Warren Buffett's last name as 'buffet' (the all-you-can-eat, free-selection dining practice). Thankfully, my college investment club peers set me straight, but not without some giggles."

Lindsay X. Lin

9."Just today I heard the word 'chimera' spoken aloud over the radio for the first time. I am 28 years old and have pronounced it 'CHIH-mur-ruh' since I became aware of its existence. I always thought it was a very awkward word and never liked it. It’s pronounced 'Kai-MEHR-uh.' Sounds much better than the way I’d been saying it in my head."

Natalie Knowles

Olaf Kruger / Getty Images/imageBROKER RF

10."Hors d'oeuvre. Read it on a menu and pronounced it 'horse deverer' in front of a girl I liked. She then pronounced it correctly, and I looked sheepish and replied, 'That's how you spell that?' Smooth moves."

Dan Goodswen

11."Daiquiri. How it should be said: dackery. How I said it at a restaurant: die-queery. Used in a sentence: ‘I’ll have the strawberry die-queery, please.’ Response from others: laughter."

Carissa Warren

A daiquiri on the beach
Vicente Fores Photography / Getty Images

12."I learned the word hyperbole from reading it in a novel as a young teenager. For some time, I didn’t look up the meaning and pronunciation in a dictionary. When I did, I learned that it is properly pronounced hi-per-bo-lee. Until then, I had thought it was pronounced hi-per-bowl. I think hi-per-bowl is a super duper toilet cleanser."


13."I don’t have TV, so when I started seeing articles and products containing the word 'quinoa,' I assumed it was pronounced kwi-NO-ah. It was only after a friend made the off-hand remark, 'Doesn’t it drive you crazy when people call it kwi-NO-ah instead of KEEN-wa?' that I realized I’d been mispronouncing it in my head."

Diana A.

"it's pronounced keen-wa"

14."One that sticks out in my mind, that I still laugh often about is 'segue.' I had been reading this word for at least 15 years in books of fiction and nonfiction. Each time I read it, I pronounced it in my head as 'seg-yoo.' Yet I would say, 'nice segue,' and use the term conversationally and at work. I was in my mid-to-late 20s before it dawned on me that 'seg-way' and 'seg-yoo' were, in fact, the same word, and that it is pronounced like the former!"

Holly Macdonald-Korth

15."When I was about 4 years old, my mother says that I read the word 'naked' as one syllable, when I informed her that Adam and Eve were naked, but did not know that they were naked. (I mean, if raked, baked, caked, and flaked all have one syllable, why not naked?)"

Ben Waggoner

A woman giggling

16."Salmon: I called it Saul-man for a very long time until I read an article. The correct pronunciation is Sam-in."

Anubha Shrivastava

OK, now tell us, what is a word you've been mispronouncing first. I'll go first: I can never remember if you pronounce rattan as "rah-tan" or "rat-tan." What's yours? Tell us in the comments below!

A rattan chair
Yevgen Romanenko / Getty Images