‘Pacifically’ and ‘probly’: The most irritating mispronunciations revealed

·2 min read
 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A new survey has identified the top 10 mispronunciations that people find most irritating – and they range from the rakish to the ridiculous.

If you’ve ever said the word “expresso” or “probly”, then you are guilty of mispronouncing words – and annoying people as a result.

The survey, conducted by Perspectus Global, an insights agency, included responses from 2,000 Britons, with 61 per cent saying they found it irritating when people mispronounced words.

However, just 35 per cent said they would correct a friend if they heard them pronouncing something incorrectly, while 65 per cent would be too embarrassed.

One in four (25 per cent) of people said they had actually argued with friends, colleagues, or family members over the correct pronunciation of words.

Only one in 10 people said they would be happy to tell a stranger they had mispronounced a word.

Regarding the words themselves, among the top offenders was “pacifically” (instead of “specifically”), which 35 per cent of respondents named as the most frustrating mispronunciation.

Meanwhile, saying “probly” instead of “probably” annoyed 28 per cent of people, while using “expresso” instead of “espresso” riled 26 per cent.

Additionally, saying “specially” instead of “especially” vexed 25 per cent of participants, and “Artick” as opposed to “Arctic “was identified by 19 per cent of people.

Dr Alex Baratta, a senior lecturer in linguistics at Manchester University, commented: “Language is always changing, and this can apply to pronunciations of words and not just word meanings and grammar.

“In some cases, a word may change its pronunciation, or end up with two existing pronunciations, based on what might have started out as an error.

“Once the new pronunciation takes hold in a society, then it’s no longer an error but an innovation.”

Dr Baratta added that differences in pronunciation can arise “due to the natural speech of certain groups or informal speech in general”.

They continued: “For words which are used with more frequency than others, there is more chance to have issues arise regarding ‘correct’ pronunciation.

“It’s ultimately down to notions of correctness but not wishing to risk being labelled pedantic for correcting some people, whereas with family we might feel more close to do so.

“Changes in pronunciation are a natural part of language evolution and whereas some see it as language decay, there’s no such thing in linguistics.”

The top 10 most annoying mispronunciations listed in the survey

  1. Pacifically for specifically (35 per cent)

  2. Probly for probably (28 per cent)

  3. Expresso for espresso (26 per cent)

  4. Specially for especially (25 per cent)

  5. Artick for Arctic (19 per cent)

  6. Nucular for nuclear (19 per cent)

  7. Tenderhooks for tenterhooks (18 per cent)

  8. Excetera for et cetera (18 per cent)

  9. Assessory for accessory (15 per cent)

  10. Triathalon for triathlon (9 per cent)

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