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The curse of voluminous reading at a young age.

March 17, 2011

“the mispronunciation of common English words” — author Elizabeth Bear


I just explained this to my daughter this morning.  When the vocabulary that you are reading surpasses the vocabulary that you have heard, you will inevitably mispronounce words.  This happens when you read a lot as a child and especially when reading at an advanced level.


For example, I was probably in college when I learned that small appetizers are not called “hors devores” without a silent “H”.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 17, 2011 8:26 am

    I’ll give you a reverse – I don’t read math books as a general rule, and so during a Grade 12 Accelerated Math class, I pronounced the Theta symbol as Phaeta (with an “F” sound). I had never seen that symbol’s name spelled out, so I only went by what it sounded like everyone else was saying. Relatively minor, but memorable.

  2. Michele permalink*
    March 17, 2011 12:42 pm

    Have you read Orson Scott Card’s Memory of Earth series? He’s a linguist so he created a slightly different language and pronunciation for the books. It wasn’t necessary to read and understand the books but it was fun so I tried to use the correct pronunciation in my mind while reading it. Anyway, if I remember correctly, a vowel after an ‘s’ had the ‘y’ sound added to it. So, when we were driving around my hometown one day, I asked my mom when St. John’s cathedral became a “Bas-yilica”. It took me a few moments to figure out why she wasn’t answering.

  3. March 20, 2011 7:48 pm

    Among other things, I’ve had to work hard to pronounce “apparel” correctly. It’s always seemed right to say American Ah-pah-rull, much to my friends’ discomfort.
    That and finally learned the correct way to say segue. Awesome.

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