These Are the Things That Keep Me Up At Night

I am bizarrely fascinated by pronunciation.

(Let us pause to absorb the geekiness of that previous sentence. Carry on.)

Sometimes the differences are endearing.  I love to hear my dear British friend Yvonne say "garage" to rhyme with "carriage". I think it's adorable that my dad puts another "L" in "alleluia" (he says "alleluLia"). It's great fun that Hubs and I have bickered for 15 years over the right way to say "thorough" (he says "THUR-oh", I say "THUR-uh") and "roof" (his rhymes with "aloof", mine rhymes with "hoof").

But I don't always find it entertaining; sometimes I climb up on my pronunciation high horse. I visibly wince when someone pronounces "realtor" as "REAL-it-or". (Side note: This weekend I spoke to a real estate agent, of all people, who didn't say it the right way. I bit my tongue and resisted the urge to shout, "RESPECT YOURSELF, MAN!")  My Republican heart cracked a little every time Dubya said "NOOK-yuh-lur". And back in my office days I had a boss who insisted on saying "fLustrated" instead of "fRustrated", and I may or may not have made faces behind his back.

Since I am entirely inconsistent in my pronunciation moral authority, I don't feel qualified to make a stand on the following issue: the "r" in February. I've always said "FEB-yoo-ary"; in fact, I have a vague memory
of being taught in elementary school that the "r" is supposed
to remain silent. More and more, though, I seem to be encountering people who say "FEB-roo-ary". (And it's not pretty.  I think "FEB-roo-ary" sounds a little like the speaker
just had some painful dental work done, but she still has Novacaine and Valium in her system.)

This site says you should include the "r", this one says you can keep it silent. I hope those r-sayers are wrong, because I think I'm too forgetful and stubborn to make the switch.

How do you say it? Blog Poll

98 thoughts on “These Are the Things That Keep Me Up At Night

  1. Marie in Ontario says:

    Okay, I am a Feb-ru-air-y person, but while we are on the subject, how do you pronounce Wednesday? I’m a Wenz-day person myself. I have always wondered why we pronounce it so differently than it is spelled…

  2. Christine says:

    (I really want to say it the way it’s spelled, but I don’t have time for that, so it usually comes out “Feb-wary.” Not perfect, but I feel like I’m a still a step ahead of the “nu-que-lar” folks.)

  3. Denise says:

    Oh, this makes me laugh!! I also can’t stand it when people say real-uh-tor, and MOST people do! How about “whole ‘nother”? There’s another one that makes me cringe every time! Yet, my husband has converted me and I now say roof to rhyme with aloof! πŸ™‚

  4. Amy says:

    I say “Feb-you-ary” but I will have to agree with your hubby on “roof” and “thorough.” My hubby and I argue about the pronunciation of “orange,” “Florida,” and “tour.” (I say or-inge, Fl-or-ida, and too-er while he says are-inge, Fl-are-ida, and tour rhymes with your.) What do you say for these?

  5. Tricia says:

    For years my husband said fustrated, instead of fRustrated. It drove me BATTY! I have now brought him over to my side. All R’s are in place, all is well. Now, if I could just get my sisters in law to use bath correctly. They bath their children, they do not bathe them. Oh, the HORROR!

  6. Kara says:

    I only say it feb-roo-ary when I’m spelling it out so I remember how to spell it. Just like when I spell Wednesday, I say it wed-nes-day instead of my normal pronunciation of wins-day.

  7. Ashley says:

    Um, you would die if were in a room with me for more than a minute. I’m from Texas and my husband makes fun of everything I say. Apparently, I weren’t educated very good and can’t say them words right. πŸ˜‰

  8. Shelly says:

    We’ve been having these conversations lately at our house since DS-7 was in his first spelling bee. I am a complete word nerd and a spelling freak. And may I pause here to say that if you are calling a spelling bee, you should find out and USE the correct pronunciation of words?!? Anyway, I say Feb-yoo-ary, and Wins-day, but it always escapes me how to explain to my kids why we collectively pronounce things so differently from how they are spelled.
    And W’s noo-kyu-lar always made my Republican skin crawl too! Along with anyone saying real-i-tor, and the biggest one of all for me: nuptial as nup-chu-al.
    Why, why, do I care???

  9. Dawn @ Wherever He Leads says:

    This post made me laugh out loud. I think it would irritate me to hear a person say Feb-roo-ary. That is just wrong in my book. While we are on the subject of pet peeves, I will share a couple of mine. These apply to writing more than pronunciation, but still it fits the topic:
    When someone writes would of instead of would have or would’ve
    When someone confuses past with passed or your with you’re (nails on a chalkboard!)

  10. French Knots says:

    Well I’m in England so am different to all of you I suppose! You are right in my book about thur-uh but I think hoof/roof/aloof are all the same with the ‘oof’ sound. And yes, Febury here too!

  11. Holly says:

    ahhh, I could hardly get through reading this post, because I wanted to comment so badly…I swear I could have written this post myself. My husband thinks I am nutty! My BIGGEST pet peeve is “supposedly” pronounced “supposiBly” ugh I cringe just typing it.
    PS my roof rhymes with aloof too.

  12. Amy says:

    I’ve been trying for a few minutes here, but I can’t even prounounce the silent R in February if I try. I got flustrated just trying it! Oh, and I’m with your husband on roof and thorough.
    And my husband drives me bonkers when he pronounces “groin”, “growin”. Everybody knows that groin is supposed to rhyme with loin!

  13. Crazee Teacher Lady says:

    LOVE this post! One of my biggest pet peeves is the use of “ain’t” and the other is when people say, “I could care less” which of course means that they DO care. If they really want to be insulting, don’t you think they would say that they, “COULDN’T care less?”

  14. renee says:

    i’m a roof that rhymes with aloof. and i’m also a feb-u-ary. another one that has just this past christmas been brought to my attention…nativity (nay-tivity or nuh-tivity). it’s nuh if you’re questioning. i had to look it up. i was of the nay group. no longer! but it’s so stinkin’ hard to break those habits! πŸ™‚

  15. Heather G. says:

    This has been an enjoyable 15 minutes of laughing out loud because I am also a pronunciation corrector. My husband has so many that I am forgetting them now. One that does stand out is say “woof” for wolf, when there is clearly and L!
    I do say roof and thorough as your husband does, but I am from Texas so there are plenty of words that get lazy when I say them. Supposedly! (not supposeBlee) Oh, there are so many! Fun post!!!

  16. E says:

    roof DOES rhyme with hoof. And it’s THUR ow. Unless you’re saying “thoroughly” and then it’s THUR uh lee. And, clearly, ALL CIVILIZED PEOPLE say this word “coupon,” as KYU pon. NOT COO pon! Take that, DH!!! It’s also KOS tyoom not KOS toom. OK, thanks for the forum for me to get this off my chest.

  17. Shirley says:

    Actually, here in NE Arkansas, many of us say Feb-u-wary. I also notice people saying things incorrectly. Wasn’t there a commedian who used to make a living by mis-pronouncing and mis-using words?
    My biggest peeve is the mis-use of I and ME in a sentence.

  18. edj says:

    I voted for the R but i don’t say feb-roo-anything! It’s much more subtle.
    You would LOVE living overseas. Americans from all over the country, saying odd things like “ball” for “boil” (georgia) or “crawn” for “crayon” (penn) compete with Oregonians (perfect, normal accent), Brits, Canadians and others for correct pronunciation! It’s great fun! Especially when you are an American teaching English from a British curriculum, which tells you “paw” and “pour” sound the same. What do you think?

  19. Dawn says:

    Try having a name with forty different pronunciations. There’s the southern /daown/, northern /do-in/, midwestern /dawn/- like yawn, and for those who just can’t make a decision /don/- like the man’s name.

  20. jennhudson says:

    this is quite the laugh today! I can imagine all the women out their in their homes sitting three like me sounding out “February” to themselves. Well, the little Alabama girl in me says “Feb-YAa-rary” – yeah, which I know is COMPLETELY off kilter in pronunciation (and spelling) land, but that’s how we say it down here. And “roof” is always like “aloof” – Although, when I’m aiming for a first impression, I would lean towards believing from my “edu-ma-cated” days, that the “R” in February is (first of all in the right place) and is silent…sounding like “Fe-Boo-Ary” instead of “Feb-yoo” – πŸ™‚ Fun!

  21. jennhudson says:

    or in deep, south it rhymes with “Ain’t” πŸ™‚ – i took my nephew in the back yard one day and told him how to say “Ant Jenn” instead of “Ain’t Jenn” LOL…his mom will never know. πŸ™‚

  22. Mrs. Oh says:

    As a child my maternal grandmother came to the states from Denmark. She couldn’t stand when people dropped the R in FebRuary – it drove her nuts. Same for the R in libRary. But I say FebYouAiry and LieBarry so…..and my kids call napkins gnat-kins.

  23. Shannon says:

    Well, unfortunately both you and your husband are wrong on thorough. It’s pronounced thur-oh (long o sound). I kept trying to pronounce it the two ways you had it and it was throwing me off big time. I finally went to and heard it the way I pronounce it. Another one is facade. Both my kids were pronouncing it fuh-cade. I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about and made them spell it for me. I then busted up laughing and told them it was pronounced fuh-sod. They didn’t believe me so we had to go to so they could listen to it. Now my daughter is only too happy to correct her friends at school who pronounce it wrong.

  24. Britiney says:

    My preschooler came home yesterday all up in my business about how to pronounce it. Although I’ve always said feb-roo-ary, he felt it his obligation to make sure we all knew that was the proper way. He kept saying it’s not feb-yoo-ary, it’s feb-roo-ary!! Over and over and over and over. You get the point. He’s 4.
    My favorite faux pas? “Irregardless”. Drives me nuts. Even now I’m irritated that spell-check thinks it’s okay! That and “I could have cared less.” I always think, “If you could have cared less, you should just do it!!!”
    Sorry. I got carried away.

  25. Linda says:

    Oh I love this one. I say it without the r and certainly that must be right (right?). Or is it correct? I have a dear friend who says things like prostrate instead of prostate. It is really hard to wait until you get home to fall on the floor laughing.

  26. Katie says:

    I love this post! Some mispronunciations drive me crazy, too, but more often they delight me. I can’t get enough of my friend (from Kenya) who’s husband will “pick me (up) on When-EZ-dee.” It thrills me every time, and I think up ways of getting her to say it just so I can hear it.

  27. Melissa S says:

    I keep the ‘r’ silent.
    this reminds me of a commercial on the radio I heard a couple of days ago. A local jewelry store had a commercial for ValenTIMES Day. He said it several times – I wanted to scream!

  28. Linda Sue says:

    Being a Realtor I also hate it when someone mispronounces such a simple word. Don’t even get me started on people who have problems with their prostrate gland – what??? ::sigh:::: Word geeks of the word – don’t pick on regional accents – but deliver us from Dallas newspeople who cannot say Bexar properly. Thank you for this moment to rant!

  29. Claudia says:

    I used to snicker everytime someone said “flustrated,” and then I just got irriated. However, one day we decided to look it up, and Webster’s shows a definition for flustrated: flustered; agitated. I love the dictionary.

  30. Melanie says:

    I crack up when people talk about horse-mounted military – the “calvary” according to about 95% of the population. (It’s cavalry, y’all!) Even people who do cavalry reenactment stuff for historic shows often call it the “calvary”.
    So of course, I have to bite my tongue to keep from making some inappropriate “died on any crosses lately?” style jokes. LOL

  31. Amy @ Cheeky Cocoa Beans says:

    I’m a silent “r” gal…and so far it looks like your survey participants are overwhelming silent “r” folks, too. πŸ™‚ My husband says “warsh,” “Warshington,” and “warter.” It doesn’t drive me nearly as crazy as it used to after 14 years of marriage. He also purposely pronounces laboratory “la BOR a tory” just because he wants to, so I’ve started wondering if the “warsh” stuff was on purpose, too. πŸ˜‰

  32. Christy says:

    Oh My gosh I have never commented before but this post has driven me to it. Mispronounciation is by ultimate pet peeve. I tuned into our local news every day during the Rob Blagojevich brouhaha because the anchor seemed to have a different way to pronounce his last name every day! Lately I have heard “arthur” for “author”, and “facade” with a hard “c”! And I can’t even go into how, just yesterday, I heard someone mangle “tuberculosis”. It wasn’t pretty.

  33. Kimberly says:

    It drives me batty when someone pronounces “library” as “libary”, ugh! I also have a friend who says “I’m going to Targets” instead of “Target”. Makes me crazy!

  34. Tina says:

    I grew up a feb-yoo-ary type person but as an adult have switched to the audible R. The only time I can’t do it is while singing American Pie (But February made me shiver with every paper I’d deliver…)

  35. Tara says:

    The flustrated/frustrated one drives me nuts, too. Also, Pacific/specific, oriented/orientated and of course reading text speak all make me want to crawl out of my skin and smack the mis-speaker with it!

  36. BlueCastle says:

    I remember the first time I heard the British pronunciation of schedule with the ch being a true ch sound. I loved it. I find it fascinating to learn how different people pronounce things. I also found it highly entertaining that you mentioned the word frustrate. My husband and I go ’round and ’round about that one, because,I say it “fustrate” and he says “There’s an R in there!” πŸ™‚ I mainly keep pronouncing it without the R just to frustrate him. My dad grew up in California and says toilet as tor-let and wash as WAR-sh. My mother-in-law says gums as goooms (like grooms).

  37. Fuzzy says:

    Having a birthday in this best month of the year, I think I should say it as it’s written. It also helps me to remember that there IS an “r” in there!

  38. adrianna says:

    I’m with you and the others who commented on most of these, except I vote for the audible R in February.
    And speaking of the former president with “nuclear”, how about the current one who, in praising a Navy corpsman on the USNS Comfort, twice pronounced it as “corpse man.” Groan!

  39. Sandi says:

    Mispronunciations from non-native speakers are entertaining. The rest of the country “should know better” and drive me nutty. That can be problematic when you live right on the border of the Deep South…
    We met a lady this summer who was Italian but was conducting English-speaking tours of a French factory. We found her “pie-sez” quite endearing. P-i-e says “pie” so shouldn’t p-i-e-c-e-s be “piesez”? I’ve forgotten most of the info provided in the tour, but by golly I remember exactly what she was showing us in that one section!

  40. Cory says:

    I’m a CPA and it drives me NUTS when people say “physical year” when they mean “fiscal year.” ESPECIALLY VPs of finance! Oh, and “mute” point instead of “moot.” Or “irregardless” instead of “regardless.” It takes all my self control not to correct people!

  41. missy @ it's almost naptime says:

    How do you say route? Root or rhymes with out?
    I say OUT and root hurts my ears.
    But nothing hurts my ears more than to hear a northern pronounce pecan like something you pee in on road trips. Oh, it is like fingernails on a chalkboard!
    Ask your British friend to say “aluminum.” It’s the best.

  42. missy @ it's almost naptime says:

    I’ll tell you what drives my mom crazy: the way I say Saturday. It’s Saerday. Silent t. Drives her nuts.
    I also get made fun of a lot for how I say orange. Oinge. And I say Poem Poim which seriously disturbs some folks. I am not sure if these are Southern or if I just have some kind of disorder.
    Here is the big debate: CaRIBean or CariBEan?

  43. Sarah P says:

    That is funny! I can’t get my 11 yr old to stop saying “Comfertaber” for Comforter. I correct her every time. Can’t help myself. It’s cute but she’s get a little old, wouldn’t ya say?

  44. Kim says:

    Yeah, try living in Missouri where even the governor says Missoura. Arghh. I think the only reason people say Feb-roo-rary is so they can remember how to spell it. πŸ™‚

  45. Kim says:

    Sorry, but your husband is correct with his pronunciation of both thorough and roof. Unless you’re from New England.
    Did your boss come from Asia or Africa? In both places they tend to consistently mix up the “L” and “R”. During our year in Uganda it took a while but I finally realized they wanted to PRAY not PLAY (or vice-versa).
    And the “r’s” have it; the correct way to say February is WITH the R.
    But in the south all bets are off. We say it how we like, whether it’s right or not, and most of the time get away with it because the drawl is charming enough to distract away from the mispronunciation.

  46. becca says:

    I’m laughing because when you say “roof” vs “aloof”…. those are pronounced the same here in the UK! I don’t know what you mean when you say there’s a difference!
    As for February, we were taught by a very British teacher that it has an R “feb-Roo-ary” and that we MUST say “wed-nes-day” not “wed-ns-day”.
    I never understood why the proper name for earrings and necklaces was said differently by my American relatives till I saw that it’s spelled differently hence the difference in how it’s said jewelry vs jewellery.

  47. Shannon says:

    Oh, dear. I’m usually the enunciation snob around here, but I’m ashamed to admit that I say Real-it-or.
    I guess I need to take back all of my snobbery toward my husband… especially around the word ‘women’, which he pronounces the same, whether he’s speaking of one (singular) woman or many woman. I say, “I know it LOOKS the same, but when there are more than one, you must say ‘WIHmen. WIIIIHmen. WIIIIIIIIIIHmen!!!'”
    Now he can look me in the eye and say, “REALtor. REAAAAALtor. REAAAAAAAALtor!!”

  48. Shannon says:

    I’m with you, Britiney! If you could have cared less, then you must care more. In which case, you’re contradicting yourself! But you have to admit… ‘couldn’t have cared less’ is a mouthful.
    Irregardless, it’s just good that we care at all! πŸ™‚

  49. jennybek says:

    Ohhh, my. I’m forever correcting my husband’s excape and nucular. He claims he said it right the first time, but we both know, yes we do.
    Did you see the scene in Get Smart where the Pres says nucular and someone shouts “NUCLEAR!” Hubs & I burst out laughing. It was our marriage on screen.
    I am a silent R gal. Wondering whether I should make the change.
    What are your thoughts on greasy?

  50. holly says:

    That’s funny! Being from the dear old south, there are quite a few that drive me nuts…. Down here there are a ton of “s-adders.” Example: “I’m going to Wal-martS.” Or, “Do you want to eat at SubwayS?”

  51. Tasha says:

    OH, I AM SO WITH YOU ON THIS ONE!!! I had a cat I named ValenTINE and my husband’s family always called her “ValenTIMES”. And they would argue with me about it!! I honestly thought they were doing it on purpose, but just the other day they were talking about ValenTIME’S Day coming up. I mean… REALLY?!?!
    Another word they say wrong is the word “and”. They pronounce it “an-“. It was so ingrained, in fact, that my husband honestly thought that you could write the phrase “Jack an Jill” and it would be correct. I had to suppress giggling hysterically. He argued it for a while, but I finally won. πŸ™‚

  52. Melanie says:

    So funny! My husband is from Wisconsin, and I am from Tennessee (imagine the accents!)… so we have quite a few interesting conversations about pronunciation! For example, “Dell” (like computers) or “Dale” (the name). Another is “will” and “wheel”.
    This post was a hoot! πŸ™‚

  53. Donna @ Thirsty? says:

    Your post and these comments are awesome! I met a librarian who called herself a “libarian” (how am I ever going to teach my kids they go to the libRary and not the libary if their librarian is missing her r? πŸ™‚

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