Why Certain Words Are Commonly Mispronounced

Host Dr. Erica Brozovsky, PhD of the PBS series Otherwords explains why certain words are mispronounced on a fairly regular basis. This can be due to locality or tone. There are such linguistic causes as hypercorrection, where the speaker goes too far in their attempt to be grammatically correct, or hyperforeignism, where the speaker borrows words or pronunciations from another language that they deem authentic but are not.

Hypercorrection is when you make a mistake because you’re trying too hard to be correct. ….Hyperforeignism occurs when you over pronounce something based on what you assume the authentic pronunciation is.

She further notes that the pronunciation of some words, though erroneous, has become part of the modern lexicon.

Sometimes the pronunciation of a word gets bent to sound like another word with a related meeting. Someone who’s mischievous might also be devious. So it warps into mis-chevious. Espresso can make you go fast, so it gets contaminated with express, hence expresso. 

Brovosky also points out that language is constantly changing,

Language is not set or frozen. According to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, the only constant in life is change. And that’s just what language does.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.