Navy Corpsmen….as a British voice over I recently had to record this for a piece on US Marines. My first stab at it included both the p and the s. Clearly wrong. Then I tried it without the p. CORSmen. Still sounded weird but maybe right? I looked it up on YouTube (YouTube is your friend for researching how to say certain words) and found it to be CORmen. Navy CORmen.
Hilariously a word I often hear mispronounced is the word PRONUNCIATION. Have you ever heard someone say ProNOUNciation?
As a voiceover, proNUNciation is a constant battle. There’s the very fact that in English we say words differently whether we are American or British or Australian etc. I’ve often had sessions with US clients who are questioning a pronunciation of mine or insisting on the US version. The thing is, I’m British and recording a US version of a word will just sound odd.
American English is different to British English in many ways but the correctness of one over the other is led by context and audience. Voice talent must strive for expertise in all aspects of the recorded spoken word, including pronunciation and justification for the chosen reading of a particular word.
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Professional voice actors, whose daily work depends upon speaking words out loud, really need to pay attention to pronunciation. In the fight against AI voices, which often mispronounce words or make up words out of acronyms, this is one skill we can offer to reinforce that a human voice will always beat an AI voice. Recently I heard an AI voice pronounce AI as ‘ay’.
Is it DAYta, DATa or DARTa?
Well that depends on whether you are British, American or Australian!
As a Brit when I hear ‘Nitch’ in place of ‘Niche’ I remind myself that it’s ok to be different and not stress out about what I believe the be the correct way to say a word.
Another one for us Brits is AlumiNUM in place of AlumiNIUM.
Aluminum was originally named by Sir Humphry Davy, a British chemist. However, the spelling was changed to “aluminum” in the United States to conform with the spelling conventions of the time. The spelling was later standardized to “aluminium” in the UK and other countries, but the US kept the original spelling.
It’s not always about the ‘right’ pronunciation but the ‘different’ one that is appropriate for whatever reason. A voice actor must apply skill, judgement and experience to pronounce a word in a way preferred by the client, writers and director in the moment even if it feels ‘off’. Truly professional voice actors know when to put their ego aside. A primary skill of a voice actor is understanding that the job involves more listening than speaking.
TIP: If you are really unsure, always check with a client. Ask them to record a version of the word, especially if this is the name of a company, product or an individual.
How you pronounce a word matters. Much like the slip of an accent, if we hear a mispronunciation in an audiobook for example, it can break the spell and take us out of the experience.
Do you know what the UK’s most commonly mispronounced word is?
The UK’s most commonly mispronounced word is “mischievous”, which is often incorrectly pronounced as “miss-chee-vee-us” instead of “miss-chiv-us”.
Some commonly mispronounced words
- Epitome – This word is often mispronounced as “eh-puh-tohm.” “e-pit-o-me,” is correct, with the emphasis on the second syllable.
- Niche – This word is often mispronounced as “nitch.” “neesh,” is correct, with a long “e” sound.
- Mischievous – It’s often pronounced as “miss-chee-vee-us” but the correct way is “mis-chuh-vus”.
- Quinoa – This word is often mispronounced as “kwin-oh-ah.” “keen-wah,” is correct, with the emphasis on the first syllable.
- Raspberry – This word is often mispronounced as “razz-berry.” “raz-buh-ree,” is correct, with the emphasis on the second syllable.
- Sherbet – This word is often mispronounced as “sher-bert.” “shur-bit,” is correct, with the emphasis on the first syllable.
- Solder – This word is often mispronounced as “sol-der.” The correct pronunciation is “saw-der,” with the emphasis on the first syllable.
- Tinnitus – This word is often mispronounced as “tin-eye-tus.” The correct pronunciation is “tin-uh-tuhs,” with the emphasis on the first syllable.
- Worcestershire – This word is often mispronounced as “wore-chest-er-shy-er.” The correct pronunciation is “wus-tuh-sher,” with the emphasis on the first and third syllables.
- Supposedly: Many people pronounce it as “supposably” instead of the correct pronunciation “suh-poh-zid-lee”.
- February: Many people pronounce it as “feb-you-ary” instead of the correct pronunciation “feb-roo-ary”.
- Espresso: It’s often pronounced as “ex-presso” but the correct pronunciation is “es-presso”.
Do you know what America’s most commonly mispronounced word is?
According to a survey conducted by Babbel, the word “nuclear” is America’s most commonly mispronounced word. It’s often pronounced as “nuke-yoo-lar” instead of “nu-klee-er”
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Can you think of any other commonly mispronounced words in your language?