16 Words That Are Hard for Some People (Like Me) to Say Correctly

There are words that I grew up saying wrong. Probably from hearing others say them that way.

I’m not alone in my struggle to pronounce words correctly, as I found some of the words on lists that native English speakers commonly mispronounce.

Sometimes, I didn’t know I was saying the word wrong until I was an adult, and someone pointed it out!

What words are on your list?

Garter Snake

Mispronounced Words - Garter Snake
Photo Credit: Paul Tessier/Shutterstock.

So, I thought a garter snake was said as “gardener snake” for most of my life.

I recall seeing a snake at least once in my dad’s garden when I was growing up. So, maybe that’s where I picked up the incorrect pronunciation.

Insulation

Mispronounced Words - Insulation
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My husband says I say “insulation ” wrong by adding an extra S sometimes or saying it as a combination of installation and insulation.

In my mind, I am saying correctly, so this one has been a hard one for me to correct.

Wheelbarrow

Mispronounced Words - Wheelbarrow
Photo Credit: Pavel Morozoff/Shutterstock.

So, I thought the word was spelled as wheel barrel for a long time. And I therefore pronounced it was wheelbarrel.

I may have heard others mispronouncing it when I learned the word. Or I thought I heard an L at the end.

Espresso

Mispronounced Words - Espresso
Photo Credit: Alessio Orru/Shutterstock.

Well, it turns out there is not an X in espresso.

I am not a drinker of coffee or espresso. I only recently realized that I’ve been saying espresso wrong when doing freelance work on an article about coffee.

But it turns out that I am not alone in this mispronunciation, as espresso is often on the list of words commonly mispronounced.

Peculiar

Mispronounced Words - Peculiar
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Peculiar only has three syllables: pe-cu-liar.

My downfall is wanting to add an extra syllable at the end: pe-cu-li-ar which actually makes it harder to pronounce.

Wash

Mispronounced Words - Wash
Photo Credit: Pavel Morozoff/Shutterstock.

My parents have said warsh instead of wash all of their lives. So, of course, as a child of my parents, I said warsh instead of wash.

The warsh for wash swap happens in several states, including Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and parts of  Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

I was born in Ohio, as were my parents. When I was thirteen, we moved to Michigan.

At one of my jobs as an adult, which was in Michigan, someone asked me why I was saying warsh. Then I made a conscious effort to switch from warsh to wash.

Realtor

Mispronounced Words - Realtor
Photo Credit: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock.

Well, it turns out there is no A sound after the L in Realtor.

Saying Real-ah-tor is how I thought it was said for years. I probably said it wrong when working with a Realtor to buy my home.

Sometimes, now I will say real estate agent to avoid accidently falling into my habit of Real-a-tor.

Brunswick

Mispronounced Words - Brunswick
Photo Credit: IMGN75/Shutterstock.

When I was a kid in the 1980s, my grandpa took my siblings and me bowling. The brand of the bowling lanes or maybe their bowling balls was Brunswick.

So, growing up, I thought the bowling brand was Burnswick. Burns instead of Bruns.

About thirty years later, Brunswick comes up in conversation with coworkers. And I had the “ah-ha” moment that I was saying Brunswick incorrectly.

Library

Mispronounced Words - Library
Photo Credit: connel/Shutterstock.

Sometimes I admit that I say library without the first r.

It comes out as lie-berry.

Retraining myself to include both r’s is an ongoing challenge. I usually realize I’ve said it wrong just after I’ve said it.

Triathlon

Mispronounced Words - Triathlon
Photo Credit: Marc Calleja/Shutterstock.

Triathlon is another word where I’ve added an extra ah syllable.

I’ve said tri-ATH-ah-lon instead of tri-ATH-lon.

Triathlon is on lists for being commonly mispronounced, which probably explains why no one as ever corrected me when I say it wrong. Or maybe I just don’t know enough triathletes.

February

Mispronounced Words - February
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There are two r’s in February.

Like library, the positioning of the first r was a struggle for me to include. So I often left out that first r.

As a lifelong mumbler, I have to focus when saying the second month of the year to pronounce it with both r’s.

And now, my spellchecker is saying that mumbler is not a word!

Gnocchi

Mispronounced Words - Gnocchi
Photo Credit: Stepanek Photography/Shutterstock.

Gnocchi was not on the menu in my family home growing up.

I started seeing gnocchi on menus as a young adult. The potato dishes sounded interesting, but I would avoid ordering the dish for fear of saying gnocchi wrong.

Thanks to the internet, I learned the correct way to say it.

However, I am not confident I have it exactly right, but saying No Key has been close enough to place an order at a restaurant.

Worcestershire

Mispronounced Words - Worcestershire
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Worcestershire is a word where I get to ignore the first two r’s. Yay!

Worcestershire sauce was named after the country in England where it was first made, Worcester.

I learned from Rachel’s English that we’ve kept the British English pronunciation here in America. All those letters are said in only three syllables: wu·stuh·shr.

Once I learned the correct pronunciation, it became easy to say Worcestershire sauce.

Sherbert vs. Sherbet

Mispronounced Words - Sherbert
Photo Credit: Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock.

I’ve been saying sherbet wrong my entire life. Maybe you have too.

The correct spelling is sherbet without the second r. Although, some dictionaries list sherbert as an alternate spelling.

Therefore, the correct pronunciation is Sherbet (shur·buht). No matter the spelling, there is only one r when saying it. 

I probably have never heard anyone say it as sherbet. Would they even know what I was talking about if I said sherbet correctly?

Gala

Mispronounced Words - Gala
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I’ve never been to a gala but I’ve seen them on TV.

Until writing this article thought it was gal-ah but it’s really said as gay-la.

Ecclesiastes

Mispronounced Words - Ecclesiastes
Photo Credit: Heidi Bender | Tons Of Thanks.

Ecclesiastes, a book in the Bible, is another hard word for me!

I’ve been Christian most of my life, so it seems I should be able to say Ecclesiastes by now.

Maybe I should add saying Ecclesiastes as a Christian Meme.

Speech Therapy

Mispronounced Words - Speech Therapy
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I learned to speak alongside my twin brother. As preschoolers, we had our own “secret language” of words that I imagine were shortened words or sounds.

I don’t remember this. However, I remember going to speech therapy through elementary school to help us with our speech difficulties.

Some of my problems with pronouncing words stuck with me as an adult.

However, when writing this article, I was surprised to learn that many others also mispronounce words.

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Heidi Bender is a writer and author who founded Tons of Thanks. Her goal is to help people write thank you notes by providing  examples examples and tips. She is the author of A Modern Guide to Writing Thank-You Notes.