The U.S. Captioning Company and the British Institute of Verbatim Reporters (BIVR) recently released reports on the most mispronounced words of the year — that is, the most challenging words for newsreaders and television hosts to say correctly the first time. We can only infer if these words are tough for people whose jobs involve speaking on television, they pose similar difficulties for the rest of us.
From new internet slang to popular singer’s names, and Korean treats to fast Mexican food chains, these were the year’s most frequently misspoken words.
Cheugy (CHOO-ghee): This Gen Z slang, popularised on TikTok, is sued to describe someone who is untrendy, out of date, overdone, or trying too hard. Example: Being a Disney adult or loving Grey’s Anatomy in 2021: Total cheug.
Chipotle (chih-POHT-lay): According to this TikTok posted by the company itself, a lot of boomers crash and burn when trying to pronounce the name of this fast casual restaurant that specialises in oversized burritos and charging $US3 (A$4) extra for a tiny side of guacamole.
Dalgona (tal-goh-NAH): This Korean sweet, made from melted sugar and baking soda, rose to pop culture prominence the world over after being featured in the mega-viral Netflix series Squid Game. While true Korean pronunciation starts with a “t” sound and emphasises the last syllable, you may also hear it Americanized to (dal-GO-nah).
Dogecoin (DOHJ-coin): This cryptocurrency was first minted in 2013 as a meme-inspired joke that only gained wide appeal after being touted by Elon Musk.
Eilish (EYE-lish): The suname of seven-time Grammy Award-winner Billie Eilish, who burst on the music scene in 2019. (It’s been almost 3 years now, TV announcers. C’mon.)
Ethereum (ih-THEE-ree-um): This decentralized cryptocurrency is second only to Bitcoin in market capitalisation. (We may be able to pronounce it. But we still don’t know what the heck it is.)
Glasgow (GLAHZ-go): No, the host of this year’s United Nations Climate Conference isn’t pronounced “glass co,” “glaz-ko,” or even “glass cow,” as President Joe Biden referred to it. To properly say the Scottish city’s name requires subtlety — and soft “a” sound (as in “father”).
Omicron (OH-muh-kraan; oh-MIKE-ron): Named for the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet, the newest variant of COVID-19 doesn’t have one agreed-upon pronunciation (except if you’re Greek, in which case, from what I can gather, all the Anglicized versions are wrong).
Shein (SHEE-in): The Chinese online women’s clothing retailer is known for its rock-bottom prices and for being featured in Shein shopping “haul” videos on daytime TV and social media. (If it helps you remember the pronunciation, the company used to be named SheInside).
Stefanos Tsitsipas (STEH-fuh-nohs TSEE-tsee-pas) The 23-year-old Greek tennis phenom rose to the number 3 ranked player in the world in August 2021, making him the highest-ranked Greek player in history.
And while they weren’t covered in the above-mentioned reports, and have nothing to do with 2021 per se, we must add that, as of this writing, they’re still pronounced GIF (jif), bruschetta (broo-SKET-ah), and mischievous (MIS-chih-vus — not mis-CHEEV-ee-us.) Just had to get that off our chests.