Mispronunciation: Another Word Bites the Dust

Given the news these days, I find it impossible to ignore the mispronunciation of a word. (Well, okay, I always find it impossible to ignore a mispronunciation. My husband mutters the right way to say it under his breath.) In this case, the word is codify.

A Slappy Award for Mispronunciation

To be clear, the word “codify” derives from the word “code.” That gives us the correct pronunciation of CODE-ify. It has nothing to do with Atlantic demersal fish Gadus Morhua, commonly known as a codfish. Thus, pronouncing it COD-ify is incorrect.

codfish, cod, Gadus Morhua, Atlantic CodNot that anyone will notice. The mispronunciation has spread faster than swimmers dashing from the water when a Great White Shark is spotted. Still, I give everyone who says it this way a Slappy Award for sloppiness.

Universal mispronunciations occur periodically as someone, usually a newscaster or a celebrity, says it wrong. Everyone else then decides that must be correct and they’ve been saying it wrong all along. Or the other person has a better education and is thus to be emulated. Possibly, they decide they prefer one way of saying it to another, but I doubt most people think twice about it.

Kulinary or Kyulinary?

I first noticed this trend with the word “culinary.” This term, meaning “of or for cooking,” derives from the French word “cuisine.” The correct pronunciation, therefore, is “kyo͞oləˌnerē.”

Chef, French Chef, cooking, cuisine, culinary, kitchenThat’s the way people said it up until the art of cooking gained visibility and popularity. Then, everyone began pronouncing it phonetically as “kələˌnerē,” which has become accepted and now appears first in the dictionary. It might be popular today, but you wouldn’t catch Julia Child saying it.

Oddly enough, the word “cuisine,” meaning “a style or method of cooking,” continues to be pronounced properly as kwəˈzēn. Go figure.

Di-vice-ive or Div-iss-ive?

 Another fingernails-on-the-blackboard moment arrives when I hear someone say “diviss-ive.”

People, it comes from the word “divide.” It means “tending to cause disagreement or hostility between people” Ironically, pronouncing it incorrectly certainly causes hostility on my part regarding the speaker.

We don’t say, “dividd” do we? No, we do not! Then, why not say it the right way: “dəˈvīsiv.” It will sound clearer, less mushy. More Ravenclaw than Slytherin. Try it: you’ll see.

Eye-deology or Idd-eology?

Another recent mispronunciation arrives when many people get to the word “ideology.” It means, “a system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.”

ideology, mispronunciation, word usage, etymology, pronunciationWell, now, that’s a mouthful and the term itself sounds philosophical. Many people today would describe it as “elitist.” The best way to learn how to pronounce ideology, therefore, must be to listen to someone highly educated and emulate them.

That might work, if many educated people said Ideology the right way. Unfortunately, they do not. Again, phonetics comes into play here. There first two letters are ID, which means that we should pronounce it “idēˈäləjē,” right?


It derives from the word “Idea,” which we do not pronounce “idd-ea.” So why use the dictionary’s second meaning? Sure, it’s there–īdēˈäləjē—but it’s not preferred.  If you want to sound really smart, say it the right way. Start by thinking of “idea.”

Tilting at Windmills

I know I’m tilting at windmills here. The English language is flexible; changing over time as it absorbs new words, spits out old ones, changes meanings, and alters the way we say it. What was wrong becomes right, simply by popular acceptance. I’m not the only one to notice, though.

Slappy, Slap-Your-Hand Award, media coverage, news media, news outletsSpanish speakers must roll their eyeballs when they hear Americans pronounce the two Ls in words like tortilla. Native Italian speakers will cringe when a tourist chomps on the H in chianti. And I have heard Americans pronounce “Champs Élysées” as champs elise. Seriously.

My rant today will have no impact whatsoever on network newscasters, Food Network celebrity chefs, political pundits, and social media stars. So it goes.

Sometimes, though, you just have to take a stand. This is my stand. I give a Slappy Award to everyone who says the words given above the wrong way. End of rant.

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About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at aknextphase.com. She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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