Another year, another spate of trending words that are destined to confound the tongues of all who speak them. Enough Americans bungled these terms that they wound up on a list of the most mispronounced words of 2019.
The U.S. Captioning Company, the organization behind the captions and subtitles you see during real-time events on television and in courtrooms, came up with the following list of topical words that routinely tripped up newsreaders and people on television in 2019.
According to language expert Ted Mentele, who provided the phonetic pronunciations and notes for this year’s list, this is just a symptom of our increasingly global world. Many of the mispronounced words on this list have foreign origins, or they’re proper names in other languages. In 2019, news anchors and TV hosts discussed Japanese lifestyle trends, Scandinavian activists, and French cathedrals, among other things. And naturally, verbal fumbles ensued.
Perhaps you even butchered one or two of these yourself — but at least you didn’t have to do it on camera.
The site of the biggest nuclear disaster in human history in 1986 and subject of a critically-acclaimed HBO show that aired from May to June.
To discourage an action by instilling fear of the consequences. President Trump talked about using “toughness” to deter migration to the U.S. in May.
Greta Thunberg (grAY-tah tOOn-bairk)
Teenage environmental activist who led global school strikes and sailed the Atlantic over two weeks in August to speak at the UN climate summit.
Pronunciation notes: The final ‘g’ in ‘Thunberg’ is typically softened by Swedish speakers into something like ‘yeh’ in English: ‘tOOn-bairyeh’
Megan Rapinoe (ruh-PEE-noh)
Outspoken American soccer player who captained her team to FIFA Women’s World Cup victory in July and secured the “Golden Boot” for most goals scored.
Notre Dame (nOH-truh dAHm)
Famous medieval cathedral in Paris, France, which partially burned down in April.
Pronunciation notes: The ‘r’ in ‘Notre’ is articulated near the back of the mouth and is nearly silent.
Pete Buttigieg (pEEt bUt-ij-ij)
Current mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and one of the Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential election.
Pronunciation notes: The ‘u’ in ‘Buttigieg’ should be pronounced like the vowel in ‘book,’ and the following ‘i’ vowels as in ‘bit.’
Rami Malek (rAH-mee mA-lik)
American actor and producer who won the Academy Award for Best Actor in February for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.
Pronunciation notes: The actor himself pronounces the vowel in ‘Malek’ like the ‘a’ in ‘bat.’
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (rE-jep tAH-yep AIR-doh-wahn)
The president of Turkey since 2014, whose relationship with Donald Trump gained global attention in October.
Pronunciation notes: The ‘ğ’ in ‘Erdoğan’ is pronounced softly and far back in the mouth, so that it almost sounds like the ‘w’ in ‘won.’
Tekashi 6ix9ine (te-kAH-shee siks naYn)
American rapper and songwriter who in February pled guilty to charges related to racketeering in one of the most high-profile court cases of the year.
Japanese word literally translated as “to flutter.” Popularized by organizing guru Marie Kondo as an expression of the joy one feels when things are neat and orderly.