Mildly bummed out now.

So, it turns out I’ve never heard the word “respite” before.  I’ve read it, seen it, understand it, heard of it, but I’ve never actually heard anyone use it.  So naturally, I’d formed my own idea of it’s pronunciation.  And now I’m boggled because, apparently, I’m wrong.

See, I looked at the word, and I saw, “spite”.  And “re-“.  Well, for every other word prefixed with “re”, the emphasis is on the second syllable, right?  Re-LEASE.  Re-DUCE.  Etc.  And spite is pronounced with a long “i”.  Right?

Wrong.  In NA, it’s pronounced REH-spit, and in the UK it’s pronounced REH-spite.  But none of this ree-SPITE business, dang it.

Oh well, could be worse.  And I’m inclined to just go on with my current pronunciation.  Anyway, I’ve done worse: For the longest time, I’d seen “indignant” and read it as in-dee-TAN-gent.  Why?  Where?  Who knows.

English is a funny language.  What linguistic bumbles have you made?

– Jean AAR

12 thoughts on “Mildly bummed out now.

  1. AAR Sandy

    I think the word debacle is pronounced WRONG! Dee-bacle just sounds so … unrefined. I far and away prefer my way: deb-acle. So there.

  2. Susan/DC

    Actually, Sandy, I pronounce debacle with a short e sound as well. As for a word I mispronounced until I heard it spoken, mine was Nova Scotia. I thought it was a hard t and the word had 3 syllables: Nova Scot-i-a.

  3. Jean Wan

    @Sandy – Ha. I think Canadians are snobbish: We say DAY-bacle, very a la French.

    @Susan/DC – Yeah, I’ve never said dee-bacle. And SCOT-i-a makes perfect sense! Even if it’s “wrong”.

  4. Blythe

    I only discovered the correct pronunciation for “chimera” when I hear Jim Dale say it on a Harry Potter audio book. Come now, isn’t “shimmer-ah” better? Because that’s what I had been thinking it was for decades.

  5. JulieR

    For years, I wondered why I could never find “La Hoya” on a map. Was embarrassed to learn that “La Jolla” had been there all along!

  6. Audrey

    My sister, Mom and I had a whole conversation about this once – one of mine was gauche (gauch? gowshay?), and one of my sisters was awry (aw-REE?). How embarrassing when you hear it used and realize you’ve been mispronouncing it in your head for so long, even though nobody else knows about it. My Mom isn’t much of a reader and so didn’t have any examples to contribute but then we ended the conversation with something about how at least in context you get the gist of it. Yes, with a hard g. And Mom said, isn’t it the jist? Illustrated the point perfectly. I guess you could stop and look it up but what’s the fun in that?

  7. Jean Wan

    @Blythe – I made that mistake too. It’s interesting – shimmer-ah sounds much softer than ky-mer-a, and it really affected my understanding of the word.

    @JulieR – You know, what’s saddest about that is that I thought that as well. But what makes it sad is that I was born in La Jolla. Yeah, I moved away when I was small and have never been back. But still…

    @Audrey – I have conversations like that all the time, and I have to say one of the funniest ones was with a friend who said pronunciation was pretty hafazerd anyway. I was like, what? And she meant haphazard.

  8. Mari

    Names are a big one that I always pronounced wrong in my head. I thought Phoebe was Pho (as in photo) Be until I watched Friends!

  9. HeatherS AAR

    I actually heard the word “respite” in conversation a few weeks ago and remember thinking that I needed to remember how to pronounce it properly. I frequently mangle the English language, but one of my favorite mispronunciation stories is from a friend who worked as a server at a restaurant while we were in college. She approached a table with an elderly couple and asked what they wanted for dinner. The gentleman looked at the menu and said that he would like the chicken “par-MEE-san.” It took her a minute to realize he wanted chicken parmesan.

  10. Jean Wan

    Here’s another one. I thought, having taken Latin and all, that bona fide was pronounced bonna fiday. (Well, it actually is. But you’d have to be a super ponce in actual conversation to say it that way.) So we say bone-a fyde.

  11. AAR Sandy

    I was raised in Southern California, so Spanish names were quite common. After moving to Virginia in third grade, I remember my teacher pronouncing Yo-sim-i-tee as Yose-a-mite. I raised my hand a corrected her. I’m sure she just loved that.

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