Tuesday 23 December 2014

List unveils top tongue-twisters

Published 21/12/2012 | 11:19

Ethnicity, hereditary and particularly were on the list of hard-to-pronounce words

Phenomenon, remuneration and statistics have topped a list of the most commonly mispronounced English words.

Speakers also have a problem getting their tongue around ethnicity, hereditary and particularly, according to the body charged with recording public utterances.

The British Institute Of Verbatim Reporters (BIVR) is the UK's leading organisation for professionals involved in taking down speech at court and tribunal hearings. A poll of its members found 10 words that Britons consistently find the most challenging to pronounce.

Completing the list are conjugal, specific, processes and development.

Leah Willersdorf, of the BIVR, said: "We work with many different types of professionals and hear all kinds of voices during our work. However, when it comes to the English language it always seems to be the same few words that verbally trip people up, with the speaker having to repeat the word in order to get it right, or just abandoning their attempts and moving on."

BIVR members were quizzed by the team behind the popular word game Scrabble. According to the words buffs, one in 10 players admit to being reluctant to producing words that they cannot pronounce.

University of York sociolinguistics expert Professor Paul Kerswill said the English language has evolved to compensate for tricky pronunciations but some words remain a challenge.

He said: "People always find a way of simplifying words that they find difficult to get their tongues round, so that an everyday word like 'handbag' sounds like 'hambag'.

"Our forebears simplified 'waistcoat' to 'weskit' - but we've turned our backs on that.

"We certainly don't pronounce Worcester and Gloucester the way they are spelt any more. And 'York' used to have three syllables, not one. And most people talk about 'Febry' and 'Wensday'."

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