December 6, 2018

“I Hear X More Than Y…”

This past week I was being prepped to work with a new client. Among the items I was asked to tackle was this man’s frequent mispronunciation of words and—more importantly—his unrepentant attitude toward it.

What did this sound like? The example I was given was from a recent staff meeting where he said, “And the newest member of our team is from (mispronunciation)….I don’t think I’m saying that right!” Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle….

Um…no. While this isn’t the end of the world, it isn’t a chuckling matter, either.

Should you doubt me, take a look at this story about a Southwest gate agent mispronouncing a child’s name, and then chortling away. (She also posted the child’s boarding pass on social media….what??) Suffice to say, there were repercussions.

So what can you do if you hear someone mispronouncing something? The most graceful rejoinder I have encountered is,  “I hear X more than Y.”

Nice, right?

What can you do if you are the person who is unsure of the pronunciation? For starters, do your homework. Among the beauties of technology is you can hear how a word is pronounced as well as reading how it’s pronounced.

If this feels pedantic, take a moment to think about (or watch!) Alex Trebek on Jeopardy. If you don’t think he schools himself on possible mispronunciation hazards, you are sorely mistaken. (FYI: Embedded in that link is another graceful way to deal with mispronunciation.)

Should it be too late—the word is out of your mouth—simply say, “I don’t know if I pronounced that correctly–was that right?”

As you see, no laugh track is needed.

For more on coping with potentially awkward moments, check out: “You’ll Never Be Better than You are Today”: Helpful Lines for Awkward Moments”

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