Words Learned From Reading

We went on a mini vacation for a couple days last week and while on a tour, I learned the word gaol was pronounced jail.

Mind. Blown.

Gaol is a word that pops up every so often in historical romances, and while I knew exactly what it meant, in my mind it was pronounced something like it looks (think ga-oll).

This got me thinking of other words I know from reading, but I’ve never used in conversation. Licentious comes to mind. Or imagine if you’ve only ever read colonel. Good luck pronouncing that one from the spelling. Or chic. I pronounced that one wrong for a while as a kid. Chaise (as in the furniture) still trips me up occasionally, because in my mind it should be chase.

I know there must be more, so I’ll turn the question over to you all. Do you have any words you learned from reading only to later find you were mentally pronouncing them wrong?

38 Replies to “Words Learned From Reading”

  1. I still occasionally have problems with the word attorney. I know how its supposed to be spoken (my dad is one) but I had a speech impediment growing up so always want to say attowney

    1. It’s so hard to overcome childhood pronunciation. I had some common words that were mispronounced due to accent/locality and it took a long time to relearn to pronounce them “correctly.”

  2. How did I not know gaol is pronounced jail?? I know I’ve had some revelations – usually when I listen to an audiobook and I want to argue about how something is pronounced – but I can’t think of them off the top of my head.

    1. I know, right? I couldn’t believe it. And even knowing, I still read it ga-ol before mentally correcting myself. :)

  3. Until very recently, I didn’t know that Llewellyn was pronounced “Lu Ellen.” I was saying “Lu’ uh lin” (accent on Lu).

  4. Plethora and countenance — although, as I look at it, the latter should have been obvious!!! 😏
    And this is why English is such a difficult language!!!

    1. It’s actually a French word, written “façade”. The “ç” is always put in front of an “a”, “o” or “u” to create a “ss” sound :)

  5. My brain pronounced gaol the same way yours did. I live in MA where we have a lot of tricky names that even the local news anchors get wrong with alarming regularity.

    Peabody- PEE BA DEE not PEA BODY
    Gloucester – GLOSS T HER not GLOW CHEST HER
    Worcester – WUSS TER not WAR CHEST HER

    Also I preordered “Queens Gambit” looking forward to playing
    Find the changes. Loved it the first time.

    1. All those British English words ending in -cester mess me up big time. On the tube in London, they announced the stops and I almost missed the correct one because I was waiting for Leicester to be called lie-chest-ter, not less-ter.

  6. Lingerie. My husband always wonders why I mispronounce things because I’m “such a reader” well this is why. Because how they seem like they should be read is not how they are pronounced! I can’t wait to share this post with hinlm so I can say “see other readers have this problem too!”

  7. I remind myself how to spell certain words by phonetically saying them out loud. Like “Macabre” Mack-a-brie.

    There are others but they escaped my brain atm! I did have a pronunciation match with an almost 8 year old child on the name Crenshaw. She was DETERMINED to say it KREEN-Sh-aaawwww. Noo nono! It’s CREAN-SHAW! NO MOMMY! Yes! I have the degree in English! I teach it! Stop telling me no! Come back here! Then I hear her giggling and muttering KREENSHHHAW, I love my little snot child. :D

  8. Facade for me as well but I always have some issues with names, especially if they weren’t “normal”. I often pronounce them in my head as best as I could (just like gaol) and it would stick. Listening to their names pronounced on TV or by another person and it felt almost like they were a completely different character! And as hard as I try, I often cannot convince my brain to pronounce their name correctly even after I learn it!

    1. I’ve been mentally pronouncing that one wrong! In my mind, it was seed (don’t ask me how, my brain works in mysterious ways).

      1. Author Seanan McGuire uses so many Irish words that she includes a pronunciation guide. But 12 books later I still have look at the guide as I’m reading, my mind just can’t get past phonetics.

      2. I’ve been reading that as ‘sith’ for years. Don’t think that I’ve ever used it in conversation though. Aluminium used to confuse me. I thought that there was metal not found in the uk al-oo-min-um!

  9. I’m happy even people whose native tongue is English are struggling with pronounciation haha, sooo complicated somtimes ! Some words are not pronounced the same way if you’re talking an American or a British English for instance… aaargh The worst for me being French words used in English, I just _can’t_ pronounce it the “English way” haha

    1. American vs British English even trips up native speakers. My favorite British English word is controversy. In the US, it’s CON-tro-ver-sy. In England, it’s con-TRAAV-asy. Same word, two completely different pronunciations.

      1. Prince Harry and Meghan ‘named’ the tables at their reception using words that are pronounced differently in American and British English – like controvercy, aluminium, route etc! – from an unashamed royalist

  10. My family still makes fun of me for mispronouncing Colonel mustard, debris (should’ve been Deb- Riss clearly) and many other words I learned only by reading.

  11. I learned that the b in subtle is silent during a high school English class- from the guy I had an unrequited crush on. Boy was that embarrassing!! Funny thing was, I could say it correctly in conversation, but had never connected “suttle” with subtle.

    BTW I love TQG.

  12. I’m frustrated that I can’t think of examples, cos I’m sure there have been many!
    My brother said awry aww-ree rather than ah-wry and I couldn’t figure out why. Of course this is the same brother who was adamant that “da-ba-dee-da-ba-di” in a song lyric was “in Aberdeen I will die’, so pinches of salt between us!

    Like an earlier poster my partner seems to expect me to know how words I’ve read are pronounced, I don’t always even know what they mean!

  13. My husband and I were just talking about some WA state names, such as Sequim (Skwim) or Puyallup (pew AL up). These can be a challenge for people visiting the state the first time.

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