As we grow up and learn new words, sometimes the words we hear are not spelled quite like we imagine them. I’ve always been an avid reader of fantasy and sci-fi as our family bookshelf at home was stuffed with my mother’s large collection of the stuff. I was reading Tolkein in grade school and Ray Bradbury in middle school. Along with the territory came a lot of large words that sometimes required me to pull out the 50 lb, foot thick Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary that we had. I hated to pull that out often, so many times when I ran across a big word I didn’t quite understand, I took the context of the word and made a “best guess” and continued on. While most times I found this method worked quite well and allowed me to expand my vocabulary immensely, it backfired a few times.
My favorite example of an English word that sounds nothing like it’s printed (because it’s French): rendezvous. When I first encountered this word in print, I couldn’t pronounce it and wasn’t in a position to look it up (remember kids, this was before cell phones, internet and even personal computers). I pronounced it as “rez-a-ven-dus” for that was as close as I could get. In looking at the context of how it was used, I guessed the word meant “ron-day-voo”. A word I knew from TV and movies, but not one I ever encountered before in print. For many years, I read that word as “rez-a-ven-dus” and used the meaning for “ron-day-voo” until in high school when I finally had that word on a vocabulary test. I was surprised to say the least. 🙂 To this day, I still read that word as “rez-a-ven-dus” if I am trying to read quickly since that is how I learned it.
Another one that gets me tongue-tied every time is Worchestershire sauce. I look at that word and my natural inclination is to say “wor-ches-ter-shire”. No one understands me if I pronounce it that way though since everyone knows it as “wur-ster-sher”. I can’t bring myself to say that though. Closest I get is “wur-chester” and just leave off the last bit.
On another note, my oldest niece made me laugh because she couldn’t say C3P-O’s name correctly last year (the gold humanoid robot in Star Wars for those ignorant of the movies). At one point, she was teasing her younger sister about spelling words she got wrong and I put her in her place by asking her to spell “c” “3” “p” “o”. She came back with “c” “p” “3” “o” and she got all red in the face trying not to laugh (she’s a good sport most times). It stopped her teasing while the rest of us had a good laugh to boot.