That One Word You Can't Pronounce

by Sheridan Burns

You may have come across at some point in your life a word that just won’t come out properly. No matter how hard you try, or listen to your friend repeating this word over and over, including the creative and innovative “breaking the word up technique” – nope, still nothing.


Don’t bother apologizing to your friend because it’s very likely they also have a word they can’t pronounce.


If this sounds remotely familiar to you, do not worry because I am also a sufferer of what I am now going to refer to as “Sofie syndrome” (credit to Sofie for being the person who pointed out it wasn’t just me.)


It turns out this small and rather hilarious event has been occurring throughout history. Ever heard George Bush Jnr try to say ‘nucular’?


Now, of course, sometimes this small mistake can be due to dialect or an accent leading to difficulties, for example, rolling r’s in Spanish dialect, or a potential disability or stutter or lisp. But this is not what I’m talking about. If we take away those factors and find someone with none of those characteristics the ‘one word I can’t say’ thing still seems to occur in a lot of people.


For a day at school I went around asking people if there were certain words they couldn’t pronounce. As to be expected a lot of people did not know if they had such a word, and some people could not remember which word it was. I guess it’s hard to just randomly remember a word you can’t pronounce on the spot.


Nevertheless, here are a few words some people just couldn’t pronounce:

Regularly - Me

Bolognese - Sofie

February

Patriarchy

Constipation

Specific

Sibilance

Penguins

Literally

Jewellery

Tutorial

Sausage

Philanthropist

Yellow – (formally known as “lello” among many children)

I even found an article on this that made some important observations about this weird phenomenon, suggesting someone may not pronounce a word correctly if they:


- Have only read the word and never heard it;

- Aren’t invested in learning proper pronunciation;

- Are distracted and combine words or forget half the word;

- Forget stresses and sound changes in a word (e.g Polish and polish);

- Struggle with the physical mechanics of the word.

Although these suggestions make sense and are actually useful, from my own personal experience, I know none of these refers to myself.


And so, the mystery continues. Why on earth is this one word just not working for me?


For the, presumably, many thousands of people affected by “Sofie syndrome” (I think I need to give it a better name…), sorry if you thought you were going to get some form of answer from me. It was just a curiosity thing.

May the mystery of the one word you can’t pronounce continue!


Reference:

https://www.quora.com/Why-do-some-people-struggle-to-pronounce-certain-words-1