Even if you grew up with English as your first language, chances are you haven’t mastered all of its spelling, grammar, and pronunciation rules. After all, English often breaks its own “rules.” And to be honest, the English language has a lot going on. Words that look the same can be pronounced differently, and words that sound the same can be spelled differently. Some letters are silent altogether and tricks like “I before E except after C” don’t always apply. And in our line of work, we are constantly debating words like “roll-off,” “pick-up,” and “clean-up.” Is it one word or two? Hyphenated or separated? And this is to say nothing of regional differences, such as one encounters with Southern words.
English seems like a whole family of languages. Just read a few lines of the poem “Chaos” to really grasp the complexity of English in all its variations:
Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse
I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye your dress you’ll tear,
So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer…
Just compare heart, beard and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written).
Made has not the sound of bade,
Say said, pay-paid, laid, but plaid.
Whew! See what we mean? This got us thinking: what are other common words that people are unsure of how to spell? What about commonly mispronounced words altogether? And you can’t discuss pronunciation without taking into account our geographic location. “Southern speak” is real, y’all! So get comfy, have a seat, and take a gander at our list of misfits: your guide to commonly misspelled, mispronounced, and misunderstood Southern words and phrases (pronounced frazes).
English is a weird language in part because it’s a hodge-podge of different dialects that were thrown together over time. The English vocabulary is 26% Germanic in origin and nearly 60% French and Latin. That means only 14% of the English language is its own! Add idioms and difficult grammatical patterns, not to mention phrasal verbs (a word whose meaning is changed by a small word added to it), and you’re up a creek before you know it! Take the word “run” for example. We can ‘run over’ someone, have a “run in,” “run something down,” “run up a bill,” or even “run something by someone.” Why do we “add up” a bill, but a house gets “burned down”? COME ON!
Let’s take a look at spelling, which is a beast all its own. English has a baffling spelling system, even for native speakers. And, even if you can remember how something is spelled, what about the grammatical acrobatics we have to go through when we come across compound words? Knowing how to recognize and spell compound words can be tricky. Hyphen or no hyphen? One word or two? Take a look at these words:
- Roll-off, roll off, or rolloff
- Pick-up, pick up, or pickup
- Clean-up, clean up, or cleanup
- Corn-fed, corn fed, or cornfed
- Long-term, long term, or longterm
- Up-to-date, up to date, or uptodate
Don’t forget, though, that there are a few compound words that can be spelled all 3 ways (open, closed, OR hyphenated). Is it trashcan, trash can, or trash-can? You decide!
If all that wasn’t hard enough, there’s the added frustration of difficultly pronounced words*. “Rural.” “Anemone.” “Sixth.” These words may seem relatively normal, but to many, they represent an unrivaled linguistic challenge. From “quinoa” to “acai” here are our top 7 hardest words to pronounce, along with friendly assistance on how to correctly say each (we’re looking at you Worcestershire!) How do you say these words?
*Bonus! Ever wondered if its gif (G-if) or gif (J-if)? Click here to find out!
Southern Words: The Misunderstood
So you’ve covered your bases on spelling and pronunciation, which may make you think there’s nothing left to cover. Think again! Ladies and gentlemen, welcome ~the South~ into our conversation. Someone once said that if you visit the South, you’ll need a translator. It’s true! And sometimes, even our own ‘twang can get away from us. Need your own Southern translator? We’ve got you covered when it comes to these words:
- Fixin’ to
The South is a special place full of unique quirks and traditions, but it’s especially well-known for its way with words, and its Southern sayings. If you’re a born and bred Texan, we guarantee you’ve heard some of these terms and phrases before, although you might have had no clue what they meant!
- Bread basket
- Down yonder
- Jist pickin’
- He’s all hat and no cattle
- Don’t have a duck fit
- The sun didn’t rise just to hear you crow
- How’s yer mama’n’em?
- That dog won’t hunt
- You blew my boots off!
The truth is, there is no perfect guide for navigating the waters of the English language. It varies from region to region, and, even if you can get past the pronunciation, there’s still the pesky business of spelling, reading, and, ya know, talking. It’s a complicated language! – but for this reason it can also be lots of fun.
Ultimately, how well you know the English language might not amount to a hill of beans. If you take the time to learn all the quirks, though, we have a feeling you’ll be happy as a dead pig in the sunshine. And you can guarantee, when it comes to your garbage, we’re here, come hell or high water!