A RINO like Francis Suarez is hardly someone I would usually wish to defend, but in the case of his inability to identify Uyghurs, I feel like cutting the “Republican” Mayor of Miami some slack and that, simply because I think that it is a word that, in an interview, may be hard to process in front of the cameras. Hugh Hewitt pronounces the word correctly enough, but to some body who may know the word mainly from written articles in newspapers, "Weegers" may sound quite unlike a population a member of whose name would more logically rhyme with the name of the valiant Ben Hur (an Oyg-Hur?).
Francis Suarez has trouble figuring it out: "What did you call it, a Weeble?" Indeed, no matter how dire and tragic their fate, you can't deny that the pronunciation of China's Muslim population sounds a bit like a joke name, like like the word Boogers or like Hollywood's Fokkers. Also, how is it pronounced in Spanish, by the way? What were they talking about immediately prior? Foreign relations? Or American society? And would Francis Suarez have figured it out if Hewitt had mentioned Beijing's communists in the question? What if, instead of asking "Will you be talking about the Uyghurs in your campaign?", Hewitt had asked "Will you be talking about China's Uyghurs in your campaign?"
It turns out that there are quite a number of (relatively common) words in the English language that I have mispronounced throughout my life, not in conversations, that is, I should add, but in my mind, for the simple reason that I would encounter them during my reading rather than during spoken interactions with friends or strangers. They include the following:
• Good Grief: Some of my earliest reading included opening the International Herald Tribune, albeit (a word also appears in this list, see below) only for the newspaper's comics page, along with book collections of Peanuts comic strips; it doesn't make sense but, as a 5-year-old kid, for some reason, I thought Charlie Brown's Good Grief (a word I understood more or less in context but had no idea regarding the definition) was pronounced Good Grafe (rhyming with Safe and — somewhat — with Grape).
• The Gild, the Gist, the Gig, the Gipper: to this day, I hesitate — I
am never 100% sure whether these words start with a hard G (as in Gum) or
a soft G (like a J, as in Gym): FYI, the gist is up: Gild and Gig "take" a
hard G while Gist "takes" a J and I have heard Reagan's Gipper being pronounced both ways. By the way, I also believed that Gild rhymed with Build and Killed instead of Mild and Riled…
• Manger & Dr. Kissinger: Does the stable trough where Jesus was born, an evening that was the Harbinger of good news, rhyme with the final syllable in Anger and Finger (I wasn't sure about Linger's G either, by the way) or that in Stranger? Does the first syllable rhyme with Man and Ban and Ran or with Bang and Sang and Dang? Neither, it turns out, the entire word rhymes (i.e., both syllables rhyme) with Stranger. So does the G with regards to the name of Richard Nixon's secretary of state. Incidentally, until I expressly looked up the word for this post, I thought the manger was a synonym for a stable, or some variant thereof, and not the animals' trough… Speaking of which…
• Trough: I was never sure about this word — I was (am) a city lad, not a country boy — which most looks like Through (which would make it a homophone of True, which did not seem likely), and figured that the ending rhymed with Row and Throw, not with Rough 'n' Tough.
• Route: Some say Root (rhymes with Suit, albeit [see below] not with Soot), other says Rout (rhymes with Out 'n' About); I regularly worry whether I am pronouncing the word incorrectly…
• Privy: same root as private, right? So, in my mind, I pronounced the first syllable likewise, to rhyme with Pry and Sigh, instead of the first syllable in RIver.
• Awry: This is the opposite wrong pronunciation. For years, for decades, I took it for granted the word rhymed with Wary or, rather, with Sorry (AW-ree); not until I watched a making-of a Game of Thrones episode or season did I hear it pronounced by some director and understand, to my surprise, that it rhymes with Eye, I, and Aye Aye (well, the Yes synonym can be pronounced two ways, so let's use Rye instead), with the stress not on the first syllable, but on the second. Soon thereafter, a-RYE was confirmed during a speech by none other than… President Donald Trump…
• Miami: With Miami, it was somewhat similar to awry. During part of my teen years, due to my father's job, I lived in eastern France. In French, the Southern city is not pronounced My-AH-mee but Mee-ah-mee (first syllable rhyming with me, with General Robert E Lee, and, indeed — most significantly, perhaps — in both languages with the final I in the very name of… that very Florida city). (If France's Mee-ah-mee is incorrect, why isn't My-ah-my the correct pronunciation?) While we're on the subject of American proper names and how they are pronounced in France, incidentally, you might be interested to know that the Marvel superhero known to American teens as SPYderman is pronounced SPEEdermann by most adolescents français.
• Albeit: Although this is a term I have always thought was smashingly cool, I never heard (not altogether surprisingly) this archaic word pronounced for decades, only seeing it on the printed page, and therefore assumed that it was two syllables rhyming with Bite, Sight, and Fight, instead of three. The correct pronunciation makes sense since, as I have since learned, the last four letters actually are formed by the two words "be" and "it" (although it be)… How 'bout that first syllable? Like Al Capone or like All ashore?
• Forfeit: Speaking of which, how on earth is that word pronounced? Forfight? Forfeet (rhyming with conceit)? Forfee-it (like all-bee-it)? Forfate (forfeight or forf8)? Who Knows? The truth, which I would never have guessed, is Forfit… I'll be darned… Likewise, Surfeit turns out to be neither SurFIGHT or SurFEET but SURfit.
• Caveat: Same as with Albeit above — For decades, I only saw this word in writing and did not hear it pronounced until after the turn of the 21st century, when it turned out that the word was not two syllables rhyming with Eat, Seat, and Magritte, but three. (Shouldn't there be an umlaut above the A, like century-old books have for words such as "reëlection"?) Fun fact: I may be mistaken (Comments section below, dear readers), but offhand, it seems that the true pronunciation of the word has no other terms in the English language (does the Spanish carmaker Seat come closest?) with which it rhymes. Same remark for Albeit (or albeït?)…
• Hyperbole: Same as with Caveat above — For the longest time, I took it for granted that the word was three syllables (instead of four) rhyming with Soul, Troll, and Hollywood Bowl, and with the stress on the first syllable instead of on the second. I believe it may have been a speech by Jonah Goldberg or Evan Sayet (a last name I mispronounced for years, by the way) that, to my astonishment, put me on the right track. Again, can anyone think of any words or phrases that rhyme with this word? (By contrast, the last four letters of Precipice form only one syllable and not two, unlike, say, Yosemite.)
• Infinitesimal: in like fashion, this words seem to take six syllables whereas I always thought it took four. To be fair, and in my own defense, it hardly seemed illogical to conclude that the word came from a combination of Infinite (three syllables) and Small (one syllable) — which, after all, forms the exact definition of the word.
• Chow-chow & Chow time: Do they rhyme with Ciao and Meow or with Show and Joe? This is from reading Sgt. George Baker's Sad Sack comics where what characters like Slob Slobinski and the Sarge were most interested in was chow time. As for the appropriate name for a Sarge, I figured Sergeant rhymed with Surgeon with a T added at the end…
• McPherson: Finally, a family name — I took the middle syllable of the Scottish proper name McPherson (a Civil War general and a Civil War historian unrelated to each other, along with a top officer in the Blueberry graphic novel) to rhyme with Purr, Per, and Fur, leading to McFURson instead of McFEARson.