An Alternet piece by David Shariatmadari begins with this charming anecdote:
Someone I know tells a story about a very senior academic giving a speech. Students shouldn’t worry too much, she says, if their plans “go oar-y” after graduation. Confused glances are exchanged across the hall. Slowly the penny drops: the professor has been pronouncing “awry” wrong all through her long, glittering career.
We’ve all been there. I still lapse into mis-CHEE-vous if I’m not concentrating. […] The point is malapropisms and mispronunciations are fairly common. The 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary lists 171,476 words as being in common use. But the average person’s vocabulary is tens of thousands smaller, and the number of words they use every day smaller still. There are bound to be things we’ve read or are vaguely familiar with, but not able to pronounce as we are supposed to.
The term “supposed” opens up a whole different debate, of course. Error is the engine of language change, and today’s mistake could be tomorrow’s vigorously defended norm. There are lots of wonderful examples of alternative pronunciations or missteps that have become standard usage. Here are some of my favourites, complete with fancy technical names.
There’s nothing surprising in the list for those of us who concern ourselves with such matters, but it’s well done, and this bit did actually address an issue I’d wondered about:
In Norwegian, “sk” is pronounced “sh”. So early English-speaking adopters of skiing actually went shiing. Once the rest of us started reading about it in magazines we just said it how it looked.