• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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All Your Kisses Still Taste Sweet

https://i1.wp.com/media.sdreader.com/img/croppedphotos/2012/03/07/edna_t658.jpgIn the fifth grade, I mispronounced the word “breast” as “breest” while reading an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem aloud to the class.  I also pronounced the name Reggie from the Archie Comics as if it rhymed with Peggy. ANd while we’re at it, I mistook the Rolling Stones song “Angie” for “I Inject.” My favorite example comes from  a bookseller who told me about a woman who came into his store looking for a copy of Tequila Mockingbird.

CONTEST: What’s the most mortifying mispronunciation you’ve ever uttered?  RULES: Enter as often as you like. Make shit up.  PRIZES: 1st Prize – a signed copy of Forest for the Trees. 2nd Prize: a cool book. 3rd prize: a less cool book.

120 Responses

  1. i once mispronounced my boss’s name and called him shithead. (his name was john.)

    i don’t work there anymore.

  2. When I read Harry Potter I thought Her MY oh knee was pronounced Her Moin ( rhymes with Sir Coin).

  3. I thought the word mis-lead was that word and misled, well that was a word I read a lot and had no idea what it meant. I said it out loud once:
    Mizzled. LIke something Winnie the Pooh would say.
    They all laughed.
    Next : epltome: pronounced to rhyme with tome. Or tone. The wodr eptiomy was not THAT word I read.

    Reading young does lead to supreme social shaming. But it’s all worth it…I think.

    • Since enjoying this post yesterday I have seen the word “misled” twice and have pronounced it “mizzled” each time (in my head). And giggled. Literacy takes a giant step … backward.

  4. When I was much younger I would sing the verse ‘wrapped up like a douche’ as opposed to ‘revved up like a deuce’ in the song Blinded By the Light. I also sang ‘Big ole Jess had a light on’ to the song ‘Big Old Jet Airliner’. And a couple years ago my nephew was belting out from the backseat of my car ‘Begone Las Vegas’! Instead of ‘Viva’. That was hilarious.

  5. I thought Santana’s Medieval Woman was Mean Evil Woman

  6. We have bigger problems in my family, we confuse the name already assigned to objects. One classic example: toad stools are referred to as frog chairs.

  7. My daughter’s boss? Mr. Dilday. I believe you can take it from there.

    • A kid in my son’s first grade class is named Parikshit. Poor, poor boy.

    • A family came into the pro shop of the golf course I worked at and proudly proclaimed, “We’re the Fartelmans!” and when they left, I saw they had their last name printed on the back of each shirt like the names on football players’ backs. With a name like that, why not advertise?

  8. All through college, we thought that Barbra Streisand sang, “Thought that love was too plippy and…” – when it was really “love was too plebian,” from “Cry Me a River.” We didn’t exactly utter it, but we sang it that way…until we discovered the truth.

  9. For years I thought Dorothy Allison’s book “Cavedweller” was pronounced Caved Weller. I even told her when I sat next to her at a book reading. I had to confess.
    I also thought a sign that said Jesus Cares was a name in Spanish and I couldn’t figure out who Jesus Cares was.
    I blame it all on ESL.

  10. Ninth grade english class reading Shakspeare aloud and emotional: wan. The teacher, my favorite for her sarcasm, “Won? Won tons?” Guffaws around and I still have no idea how to pronounce the word.
    Blue Oyster Cult, my big sister playing the record nonstop and me singing to my heart’s content Lyra Gemini-i-i. They laughed at me, that much I knew. But it took years before I knew the song was Vera…

  11. I was buiying Roman shades for my windwos. When it came to selecting the material, I said I wanted unbleached muslim.

    • I prefer my Muslims unbleached. In fact I prefer all religions and creeds unbleached, with the occasional exception for hair and possibly mustaches on the ladies.

    • Well, at least you aren’t also guilty (as a certain unnamed client) of describing a piece of living room furniture as a “sexual sofa” — and then requesting it to be covered in unbleached muslim.

  12. Ah. Well, this isn’t a mispronounced word, but it’s an endearing malapropism from my ex husband. He used to tell me that I thought the world evolved around me. He’s so fucking right.

  13. When I was a kid, my friend thought “Smoke on the Water” was “Old Cousin Walter”. Still my favorite.

  14. I’ve got a doublet for you. Can each of them win a prize? Which is better?

    All through high school chemistry, I pronounced cation as though it were the ending of vacation; I pronounced anion as though it were onion with an A. It wasn’t until my first year at university that the instructor had the temerity to call me aside to tell me how those words were really pronounced. I blush every time I think about how I held forth in my chemistry orations as a teenager.

    It’s probably the seminal thing that directed me to the comfortable art of writing and away from some orating art.

  15. An adoring circle stood admiring my best friend’s new baby girl and one woman said, ” I think she’s going to have an outie,” meaning her navel, and I responded incredulously, “How do you know what kind of car she’s going to drive?”

  16. In the seventh grade I opted not to take creating writing as an elective because I thought it was a calligraphy class.

  17. There actually IS a book titled Tequila Mockingbird, and it sells used, for between fifty and seventy five dollars on Amazon.

  18. Fourth grade. Prepping for an oral report. My mom was distracted when I asked her how to pronounce “etc.” The next day I stood up in front of the entire class and read that quote, substituting “extraterrestrial” for “et cetera.”

  19. Mine actually belongs to my son……we were listening to “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” by the Police and he started singing along: “Nurse Nancy, Nurse Nancy….Nurse Nancy dos van dee.” Easy to do with a song I guess but pretty funny to us at the time.

  20. As a kid, I thought that song Dressed For Success by Roxette was Dressed For Safe Sex. My mother overheard me singing it once and laughed hard for a few minutes. She never even corrected me.

    Also, Springsteen’s Revved Up Like A Deuce sounds like Revved Up Like A Douche.

  21. When I was fresh out of school, I had a short stint as a telemarketer.

    “Uh, yes, could I please speak to Jesus?”

    if only I had only taken Spanish in school, I would I have known to ask for Haysoos instead. And, no, I did not make the sale.

  22. I had just won a place on my college quiz bowl team, one of only a couple freshmen, eager to impress. The question in practice: “What were the two social classes identified by Karl Marx?” I rang in and triumphantly announced, “The proletariat and the boor-gee-oh-see!”

    I *still* pronounce it in my head that way on first reading, every time, and then I remember and blush.

  23. My most embarrassing moment wasn’t a mispronunciation, exactly.

    I was sitting out band practice in high school (I think my bassoon was in the shop, if it matters), chewing bubblegum, and working on my science homework. One of the guys in the trombone section leaned over and asked me what I was doing.

    I popped a bubble and, full of the vocabulary list I’d just read, said, “masticating.” To a teenage boy. Who heard what you’d expect a teenage boy to hear.

    Yeah. Didn’t live that one down for a while.

    • Just a few Christmases ago I had some dried fruit soaking in bourbon to use for a recipe. My husband came nosing around the kitchen, asking what’s this, what’s that, what’re you doing with those. I said, “I’m macerating the cherries.”

      We both should have been old enough to avoid this. To this day, my husband uses it as a come-on: “Macerate your cherries, love?” And I have to explain that maceration is a solo endeavor and I don’t need any help, thank you very much.

  24. hyperbowl for hyperbole – I wish I was making it up

  25. A friend of mine calls First Niagara bank First Viagra bank. Not a mispronunciation but apt.
    In school I called Virginia, Vagina and a kid I worked with, Shit head. His name was pronounced Sha-theed.

  26. I love these.

    One of my sister’s friends used to think that Dan Hill’s lyrics were “Sometimes when we touch, the other sees too much” instead of “the honesty’s too much.”

    That still makes me grin.

    More recently, my son thought, “Think I’d better leave right now” (Will Young) was “Chick a bid a dee right now”

    And my daughter’s class is learning “Il est ne, le divin enfant” for a Christmas concert; her version is “Il est ne, pat a pee enfant.”

  27. Years ago, the woman I dated and her friend Mary, both natives of Peru, had minor issues with the intricacies of English. Mary, quite beautiful and sleek, had a job interview with a man named Gary Fuques. She worked there for years.

  28. I was a teenager. For a speech assignment I had to interview a person in a profession I admired. At the time I was hurting from child abuse. I decided to interview a psychiatrist, just wanting to see what one was like. (I would find out for twenty years what it was like to talk with psychologists and psychiatrists) but at this time this was my only option. In preparation I read a book by Freud. In my interview I asked the psychiatrist if he had read any books by FEUD.

  29. The song “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge, popular way back when, my friend Addison thought it was Tree Frog Family.

  30. My daughter loved the song, “Secret Agent Man”. She would sing it like this, “They’ll give you a number and call out your name.”

  31. When I was young, my back was plastered against the gym wall. After I was turned down a few times, the courage to ask any girl to dance was beyond my reach. The only sex I was getting was what I could create with my mind and my fist. The DJs were still playing Louie, Louie. I cruised the streets in my father’s Ford sedan with the windows down and radio blasting. When the Kingsmen sang “I smell the rose in her hair,” I swear to this day they said, “I felt my bone go in her hair.”

  32. Not a mispronunciation – but in 6th grade “Social Studies” when my nemesis, Mrs. Fay, asked me to read about cathedral architecture in the medieval period I proudly began, “The heavy walls of the cathedral are supported by flying buttresses” and then dissolved into embarrassed giggles. Mrs. Fay deemed me unfit to read aloud until I could show a greater level of maturity.

    Also teacher related – my 4th grade teacher used to tell the class, “And now I want your un-devoted attention.” Even as a 4th grader I knew something was very wrong about that phrase. Or maybe I was just bored and decided to hear her incorrectly.

  33. Andy Gibb’s “Shadow Dancing:” for years I thought the line was “shut up and sing.” I was around 11 years old and only had access to a radio–no Googling lyrics in those days!

  34. I organized a black tie event at the Biltmore in LA. As the dinner chair, I stood up in front of 100 plus guests and said: “I want to thank everyone for their efforts in putting this together, especially Maria T, 7-Up’s Vice President of Pubic Affairs.” Needless to say I did not chair another event.

  35. “Seattle’s space noodle,” I said.

  36. “melon-cholly” for “melancholy”.

    thank you, thank you very much.

  37. Been tripped up many times by pronunciations, but none were as good as some of these – I don’t expect to win, but I want to play!

    Most recently, my daughter was relaying a story to me. It had to do with the state of Oregon. She was talking and talking and she kept saying “Organ.” Finally, I had to stop her and say, “WHAT are you saying?” I had to prove to her that Oregon is three syllables – not two – via Google and it’s or-e-gun. (plus it’s not or-e-gahn as I’ve also heard)

    From my own stupid files come these: I once pronounced Sean Connery’s name as scene, or seen, to my best friend in high school. We were looking at one of those celeb mag’s. I said, “ooooh, look! Seen Connery.” You know how judgmental things can be in HS. I don’t think she ever looked at me quite the same way.

    In my later years, it was more about emphasis on the right syllables – I don’t know why these words stumped me. 1) Distribute. I’d get discombobulated and tongue tied trying to remember, was it DIS-tri-bute or dis-TRI-bute. The other one: Essay. e-SSAY or ESS-ay.

  38. My youngest daughter did this constantly. My favorite–she told a few relatives at Easter one year that Jesus was castrated on the cross. My sister-in-law spit out her ham.

    My second favorite was not a mispronunciation but was memorable. She saw a huge display of cacti in a store and yelled, Mama, come look at these pricks!

  39. Telling my wife about meeting a friend’s mother who had obviously had some, um, rearranging and lifting done, I meant to say, “She had so many facelifts that her chin dimple is her bellybottom.” But it came out “chin nipple.” I have no idea what a chin nipple is, but obviously I was thinking about something else.

  40. I was in a long ago conversation with my college sweetheart when I was discussing something that included the word ‘cowlick.’ Until that moment I was under the impression that it was called a ‘cattlelick.’ She was sweet about it when she corrected me and gently amused at how she could see I had come up with it.

  41. I’m another one who butchered “epitome,” but “calliope” as “cally-OPE” was pretty awful as well. The worst, though, was “deus ex machina” as “DOOZ ex mashina” … in the writers group I was hoping to impress. I didn’t.

  42. I was an Okie transplant in LA come for a much dreamed of art education. I’d read the syllabus on my own lonely time, the poe moe treatises and the critiques of institutions. Still I wasn’t ready for my First studio visit when a hipster Bard girl asked, “So what are you reading?” “FooCoo,” I answered proudly. And she said, “Oh my God, you’re a hick.”

    • I’m sorry, I have to respond to this because it’s being presented as if all Oklahomans do this. I am currently a graduate student at OU, currently reading Foucault, and we all knew how to pronounce it. This one is just you, honey. lol

  43. My aunt called to tell me about someone’s hospitalization for a blood clot: “It’s so dangerous when you get an amorism!”

  44. My mom never cursed, at least not in English. When she was really mad, she’d belt out an expletive in Pig Latin. The problem was she could never get it right. Instead of “UckFay Ouyay” she’d say, “UckFou.” We corrected her over and over again but she always repeated it the wrong way. Sometimes I say it to my husband when we’re in the heat of battle. He smiles because he knows its origins. My mom, the peace maker, even in death.

  45. For years I thought the lyric’s from Clearance Clearwater Revival’s song “Bad Moon Rising” which goes: ‘there’s a bad moon on the rise’ sounded to me for all the world like they were singing “there’s a bathroom on the right.,” which to this day
    I blythly still sing that way.

  46. It didn’t happen to me but what the heck… My mom was being introduced at a Jewish social function by a woman with a thick accent. My mom’s name is Yvonne Brown. The woman pronounced it “Eva Braun.” Party crusher.

  47. We were in a staff meeting after all getting iPhone 4s, and were discussing the wi-fi capabilities. This function is called the personal hotspot. Our newest reporter, just a week or two on the job, called it “the G-spot.” She corrected herself, and went on, and my editor waited patiently for her to finish before she said, “Did you just say G-spot?”

  48. Oh! I just remembered one. For any of you who remember the movie “Short Circuit,” great for a young one like me in the 80s, there is a scene in which the robot knocks over a case of fine china. The character exclaims, “Oh, my china!” I thought this was a replacement for “Oh my God!” and used it frequently. As my sister recalls, it got a little weird at family functions.

  49. …and another. Turns out I was even more awkward than I remember.

    Another 80s movie: “Three Amigos.” Steve Martin Tells the evil El Guapo that he’ll pump him so full of lead he’ll be using his dick for a pencil. I did not understand this, but it sounded tough. Problem: I thought he said “Dip” for a pencil. I remember thinking of ranch dressing, into which I liked to dip carrots as a kid. Made sense to me. My parents did not correct me, but I do remember after a time, perhaps in front of my grandma, that I just not use this expression anymore.

    I think I’m done.

  50. This one comes to you courtesy of my high school teacher who tried to explain the importance of having both a reading vocabulary AND a speaking vocabulary. At a party once, she remembered apologing to her host for committing a “Fox Pause.” That very moment was her own “Faux Pas.”

  51. It was due to working in a second language and it was written. I was reporting for a newspaper in Seville, Spain on two local girls who were heading to the Olympics in rowing. The noun to describe them is “remera.” The headline I cooked up was straight ahead, “Two Rowers from The Neighborhood.” But I changed “remera” to “ramera,” with an “a,” which translates to, “Two Whores from the Neighborhood.” I was editing the issue and that is how it went to press.

  52. It’s not exactly a mispronunciation.

    When I taught high school, I left out the L in Public Speaking in a handout to parents at Open House. Damn spellcheck.

    One of those nasty dads caught it and made a scene. My student teacher saved me by claiming she had dyslexia.

    I gave her a stellar recommendation at the end of the term.

  53. I’m happy to place the responsibility for each of these disasters on someone else:

    1) My best friend, out for a call with her new boss, passed a flock of ducks with mottled and missing feathers. She meant to say, “Look at those sick-looking ducks.” But it came out as, “Look at those dick-sucking ducks.” She sat in horrified silence the rest of the drive.

    2) My late grandmother called my house and excitedly told my dad to turn on the news right away because there was a story about an Obscene Flying Object–and she knew my mother was interested in those.

    3) My mom, a secretary for a university academic department, invited a new grad student to the office holiday party, where they would be serving cookies and punch. Unfortunately, she told him to come and enjoy some pookies and cunts. (He never showed.)

  54. And I have to say, I haven’t laughed this hard in forever. These are GOLDEN.

  55. I don’t have butchered words to win a prize with, but that photo. OMG! It literally looks like my mother seventy years ago.

    • One more from my friend Addison: Planting trees along the Sabine River in East Texas, we found an old Teddy Bear in a field. How that bear got in that remote, lumber company field I’ll never know. Ad adopted the bear as his mascot, strapped him to his tree bag and wondered what he should call his new friend. Someone suggested he call the bear Peckersnot. Addison thought it over and said, “Hmmm, Peckersnot; I like the way it rolls off your tongue.”
      His girlfriend told him he could not keep the old, mangy bear.

    • Oops, sorry fromhobokentochengdu. I meant this as a new entry, not a reply. Ghosts in the machine, I guess.

  56. My sister-in-law, a damn good waitress and the queen of public screw-ups and mispronunciations once recited, to a table of young good looking guys, the list of sodas available as, Coke, root beer and Dr. Pecker. She got a date out of it.

  57. A friend of mine was raised in a very competitive family, with parents who figured that disagreement built character. Once on a car trip through the Midwest, she got into an argument with her sister about the proper pronunciation of Iowa’s capital city. When they stopped in Des Moines to eat, they decided to ask a native to resolve the dispute. “How do you pronounce the name of this place?” my friend asked. With an odd look, the waitperson said, “Arby’s.”

  58. A teacher who was going to read Moby Dick with a class announced to them, “Today we are going to read about Moby’s Dick.”

    On the same line of thought a friend of mine, also and English teacher, was writing the words “public library” on the board but wrote “pubic library” instead. Junior high too, lovely fits of giggles everywhere.

    And Betsy, sadly, I never received the three books for the recommedation of “Intrusions” from the previous contest 😦 I was wondering if maybe my email went to spam?

  59. Mine is really a “worst typo ever” – before graduating from law school I sent out a large batch of resume’s to governmment agencies and non-profit groups. My cover letter was supposed to say I was looking for a job in the public sector. I left out the “l” in public. ooooops!

  60. Schmorgasboard. I have no idea how to spell this word but I know it doesn’t end in BOARD. I can tell by the looks I get when it falls out of my mouth.

  61. At age 8, while riding in the back seat of my then step-sister’s car with her cruel teenaged friends from Scarsdale, I sang along with the Bee Gees at the top of my lungs: “Four-letter woman! Four-letter woman to meeee…” Except the song was “More Than A Woman.”

    • When I was little, I thought it was “Bonanny Woman.” I used to sing it loudly and proudly, too. It has been 20 years and the family joke is still that if I ever have a horse, her name will be Bonanny Woman. Look for her at Preakness. lol

  62. The Eagles have a song, “Life’s Been Good.” Not realizing my boyfriend wasn’t asleep as I drove us through the night, I kept whispering along to the radio: “So I got me an office CALLED ‘Records on the Wall.'”

  63. Last one for me.

    My daughter was reciting the pledge of allegiance for us, showcasing her obvious talent in all things memorized. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,” she proudly chanted, “and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. You may all now sit down.”

    I can’t find it inside myself to correct her. It’s just too damn cute.

  64. You didn’t ask for Mondegreens but you sure got them.

    A guy I know was walking with some other high school boys across a lawn thick with fallen leaves when a hidden rake popped up and smacked him in the crotch. “My je-NEET-als!” he cried, clutching and moaning and rolling around in agony while his friends laughed.

    I encountered many words and names in the pages of books before I heard them spoken. I thought the name Penelope was pronounced Pen-a-lope (rhymes with hope) and the word horizon was pronounced horr-iz-on to match the way we say horizontal. And I thought Superman lived in Metro-pollis, pronounced the way we say Metropolitan.

    • See, I just blame that on the English language. There is no sense to the way words are pronounced! You cannot depend on a word that looks just like it and that seems unfair.

  65. Absolute truth…My mother was British and thought the last lyrics in The Star-Spangled Banner were “the land of the free and the home of the slaves.”

  66. Once when I was arranging an audition for a community theatre musical I told the director that no, I didn’t need any accompaniment. I would sing ACAPULCO. Apparently I was pretty nervous. 😦

  67. A client asked me how many of something he had. I said I’ll give you a c*** you’ll love.

  68. The most mortifying were two first year uni students on a bus trying to sound so sophisticated, for one of them to pronounced facade as ‘fuckarde’ when they saw a building along the way.

  69. Hay, I’m not too original, so let’s combine Nikki Irving’s comment “wrapped up like a douche” and anon&anon’s note “there’s a bathroom on the right”…. sort of works.

  70. An assistant chief of police was emphasizing the importance of precise timing on a raid. “Simonize your watches on my mark.” The same guy was showing off for an attractive young reporter, and opened the door for her with a flourish. “See, silvery is not dead.” He got a blank look from the reporter.

    A chief of police was upset at the reprehensible conduct of an officer.
    “That is one unconscious motherfucker!” I think he meant unconscionable.

  71. I loved the way my mother called it “alzenheimers.” She also called — more than once — my sister’s Israeli husband, Yuda, “Yoda.”
    I can brag for myself too. In our twenties, my husband tool me to meet the landlord of a terrific apartment we were hoping to rent. I walked up to him in my most sophisticated, adult manner, stuck out my hand and said “How do you do, I’m your wife.”

  72. The Air Supply song, “Out of nothing at all.” As a kid, I thought they were saying, “Archie Bunker had it all.”

  73. I once agreed to help a friend cater a Christmas party. I asked her if there were going to be any “horse d’overs” there. Needless to say, I probably should have paid a bit more attention in French class.

  74. I once heard a co-worker mispronounce a word, causing several of us to laugh. Realizing he’d somehow misspoken he tried, he tried to recover by saying, “Oh, I hope I didn’t commit a fox pass (faux pas)”. And of course we all laughed again.

  75. […] now I’m off to re-read the comments in THIS POST that Sherry S. recommended I read. They are hysterical as […]

  76. For years my aunt sang “Amazing Grace” like this: “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wench like me…”. When we told her the correct word was “wretch”, she replied, “That’s the male the version. A wench is a female wretch”.

  77. the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of” lyrics
    i heard as
    “concrete jungle wet dreams tomato”

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