Words people trip over

Many have said that sorry is the hardest word but they’d be wrong, linguistically speaking at least.

According to a poll, the word we find hardest to pronounce is ‘phenomenon’.

Next in the top 10 of tongue-twisters are ‘remuneration, and ‘statistics’.

Sorry isn’t the hardest word: According to a poll, the word we find hardest to pronounce is ‘phenomenon’

 Speakers also have a problem getting their tongue around ethnicity, hereditary and particularly, according to the body charged with recording public utterances.

The British Institute Of Verbatim Reporters (BIVR) is the UK’s leading organisation for professionals involved in taking down speech at court and tribunal hearings.

A poll of its members found 10 words that Britons consistently find the most challenging to pronounce.

Completing the list are conjugal, specific, processes and development.

Leah Willersdorf, of the BIVR, said: ‘We work with many different types of professionals and hear all kinds of voices during our work.

‘However, when it comes to the English language it always seems to be the same few words that verbally trip people up, with the speaker having to repeat the word in order to get it right, or just abandoning their attempts and moving on.’

BIVR members were quizzed by the team behind the popular word game Scrabble.

The poll of tongue twisters was in response to a query by the makers of Scrabble who say one in ten players are reluctant to use words they cannot pronounce

According to the words buffs, one in 10 players admit to being reluctant to producing words that they cannot pronounce.

Scrabble is a favourite with British families over the festive period, with an estimated 11 million going head to head on Boxing Day, according to its makers.

University of York sociolinguistics expert Professor Paul Kerswill said the English language has evolved to compensate for tricky pronunciations but some words remain a challenge.

He said: ‘People always find a way of simplifying words that they find difficult to get their tongues round, so that an everyday word like ‘handbag’ sounds like ‘hambag’.

‘Our forebears simplified ‘waistcoat’ to ‘weskit’ – but we’ve turned our backs on that.

‘We certainly don’t pronounce Worcester and Gloucester the way they are spelt any more. And ‘York’ used to have three syllables, not one.

‘And most people talk about ‘Febry’ and ‘Wensday’.’

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

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