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  • Arts & Culture
  • Issue 45

Words Unheard

On the pitfalls of pronunciation. Words by Ed Cumming. Artwork by Gerd Rothmann. Photograph: Courtesy of Ornamentum Gallery.

I remember a conversation with a friend, many years ago, in which he described an event as having been “total shausse.” Baffled, the others at the table asked him to repeat it. He said it again. “Total shausse.” At last the penny dropped. This was an intelligent guy, but he had never said the word “chaos” out loud before.

English is full of words you see written down more often than you hear spoken, and the language is a haven of eccentric pronunciation. As a native speaker, you might think the differences between though, through, thorough, bough and rough are obvious. They are not. Partly the problems stem from English’s greed for assimilating other languages, but its erratic approach to anglicization. There is no rule for guiding you through canapé, debacle, apropos, imbroglio, milieu, cache, segue, décolletage, tinnitus,


This story is from Kinfolk Issue Forty-Five

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