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 Buy Now Related Stories Arts & Culture Issue 42 The Language of Home How weird words forge new friendships. Arts & Culture Issue 39 Half a Notion A reassessment of ambivalence. Arts & Culture Issue 24 Word: Desenrascanço Forget hygge: Uncertain times call for problem-solving the Portuguese way. Arts & Culture Issue 22 Word: Trypophobia More commonly known as the fear of holes, trypophobia is a word with both its etymology and experience rooted in the recesses of the internet. Arts & Culture Issue 16 Words with Friends Whether you’re a quiet person or a loud talker, your conversational skills can enhance your social interactions. Arts & Culture Issue 47 Alice Sheppard On dance as a channel to commune with the body—even when it hurts.