‘Cheugy’, ‘Omicron’ among 2021’s most mispronounced words

AP – Cheugy is apparently a lot to chew on. Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Billie Eilish and Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce have something in common – broadcasters butcher their names.

And virtually everyone is having trouble with ‘Omicron’.

All four made it onto this year’s list of most mispronounced words as compiled by the US Captioning Company, which captions and subtitles real-time events on TV and
in courtrooms. The list released yesterday identifies the words that proved most challenging for newsreaders and people on television to pronounce this year.

The caption company said it surveyed its members to generate the list, which is now in its sixth year and was commissioned by Babbel, a language-learning platform with headquarters in Berlin and New York.

“Newscasters in the United States (US) have struggled with 2021’s new words and names while reporting on key sporting events, viral internet trends and emerging celebrities,” said standup comedian and teacher for Babbel Live, Esteban Touma.

“As a language teacher, it’s always interesting to see that some of these terms are usually new colloquialisms, or are rooted or borrowed from another language,” he said.

“As a non-native speaker, I must confess it’s fun to see English speakers stumbling.”

Here’s how Touma breaks down the proper pronunciations for the most commonly
misspoken words:

CHEUGY (CHOO-GEE): A trendy term popularised by Gen Z and used to mock an outdated and unfashionable aesthetic typically associated with millennials, such as “Live, Laugh, Love” signs.

CHIPOTLE (CHIH-POHT-LAY): The American fast food chain became the centre of a viral trend this year challenging Baby Boomers to pronounce the name.

DALGONA (TAL-GOH-NAH): A Korean treat made with melted sugar and baking soda, popularised in Netflix’s Squid Game. (Touma notes that some speakers seem to produce a “K” instead of the “G” in the middle syllable.)

DOGECOIN (DOHJ-COIN): A divisive cryptocurrency that began somewhat ironically before being popularised by Elon Musk, causing its value to dramatically increase.

EILISH (EYE-LISH): The singer Billie Eilish, whose album Happier Than Ever was released this year to critical acclaim and nominated for the Grammy Awards’ Album of the Year.

ETHEREUM (IH-THEE-REE-UM): Another cryptocurrency that skyrocketed in value this year amid the decentralised-currency boom.

EVER GIVEN (EV-ER GIV-EN): The name of the ship that blocked the Suez Canal in March, costing billions of dollars in lost trade.

Many newscasters mistook the name of the ship as ‘Evergreen’, the name of the company that owns the vessel, which was printed on its hull.

GLASGOW (GLAHZ-GO): The host city of November’s United Nations Climate Conference was mispronounced by both United States (US) President Joe Biden and former president Barack Obama.

KELCE (KELS): The Philadelphia Eagles centre Jason Kelce revealed on radio this year that his teammates and the media had been mispronouncing his name for years.

OMICRON (AH-MUH-KRAAN / OH-MEE-KRAAN): A new variant of COVID-19 first identified in November, named in keeping with the World Health Organization’s system of identifying variants with Greek letters.

Touma notes it’s pronounced differently in the US and the United Kingdom.

SHEIN (SHEE-IN): The Chinese fast fashion company at the centre of the “Shein haul” trend, in which participants record themselves trying on different outfits from the company.

STEFANOS TSITSIPAS (STEH-FUH-NOHS TSEE-TSEE-PAS): Currently ranked as the world’s number four tennis player, the Greek athlete rose to international prominence when he lost to Novak Djokovic in the final of the French Open in June.

YASSIFY (YEAH-SIH-FAI): A popular trend in which multiple beauty filters are applied to well-known pictures or portraits for comic effect.