From left to right: Travis Kelce, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Cillian Murphy.
‘Nepo baby’ and ‘psammophile’ are some of the most frequently mispronounced words of 2023. Vivek Ramaswamy, Travis Kelce, and Saturn’s sixth moon also challenged speakers, according to The Captioning Group.Here’s all of 2023’s most mispronounced words, according to experts.
2023 was the year of mispronouncing names, from politicians and athletes to high-profile celebrities and fictional characters.
People were also stumped by geological and astronomical phenomena this year, according to The Captioning Group.
Since 2016, the closed-captioning company has compiled the list on behalf of language platform Babbel, bringing together all the terms that newsreaders, politicians, public figures, and others struggled to pronounce correctly on TV.
In no particular order, here are the top 10:
Saturn’s sixth moon hit the headlines in May when NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope spotted a massive plume of water, twice the length of the continental US, spurting from it. The finding suggests that the planet could potentially host life.
Barbenheimer made July the month of bright pink paint, nuclear explosions, and not being sure how to say “Cillian.”
The actor’s title role in Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” put his name back on our radars.
This active volcano in Mexico threatened to erupt in May, prompting authorities to raise alert levels for the millions of people living nearby.
For those unfamiliar with the native language of Nahuatl, pronouncing the volcano’s name — meaning ‘Smoking Hill’ — could be a challenge.
Dustin Satloff via Getty Images; Jeff Kravitz/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management via Getty Images
Dating Taylor Swift is a whole other level of fame, and nothing proves this more than the fact that in mid-September — the week that Kelce said he’d invited her to one of his games — Google saw a massive spike in the search term “kelce how to pronounce.”
His last name can be pronounced two ways, and Travis has said both are correct!
Pronunciation: Kel-see or Kels
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Iam Tongi is the stage name of William Tongi, who moved judges to tears at Season 21 of American Idol this year. In May, he became the first person from Hawaii, and the first Pacific Islander, to clinch the title.
Pronunciation: Ee-am Dong-ee
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A word to describe plants that love sandy soil may be difficult to pronounce, but it certainly wasn’t a spelling challenge for 14-year-old Dev Shah, who clinched the National Spelling Bee with it in June.
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In November, the entrepreneur and GOP presidential candidate rebuked political strategist Donna Brazile for mispronouncing his name on Real Time with Bill Maher, saying she “intentionally” did it.
Intentionally or habitually mispronouncing names has been described as a form of discrimination.
Pronunciation: Vih-vake Rah-mah-swah-me
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The second volcano to bubble its way onto the list, Kīlauea, went quiet for three months and then exploded impressively in June. Thankfully, no communities were at risk.
There were also some runners-up:
Among all the fan theories surrounding the much-anticipated series finale of “Succession” in May, probably the wildest was one based around Tom Wambsgans’ name, as Slate went into in great detail (there are spoilers here, for anyone still catching up).
Thankfully, we have Shiv Roy’s classic quote: “Guess I just got Wambsgansed, huh?” from Season 1, to help cement the pronunciation.
Jonathan Brady/Pool Photo via AP
Since the dawn of the English language, British people have fought bitterly over how to pronounce the word “scone.” Homes have been wrecked, and families divided.
When King Charles II was crowned in May, he sat on the Stone of Scone as per tradition. It made matters even more complicated by offering a rare third variation to the pronunciation debate.
Pronunciation: Stown uhv skoon
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As 2022 drew to a close, one term was on people’s lips: nepo baby.
It had been around for a while, but a much talked-about New Yorker cover story declared 2022 as “the year of the nepo baby,” causing frantic online discussion about the leg-up that famous offspring get from their famous parents.
Unfortunately, few knew how to say it, making early 2023 the age of mispronouncing nepo baby.
Pronunciation: Neh-po Bay-bee