15 Things Most Americans Are Pronouncing Wrong

Amber Garrett - Author

Mar. 5 2019, Updated 8:32 a.m. ET

words we say wrong
Source: iStockPhoto

More than many languages, English has a tendency to happily absorb words from other cultures, but sometimes those words get lost in translation — either through misinterpretation of meaning or through mispronunciation. The same is true for foreign brands, as we learned most acutely when a Swedish soccer player revealed to us we'd been saying IKEA wrong for a couple decades. Scroll through to learn all the ways we've been butchering foreign words and brands — and how they're meant to be said.

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kiea logo
Source: IKEA

It's your favorite place for build-it-yourself furniture and meatballs and you've been saying it this wrong all this time. Chances are, if you're from the U.K., Canada, or the U.S., you've been saying eye-KEY-uh. However, the Swedish company is pronounced very differently in Scandinavia. During a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, L.A. Galaxy player Zlatan Ibrahimović, who is Swedish, alerted us all to the proper pronunciation. It's "ee-KAY-uh," by the way.

2. "Bokeh"

apple ad bokeh
Source: Apple

Not a brand, but rather a term for a photo effect, it became more prevalent in American consciousness due to a recent iPhone ad promoting the Depth Control feature on the Photos app. Too bad that ad taught us the wrong way to say it!

In the ad, a mom gets upset when her friend "bokehs" her child. "Bokeh" is the Anglicized form of a Japanese word for a blurred effect on the background of a photo, drawing focus on the object or person in the foreground. The women in the ad say "BOH-KUH", but it's pronounced "boh-KAY" — closer to the word "bouquet" than the Spanish word for "mouth."

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3. Fage yogurt

fage logo
Source: Fage

Thanks to commercials, plenty Americans know this Greek yogurt brand is pronounced "Fa-yeh" (which is the Greek verb for "eat). But you'd be forgiven if you incorrectly pronounced it with a soft "g" or "j" sound so it rhymes with "mage." However, whatever you do, don't pronounce it with a hard "g"! If you need help remembering how to pronounce it, think of the "y" sound at the beginning of the word "gyro."

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4. Hyundai

Hyundai Logo
Source: Hyundai

How you're probably saying it: HUN-DYE. If you live in the U.K., you might say high-UUN-digh, which is just... baffling.

How it's supposed to be said: HUN-DAY (rhymes with "Sunday")

(The name comes from the Korean work for "modernity.")

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5. Zagat

Source: Zagat

The Zagat Guide is an American brand, yet the majority of people who refer to the restaurant guide are saying the name wrong. Named for creators Tim and Nina Zagat, it's pronounced zuh-GAHT, not ZA-gut, as many say it.

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6. Ellevest

Source: Ellevest

For almost as long as I knew of this woman-centered investment platform, I figured, as you mght have, that it was pronounced EL-VEST (as in the letter L and the sleeveless garment). However, founder Sallie Krawcheck would know best, and she says "EL-uh-vest".

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7. Bayer

Source: Bayer

OK, this one isn't our fault. For years Bayer aspirin has been advertised to us with the pronunciation "BAY-er," but the German company has a completely different pronunciation in Deutschland. There, it sounds more like BUY-er. I have no plans to change how I say it, though. At this point, any non-Germans in earshot would just be confused.

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8. Cetaphil

Source: Cetaphil

People seem to be split 50-50 on the pronunciation of Cetaphil, so whos' right? If you're Team SET-uh-fill, sorry, but you're wrong. It's SEAT-uh-fill. The reason is the "Ceta" comes from cetyl alcohol, the main active ingredient in the cleanser.

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9. Nutella

Source: Nutella

For reasons nobody can explain, many Americans refer to this delicious chocolate hazelnut spread of the gods as NEW-tell-uh. I've done it, too. This drives Europeans absolutely batty, however. They've been enjoying the delicious spread from Italy for decades and rightly point out we don't call filberts "hazelnewts." It's NUT-el-uh, guys.

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10. Miele

miele logo
Source: Miele

This German appliance manufacturer gets a ton of (wrong) pronunciations. "Miley" (as in Cyrus), or "Meal" seem to be the most common ones. However, the correct pronunciation is MEE-LUH. It rhymes with Sheila (or Mila, as in Mila Kunis). 

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11. Balmain

balmain logo
Source: Balmain

We could devote an entire post to French brands people say wrong, but perhaps the most common is Balmain. Americans have a tendency to say "BALL-MAIN" but it's pronounced 'Bahl-mahn" and the "n" is only very slightly pronounced at the back of the throat. See also Lanvin, which is pronounced "Lahn-vahn" with two swallowed Ns.

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12. Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren logo
Source: Ralph Lauren

As much at Americans stumble over pronouncing French brands, they also sometimes make American brands unnecessarily foreign. Ralph Lauren is from the U.S. and adopted the last name Lauren in favor of his birth name, Lifshitz. His adopted name is pronounced just like the two common first names. People often say Ralph Lo-REN, sort of like Italian actress Sophia Loren. Of course, if you watched Friends, Rachel taught you how to say this one right.

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13. Adidas

Source: Adidas

This German shoe brand doesn't stand for "All Day I Dream About Sex" as much as Korn wanted you to think so, and it's also not pronounced "uh-DEE-duhs," either. It's "AH-dee-DAHS," because it's from a nickname for found Adolph "Adi" Dassler.

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14. Porsche

porsche logo
Source: Porsche

Whether you're saying "Porsh" (like "porch" with a "sh" sound) or "POR-SHUH," you are hurting Germans' ears. It's more like Poor-shay, with the R rolling in the back of the throat.

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15. Moschino

Source: Moschino

This fun Italian brand is probably the one that gives Americans the most trouble, because the letter C can get super confusing in this Romance language. Many people say mo-SHEE-no or moss-CHEE-no. Neither is correct, because a "ch" in Italian gets a hard "k" sound. (the sound we write as "ch" comes from a double cc, like in cappuccino.) The correct pronunciation of Moschino, therefore, is mo-SKI-no.

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