Words That Shaped 2023: Common Mispronunciations in Focus

by Sophia Chen
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Mispronounced Words 2023

Many words central to 2023’s major events proved challenging for people to pronounce correctly. These difficult-to-say words ranged from Cillian Murphy, the lead in “Oppenheimer,” to the musician SZA, and even included the Stone of Scone, integral to King Charles III’s coronation.

On Thursday, Babbel, an online language learning platform, released lists from the U.S. and Britain of the year’s most mispronounced words. These lists were compiled with the assistance of The Closed Captioning Group in the U.S. and the British Institute of Verbatim Reports in the U.K. They highlighted the words that caused difficulty for news anchors, politicians, and other public figures.

The lists offer a retrospective of the year, covering topics from science to entertainment and politics. Malcolm Massey, a Babbel teacher, noted the wide-ranging origins of these words, reflecting our increasingly globalized culture.


  • Oxford University Press selects ‘rizz’ as its word of the year.
  • SZA dominates the 2024 Grammy nominations, with women leading in major categories.
  • The Kelce Bowl: A focal point in the Super Bowl rematch, featuring Travis from the Chiefs and Jason from the Eagles.

SZA, who topped Grammy nominations and had her song “Kill Bill” as Spotify’s second most-streamed track, was on the U.S. list. Her name is pronounced SIZ-uh. Also on the list is Irish actor Cillian Murphy, pronounced KI-lee-uhn, known for his role as physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Other notable U.S. pronunciations include:

  • Vivek Ramaswamy, a biotech entrepreneur and Republican presidential candidate, pronounced Vih-VAKE Rah-mah-SWAH-me.
  • Popocatepetl, a Mexican volcano, pronounced Poh-poh-kah-TEH-peh-til, and Hawaii’s Kilauea, pronounced Kee-lou-EY-uh.
  • Choupette, Karl Lagerfeld’s cat, pronounced SHOO-pet, gained attention at the Met Gala tribute to the late Chanel designer.

In the U.K., the Stone of Scone, pronounced Stown uhv Skoon, gained attention during King Charles’ coronation. It received an honorable mention in the U.S. Other U.K. pronunciations include:

  • Padam, pronounced PAD-dahm, from Kylie Minogue’s song “Padam Padam.”
  • Bharat, pronounced BUH-ruht, an ancient Sanskrit term for India, highlighted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

Kristie Denlinger, a linguistics lecturer at the University of Texas in Austin, emphasizes that repeated exposure to unfamiliar words can aid in mastering their pronunciation.

Massey advises focusing on gradual progress rather than perfection in learning new pronunciations.

An interesting case is the pronunciation of Travis Kelce’s last name. The Kansas City Chiefs’ tight end and his brother, Jason Kelce of the Philadelphia Eagles, use KEL-see. Their father, Ed Kelce, explained on their podcast “New Heights” that he grew tired of correcting people. This led to a family discussion about whether to use Kels or KEL-see, underscoring that sometimes, correct pronunciation is a matter of personal choice.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Mispronounced Words 2023

What are some examples of mispronounced words in 2023?

In 2023, commonly mispronounced words included the names of public figures and cultural references like SZA, Cillian Murphy, Vivek Ramaswamy, Popocatepetl, Kilauea, Choupette, the Stone of Scone, Padam, and Bharat.

Who compiled the lists of mispronounced words for 2023?

The lists of mispronounced words for 2023 were compiled by Babbel, an online language learning company, with the help of The Closed Captioning Group in the U.S. and the British Institute of Verbatim Reports in the U.K.

Why are these lists of mispronounced words significant?

These lists provide insight into the cultural and linguistic diversity of our times, reflecting the globalized nature of modern society and highlighting the challenges faced in pronouncing words from various languages and cultures.

How does exposure to unfamiliar words help in pronunciation?

According to Kristie Denlinger, a linguistics lecturer, repeated exposure to unfamiliar words can aid in mastering their pronunciation, as it allows individuals to become accustomed to new sounds and pronunciations.

What does Malcolm Massey advise about learning new pronunciations?

Malcolm Massey, a Babbel teacher, advises focusing on gradual progress rather than perfection when learning new pronunciations, suggesting that regular practice is key to mastering them.

More about Mispronounced Words 2023

  • Babbel Language Learning
  • The Closed Captioning Group
  • British Institute of Verbatim Reports
  • University of Texas Linguistics Department
  • “New Heights” Podcast by the Kelce Brothers

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