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The most mispronounced words on live TV this year


There are words that roll off the tongue, smoothly, liltingly, and there are words that just sort of crash into a pileup off the tip of the tongue.


EMMA D'ARCY: A negroni...

OLIVIA COOKE: I was going to say the same thing.

D'ARCY: ...Sbagliato.

TUA TAGOVAILOA: Tagovailoa - so you say tongue first, oh, vai, loa.


ADELE: Adele.


SIMON: A cocktail, a Miami Dolphins quarterback, a Grammy-winning British singer are among the names that are the most mispronounced words of 2022, according to The Captioning Group, which provides live captions for broadcast TV across America. They have compiled this list for eight years at the behest of the folks at Babbel.

ESTEBAN TOUMA: The purpose of it is to have a little bit of a snapshot of what has happened in the year, but also to showcase a little bit the difficulties we have of being part of a multicultural, connected world.

SIMON: That's Esteban Touma, a senior content producer and language teacher at Babbel. Or should that be Babbel? He admits to tripping over a few names himself. I mean, I think it's always easy to say that B.J. Leiderman - I'm sorry, Leiderman - writes our theme music. Esteban Touma says the words chosen for the annual list of mispronounced words bubble up from people and places in the news. And some, like that negroni, get on the list thanks to social media - TikTok, in this case.

TOUMA: Emma D'Arcy was introducing the world to their favorite drink, and the way they said it was incorrect. Sbagliato is not sbagliato. It's sbaliato (ph). But the word sbagliato means incorrect or mistake in Italian. So I thought it was fascinating that they were pronouncing the word incorrect incorrectly.

KORVA COLEMAN, BYLINE: The beverage negroni sbagliato.

SIMON: Of course NPR newscaster Korva Coleman nailed it. She's a professional, unlike, you know, me. Got an Icelandic volcano that's spelled E-Y-J-A-F-J-A-L-L-A-J-O-K-U-L-L - stand back.

COLEMAN: Eyjafjallajokull. Eyjafjallajokull. Eyjafjallajokull.

SIMON: Yeah. Yeah, what she said. Every hour, every day, the peerless Korva encounters words she has to get right on the air. What's her technique?

COLEMAN: You want to ask other people. You can look up a gazetteer in the Encyclopedia Britannica. You can call an embassy. You can actually look up the U.S. Department of State to find out how they might say it. You can look up the National Geographic. It's always worthwhile looking it up because if you don't, you're going to be very surprised.

SIMON: However, I've often found the pronunciation guides people provide to be as difficult to say correctly as the words and names you're trying to say. We asked Korva Coleman to run through this year's list of most mispronounced words.

COLEMAN: Adele, the British singer. Chicxulub from Mexico. Domhnall Gleeson is the actor. Edinburgh - like, hey, bro, what's up? The tennis player, Novak Djokovic. The baseball player, Ohtani. Oh, Lord.

SIMON: Yes. Yes. Have we stumped the great Korva Coleman?

COLEMAN: I know it's Tua, but you want me to say his first name? Tuanigamanuolepola. Tuanigamanuolepola. Tuanigamanuolepola. Tua Tagovailoa - we'll just do that. Tua, I know you're a great man. Sorry I messed up your name.

SIMON: Korva, that's why great team athletes have numbers on their backs. Now playing quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, No. 1, Tua - you know the rest.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.