“Specifically” and “probably” top the list of the most irritating mispronounced words, according to a survey conducted by insights agency Perspectus Global.
Linguistic experts said that people were often reticent about correcting the pronunciation of others in public out of fear of being labelled a “pedant”.
But most people are more comfortable in taking family members to task when they make a verbal misstep, they added.
In the study involving 2,000 participants, 35 per cent of respondents listed “pacifically” as the most annoying verbal error.
Saying “probly” instead of “probably” riled 28 per cent and over a quarter (26 per cent) said the most annoying misused word was “expresso” instead of espresso.
Using the word “specially” instead of “especially” was a bugbear for 25 per cent, and “artick” rather than “arctic” wound up 19 per cent of people.
Despite 61 per cent of 2,000 respondents to the June survey finding it annoying when others pronounce words incorrectly, 65 per cent said they would be too embarrassed to correct them.
However, 35 per cent cannot resist correcting their friends and family, while 10 per cent are happy to tell a stranger they have mispronounced a word.
A further 25 per cent say they have had a full-blown row with a friend, colleague or family member over the correct pronunciation of a word.
Dr Alex Baratta, a senior lecturer in linguistics at Manchester University, said: “Language is always changing, and this can apply to pronunciations of words and not just word meanings and grammar.
“In some cases, a word may change its pronunciation, or end up with two existing pronunciations, based on what might have started out as an error.
“Once the new pronunciation takes hold in a society, then it’s no longer an error but an innovation.
“Differences in pronunciation can arise due to the natural speech of certain groups or informal speech in general, so that we have clippings, eg probly.
“It’s ultimately down to notions of correctness but not wishing to risk being labelled pedantic for correcting some people, whereas with family we might feel more close to do so.”
Read more: other irritating mispronunciations
Top 10 most annoying mispronunciations
- Pacifically instead of specifically – 35%
- Probly instead of probably – 28%
- Expresso instead of espresso – 26%
- Specially instead of especially – 25%
- Artick instead of arctic – 19%
- Nucular instead of nuclear – 19%
- Tenderhooks instead of tenterhooks – 18%
- Excetara instead of etcetera – 18%
- Assessory instead of accessory – 15%
- Triathalon instead of triathlon – 9%
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