October 13, 2006

A is a letter

I have a lot of issues about the lack of training (or poor training) most people have gotten in public speaking. I really feel that this is something we should have learned in school. But then again, there are a LOT of things we should have learned in school, but never did. Don't even get me started on women's history.

You'll be hearing about some of my pet peeves as we go along. Here's the first one.

Have you ever heard someone give a speech and pronounce the word "a" like the letter "a." That is, instead of saying "uh," they say "ey" - as in "hey."

"'Ey' funny thing happened to me on the way to the conference this morning."

"And in conclusion, 'ey' bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."

Somehow, somewhere, people decided that "ey" was the correct way to say the word. Or that it sounded more "proper" than "uh" - but only in the context of a speech. You'd never hear them using it like this in regular conversation.

So I'm going to tell you something very important. "Ey" is a letter. It's the first letter of the alphabet, in fact. "Uh" is a word. They are spelled the same but pronounced differently!

The dictionary says that the word "a" can be pronounced "ey" for emphasis; for example, "I've never seen anything like it - that is 'ey' truly enormous snail."

However, in 99% of daily use, we just don't say it this way; the pronunciation is "uh." Using the word in a speech or presentation should be no different.

By the way, here's a list of the 100 Most Often Mispronounced Words and Phrases in English. I encourage you to look it over. I think "heighth" is the one that drives me the most crazy. I actually wrote an e-mail to the Food Network when I heard two chefs in a row pronounce "mas-car-pone" "mar-sca-pone." How can professional chefs not know the pronunciation of their ingredients? Oy vey.

One of the most distracting behaviors of a public speaker is mispronouncing words. It can really kill your credibility.

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4 comments. Please add yours! :

Anne said...

That is a very useful and funny list! I'm bookmarking it for reference. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I'm guilty I use 'uh' or rather 'ah' which is probably rather english of me, though I've never been to England and I'm not English.

I'm Canadian and saying away from the 'ey' when it comes at the end of a sentence is mandatory. :)

Thanks Lisa! I'll definately try harder to say the letter as it should be said.

Love the list!

Anonymous said...


Love the blog and thanks for the list.

I linked to you and it on my public speaking blog, PublicSpeakingSucker.com

All the very best,

Ross Bowring

textile_fetish said...

That's really interesting. I remember once hearing choral students talk about the distinction in singing. I cannot remember the specifics, but they'd said you pronounce it differently depending on the context. I'm not singing all day (I'm not an opera!!), so your entry makes much more sense.

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