2017: The year Americans couldn’t say Gal Gadot (and a lot of other words)
Say these out loud: Bokeh. Coulrophobia. Dotard. Did you pause? You’re not alone.
Each year, new words make their way into the national conversation, either through a news event or big moment in pop culture. And how to properly pronounce these words can prove challenging.
This year, Americans bungled the name of “Wonder Woman” actress Gal Gadot; chuckled when President Donald Trump tried on a Spanish accent when saying Puerto Rico’ and scratched their heads and wondered, “WTH is a dotard?”
That’s the conclusion of language-learning app Babbel. It commissioned US Captioning Company, an organization for captioning professionals, to identify prominent words in 2017 that were tough for people on TV to say.
Here is Babbel’s list of the top 10 mispronounced words in 2017, complete with how to say them so you don’t keep butchering them. (You’re welcome.)
Bokeh (boh-keh): A Japanese word referring to the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and the name of an American science-fiction film.
Coulrophobia (cool-ruh-foh-bee-ah): The term for a fear of clowns, which saw a surge in popularity with the release of the film adaptation of Stephen King’s “It.”
Dotard (doh-terd): North Korean leader Kim Jong Un used this archaic word for an elderly person considered to be weak or senile to refer to President Donald Trump.
Fibromyalgia (fai-broh-mai-ahl-jyah): A chronic illness with symptoms such as widespread muscular pain. Lady Gaga became a public figure for the illness when she announced her personal suffering on Twitter in September.
Gal Gadot (gal gah-dott): She’s the Israeli actress who starred in the box office hit “Wonder Woman” in May. Her last name is sometimes mispronounced with a silent “t.”
Namibia (nah-mih-bee-ah): The southwest African nation was mentioned in a speech by President Trump to the United Nations, where he mispronounced the country as “Nambia.”
Nuclear (noo-klee-ar): An energy source and form of missile armament. (NOT PRONOUNCED noo-kyoo-lar.)
Puerto Rico (pwehr-toh ree-coh): A Caribbean island and overseas US territory devastated by Hurricane Maria. Trump famously pronounced it, er, like this.
Pyongyang (pyong-yang): The capital of North Korea
Weinstein (wine-steen): The surname of disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Linguists have debated the pronunciation of his name, which strictly (some argue) should rhyme with Einstein. But Weinstein himself pronounces it “wine-steen.”
“Ultimately,” says Katja Wilde, Babbel’s head of didactics, “people can choose to pronounce their name however they please.”