I was a grad student, giving a talk on Coriolanus, in which I discussed various DIScraypanzies. There were snickers. Mostly male snickers since this memory dates back a few years when males way outnumbered females in graduate courses. The professor (also male) finally corrected my pronunciation. DisCREPancies. Ah.
I also called kitchen gadgets YOUT’nsles. I was married, divorced, and married again before I discovered everyone else called them uTENsils.
I had an argument with a once-upon-a-time friend who believed himself a connoisseur of all things related to the English language. I had just said succour which I pronounced as SUCK-or. He sputtered at the travesty I’d made of a word which he claimed was supposed to be pronounced SOO-kor. There wasn’t a dictionary at hand to check. He would have sputtered yet again at the suggestion we needed to check anything which he believed true. Just think, he shrilled, how stupid it sounds: he gave her suck-her! Maybe it sounds funny now, but when the word came into the language, maybe everyone didn't have cunnilingus on the brain as he did. Later, when I got home, I looked up succour and discovered that yeah, it is pronounced suck-her. No alternate pronunciations listed.
More recently I heard a friend with a background in teaching and editing say the word detritus with the middle syllable pronounced like trite. I’d always aligned my detritus with detrimental. Short “i”. Shortly after, when I saw two other friends, both writers with published books, I asked how they would pronounce this word which I wrote on a piece of paper. Both looked. Neither dared. One hesitated and said she used the word when writing but had never had to say it out loud. I believe that’s often the case with writers. We have larger vocabularies than we have mouths.
Another word I’ve recently discovered I mispronounce is lichen. It supposed to sound the same as the verb liken. My version makes lichen sound like a close cousin of lychees.
So should I keep my mouth closed when I’m out in public? I think that people who believe they never mispronounce words are the deluded ones.
Here's some St. Lawrence River lichen: