Tag Archives: cisgender

The Most Mispronounced Words of 2016, Part 1



A photo representing hygge


The US Captioning Company listened to newscasters to find the most commonly mispronounced words during 2016. The British Institute of Verbatim Reporters did the same in the UK. I’ll take this in two parts so as not to overwhelm you.

1. Chaos Complete disorder; utter randomness. It’s pronounced KAY oss. Most American newsreaders were familiar with this word, but it came up a lot in Britain because of Brexit and caused some pronunciation problems. How wonderful to live in a land where chaos is not an everyday occurrence.

2. Cisgender Relating to people whose self-identity is congruent with the gender of their biological sex. This word got a lot of play because of the North Carolina case involving bathroom choice. It did not appear on the British list. Pronounced CIZZ gen dehr.

3. Hygge From Denmark, the concept of creating a cozy atmosphere that promotes wellbeing. It refers to more than comforters and hot chocolate; it also involves having people around you who relate to you warmly. This was on both lists and is pronounced HUE gah. I’m beginning to see this word fairly frequently.

4. Narcos appeared on both the US and UK lists. Refers to drug traffickers; also the name of a Netflix series about Pablo Escobar. Pronounced NARK ohs. Not sure why it would be mispronounced.

5. Hyperbole Exaggerated claims. US broadcasters rarely had trouble pronouncing this word (perhaps because of the prevalence of hyperbole during the presidential campaign). The Brits often mispronounced it, perhaps because their political discourse is more controlled and sedate than ours. Pronounced hy PER bo lee. (I once taught at a school at which my students told me another English teacher there pronounced it HY per bole. That almost killed me.)

More mispronounced words in my next post.


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American Dialect Society’s 2015 Word of the Year

The American Dialect Society chose as its 2015 Word of the Year—THEY.

Are you wondering what is behind their choice? This linguistic society has chosen “they” to be a singular, gender-neutral pronoun, as in “They and Mary went to the movies.” It is used when a person does not identify as either male or female or when the gender of a person is unknown.

Schools today are dealing with a somewhat new situation. College application forms used to ask students to identify as either male or female. However, “gender fluidity,” in which some people do not identify solely as one gender or the other but may move between them, has prompted colleges to offer far more choices. Traditionally all-female Smith College has now admitted transgender students. The word “cisgender” has been used to mean chromosomally male or chromosomally female. My spellcheck software just underlined that word as I typed it, but it won’t be long before it is recognized as a “real” word.

Surely, 2015 raised people’s awareness of gender variety, including Bruce, now Caitlyn, Jenner’s transformation, and the wonderful (in my opinion) series on Amazon, “Transparent.” Facebook now offers 50 different choices for gender identity. Fifty.

Obviously, this new awareness has reached the corporate world as well. I imagine human resource departments are scrambling to accommodate the panoply of forms that human beings inhabit.

©Judi Birnberg

©Judi Birnberg

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Filed under All things having to do with the English language