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Proper pronunciation primer

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From the editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries comes the latest in the "100 Words" series, 100 Words Almost Everyone Mispronounces (Houghton Mifflin, 118 pages, $5.95).


While the book is fun to page through -- especially for someone who's worked with words her entire career -- I'm not sure who would actually plunk down six bucks for it. Some of the other books in the series would be worth buying as stocking-stuffers or gifts for graduates (100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know, 100 Words to Make You Sound Smart).

Two words in the new volume did grab my attention because their mispronunciation falls into the category of "my personal pet-peeves": mischievous and primer.

The first, "mischievous," is often mispronounced as such: mis-chee'-vee-us. There is no third "i" in the word yet lazy readers will see what they want to see and instead of looking up the proper pronunciation simply say it like they think it should sound.

The second, "primer," meaning a book that covers the basic elements of a subject, is commonly mispronounced with a long "i" rather then the short "i." The long-i "primer" is the first coat of paint you put on your walls. The instruction-booklet "primer" should be pronounced like the word "prim," as in prim and proper.

The 100 words are listed on the last page, so I went there first, to test my own knowledge. I did pretty well -- 95 percent. In my defense, I can honestly say I've never uttered in conversation the five words I got wrong. Here they are, in alphabetic order (correct pronunciations in parentheses):

Antipodes (an-tip'e-deez)

Boatswain (bo'sen)

Concupiscence (kon-kyoo'pi-sens) -- Sadly I'd never even heard of this word. It means "a strong desire, especially sexual desire; lust."

Quay (kee)

Quietus (kwi-eet'es)