If you haven’t heard the words “freekeh” or “entomophagy,” it’s probably because most Americans are trying to make sure they don’t have to say either.
After all, they both scored top slots in this year’s “most mispronounced words.” Language-learning app Babel commissioned the U.S. Captioning Company to compile the words that proved most tricky for newscasters and television personalities to pronounce.
Americans struggled with pronouncing Brett Kavanaugh’s last name during the September hearings, and twisted their tongues trying to sound out “Saoirse Ronan” after watching “Lady Bird.” And during midterm season, none of us swallowed our pride to ask, “How do you pronounce Beto ‘O’Rourke?’”
Babbel’s director of language learning Miriam Plieninger says the words offer an insight to what national conversation revolves around each year.
“By highlighting these tricky-to-pronounce names, places and trends, we’re not looking to shame those who mispronounce, but offer an understanding of language and culture which is key to unlocking many aspects of society,” she said.
Here’s the list of all the words we got wrong:
Beto O’Rourke (BEH-toe oh-RORK): The Democrat politician ran against Ted Cruz, vying for a seat in the US Senate. He lost but he’s hinted at possibly joining the 2020 presidential race.
Brett Kavanaugh (BRETT KAV-a-naw): The 53-year-old Supreme Court associate justice faced media scrutiny throughout his hearings, which questioned his college days and brought forth a witness claiming sexual assault when they were in their teens, an allegation he denied.
Daniel Kaluuya (DAN-yull ka-LOO-yuh): The British actor won an Oscar nomination for his role in “Get Out.”
Entomophagy (en-to-MOF-o-jee): Human consumption of insects. It might make you squeamish, but entomophagy is common practice in more than 110 countries and more than 2 billion people enjoy eating bugs.
Freekeh (FREE-kah): Cereal food originating in the Middle East, which gained popularity in 2018.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai (ha-la-poo-lee-VAH-tee VIE-tie): The offensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles during their 2018 Super Bowl win.
Jamal Khashoggi (ja-MALL ka-SHOW-gi): The Saudi Arabian journalist who was assassinated in early October after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Mukbang (MUCK-bahng): An online audiovisual broadcast in which the host eats a lot of food while interacting with his or her audience. Otherwise known as “eating broadcasts,” these online feasts have been popular in South Korea for years.
Saoirse Ronan (SIR-shuh ROE-nin): The Irish-American actress who starred in “Lady Bird.”
Xhosa (*click* O-sa): Yes, this is a tricky one. Xhosa is the official language of South Africa and Zimbabwe, used in “Black Panther” as the language of Wakanda, the film’s fictional land.
If you want to see how our national focus has changed through the words that confused us most, check out last year’s most mispronounced words.