English - as she is spoke...

FORTUNATELY, as someone who earns his living from them, I find words fascinating, always have done. Not all of them fire up the imagination, of course. No one could get too excited about it and the and and . But when a new one pops up in a book or ar

FORTUNATELY, as someone who earns his living from them, I find words fascinating, always have done.

Not all of them fire up the imagination, of course. No one could get too excited about "it" and "the" and "and".

But when a new one pops up in a book or article - and they still do after all these years - it can be a rewarding experience.

Reach for the well-thumbed dictionary to look up its official meaning and, for some where it is not obvious, how to pronounce them.


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And that brings me on to a piece of research I came across the other day. It revealed the words that people struggle with the most, setting out Britain's top 20 tongue twisters. There were some surprises in the list.

Right at the top as the most mispronounced word in the English language was "phenomenon" with most people regularly mixing up the letters M and N.

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I would have thought that a strong candidate for the No 1 spot would have been the word that actually ended up at the bottom of the list, onomatopoeia.

Just for the record, the other words pinpointed as difficult to say were anaesthetist, remuneration, statistics, ethnicity, philosophical, provocatively, anonymous, thesaurus, aluminium, regularly, February, particularly, hereditary, prioritising, pronunciation, prejudice, facilitate and hospitable.

I am surprised that the word I have always had trouble pronouncing was not in the top 20. I have a mental block over saying "strategy", so much so that I try to use an alternative whenever there is the danger of me having to attempt it.

When I was a schoolboy I had a problem with "superlative", slipping into mistakenly splitting it in two and saying "super lative".

If you have the same difficulty, just find a classroom, stand outside the door, turn round six times and do the same the other way.

That's what the English teacher made me do and it worked. I found it easier to say superlative correctly than go to all the bother of getting dizzy and falling over.

Talking about silly things, I'm glad to learn that it is not just the credit crunch and the imminent destruction of the world's economy which has been occupying the minds of everyone.

I applaud the three men who spent two wet and windy hours taking 7,000 satellite positioning readings on Mynydd Graig Goch in Snowdonia.

They had had their suspicions that the peak was a tad taller than thought and they set out to prove it. And they achieved their aim, coming to the conclusion that it was 609.75m above sea level. Before then, it was recorded as 609m.

In real money and most importantly, the new figure translates to six inches over 2,000 feet which means that what was a Welsh hill is now a Welsh mountain to add to the other 189 already in the Land of Song.

I would say the men's effort was phenomenal if only I could pronounce it.

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