YOU don’t have to feel bad if you pronounce awry like AW-ree, instead of uh-RYE. A handful of my students got all AW-ree on me over the last week with this troublesome word. I probably spent most of my school years going AW-ree on awry, as well as misled. Imagine, I’d pronounce it as MAI-zurled instead of mis-LED.
Perhaps it is that all of us have a dyslexic twitch in our mind and eye.
The other more comforting argument, however, is that certain alphabetic arrangements are more dominant visually, so that the “ry” in awry feels more right than “wry.” Which makes us tend to split this double-syllable word in this way: aw-ry versus a-wry.
Here’s another eye-twister: flatiron.
The first time I saw the word in 1997, my first year in New York—from my favorite weekend read, the Wine Spectator magazine—I went, FLAT-tee-ron, an intuitive take from splitting up the word like so: fla-ti-ron.
But what happened if you visualized it in this way instead: flat-iron? Everything becomes obvious, and then you tell yourself, DUH!
Here is the famous Flatiron Building in New York City, an ingenious architectural feat built in 1902 that claws up every bit of precious urban real estate, so razor-edged you wonder if any fengshui-obsessed folks would ever move into a property directly across it.
I invite you to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any word ideas you’d like to share.
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