'Phenomenon' tops the list of tongue-twisters

Written by Agencies | London | Updated: Dec 24 2012, 04:49am hrs
'Phenomenon' is the word most people find hardest to pronounce, followed closely by 'remuneration', according to a new UK poll.

In a list of top 10 tongue-twisters 'phenomenon' was the word voted most difficult to pronounce, with 'remuneration' and 'statistics' at second and third place respectively, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

Speakers also have a problem getting their tongue around 'ethnicity', 'hereditary' and 'particularly', according to the body charged with recording public utterances.

The British Institute Of Verbatim Reporters (BIVR) is the UK's leading organisation for professionals involved in taking down speech at court and tribunal hearings.

The poll of tongue twisters was in response to a query by the makers of word game 'Scrabble' who say one in ten players are reluctant to use words they cannot pronounce. The poll revealed the 10 words that Britons consistently find the most challenging to pronounce.

Completing the list are 'conjugal', 'specific', 'processes' and 'development'. "We work with many different types of professionals and hear all kinds of voices during our work," Leah Willersdorf, of the BIVR, said.

"However, when it comes to the English language it always seems to be the same few words that verbally trip people up, with the speaker having to repeat the word in order to get it right, or just abandoning their attempts and moving on," Willersdorf said.

University of York sociolinguistics expert Professor Paul Kerswill said the English language has evolved to compensate for tricky pronunciations but some words remain a challenge.

"People always find a way of simplifying words that they find difficult to get their tongues round, so that an everyday word like 'handbag' sounds like 'hambag'," he said.

"Our forebears simplified 'waistcoat' to 'weskit' - but we've turned our backs on that. We certainly don't pronounce Worcester and Gloucester the way they are spelt any more.

And 'York' used to have three syllables, not one,' he said. "And most people talk about 'Febry' and 'Wensday'," he added.