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NPR hosts take a stab at the some of the most mispronounced words of the year

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

I always say when I'm on the radio, I don't need to know how something is spelled. All I care about is how to pronounce it.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Totally. But with that said, this script that we're reading has none of the usual phonetic pronouncers in it, and I'm already feeling a little bit terrified because the story that you are about to hear, people, is about the most commonly mispronounced words in America this year.

SHAPIRO: The language learning platform Babbel compiles the list, and our producers asked us to read a few of these words cold off the page with zero guidance. So, Ailsa, you ready?

CHANG: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: Here's your first word. It is one of Saturn's moons. Read it off the screen.

CHANG: OK - Ensaladus (ph) (laughter).

SHAPIRO: Sounds like a vegetable side dish. Here's NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce.

NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE, BYLINE: Enceladus.

SHAPIRO: Ooh.

CHANG: Oh, come on. I was so close.

SHAPIRO: Not really.

CHANG: All right, Ari. If you think you're so hot, your word is one of Mexico's most active volcanoes.

SHAPIRO: Oh, I think I know this one - Popocatepetl.

CHANG: Well, here's how NPR's Mexico City correspondent Eyder Peralta pronounced it.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Popocatepetl.

SHAPIRO: Oh.

CHANG: So different.

SHAPIRO: Not really.

CHANG: OK, come at me. Come at me.

SHAPIRO: OK, Ailsa, your next word is the name of the late fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld's cat.

CHANG: Oh, oh, oh, this looks easy. I would say Choupette.

SHAPIRO: And here's Lagerfeld himself saying it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KARL LAGERFELD: Choupette is mine. I don't give Choupette back.

CHANG: Hello. Bingo. All right. We have time for one more, Ari. And this is the name of the singer who won "American Idol" this year, the first Hawaiian and Pacific Islander to do so.

SHAPIRO: Iam Tongi.

CHANG: Oh, let's hear the singer himself explain this one, as he did to the judges on "American Idol."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AMERICAN IDOL")

IAM TONGI: My name is Iam Tongi.

LUKE BRYAN: Tongi.

TONGI: Tongi. You pronounce the T's like a D in the Tongan culture.

CHANG: And this, my friend, is why we have phonetic spellings in our scripts. Am I right?

SHAPIRO: Ailsa, let's go hang our heads in shame.

CHANG: No, you got all yours right.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAY LIZA (LIZA WITH A 'Z')")

LIZA MINELLI: (Singing) It's Liza with a Z, not Lisa with an S 'cause Lisa with an S goes sss (ph), not zzz (ph). It's Z instead of S. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Christopher Intagliata is an editor at All Things Considered, where he writes news and edits interviews with politicians, musicians, restaurant owners, scientists and many of the other voices heard on the air.