Rude or helpful???

I have a tendency to correct people when they mispronounce words.  It drives J crazy and he says it’s rude.  I disagree and here’s why…

I used to work with a woman who pronounced the “s” in Illinois.  It drove our boss crazy…but none of us ever wanted to say anything because we didn’t want to embarrass her.  One day our boss lost her patience and corrected her…in front of a room full of people.  It was far more embarrassing for her than if one of us had just pulled her aside privately and said something.

It’s not that I think I’m smarter than anyone else.  Trust me…I make plenty of mistakes.  However, I’d prefer that someone corrected me instead of allowing me to go make an ass out of myself. 

But now J’s got me paranoid.  I don’t want people to think I’m some rude jerk. 

So I ask you…when is it ok to correct someone and when is it best to just shut your mouth and go along?



  1. Mispronunciation is a big pet peeve of mine, too, and like you I want to be helpful to them and alleviate my own aggravation. My “rule” is to offer the correction to a friend or colleague IF I think they actually might want the help. Some people just don’t like being corrected, and if I know that then I won’t do it–but if I can work in the correct pronunciation into a conversation you can damn well bet I’ll do it, lol.

    And I have a bad habit of correcting people on TV. Todd laughs.

  2. I’m “rude” right along with you. Certain things just really drive me nuts. Dan says “only if” instead of “if only” and it makes me crazy. I correct him. I think whether you correct someone or not depends on the error, who it is, and the environment. Like with my husband, he’s not going to stay pissed at me and be all “that bitch” for correcting. He might think it’s not a big deal, but he knows me enough to be aware of the fact that language is one of those things I try to get right, though I make mistakes, too. In a situation like with your coworker, if people are going to think she’s dumb and question the intelligence and competence of your group as a whole based on the error of one person (which is unfortunate, but it happens), I think it would have been fine to correct her privately. Clearly, you saw that would have been a better alternatire to being corrected in a room of people.

    Somehow, the error, the person, and the situation should be put into a formula and a threshhold established for correction vs. letting it go. My threshhold is probably a lot lower than that of most people, though :)

  3. I’m on a fence about this. I have to agree a close friend or colleague might be OK as stated above by Scraps… or someone you’ve known for a while. I don’t like to correct strangers, mostly because you don’t know when you’ll see them again – or if it’s a first meeting I hate to be remembered as the harping woman telling them how to say words.

    I have a lot of words that I say incorrectly and sometimes Mike will call me out on them – it’s to the point that it’s comical now, and I have decided I’m not changing my ways… I don’t say Crayon… I say “CROW”, it’s a Maryland thing and I sort of don’t want to lose that bit of my past. I also will say AcrossT when I’m rushing … I will say Across correctly when I’m thinking before I speak. I used to say WARSH years ago, and someone corrected me, ever since I’ve said WASH so it did help me… not to sound silly.

    So I guess in the end I say – tell people you care about, as for strangers, folks at dinner parties or people you think you’ll not cross paths will again and have to listen to them say AR-KANSAS instead of just saying it correctly… I say let it go.

    And if it bothers J maybe do it when he’s not around, save yourself the earful.

    Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go color with Crowns AcrossT the street 😉 hehe

  4. Good one. I correct the Boy all the time. But with good reason and only when we’re by ourselves. The Boy had crazy ear infections when he was a baby and couldn’t hear and therefore couldn’t talk. When he finally learned to speak the whole world was so excited that he missed those years of correction. So where you would correct a little kid on the exceptions to the “ed” rule for past tense he missed that step and therefore screws up that rule all the time. He’s gotten A LOT better and the way I do it is he’ll be telling me a story and say a word wrong “aten” is a good one, and I’ll say “eaten” and he’ll correct himself and then continue. He actually appreciates it and he thinks he is worse with me because he’s being lazy, but would be mortified if he were say – teaching small children that “aten” is a word!!!
    In general though, I think it’s probably pretty rude to correct adults (and in a public meeting – That’s awful!) but I agree with the above comments – I try to repeat the correct pronunciation into the conversation. In the case of your colleague – in theory I would have pulled her aside and corrected her because you’re right given the alternative that would have been better, but in practice I wouldn’t. I would feel like I was being condescending, even when that’s not my intention. I guess it just depends on how well you know someone.
    Maybe it’s just my Canadianess coming out. :)

  5. Well I correct Neal like it’s going out of style. For example, when he says, “I could care less.” That one makes me nuts. Or the way he says “roof”…although it’s not technically incorrect, it’s just his California coming out. But I also hate to be out-right corrected. I would prefer, as Scraps mentioned, to have it just worked into a conversation. I’m very perceptive and will pick up on it immediately. And that’s less confrontational…for me. I agree that with strangers or people you’ve only known a short while, it’s best to either work into a conversation or not at all and just let it go. But for co-workers who are representing your business, it is appropriate to say something. Although, good Lord, not in a room full of people. Bless her heart. At least she’ll NEVER mispronounce it. And she’ll have something to tell her therapist this week.

  6. Oh, I say go for it… but tread lightly (which I know you’d do anyway). I’d much rather be corrected by one person than in a room full of people, and I have a feeling this woman may have appreciated the heads-up, too. I dunno.

    Yea, and how do you say that nicely? “You know that ‘s’ in Illinois? This is SO WEIRD, but it’s actualy silent. So like, the third syllable actually rhymes with soy.” Hee.

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