Mispronouncing Words--is It "Cute?"

Updated on November 14, 2010
N.S. asks from Buffalo Grove, IL
23 answers

When my SD was younger she mispronounced a lot of words that little kids have trouble with. "Hostable" "Ephalant" "Liberry" "Prenzel" etc.

Everyone thought it was "cute" so no one ever corrected her. When I came on the scene I was told to "leave her alone, it's so cute!" and "lots of kids mispronounce those words, it's okay."

Now she's 9, and it's still going on, plus it's a HABIT.

Is this still "cute" at 9 years old? I would imagine it would stop being "cute" at age 3 or 4.

I've corrected her, and she CAN say the words correctly. She doesn't have a speech problem. I'm still being told to "leave her alone" and "why do you have to correct her speech? Everyone knows what she's saying!"

Do you think she'll correct it on her own one day? Or should I keep after her? I would think people will either think she has a speech problem or she's not very bright as she grows older.

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So What Happened?

Ooops, I should have mentioned a very important detail--I'm her homeschool teacher! She doesn't have another teacher to say something, although that would have been a good idea!

But that's a good point. I will stop correcting her when I"m her stepmom and we'll just keep going over it in homeschool. I've gone over the pronunciation a billion times, so we'll make it a billion and one. I'm thinking of starting each English lesson with the correct pronunciation of those words until she makes the correction on her own, but I won't say anything outside of school.

I'm pretty sure she's not doing it on purpose or trying to be cute. It's just a habit now and THAT is what's bugging me. Breaking habits is hard, so I've been correcting her to break the habit but instead it's causing trouble so I'll just let it go. Thanks!

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answers from Chicago on

Who's telling you to leave her alone? Is it her dad? Then yes, as annoying as her mispronouciated words are, you should leave her alone.

If it's anyone else, I would do as Denise K. suggested. Don't make a big deal out of it, say the word correctly and move on.

My youngest (8) is in speech and that's what I do with her. She usually repeats the word back correctly. I often tell her to slow down when she talks because when she does speak quickly, the words get mispronounced. When she takes the time to formulate her thoughts, she speaks clearer and mispronounces less.

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answers from Philadelphia on

I personally don't think it is "cute" even in a two year old. I always corrected my kid's mispronunciations by just repeating the word correctly. I did not make a big deal out of it. I think it is important to be able to speak well and I agree I think people will not think she is very bright as she grows older if she is mispronouncing words. I would also think if you pronounce the word incorrectly it would also make spelling so much harder.

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answers from Jacksonville on

That's touchy. Obviously, if it were your own daughter, you (correctly) would never have allowed this to continue so long. However, being that she is your husband's daughter, and you didn't say how long you have been "on the scene", then you need to keep your corrections few and far between, if at all. Definitely not anything disciplinary regarding the speech habit. If you absolutely must do 'SOMETHING', you might say, sweetly, "you mean library?" (not with a "teaching" tone, but just a sweet looking for what she means tone), here and there. Don't say anything more than that. And don't ask that but once every few days. Even if she does her "cute" words 75 times a day with different words.

What you might do, is talk to your husband instead. Often, when there is a broken family, the kids are coddled to some degree to "make up for" the difficulties of the broken family. Perhaps subconsciously. Anyway, you might talk to your hubby about how it will benefit your SD to pronounce words (that she is obviously capable of pronouncing) correctly; rather than how mispronouncing them for attention is a detriment to her. She should be proud of saying/knowing words that are "beyond" her peer groups typical knowledge/usage.

Generally speaking, in your interaction with her, I would simply ignore her habit. COMPLETELY. Ignore it. Don't correct her. Don't laugh at her. Don't smile like it's cute. Don't grimace because it grates on your nerves. Just pretend she said it correctly and move on. The more attention she gets from it, the longer it will continue.

I am totally with you about mispronouncing words not being cute. When they are two, it is cute sometimes for some things for a short time. I NEVER repeated an incorrect pronunciation to my kids like I know others sometimes do. I just don't believe in that. I also didn't use "babytalk" with my kids. Sure I used the singsong voice when they were babies.. but I still called a blanket a blanket and a bottle a bottle (not a banky or a baba)..
But, because it is a step-child/parent situation, it makes everything different as to how YOU handle it.
Good luck.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I wonder how she pronounces those words AWAY from the family????? You should find out. I am betting correctly. She is enjoying the special attention she gets for using these words.

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answers from New York on

If she's nine the other kids at school are probably making fun of her. Unless she's able to do it only at home around family. Can you get your hubby or can you ask the teacher if it's a problem at school? She DOES have a speech problem if it is her habit to say words incorrectly., many children can repeat a word correctly but then go back to saying it incorrectly the speech therapist can work with her. The teacher should be your best ally- she will NOT think it is cute, but you must have her father be part of the conversation to hear teacher's concerns. If the teacher hasnt ever noticed a problem than let it go, I guess she's making her family happy by acting younger than she is, because she likes making her family happy.
Now that you've added that she isn't around kids as much as no home schooled kids this may be harder to break(but gentler as you will not make fun of her!) but it explains why she hasn't already had problems in school with kids making fun of her Next time and every time her father or relatives say leave her alone it's cute Tell them she WILL be made fun of and humiliated by her peers and for some reason you are the only one who cares enough to want to prevent that humiliation. Be ready to say it over and over

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answers from Sacramento on

I agree that it's cute until about kinder or first grade when they have to start leaning to read and sound out words. Not annunciating and/or allowing her to pronounce words incorrectly only hurts her ability to learn more effectively, and I don't really think it's cute at 9.

She probably continues to do it because now she thinks it's cute too. Unfortunately, peer pressure may be the thing that helps her change it.

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answers from Seattle on

Personally, this isn't a battle I would choose.

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answers from Portland on

Let her peers correct her. It will be better for her relationship with you, for one, and more of an impact.

I know adults who say "Feb-ary" and "lib-ary" and yes, I understand your concern. I do walk away from those conversations thinking they are bit dim. However, this is also reflected in the context of their speech and how they live their lives as a whole, so unless your SD is using these words incorrectly (without proper context) or making a public mess of her life (crying at work, ugh), I'd let it go and let her classmates call her out.

For now, it's 'her little thing' and part of accepting her (she may likely feel) is accepting those little quirks in her personality. She's at an in-between age, too, where she might be hanging onto her more juvenile nature in some areas as she's being pushed to grow up in others. Pretty common.

And yes, by the time she hits the older elementary grades, trust me, they WILL call her out.

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answers from Las Vegas on

You are correct. It is cute the first time you hear it and after that it is time to correct. It is only fair to her to correct her. Since she is nine try having her write it correctly and see if helps her with the saying it.

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answers from Spokane on

Nope, not cute. I actually don't think it's all that cute when they're 3 or 4, though it's more acceptable because they're still learning language at that age. But by 9, unless she actually HAS a speech issue, she should be speaking properly.

I would correct her, but gently. And unless it's your husband that's telling you to leave her alone about it, I'd correct her around other people too.

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answers from Philadelphia on

I would say the correct words. I have a neighbor with a 2 year old daughter that they mispronounce the words too and it drives me nuts. I say words correctly to her and I have to remind my kids to talk to her correctly also. I agree you are creating a habit and it is not cute.

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answers from Biloxi on

Keep after her. I also think it's cute when they are young. We still bring up my son's words CAKOO for cookie and WHACK-A-MOE cheese...but even when they were small..I'd correct them by repeating. "Oh so you want a cookie or macaroni-n-cheese".

Maybe it's the manner or tone in which you are correcting her? Try a different approach.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I still miss my son saying "Wuckiwee" (luckily). And I was mad when someone corrected "The sparagus" (asparagus).
I think at 9 she knows the correct pronunciation, don't you think?

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answers from Chicago on

Since you said she can pronounce the words correctly, I wouldn't worry about it. I'm sure the first time another child makes fun of her, that will be the end of it.



answers from Chicago on

I suggest you request speech/language testing from the public schools. In my opinion, you need to find out whether she really has a speech problem or not. When my older son was little, he had pronunciation problems due to chronic ear infections when he was a baby. He basically sounded like Elmer Fudd (wascally wabbitt). His s's came out as sh., his r's came out as w's. He simply wasn't hearing those sounds correctly, and thus not saying them properly. Within 2-3 years, speech classes corrected this. Good luck to you. Hope this helps.



answers from Chattanooga on

I am one of those moms who thinks it's adorable when little ones mispronounce words and always tell people to "leave it alone"..until they are about 5. By first grade, they should definitely be corrected. 9 is definitely too old to be mispronouncing words unless there is a learning disability or speech impediment. What does your husband think?



answers from Redding on

My son used to get words mixed up when he was little and it was funny. Sometimes he would say the word perfectly, but use the wrong word for what he was trying to say. I wouldn't say I necessarily "corrected" him in a way that made him feel bad or like he did something wrong, but I did explain the difference in the words. At least as far as a little kid could understand.
I don't think by 9 it's cute or funny at all, especially if they know the right words. I volunteer at a thrift store and we had a young girl, about 14, that came up to me and asked, "Why for this costiz a dollar and this costiz two dollars?" I honestly think she thought she was being cute. (My son said that some freshman girls at his high school talk like that on purpose). Anyway, I didn't think it was cute. Her mom didn't say anything to her so of course, neither did I.
At 9, your SD likely knows mispronouncing things irritates you. Maybe that's why she does it. If everyone is telling you to leave her alone about it, leave her alone about it. One of two things will happen.....
She will quit because it doesn't get a rise out of you anymore or other kids will correct her if she talks that way around them. (Hopefully. Like my son told me, some girls are thinking it's cute to talk like babies even in high school. None of the older kids think it's cute though).
I think it's an attention thing and she'll get it one way or the other.
Try ignoring it.
She's got some people that think it's cute and you that corrects her.
Try not paying any attention to it and see what happens.



answers from Springfield on

I agree with Susie R, speech and language classes would probably help. My oldest son took classes for a few years and it worked great. You should be able to contact your nearest public school to have their SLP (speech and language pathologist) test her. Maybe having someone else work with her, instead of you, will help more. If nothing else, the SLP will be able to give you some advice on how to help you SD.

My sister-in-law is a SLP and one thing she has taught me is to never talk to small children, or even babies, in "baby talk" or to reinforce it. She has always suggested to repeat the misspoken word back to the child but to say it correctly. For example, if the child says "I want to go to the LIBERRY" then you need to say "yes, lets go to the LIBRARY." I know the damage is done but your family is probably reinforcing her baby talk, instead of helping her to correct it. Even if the family thinks its still cute, will it be cute when she's 30? At some point, it needs to be fixed.



answers from Philadelphia on

No, it's not cute at nine, but I don't think you need to correct her because it's not your problem. If her own family doesn't see the need for her to sound educated and would rather she be "cute" than "smart", why should you bother to correct them? One of these days, she'll mispronounce a simple word at school, her friends will look at her strangely, peer pressure will kick in and she will kick her bad habit. I would, in the meantime, just stay out of it and let her learn this lesson on her own.



answers from Charlotte on

I'm surprised that the school hasn't talked to you about it, NS. They should have given her a speech evaluation. If they don't, get a private eval and then you can get speech help through school.

Good luck,



answers from Chicago on

If you are a Mother by Marriage, I would leave the issue alone. As a child by marriage, I can tell you that there are times when even helpful, well intentioned corrections can be taken the wrong way. People around your SD should have been dealing with the issue from the beginning. Our daughter is 2 1/2 and has already self corrected several mispronunciations because we never catered to it. She would say the word incorrectly and when we replied to her, we used the word correctly.
If the purposeful mispronunciation continues at school, your SD's teachers will correct her and her classmates will start to tease her. That will probably force her to correct the issue.



answers from Tulsa on

no she has a speech problem and needs therapy its not cute my 21 yr old has problems with some words still even after speech. they wont think shes not bright but speech problems will get her teased.



answers from Portland on

I think G2fan has the perfect approach for younger children – don't "correct" and make her say things over, but repeat the statement or question, carefully enunciating the correct pronunciation. Children's brains are wired to take in and process this information automatically, and eventually, the words will come out of their mouths correctly (without surrendering the cuteness along the way).

But with a child older than 5 or so, that "automatic" language function has largely closed down, and words must be learned more deliberately. Your daughter's language has become automatic, and she may not unlearn those pronunciations without outside help.

Someday your daughter may either be teased and embarrassed by her mispronunciations. Depending on her personality and capacity for change, she may begin to correct her own speech at that point. Or she may not, becoming either stubborn or shy about it. Eventually, uncorrected speech will mark her as less-smart than if her pronunciation is good, and educational, work, and social opportunities may be lost.

If I were in your position, I would want to let your daughter help determine how to move forward. Have a friendly conversation with her about this, and ask her if she'd like you to help her catch the habitual mispronounced words. If she's open to that, just quietly raise a finger and give the correct word as she talks. Don't do this in mixed company, because it will quickly become exasperating and embarrassing. Don't do it if she declines your offer, but offer again in a year or two if the problem is becoming less tenable for her.

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