Bad news, Adele fans: You’re saying her name wrong.
The revelation arrived this week as the singer was in Los Angeles for a Q&A to promote her “I Drink Wine” video. That’s when a London caller addressed her as… “Uh-dale.”
“Love that,” replied Adele. “She said my name perfectly!”
Huh? I’ve been saying “ah-dell” when it was “uh-dale”? It’s as if your long-time colleague Bob suddenly said, “Just so you know, my name is pronounced Boob.”
It’s not just Uh-Dale we’ve botched. NBC’s “Today” published, “18 Celebrity Names You Might Be Saying Wrong.” It was a real ear-opener.
It’s not Lindsay “Low-HAN.” It’s “Low-EN.” Gal Gadot? Her surname is “Gah-Dote,” not “Ga-Dough.” Chiwetel Ejiofor wasn’t snubbing when you asked for an autograph. You just didn’t say “Chew-IT-ell EDGE-ee-oh-four” and he assumed you were shouting at someone else. Just be grateful it wasn’t Milo Ventimiglia.
It’s not just celebrities. Places, street names, historical events, food, furniture, everyday words, we are mispronouncing everything. Take “comparable.” You know how many times I’ve heard someone on cable recently say “cum-pare-a-bill” instead of kaam-prah-bl”? And don’t get me started on “excoriated.”
I remember watching an infomercial as a teen. It was for a real estate seminar in Etobicoke. The overexcited pitchman, Tom Vu, kept saying, “Eee-tobe-eee-cokey!”
I was crying laughing. Then this spring, I felt guilt when a press release landed in my inbox about the “Most Mispronounced Toronto Places.” All these years, I’ve been calling Spadina “spuh-DIE-nah” when it’s actually “spuh-DEE-nah”?
My theory is we all have a couple of words that are tongue Kryptonite.
The other night, it was my teenage daughters who were crying laughing after I said “vanilla” while reading a recipe. I can’t elaborate with phonetic descriptors because I remain baffled. I’m sitting here right now and saying “vanilla” out loud – vah-nella, vah-nella, vah-nella – and it sounds right. But it’s wrong.
Adidas was in the news recently after cutting shoelaces with Kanye “Ye” West. I heard pundits refer to the company as “Ahh-dee-Dahs.” So, I’ve been screwing that up as well. Also, Ye is pronounced “Yay,” not “Yee.” Well, unless you are a white supremacist, in which case Ye is pronounced “my Black friend.”
Personally, I blame a cultural communication tsunami for this epidemic of mispronunciation. We text. We email. We post on social media. What we rarely do on our smart phones is use the phone. You don’t need to pronounce a word correctly if all you’re doing is mutely firing emojis into the ether.
When I started in this business, the year-ender features were notable obits or best movies or celebrity feuds or craziest quotes. I don’t recall reading a “Most Mispronounced Words of The Year” feature, which is now an annual tradition.
Last year’s list included “Chipotle,” “dogecoin,” “Omicron” and “Eilish,” as in Billie. There was also “cheugy,” as in I’m too old to know or care what that even means.
But if you use it in a sentence, according to CNN, go with “CHOO-gee.”
This new morning show with Don Lemon is so CHOO-gee!
Maya Rudolph was in the news this week after recalling a 2009 interview with David Letterman in which he mispronounced her name. As she told the Wall Street Journal magazine: “I did not have a good time. He said my name wrong, and I just sat there, like, I grew up my whole life in love with you. And now my heart is broken. And I’m sitting here embarrassed and humiliated.”
Humiliated? People, if I had a nickel for every time someone called me “Vijay” or “Vince,” I’d now be retired on a tropical island and playing ping-pong with Tom Vu. Why didn’t Adele get her PR team to set the moniker record straight, circa 2008?
Why have we been calling her Ah-Dell?
Maybe that’s the solution. I’ve noticed a spike in email signatures that now include the sender’s pronouns. I appreciate the guidance. Tell me how you want to be addressed and I’ll oblige. But if you don’t tell me, be patient if I screw up with no bad intent. Teach me, don’t shun me.
A Star reader emailed after a column on Tom Brady this weekend. I had made a reference to not knowing jacksquat about being a “masseuse.” As the reader pointed out, I should’ve written “masseur.” It was another vanilla moment. For a second, I was terrified about getting cancelled for misgendering myself.
In addition to pronouns, maybe everyone with a name more exotic than Tom, Dick or Sally should strive to educate the rest of us. Pin an audio link atop your Twitter, Adele and Maya Rudolph. Ralph Fiennes is, “Rayf Finze”? How could I possibly divine that by looking at the letters? It says R-A-L-P-H! In that “Today” story, I learned Jake Gyllenhaal’s surname is pronounced, “YILLEN-hoo-leh-hay.”
It’s so counterintuitive, I bet he’s been called Jake Gorgonzola more than once.
The research suggests we are winging it on pronunciation. We rely upon writing more than speaking. We are swapping gibberish. Then one day you’re vacationing in Thailand, ordering “pad thigh” and marvelling at the sights of “Phuket,” which you’ve accidentally turned into a profanity.
Phuket doesn’t rhyme with duck it… It’s poo-ket!
Forgive us, Adele. But you should have piped up a long time ago.
In our text-based world, we can no longer pronounce anything. And if you don’t know that, try to work an “onomatopoeia” or “Worcestershire” into your lyrics.
I’m afraid any lingering Ah-Dell is on you.
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