1816: Mispronunciation

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I pronounce epitome "EPPY-tome", but EpiPen "uh-PIE-pen".
Title text: I pronounce epitome "EPPY-tome", but EpiPen "uh-PIE-pen".


This comic is a meta-joke where Cueball explains to White Hat which words he often spells or pronounces incorrectly. Ironically, those words happen to be words whose definitions mean "to spell incorrectly" and "being pronounced incorrectly". While describing the words he says he has trouble with, he manages to use the same words correctly in sentences both inside quotation marks (to refer to the word itself) and outside (to describe the action corresponding to those words).

The word misspell is misspelled quite often (although not in this comic!). Misspell is quite commonly misspelled as mispell or miss-spell. Some might argue that misspelled is the one word which should always be misspelled intentionally and written mispelled, so that its orthography reflects its meaning. ("If it isn't mispelled, then it isn't mispelled!")

The word mispronunciation is often misspelled and mispronounced like "mispronounciation", with the middle part like "noun" instead of "nun". This is made even more confusing by the fact that the related word, "mispronounce", does in fact have "noun" in the middle.

The punchline comes when Cueball tells that the epitome of mispronunciation is the way Cueball pronounces epitome. This is also metahumor, as epitome refers to a very good or perfect example. Thus Cueball shows the epitome of mispronunciation when he incorrectly pronounces epitome.

The title text explains Cueball's mispronunciation of epitome. It is supposed to be pronounced in four syllables, /əˈpɪtəmi/ (uh-PIT-uh-mee), starting with a schwa, then emphasis on the second syllable pronounced like "pit", and a long E on the fourth syllable pronounced like "me". Instead, he pronounces it /ˈɛpɪtoʊm/ (EPPY-tome), with emphasis on the first part pronounced like the beginning of "epic", and a silent E on the second part pronounced like "tome". The mispronounced version is what a person unfamiliar with the word might reasonably guess, given other words with similar spelling like "epicenter", "epitaph", and "episode".

EpiPen, a trademark for a type of epinephrine autoinjector (i.e. adrenaline), is brought up to further illustrate the inconsistency between spelling and pronunciation. This time the word is supposed to be pronounced with an emphasized "EPPY", but he (intentionally?) mispronounces it like "uh-PIE", possibly to match other proper nouns such as Epirus and Epione.


[White Hat and Cueball are walking.]
Cueball: I sometimes misspell "misspell" and "mispronunciation," and I mispronounce "mispronunciation,"
Cueball: But the epitome of mispronunciation is probably the way I pronounce "epitome."


  • Randall had published a similar one-framed background-less comic 1443: Language Nerd, in which two characters appear to be in a conversation but only one was shown to be speaking.

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Epitome is an interesting one for me, since I read it phonetically (same as Randal's example), and didn't figure out that "e-pi-tō-mē" and "eppy-tome" were the same word until mid to late teens. I still have to stop myself from reading it wrong when I see it on the page... Andyd273 (talk) 15:21, 27 March 2017 (UTC)

I think there's another level beyond the obvious, especially in the title text. You're pronouncing the word 'epitome' in whatever way you always have (inside your head), he's making clear that he's not saying it the way you say it.. so how do you read the comic? The sentence only makes sense if you say it aloud, but you can't because you don't know how he's pronouncing it.Xseo (talk) 16:04, 27 March 2017 (UTC)

Rereading the title text I feel like I may have suffered some kind of brain fart when writing this comment. Woops.. Xseo (talk) 11:35, 28 March 2017 (UTC)

Related: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epitome_of_Hyperbole (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Shouldn't there be a flap in epitome? -- 19:04, 27 March 2017 (UTC)

I feel like it's relevant to point out how the mispronunciation of mispronunciation is enhanced by contrasting it with mispronounce, which is the reason that most people mispronounce mispronunciation, due to the unexpected change in how the word is pronounced between the two terms. 20:02, 27 March 2017 (UTC)

I agree, someone who can write this into the explanation, someone better at English than me ;-) --Kynde (talk) 21:36, 27 March 2017 (UTC)

Epi-*Tummy*? Really? Your english-speaking people's latin is so sick. ;-) -- 22:07, 27 March 2017 (UTC)

Hmm, rather Greek than Latin, no? 17:19, 29 March 2017 (UTC)
(I mean the close relationship to, say, "epitaph" is obvious, isn't it? Shouldn't they be pronounced similarly?)

"There is, however, an argument that misspelled should always be written mispelled since if it isn't mispelled, then it isn't mispelled." I'm sorry, but someone's going to have to explain that last part to me -- 23:06, 27 March 2017 (UTC)

I think whoever wrote that was too focused on being clever and missed how to be clear. :) This displays nicely WHY Randall has all those quotes to differentiate between when he's using a word and when he's talking about it. It's been fixed now, but... Adding the missing quotes and using synonyms/explanations: "There is, however, an argument that "misspelled" should always be written "mispelled" since if it isn't [spelled incorrectly], then it isn't [being true to the meaning of the word]." - NiceGuy1 05:48, 29 March 2017 (UTC) I finally signed up! This comment is mine. (Hey, some commenter has absconded with my timestamp! LOL! Assuming it's the one after the next reply?) NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:50, 13 June 2017 (UTC)
Like most good grammar jokes, explaining it ruins it. And the English usually write mispelled as "misspelt". "Misspelled" is generally viewed as clumsy.
Confirmed :-) Gearóid (talk) 08:32, 3 April 2017 (UTC)

"Some might argue that misspelled is the one word which should always be misspelled intentionally". And others might argue that it already is. :-) Jkshapiro (talk) 12:58, 28 March 2017 (UTC)

And I guess he has trouble reading the word "dyslexia"? :-) -- 15:44, 28 March 2017 (UTC)

I also have "dailysex" --Zom-B (talk) 11:31, 13 April 2017 (UTC)