I am an introvert and a try-hard. This makes me a lot of fun at parties. (Just kidding I never get invited to parties.) It also means that I encounter most of the words I see in print as opposed to real life. So I’m not always 100% sure about how they are supposed to sound. And then sometimes I look words up, only to learn that while I may not know how these words are supposed to sound, they are definitely not supposed to sound like that.

With all that in mind, here is a list of words that I am afraid to say at oral argument because I don’t want to sound like a cretin:

  • Amicus. A-MEE-kus, a-MI-kus, and AM-uh-kus can all work, depending on who you ask. So, you are guaranteed to draw at least judge who thinks you’re saying it wrong.
  • Bona fides: Only a short-fingered vulgarian would make this rhyme with sides. But if we get fancy, my four years of high-school Latin makes me want to say bona FEE-days. Even if I could push past that, my four years of high-school lunch makes me think bona FIE-deez is just a setup to bona FIE-deez nutz, which is altogether unacceptable.
  • Certiorari. At this point in the decline of Western civilization I think we can all agree to say “cert.”
  • Daubert. Sounds lowbrow, but it’s pronounced dow-bert.. Except that every CA4 panel in a Daubert case will have a district judge siting by designation who will insist on Frenchifying it. So you can’t win.
  • Err: Garner insists that it rhymes “purr.” Merriam-Webster says I can pronounce it “air,” but Garner says that I can’t.
  • Gravamen: Gra-VAY-men? No, that can’t be right. And the plural is gravamina? Pass.
  • Heytens. I just have a weird mental block on pronouncing Judge Heytens’s last name. “Your Honor” will work at court–and I haven’t argued in from of him yet anyway–but I’m certain that I’m going to blow this one at a CLE or bar event.
  • Ideologue. Eye-dee-a-log. But I always want to say id-dee-a-log.
  • Primer. The short informative book is a PRIMM-er, while the first coat of paint is a PRIME-er.
  • Voir dire. It’s a trap, Tex.