AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Whether intentional or unintentional, this is when a character is placing the emphasis on the wrong syllable of a word.

In song lyrics, it's usually because the song was done by some foreigner who hasn't quite grasped the rules of stress in their second language, but sometimes they're just being completely incompetent about setting lyrics to music. This can lead to Mondegreens if the wrong syllable is too jarring. It can, however, be done even by native speakers for purposes of metre.

Sometimes, this is done in dubs when the lips are clearly visible.

In this trope's own name, to take an obvious example, the accent in the very word 'accent' varies largely depending which country you're from: British use tends to favour AKS-nt, whereas US use, for instance, would be more AK-SENT. By comparison, both usually stress the second syllable in 'accentuate' (ak-SEN-tchoo-ate), which shows how variable the language can be.

See also It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY".

Examples of AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle include:

INtentionAL EXamples

aNIme and manGA

Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo, she's a little fish
She's a little fish from the deep blue sea
Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo, she's a little girl
She's a little girl with a round tum-MY.

  • "Alsatia", the opening theme from Mnemosyne: "It's Alsay-SHEE-a!"
  • The Code Geass picture drama Miraculous Birthday has a funny gag where Lelouch incorrectly teaches the student council to say "Yes, your ma-JEST-y" repeatedly.
  • In the original Japanese version of Digimon Adventure 02, the Chosen Children owned power-ups for their Digimon called Digimentals. When these were activated, they shouted, "Digimental UUUUP!", which, though a little hammy, is nevertheless an aversion of this trope. Come the infamous English Dub, and for some reason or another it was decided to change this call to "Digi-armour ENERGISE!". Due to the lip-flaps, however, the syllable of this shout that was stretched out was the "er" in "energise". The result was "Digi-armour enEEEEEEEEERgise!"
  • A classic instance appears in the theme for the original North American dub of Sailor Moon: the line "She is the one on whom we can depend", with "depend" pronounced "DEEP end" in order to match the melody.
  • In K-On! High School, when the next-generation version of the Light Music Club discover their new drummer Sumire isn't ethnically Japanese but Anglo-Australian instead, they deliberately do this to give her a nickname: by pronouncing her name (which in Japanese sounds kind of like "SOO-m'ray") the way an ignorant English speaker would say it ("soo-MEE-ray").


  • In Manos: The Hands of Fate, the character Torgo speaks with an awkward rhythm that sometimes makes him sound like he's stressing the wrong syllables.
  • Martin Short's wedding planner character in Father of the Bride, by way of his generically foreign accent.
  • The otherwise-forgettable film View From The Top has Mike Myers saying the trope name after another flight attendant mispronounces the word "assess". link
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail has the Knights of the Round Table, whose shows are formidAYble, but many times they're given rhymes that are quite unsingAYble.
  • The Thermians in Galaxy Quest. Nice guys, but really lousy at acting human.
  • In Megamind, the titular Card-Carrying Villain's pronunciation of "Metro City" as "MeTROcity" (rhymes with "atrocity") becomes an important plot point. He also has trouble pronouncing a few other words, such as "school" and "hello."
  • In The Hangover, Zach Galifiniakis's character mispronounces the word "retard" as "reTARD".
  • In Ghostbusters 2, Janosz's silly accent occasionally involves stressing the wrong syllable.
  • In The Beatles movie Help!, the cult members pronounce Beatle as "Be-At-Tull" (rhyming with "Seattle").
  • In Machete, a lot of the characters pronounce the protagonist's name like "MAchete"(or to be more exact, "Ma-che-tay"
  • In The Thin Man movies they keep referring to the people who might have done as the "susPECTS".


  • In Damon Knight's science fiction story "You're Another," there's a man in the year 4000 or so whose native language is Esperanto (though not named). When he speaks English, he has a thick Esperanto accent, and stresses the penultimate syllable of every word, just as in Esperanto. (E.g., "Now you will give me d'instrument.")
  • In Alan Dean Foster's Glory Lane, an alien in disguise on Earth is described as talking like this trope, stressing the wrong syllables and words, due to having learned English from a cheap crash course.
  • Do not attempt to pronounce the surname of Hogfather antagonist Jonathan Teatime the way it looks (the correct pronunciation is 'Teh-ah-tim-eh'); people getting it wrong irritates him. Surprisingly enough for a psychotic assassin, he just asks them to get it right.
  • This is how Jaina Solo and Lando Calrissian realize that a robot is impersonating Lando and giving his droids orders in Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Vortex.

live-actiON tv

  • A surprisingly eerie example from Doctor Who is with the Mondasian Cybermen in The Tenth Planet.
  • On an episode of Red Dwarf, Rimmer asks Lister not to pronounce his name the way he does. Lister asks if he should call him "RimMAIR".
  • This skit from The sketch Show features a man with this problem. He's a speech theRAPIST.
  • In The Middleman, it's how Tyler knows the "job interview" he's at is actually a test, and the board is fake: the head of the board keeps pronouncing Manservant Neville's name the way you'd assume it was pronounced. It's not—it's "MONserVENT NeVULE".
  • Reid on Criminal Minds occasionally puts a weird emphasis on a weird syllable when he speaks—he says the word "theater," for example, as "thee-AY-ter", every single time. That probably has less to do with getting it wrong and more to do with being raised by an English professor and hanging onto antiquated pronunciations that everyone else doesn't bother with anymore.
    • Hmm. I thought that pronunciation was a Nevada/Jello Belt thing.
  • Captain Sisko from Deep Space Nine does this, although it at least stays plausible throughout.
    • Michael Dorn also once said in an interview that he did this when playing Worf so he would have a distinct speech pattern from the rest of the (mostly human or Human Alien) crew.
  • In an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, Peter Weller played a terrorist who threatened to release a virus if a global video conference involving every nation's capital on Earth was not cancelled. His right hand man told him "there are no plans to halt the summit in Can-BERRA or Berlin". The writer having known that Canberra exists and is the capital of Australia is more than Canberrans have come to expect, but it's pronounced CAN-berra. CAN-bra, with the last vowel cut off to sound like a hard "u", is also common and acceptable.
  • In a later episode of Friends, Ross finds that he tends to slip into a stereotypical English accent during his new job of lecturing at a college, as a result of nerves. Mid-lecture, under the assumption that he wasn't being listened to anyway, he attempts to reassert his normal accent, but finds that he starts slipping in and out, resulting in the placement of emphasis on strange parts of words, such as saying "IdentiFY".
  • A sketch on The Day Today features a spoof advert for a documentary about the footballer John Fashanu, which consists solely of a man saying "John FA-shanu" in a sinister voice for 15 seconds... immediately followed by the presenter announcing "That's John Fa-SHA-nu, tonight on BBC 2".
  • A common quirk of the narrator of the Brazilian comedy show Pânico na TV.
  • One episode of The Andy Griffith Show in which Barney repeatedly refers to "apathy!"


  • Sir William Gilbert loved to invoke this trope, taking it to deliberately ridiculous lengths.
  • The somewhat obscure Trope Namer, "Sing a Tropical Song," was written for the 1943 movie musical Happy Go Lucky. The Andrews Sisters also recorded it. "Rum and CoCAAA-Cola"
  • Almost every song ever performed by Coheed and Cambria.
  • There are several examples of this in Manic Street Preachers' album The Holy Bible. The reason for this is that the lyricist, Richey James Edwards, tended to write his lyrics in a sort of free-form stream of consciousness style. As a result, James Dean Bradfield (who wrote the music) had to try and force lines into musical passages that did not quite match up. As a result, Bradfield often pronounced words in odd ways, including accentuating the wrong syllable.
    • He also is fond of adding extra syllables for instance: "Natwest! Natwest-Barclays-Midlands-Loy-hoyds!" (Natwest-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds), "A design! For-her life" (A Design For Life) "We are not ready for drow-how-ning" (Ready For Drowning).
  • The Bangles' song "Walk Like an Egyptian" has several instances where the pronunciation is strange either to rhyme, or to make them fit with the cadence, such as the lines "All the school kids so sick of books / They like the punk and the metal band / When the buzzer rings (oh whey oh) / They're walking like an Egyptian" where the last word is pronounced "egyp-tian" instead of the usual "e-gyp-tian." One would normally expect the word "Egyptian" to land on a strong accent, as "E-gyp-tian". In this case, it falls across the accent, as "AN e-GYP-TI-an", both placing the accent in an unexpected place and dividing the final syllable into two.
  • KT Tunstall's "Another Place To Fall"--"see yourself as a fallen anGEL". Tunstall again, "Other Side of the World"--"Most of every day/Is filled with tired excuSES".
  • "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac. "When the rain waSHES you clean you'll know."
  • The Korpiklanni song "Keep on Galloping" has an English chorus in which the singer puts emphasis in the wrong places to match the beat. For example, instead of saying "Gallop-ing," he's say "Ga-lo-ping."
  • A certain Spanish language ballad (circa 1997? by Rocio Durcal?) has a verse ending with a phrase to the effect that her tears are stuck in her throat. In Spanish, that's "garganta". There's nothing unusual about the way the word itself is accented, but it's unusual to hear such an unattractive-sounding word placed in full prominence at the climactic point of a musical phrase and backed with lush orchestration, rather than buried in an inconspicuous part of the verse.
  • Steely Dan are noted for this, placing unexpected phrases like "zombie" and "The Eagles" at prominent parts of a phrase for surprise effect.
  • "Pretty Vacant" by Sex Pistols has the latter word pronounced "VaCANT", making it sound like the word "cunt".
  • In "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", Gordon Lightfoot pronounces "Detroit" with three syllables--"De-troy-it". Native Detroiters usually pronounce it "da-TROYT." The last "t" is really more of a glottal stop than anything.
  • Enter Shikari normally avoid this trope, but "Gap In The Fence" has a particularly extreme example.

"Yes GRANted we PROSper, but the FACT that we PROSper... is Even TAken FOR granTEEEEEEEEE-duh."

    • Yes, they did indeed add a whole new syllable to the word granted.
  • MC Frontalot's Charisma Potion Lampshades this in a small skit at the end

Front's DM: Damien, are you saying Attribute, or Attribute?
Front: Attribute, obviously.
Front's DM: 'Cause it kind of comes off like "attribiute". If you were saying "attribute", then it would be a verb.
Front: The words do whatever I tell them to.

I've got my head checked
By a JumBO jet

    • And later in the chorus:

Well I feel heaVY meTAL
And I'm pins and I'm needles

ExistENCE reVEALing cold WHISpers

  • From the Pussycat Dolls' "When I Grow Up": "We all want to be fay-MUSS!"
  • "Genius Of Love" by the Tom Tom Club. "No one can sing / Quite like Smokey, Smokey Ro-BIN-son."
  • As you might expect, this trope (along with mispronunciations galore) features in the song "Bad English" by Québécois comedian François Pérusse.
  • Pink Floyd's The Wall has a few, most notably "Another Brick in the Wall Pt.2" ("No dark sar-cas-um") and "Hey You" ("but it was only fahn-tah-sy").
  • Nicki Minaj - it varies, but her favorite word to mangle is the simple "me"; she'll stretch it out sideways and somehow make it "mAy" as to make it fit her raps. Most noticeable because she'll use the correct pronuciation in the same song.
  • "Unconditionally" by Katy Perry consistently emphasizes "tion" instead of the standard "di".
  • "We Connect" by 1980s Two-Hit Wonder Stacey Q has this example:

We connect
When we're together it's
So per-FECT...

newsPAper coMICS


  • On My Music, one of the panelists once described "Michelle" by The Beatles as "one of those songs that has the emPHASis on the sylLAble".

recorDED and stand UP coMEDy

  • Emo Phillips sometimes employs this as part of his stage persona.
  • Eddie Izzard used this to illustrate how awkward it is when Robin Hoods have American accents.
    • "Where is the Maid MarEYEan? And the Sheriff of NottingHAM? I live in SherWOOD ForEST!"


  • In the second act of Richard Wagner's Meistersinger, Sachs strikes his cobbler's hammer each time Beckmesser does this in his serenade, Den Tag seh' ich erscheinen.
  • In the musical 1776, Richard Henry Lee goodnatured-Lee emphasizes the "-ly" at the end of every adverb he uses in both dialogue and song as a tribute to his prominent fami-Lee.
  • Several times in A Very Potter Musical dialogue:

"Come on, let's go watch Wizards of Waverly Place."

viDEo games

web aNImaTION

  • Homestar Runner's Strong Bad does it all the time when reading his email messages, often done to accentuate spelling errors. All the speaking characters have spoken this way at least once. There are even a few pages on the Homestar Runner Wiki listing their occurrence.


  • While they were casting Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law, when Stephen Colbert auditioned for the eponymous role, they told him to do this every sentence or so. It... didn't quite work out, as one can see on the first DVD collection.
  • Dr. Zoidberg on Futurama pronounces "robot" as "RO-bit," which is ironically how the word was first pronounced.
  • In Daria, Mr. DeMartino yells VARious syllaBLLES at COMplete ranDOM! The guy is generically angry as Hell and about half a cup of coffee from exploding into a gigantic mass of high-strung destruction, so it's more like he's trying to emphasize everything.
    • In the episode "Fair Play", Quinn has a single line in a play that she keeps rehearsing. After the usual encouragement from Sandi ("Is that how you're going to say it?"), Quinn tries out ever more bizarrely accented readings. Her final delivery makes her sound like an idiot; that and other impending disasters lead to her humiliation. "I WILL make a DAINty garLAND for my HEAD and SING!"
    • In "This Year's Model", Romonica calls up Schloss Morgendorffer to suggest that Quinn would be an ideal candidate for modelling. Daria answers, and mocks Romonica's accent when addressing Daria, responding, "And I am DAria MORgenDORffer."
  • In the first season finale of Drawn Together, Toot does this as part of a gag where she does a bad job pretending to be interested in an Apprentice-style reality show game.
  • Veggie Tales Silly Song "Monkey" had Larry say, "We finally did it, photo-GRAPH-er!"

reAL life

  • If it hadn't happened before the invention of the Wiki, George Bush might have been referencing this during the 2000 election campaign, where in one debate, he admitted "I've been known to mangle a syllable or two myself."
  • Opera singers whose first language is English are often given the following advice about pronouncing the works of Bartok and Janacek: "In HUN-garian and CZECH-oslovakian, the ACC-ent is AL-ways on the first SYLL-able, no EX-ceptions ." This worked better back when Czechoslovakia was a country, but if you just say "Czech" it wrecks the joke.
  • Legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell did this, often with common words, like "intricacies" which he consistently pronounced in-TRICK-a-sees. Whether this was part of his grating persona, or unintentional, is debatable.
  • Argentinian Spanish comes across as this to other Spanish speakers, due to the conjugation of the "vos" pronoun that has been relegated to a reserve of Argentina. "Prué-ba-lo", for example, becomes "pro-bá-lo".
  • Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien often used to joke that he often "put the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLABle"; the less charitable joke about him was that he was the first Canadian Prime Minister in history who couldn't express himself coherently in either of Canada's official languages. Ironically, this was at least in part an intentional branding strategy to make himself look stupider than he really was; in actual fact, he was a remarkably canny strategist whose political instincts quite regularly blew "smarter" politicians right out of the water.
  • JFK said we should go the moon by the end of this "deCADE"

UnINtentionAL EXamples

Anime and Manga

  • From Noir, the track "Salva Nos" makes "requiem" in the phrase dona eis requiem four syllables and accents the second (re-QU-i-em), while "eis" becomes one syllable instead of two. This is likely because the vocalist's first language is Japanese, which consistently allows vowel hiatus.
  • Many English dubs of anime, particularly earlier ones, do this for character's names and other Japanese words that find their way into the dub. A couple of examples: ah-KAH-nay (instead of ah-kah-NAY), ah-KEER-ah (as opposed to ah-kee-rah) and sah-KOOR-ah (as opposed SAH-koo-rah).
    • This has been changing since the middle-2000s, as dubbers and viewers both become more knowledgeable about Japanese usage, but 1990s-vintage dubs like Ranma ½ demonstrate it in spades.
  • Happens in spades in the theme songs for Persona 4: The Animation, leaving them very difficult to understand even though they're in English.


  • In the first Alone in The Dark movie, Tara Reid's character stresses the "found" in Canadian province "New-FOUND-land" when analyzing the origin of artifacts brought in to her by Christian Slater's character. In Canada, the name is pronounced, "Noofin' Land". Or Noo-Fundland. At least with some people.
  • Anything that comes out of Tommy Wiseau's mouth in The Room is like this.

Live-Action TV

  • In an episode of iCarly, Carly (and everyone else) repeatedly say "Yaki-MUH," as in "I'm not moving to Yaki-MUH." It's actually pronounced "Yakih-MAH."
  • In Doctor Who's 20th anniversary special, a Time Lord official is taken for a mind scan. His cry of, "No, not the mind PROBE!" was unintentional, and no matter how many takes the director called for, the actor kept saying it the same way.
  • In the original Battlestar Galactica, most times when someone says "starboard," they put the stress on the second syllable.


  • The stirring aria "The Trumpet Shall Sound" from Handel's Messiah has the word "incorruptible" wrongly accented. This is usually corrected in performance, though the corrected version doesn't quite fit Handel's melody.
  • The Agonist do this all the time, as a by-product of fitting complex lyrics to complex melodies.
    • As do practically all bands in the Metalcore genre, making most of their lyrics nearly impossible to understand. The Agonist is a more mild example compared to As I Lay Dying or The Devil Wears Prada.
  • Bad Religion: Lots. A few examples from "Parallel": "Phony COLLective progess, ACCepting that it's all such a mess", and in the background, "our lives are paralLEL"... later, "watching as our FOUNdations crumble away"
  • "Ain't jealousy funny?" from Kellie Pickler's "Best Days of Your Life."
  • "Three hundred fifteen channels" from Josh Turner's "Why Don't We Just Dance."
  • Oasis. Particularly whenever Liam Gallagher has to pronounce a word with a long "I" in it. ("Sheee-iiiiiiinne!")
  • This is par for the course for much Spanish-language music: the lyrics are set without much care towards whether the musical accent matches the linguistic accent.
    • Tone-based languages like Chinese (be it Mandarin, Cantonese or some other dialect) do the same thing. When spoken, every syllable requires either a rising, falling, bouncing or flat tone, and using the wrong one gets you the wrong word. Chinese music, for its own sanity, doesn't care, which probably leads to lots of mondegreens. (Incidentally, there is a Mandarin poem which consists entirely of different tones of the word "shi". Were it sung, it would be incomprehensible.)
      • That depends on what kind of Chinese you refer to on the music thing; Cantonese pop requires the tone pattern of the music to be the same of the lyrics.
    • In the case of Spanish rock, much of it has to be with the fact that they're inspired by melodies which were constructed around the English language. A language made with polysyllabic words, most of them stressed in the penultimate syllable is tricky to fit into a typical rock melody.
  • Finnish rap. Probably has something to do with Finnish not being English, much as the above.
  • Another one that's rather subtle: "Can it get me / Over her quickly" from "Speed" by Montgomery Gentry. It's an interesting melody pattern, but the "over" can still catch you off guard because it doesn't sound so much like "over."
  • Tori Amos does this with most of her songs to the point where it can sound like a different language. She had a more-or-less normal singing voice at the start of her career, but she started to change it over the years to the point that it became unrecognizable (not that that's bad). Compare this early performance to this recent one.
  • Alanis Morissette's "Uninvited" does this quite a few times. "I am flattered by your fascination with me"... "an unfortunate slight"... "must be somewhat heartening"...
    • She does it in Everything as well: "I am the wisEST woMAN you've ever met...I am the kindEST soul with whom you've CONnected..."
      • She does it in EVERYTHING. Half the time, it sounds like a foreign language, between her screaming, and nasally bending of syllables.
  • Similar to the Sondheim example mentioned above, John Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane" does this to the article "a". "Jacky's gonna be uh football star..."
  • A Mondegreen from The Rascals' "Groovin'" results from the singer doing this, accenting the 2nd syllable of "endlessly" so it sounds like "and Leslie." The intention may have been to emphasize the rhyme with "ecstasy".
  • "It's Fry-ee-day, Fry-ee-day, gotta get down on Fry-ee-day..."
  • "99 Red Balloons" by Nena: "Ninety-nine minISters MEET..." Though, to be fair, Nena's native language is German.
  • "Miniature Atlas" by Dappled Cities: the emphasis matches the emphasis of the beats (the kick and the snare in 4/4 time). "MIN-ia-TURE atLAS".


  • In The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny the protagonist is called Jimmy Mahonney, pronounced MAH-Honee, so some American versions, to keep it along the music, rename him Jimmy MacIntyre (Funny enough, even when the usual American pronuciation is Ma-HOH-nee, the original Irish one is indeed MAH-honne. This is due to different accents having the stresses on words in different places.)
  • The lyric "there ought to be clowns" from Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns" has the accent on "ought", when the music has it on "be". Same with "well, maybe next year"—the word with the emotional emphasis should be "next", but the music has it on "year". Sondheim says he knows how confusing it is to sing, but he can't really change it now.
    • Similarly, Sondheim's lyrics for West Side Story‍'‍s beautiful love song "Somewhere" begin: "There's A place for us..." Apparently this has led to Sondheim referring to it as "The 'Uh' song."
  • The Phantom of the Opera: throughout the show, there seems to be no consensus as to whether the female lead's name is pronounced 'Christine' or 'Christine'.

Video Games

  • "Graham, watch out! A pOIsonous snake!"
  • The original version of "One Winged Angel" from Final Fantasy VII accents "interius" and "inanis" on the first syllable and "vehementi" on the second. It should be "inTERius", "inANis" and "veheMENti". Rule of thumb is that the emphasis is on the second-to-last syllable, although that's a guideline, not a rule. However, the last one is due to the song's melody; the first line is sung as "Estuan/Interius/Ira ve/hementi".
  • On the God of War 2 extras DVD, Cory Balrog starts talking about the game's aniMAtors, then he stops, does a double take, and mocks himself: "I put the emPHAsis on the wrong syLLAble!"
  • In Warcraft III: The human says "Re-SEARCH complete" and "Up-GRADE complete," while the undead, orc, and night elf say "RE-search complete" and "UP-grade complete." The former may be an aversion, as both pronunciations of "research" are correct, but they are mutually inconsistent.
  • Just Cause has Bolo Santosi's legendarily bad voice acting. Com-RAID. Ree-PERS. The same thing with about 90% of the voice cast.
  • Last Alert for the Turbo Duo, which would even accent MONOSYLLABLIC words within the sentence wrong!
  • The Dragonriders of Pern video game for the Dreamcast had D'kor's dragon constantly mispronounce "inventory" as the verb form of "invent" followed by the same "-ory" sound as in "cursory".
  • The songs in some of the Dead or Alive 4 ending movies, especially Christie's: "Never been dead, but... seen so maNY deaths." (This was also used as the pole dance music in Dead or Alive Xtreme 2.)

Web Original

  • Raocow's grasp of the English language has proven surprisingly verbose, given that Canadian-French is his primary tongue, but he has an odd tendency to pronounce words in a way that sounds strange to primary English-speakers.

Western Animation

  • The man who arranged the song for Lilo and Stitch's opening is notorious for pairing Hawaiian chants with Western music and ignoring pauses and pronunciations (very important in a language with only 17 letters and a glottal stop) to make it sound better, which appears to have turned two unrelated birthday chants about Queen Liliuokalani and Prince Kalakaua into Hawaiian-sounding gibberish.
  • From The Lion King's "Be Prepared": "deCADES of denial." As usual, the pronunciation was forced in order to fit the melody.
  • The song for the second series credits of Blinky Bill misprounces Marcia. This is only the singer. When the cast sing they get it right.
  • From My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • It happens several times in "At the Gala" from the first season finale, especially the instances of "TOnight at the Gala".
    • The "EquesTRIa Girls" commercial.
    • Zecora does this occasionally to get her rhymes to work. "MonSTER" in "Secret of My Excess" is particularly painful.
  • In AOSTH, Dr. Robotnik was snoo PINGAS usual, we all see.
  • In King of the Hill, Peggy's poor grasp of Spanish usually results in this.

Real Life

  • As noted in the description, this is actually rather common in many languages with large speaker bases and multiple varieties. English has quite a few examples, such as: a-DULT vs A-dult; aLLUminum vs alluMINium; MOUStache vs mousTACHE; and many other examples.
  • A potential problem that non-native speakers of tonal languages such as Chinese need to be careful with.
  • Similarly, some languages, including English, simply make more use of stress than others. French, for example, tends to afford most syllables equal stress, unless the vowel is accented; English, by contrast, tends to have at least one stressed syllables in every word, which as the regional differences illustrates doesn't necessary have anything to do with the sounds involved.
  • It's a common problem among the hard of hearing, who may not be able to discern stress in spoken language. (It also shows up when people use a word they've never heard spoken aloud: this often crops up in medical settings, where patients or family members may not know how to pronounce the words they've read in the literature.)
  • If you're British: Americans. If you're American: the British. If you're from some other English-speaking country: British and American people, each on different words.
  • Oh dear goodness, the Russian language. Once you study it (for say, 8 years), you begin to pick up patterns, but you can never be sure until you hear it for sure or look in the dictionary. Coupled with the fact that Russian words tend to be long, and also somewhat tonal (trUsy—cowards, trusY—underwear), you can never be sure where the real stress lays, or if the word you said was the one you meant. And the spelling rules, or the akaniye and ikaniye accents...
  • New Orleans is pronounced by locals as "New OR-lins," not "New Ore-LEENS," as most of the rest of the country pronounces it. If you've got a thick accent, you might pronounce it more like "NAW-lins" anyway.
  • Whether this is real, a joke or an urban legend, the story goes that Madame Degaulle was once asked what women want. Her reply (in English) was "A Penis" to which her husband added "In English it's pronounced 'Happiness!'".