port and pot:
For the longest time, I thought pot and port have the same pronunciation. Until one day somebody asked me, “are you talking about a pot or a port?” I can’t remember the topic we were talking about at the time, but I remember the confusion I caused. Or probably this person had already figured out what I meant, but she just wanted to point out to me, in a thinly veiled way, that I was mixing up the vowels.
herb and heir
I thought I thought herb and heir are both pronounced with the “h” sound audible like in “hair”. It was much later that I realized that the “h” is silent, unlike “hair”.
Al Capone and Truman Capote
It was not until I read the book “In Cold Blood” that I realized the author has a last name “Capote”, different from “Capone”. Before that point, I thought the Al Capone and Truman Capote were brothers, one became a gangster and the other became a writer. I didn’t know why I thought so.
Washington D.C. and Washington State
I think this is a common mistake that many people can mistake Washington D.C. for Washington State and vice versus.
Edison township has a Roosevelt Park and Queens, New York has a Roosevelt Boulevard. For some reason, I just can’t pronounce Roosevelt right. As a non-native speaker, I have my accented way in pronouncing it, but for this word, my tongue just stops in the middle at “s” syllable and can’t twist its way to go forward.
Salmon (the fish) and Salman Rushdie (the writer)
The two are spelled differently and pronounced differently. Salmon (the fish) doesn’t have an “l” sound in the middle. The “l” seems to be silent. However, to pronounce the writer’s name, “l” is clearly audible.
Massachusetts and Mississippi
Pronouncing and spelling these two states are both difficult, especially the first one. In the Asian community here, I shortened Massachusetts to Ma Province.