Jump to content
Learn Chinese in China

what do you call this?

semantic nuance

Recommended Posts

semantic nuance


I need help. What do you call this when you mean to say one thing but turns out the other,for example, you mean to say: What did you say? But it turns out to be: What did you shay? 'say' into 'shay' is caused because, say, the speaker's choked at the moment when he says the word? Is there an expression for that? Could you please make an example sentence for me? Thanks in advance.:)

Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.


You may say something like:

She mispronounced "say" as "shay".

He made a slip of the tongue by saying "mystery" instead of "history".

There are also words such as "spoonerism" and "transposition" but they may mean something more specific and technical.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I couldn't think of a single word that conveyed a sense of slurred words due to nervousness. Instead, I found a few words that give the sense of mispronounced words (as in substituting "shay" for "say"), and a few words can be used in the context of someone mispronouncing words due to nervousness. Other people may have better suggestions, but I hope this helps get the ball rolling.

The following two words usually refer to mispronounced words without any connotations about the cause being due to nervousness:

  • garble: To mix up or distort to such an extent as to make misleading or incomprehensible.
  • slur: To pronounce indistinctly.

ex: "After the sixth beer within the hour, I could only manage to mutter a few garbled and slurred words before passing out on the floor."

ex: "The more I drink, the more I slur my words."

ex: "In the low-quality recording, his voice sounded rather garbled."

The following three words can be associated with mispronunciations due to nervousness. However, the mispronunciations associated with these words are usually about pauses in cadence or repetition of words, such as saying, "Um....um...I would l-l-l-like to say som-som-something now.":

  • stutter: To speak or utter with a spasmodic repetition or prolongation of sounds.
  • stammer: A way of speaking characterized by involuntary pauses or repetitions.
  • falter: To speak hesitatingly; stammer.

ex: "Under the spotlight, he stuttered, stammered, and faltered his way through the speech."

ex: "I hope I don't start stuttering while delivering my senior presentation to the class."

ex: "Even seasoned news anchors sometimes falter during live broadcasts."

I never heard anyone use this word in real life, but its definition captures some of your idea:

  • splutter: To speak hastily and incoherently, as when confused or angry.

All of these definitions are from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.

Link to post
Share on other sites
semantic nuance

Thank you, HK, and 有冇攪錯呀, for your quick and thorough responses. I appreciate it. Have a nice weekend!!:)

Link to post
Share on other sites

What about when you're thinking too fast for your speech and it comes out "to make a long shory stort" or something similar where the sounds from words are switched? Or actually sometimes words are even switched in placement within the sentence. This actually happens to people often and must have a term.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...