Dear Annie: What is the protocol when a dear friend repeatedly uses an incorrect word or incorrectly pronounces something when speaking to you? For instance, recently, my friend was speaking of the proper “protocol” for visiting a doctor’s office (under these pandemic conditions), but she said “portacol,” which is not a word. It was not a slip of the tongue, because she repeated the word several times throughout the conversation. Since we were talking directly, and no one else was present, should I have asked something like, “Do you mean protocol?” Other times, my friend has referred to “postate” problems of relatives. How do you politely correct someone in this type of situation? Or during these trying times, do I just chill out and get a life and not sweat the small stuff?
— Wondering in Anywhere, USA
Dear Wondering: In general, the answer depends on the friend — whether they’re more likely to be appreciative or annoyed. Personally, I’d be grateful if a friend corrected me to spare me future embarrassment. A good friend tells you when you’ve got something in your teeth.
But in this specific case, it’s notable that both the words your friend mispronounced begin the same way. That suggests a speech impairment, in which case it wouldn’t be helpful to call attention to it. So take your own advice, and don’t sweat the small stuff.
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