The scene in question can be found here. Transcript:

Randall: 'Wazowski! Where is it you little one-eyed cretin?'
Mike: 'Okay, first of all it's "Cretan", if you're going to threaten me, do it properly.'

But cretin is the commonly used insult, and it's not mispronounced. Via Google:

a stupid person (used as a general term of abuse).
a person who is physically deformed and has learning difficulties because of congenital thyroid deficiency.

Similar-sounding words
cretin is sometimes confused with cretan

Similarly, Cretan:

adjective: Cretan
relating to or characteristic of the Greek island of Crete or its inhabitants.
"ancient Cretan pottery"
noun: Cretan; plural noun: Cretans
a native or inhabitant of the Greek island of Crete.
"on the road he meets a Cretan"

I was surprised to find zero commentary on this online given it's a 19 year old film, albeit a rather minor part of one. Google notes that the two words are commonly confused for one another given their relatively similar pronunciation, but considering that Mike corrects him I assume there's some intentional joke here - but I can't figure out for the life of me what it is. Given Crete is a Greek Island I assumed it might have something to do with Greek mythology but I can see nothing else that might back this up, Crete, unfortunately, has nothing to with Cyclopses, though I almost want to pretend it does and that this is a great, obscure joke.

I only actually came to rewatch this scene after a friend, who defended the use of cretin in a discussion of whether it should be censored from a video we were making on the basis, mentioned that it was used in the film Monsters Inc, but after a while, I noticed her pronunciation of the word was odd. It would be interesting to see whether this scene actually influenced people's pronunciation of the word, but that's a separate matter.

  • 2
    All I can guess is it's a nearly half-funny joke based on US English pronunciation of the word cretin, which to a European ear sounds more like they said Cretan. Add that to some vague Greek mythology misunderstanding & you have… ermm… not a lot to laugh at ;) US has a long E & a suppressed i… more like kree-tən , UK has a short E & pronounces the i specifically, it doesn't become a schwa, 'uh' sound… kre-tin.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 4 '20 at 17:29
  • I hadn't watched the clip before my first comment… Randall uses the UK pronunciation, Mike the US. I'm still not sure where the joke is.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 4 '20 at 17:45
  • 3
    I thought the joke was that Mike proves his stupidity by incorrectly correcting Randall.
    – Mr_Thyroid
    Oct 4 '20 at 20:15
  • It could be a reference to cyclops being from Greek mythology? But I always took it as Mr_Thyroid did, Mike proving he's a bit dim.
    – moonCat93
    Oct 5 '20 at 12:30

It's probably a "snobs vs. slobs" joke.

Randall pronounces the word "cretin" using the accepted short e British pronunciation, One that is less common in the US, where the long e pronunciation is accepted and widely used.

This joke is probably a "snobs vs. slobs" joke. Americans who pronounce cretin with a short e tend to be more educated and perhaps wealthier. Pronouncing it "cree-tin" is how the "common man" says it. Correcting someone in America who says "cree-tin" would make a person come across as boorish and elitist. Correcting someone who pronounces it with the short e is essentially saying: "Quit putting on airs, around here everyone says creetin." In my opinion, the joke is a little misplaced, since social elitism and snobbery are not really among the character flaws marking Randall as a villain.

I don't believe this joke is referencing the residents of Crete at all.

  • I had no idea (being from the UK) that the 'Cretan' pronunciation is more common in the US. Since I doubt that a more satisfying answer will appear, I'll mark this as correct.
    – exitpotato
    Oct 6 '20 at 10:31
  • Just because Americans pronounce the word differently than British people do doesn't make their pronunciation "wrong". Most dictionaries I've checked (including the OED) list both pronunciations.
    – Psychonaut
    Oct 9 '20 at 11:16

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