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How Important to You is Pronunciation? (vis-a-vis Food)

I live in the Midwest, and consequently pronounce "casserole" as "hot-dish." <g>

Still. I prefer to call a dish what it is in its native language insomuch as I can. The paella is pronounced in the Spanish (more typical, I admit), the Finnish dishes I make are pronounced in the native tongue as well, and I happily gurgle out in my first -year German those dishes in that idiom. And on and on.

Are we who do this elitist (I have been accused of this)? I find that the original name of the dish, in whatever tongue, is so very descriptive, I wish to use it. So I do. Is this something Chowhounds do, or am I being ridiculous?

Maybe paella is chicken-shrimp-(whatever)-hotdish-with-peas.

How do you describe a dish outside your immediate ethnicity or your guests' experience? Or, do you have to?

So curious,

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  1. LoL
    I find that I am irritated with a lot of food names if I am not familiar with them, but this stems from my own lack of knowledge.
    When I hear people talk about Korean foods, I get irritated when they use say "Korean hotpot" when referring to some of the boiling soups like Doenjang Jjigae (soy bean paste soup) or to Dol Sot Bibim Bap (Rice and vegetables cooked and served in a hot stone bowl).
    I think the elitist (snob) tag depends on how you use the terms. Some people use the ethnic/cultural terms in a "superior" tone or manner which is a major turn off. Others use it in a natural way.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hannaone

      Taking the time to understand a dish and learning it's original name and using it when ordering is a sign of courtesy and respect (even if one's pronunciation happens to be incorrect). It all comes down to one thing: showing oneself to be an insensitive oaf or a person willing to make the effort (accordingly, service may vary).

    2. I don't think calling dishes by their original names is elitist; I think it's respectful of the culture. I'm an American living in Japan, which means that I'm learning how to cook Japanese food and consequently, blogging about it. I call things by their Japanese names, but include parentheticals describing the cooking methods and ingredients, rather than comparing them to some other, perhaps more familiar to my readership, dish. This is partly because the Japanese is my experience and partly because I find the comparisons both annoying and inaccurate. For example, I've frequently seen okonomiyaki called "Japanese pizza," when it really doesn't seem like pizza at all. If you had to compare it to anything, frittata would be more apt, if not exact.

      If I'm trying to describe a Japanese dish verbally, I might say something along the lines of "it's like (insert other dish here)," but I wouldn't say "it's Japanese (insert other dish here)."

      26 Replies
      1. re: Xochitl10

        I completely agree with you on Okonomiyaki. I spent a year in Japan and never understood the "Japanese Pizza" thing. Yes, it's mostly round and flat, but after that there's not much else that they share.

        I always went with "A sort of thick savory pancake that also has vegetables and meat involved".

        1. re: Jennalynn

          I explained Okonomiyaki to my dad as "Japanese Pancake," which I hear almost as often as Japanese Pizza. Then he saw how much cabbage the chef was chopping up (looked like a whole head for each one) and FREAKED because he doesn't care for cabbage. He got through it though. And I won't call it Japanese Pancake any more.

          1. re: jennywinker

            I think it's important to note that the "Japanese pizza" translation is from Japanese folks trying to offer up English for this dish. It's not from foreign folks attempting to pin a corrupted name on it. Also, the translation comes from how it looks when cut into wedges rather than the ingredients. However, it is a base which is covered with a wide variety of toppings (generally varying by region) so the preparation is not entirely different from pizza.

            It is closer to a savory pancake than anything else. The problem is that a translation is necessary as long as a word hasn't entered the vernacular of a different culture. Sushi can be referred to as sushi because it's known well enough in the West now, but okonomiyaki is pretty much a mystery to most folks. I don't think it's rude to try and translate something. The thing is that most people can't even pronounce okonomiyaki (and other foreign words for foreign dishes). They're not trying to be disrespectful, but just trying to understand.

            After all, I could go around saying "satsumaimo" instead of Japanese sweet potato cake, but then I'd just confuse people. What would the point of purposefully confusing them be? To show off my knowledge of Japanese cuisine? It's just pretentious in cases where the words aren't well known.

            1. re: Orchid64

              I thought satsuma-imo was sweet potato...not sweet potato cake?

              1. re: Orchid64

                Quite a few places around me have started calling scallion pancakes Chinese Pizza" which seems equally inappropriate.

          2. re: Xochitl10

            How do you describe a dish outside your immediate ethnicity or your guests' experience? Or, do you have to?

            Like Xochitl10, I use the native/original word for the dish and the descriptor parenthetically. The native/original gives context to where the dish originated; I think it's important and respectful.

            I don't know why, but botching up a name, to me, is rude. Call me sensitive.

            As for Mr OCAnn, he could care less. To him, a croque monsieur is pronounced, "croakie monsewer." I'm not French, but it bugs me...but I let it go.

            1. re: pikawicca

              You can always order by number :) I'll have 'combinacion numero once'.


              1. re: paulj

                Or you can point to the item on the menu. That's what I have to do when I have NO idea how to pronounce a foreign word.

                1. re: danhole

                  I do this too. Or I try to pronounce it, which gets giggles. (YOU go to a Burmese place and try to pronounce "dan bauk htaminh"!!)

              2. re: OCAnn

                Your husband and mine went to the same French school.
                I think he does it to annoy me knowing I like try to get it right -
                Rock-Fort dressing, for example

                1. re: stellamystar

                  Oh please.... they ALL do it to annoy us. I was married to someone who cooked well (and knew it) but still called a quiche a "quickie" just to hear me groan.

                  1. re: Cheflambo

                    Hee! I have a friend who insists on calling creme brulee "creamy bully."

                    1. re: whirlygirly

                      Oh, yeah. After twenty years, I still annoy my wife by calling the long-handled Chinese spatula used in wok cooking (whose Chinese name is "chun tzay") a "Chun King". Gets her every time!

                    2. re: Cheflambo

                      every one knows is :kuee cha lol

                  2. re: OCAnn

                    i'm a native french speaker, so when people try to pronounce 'croque monsieur', it drives me nuts. seriously. I'm all for trying to pronounce the original food name when applicable, but to me, a 'croque monsieur' in english is best pronounced 'an open-faced grilled cheese and ham sandwich'.

                    my mother's vietnamese, so i know how to say Pho' properly, but with my english-speaking friends, i say "let's go for foe". at least then, they know what i'm talking about. At the restaurant with the vietnamese staff though, like paulJ, it's "i'll have a large number 29." :)

                    Generally speaking, i'll only try to pronounce foreign words if they refer to a specific dish, rather than just the ingredients. If the menu says 'arroz con pollo' or 'pasta con le vongole', i'll still be saying 'rice and chicken' and 'pasta with clams', especially if i can gather that my server is not latin-armerican or italian or whatever. whereas if the name refers to a dish, like gnocchi or enchiladas, i'll probably try my hand at butchering the dish's name.

                    1. re: marcopolo

                      Interesting. In Paris, the French preferred us to at least TRY to speak French. On many, many occasions, he was rebuffed when his attempts were in English (they'd walk away or ignore us); however, to be served, I had to reorder in broken French.

                      To each his own; what's important is that we get our food! =D

                      1. re: OCAnn

                        agreed OCAnn.........same goes for Montreal in general. Attempts to at least use the language are appreciated.

                          1. re: im_nomad

                            Shortly after the separatist PQ was elected in Quebec in 1976 (and thousands of Anglos moved to Ontario and points west), one wag wrote a short book called "The Anglo's Guide to Survival in Quebec". It was quite hilarious; one chapter in particular described an Anglo trying to order some cheese in the local depanneur (that's a corner grocery/bodega for my American friends).

                            The "Two Solitudes" Approach:
                            Anglo: One pound of cheese, please.
                            Clerk: Un livre de fromage. Voici.
                            Anglo: How much is that?
                            Clerk: Quatre et quarante
                            Anglo: $4.40. Here you go.. (gives him $5)
                            Clerk: Votre monnaie. Merci. (handing back change)
                            Anglo: Thank you. Good night.
                            Clerk: Au revoir.

                            The Accomodators:

                            Anglo: Bone swar. Une livre de fromage, silverplate.
                            Clerk: One poun' cheese, yessir.
                            Anglo: Uh, comb bean pour le fromage?
                            Clerk: That comes four dollars and forty.
                            Anglo: (silently offers $5 bill)
                            Clerk: An' your change, sixty cent.
                            Ango: Merci, bone swar.
                            Clerk: T'ank you, 'ave a good nigh'

                            The Hardliner

                            Anglo: A pound of cheese, please
                            PQ Clerk: Quoi? (what?)
                            Anglo: Oh, uh, un livre de fromage.
                            PQ Clerk: Quoi?
                            Anglo: Oh, damn, how do you say it? Uh, je veux acheter un livre de fromage.
                            PQ Clerk: Certainement! Quel type de fromage voulez-vous?
                            Anglo: Uh, uh, un livre de cheddar, silverplate.
                            PQ Clerk: Oui monsieur. Doux, medium, ou fort?
                            Anglo: Dew? Four? What the hell is that? Uh, uh, medium, silverplate.
                            PQ Clerk: Certainly. Here you go, sir, one pound of medium cheddar. That will be $4.40, please.
                            Anglo: Tabernac!!

                            1. re: KevinB

                              OMG that is hilarious! I almost spit out my cup of tea while reading your post! I have seen all 3 scenarios played out in France! With the Parisians, I have seen that the Accommodator method gets the best results and most friendly smiles.

                          2. re: OCAnn

                            Agreed here as well, OC. We went to one particular off-the-beaten path resto in Paris; the waiter apparently wasn't bilingual until I ordered in my less-than-perfect French, at which point he leaned down and whispered, "You know those are sweetbreads, right?" in perfect King's English.

                          3. re: marcopolo

                            I think yours is a sensible approach.

                            1. re: marcopolo

                              "i'm a native french speaker, so when people try to pronounce 'croque monsieur', it drives me nuts. seriously. I'm all for trying to pronounce the original food name when applicable, but to me, a 'croque monsieur' in english is best pronounced 'an open-faced grilled cheese and ham sandwich'.".............marcopolo

                              But if you ask for an open-faced grilled cheese and ham sandwiach, you will NEVER get a croque monsieur! '-)

                              I suspect a slip of the typing fingers.

                              1. re: marcopolo

                                I think it definitely depends on who my server happens to be. If it is obviously an American (especially a teenager, nothing against teenagers but I've seen some interesting habits from them as servers) I'll order using the most simplified English version. If I can muddle through in a language I don't know I'll attempt. As a habit though (being a Spanish teacher) every time I eat in the Mexican restaurant with Mexican servers I pronounce food properly even if it is arroz con pollo. I've actually been asked many times if I speak Spanish and the servers get all excited (it's a very small town) and usually want to start a conversation.

                            2. re: Xochitl10

                              I'd love to read your blog. Where can I find it?

                              1. re: Atomica

                                The link's now in my profile. Thanks for asking!

                            3. jfood loves hearing the name and geneology of dishes. if he knows the name he uses it, if he does not and can ask, he does.

                              Let's take CH for an example. Many people refer to many dishes in their native language, and jfood, being from NJ, has no clue what everyone is speaking about. He did not know what Pho was until a few months ago.

                              So if everyone can keep posting the names, and google and wikipedia can stay current jfood will be extremely happy. More happy if he could actually try Pho, but being from NJ let's let him crawl before running.

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: jfood

                                Never had pho??? Get recs for a great pho place before your next trip, jfood. You are in for a heckuva treat!!!

                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  And--speaking of pronunciation--remember to ask for "phuh" rather than "phoo" as in "foo(l)".

                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    Thanks Sam, jfood thought it was pronounced foe.

                                    1. re: jfood

                                      I thought it was "foe" too until I mentioned to my Vietnamese manicurist that I had been to the new "foe" place in the neighborhood and she cracked up laughing. :"You white people need to learn pronunciation!" she giggled. She took out the menu and gave me a quick tutorial on the dishes and their names.

                                      On the other side .... I recently had lunch in an Italian place where you order and pay up front (from an English menu, I hasten to add), and they bring your food to the table with order numbers. A waiter came around bearing several dishes up high, and calling out the names of the food ... in Italian (this guy was obviously American). He walks past me and says "spee-nak-ee?" I shook my head -- I had ordered spinach salad and I thought he was offering me some sort of gnocchi. "I ordered spinach salad" I said. "Oh... here you go" he brings down the plate so that I could then see what was on it, and sure enough... spinach salad. "Spee-nak-ee is spinach in Italian" he says, in a slightly condescending way. "Spinach is spinach here in the US" I reminded him.

                                      1. re: Cheflambo

                                        Hmmm. I could use both a manicure and a VIetnamese lesson - can I get an appointment?

                                        Good topic, OP. I agree it's being respectful to try to use the correct pronunciation of dishes from other cultures, not elitist, and I always try to. Sometimes waiters and owners don't care - they just want you to enjoy the food and tell others - but I think it may tend to promote better service.

                                        1. re: brucesw

                                          I too agree that it's mostly about respect and not elitist.

                                        2. re: Cheflambo

                                          Wow, he wasn't even pronouncing it correctly in Italian. It's spinaci (so, spin-ah-chee).
                                          I try to pronounce things correctly in their native language - but I only know for sure what I'm doing in French and Italian. I will never pronounce chilaquiles correctly, no matter how often I order it.

                                          1. re: Cheflambo

                                            Even though this comment is 2 years old, I can't help but note that it's actually "spee-nach-ee." If you're gonna be pretentious, at least get it right.

                                        3. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                          I have frequently been fooled by not putting the proper "fuu" in "Foh", deriving from "pot-au-feu" from the Francais.

                                          The Brothers Grimm of the fairy tales had a similar problem when they sent young Jack up the Beanstalk to the encounter the "Fee Fi Fo Fum" mumbling giant... obviously those Grimm Boys were Fooled by having never been to Indochina to sample phu, or pho, steaming and phresh phrom the phire.

                                          DisemVowelment can be a real problem, as demonstrated by the quintessential Dan Quayle when he put the "e" in potatoes.

                                          I once sat around a table of mixed Vietnamese and Caucasians where the contest turned to the proper pronunciation of "Pho" as the soup was being served. Pheeling a bit phoolish, I demured from competition, and sipped the feu-pho-phu instead.

                                          Vowels are very tough. Consonants can kill. And those DipThongs... they are a phinally just Sandals worn by a Nerd.

                                          1. re: FoodFuser

                                            Indeed, and according to cheflambo's post: "You white people need to learn pronunciation!"

                                            Those wacky French, what did they leave behind in Viet Nam: pho (pot-au-feu derived), banh mi (basically baguette with pate, mayo and local ingredients), damn fine coffee, and unrelenting bureaucracy. I love the smell of croissants in the morning.

                                          2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            which of course is why several Pho restaurants get mentioned in this thread:


                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                              Speaking of the pronunciation of "Pho," there is a place in San Diego on El Cajon Boulevard called "Pho King."

                                        4. Mid-westerners pronounce "casserole" as "hot dish"?

                                          Well, many Americans seem to pronounce "sashimi" as "sushi".

                                          As to "paella", most Americans seem to insist in the Mexican "pie-a-yuh"; although in the Andean region that would be "pie-ail-yuh" and in Argentina "pie-a-zhuh".

                                          And what's with the Brit's "filleT" and the American's "fillay".

                                          Of course, the English speakers of India and the Philippines outnumber Americans and pronounce things in ways quite different.

                                          40 Replies
                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            Sam I find it worse when they say: "sushimi"

                                              1. re: Sui_Mai

                                                I just read on another thread that "expresso" is a viable alternate pronunciation, particularly in France. Ah here it is: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/630829

                                                1. re: grayelf

                                                  In French the term is "un cafe express", however, since the default drink is espresso, "un cafe normal" works well too.

                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                              I thought 'paella' was pronounced 'arroz a la valenciana'. :)

                                              At least that's what I encountered in Ecuador years ago. Apparently that is also used in Nicaragua.


                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                How do you pronounce sushi? My dad pronounces it as "zushi." While I first thought it was his imperfect English talking, I'm realizing more and more that his pronunciations are actually correct while Americans usually get it wrong -- eg. "ah-sigh-e" for acai and "alo-uh" for aloe (actually both pronunciations are acceptable). Any Japanese care to input?

                                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                                  Aren't acai and aloe both New World plants?

                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                    Acai is from brasil -- very common in northern brasil -- it's pronounced: ah -sigh- ee

                                                    1. re: karmalaw

                                                      Look five entries down. Same pronunciation.

                                                  2. re: Miss Needle

                                                    Dad is right. Goodness, how do Americans pronounce "acai"?

                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                      Thanks. So I guess most Americans are butchering "sushi" as well.

                                                      Americans usually pronounce acai "ah-sigh." I haven't heard this pronunciation, but I can picture some saying, "a-kai."

                                                      1. re: Miss Needle

                                                        Not really butchering "sushi". The "z" sound is somewhat between the American "z" and "s".

                                                        But too bad about "acai". Well spoken Brazilian Portuguese can be so melodic, pretty, smooth. "Ah sigh" or "a kai" sound dreadful!

                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                          Okay, you two. So how DO you pronounce it? I've been saying "ahsah-ee," with sort of a glottal stop between the "ah" and "ee". So what *is* the correct pronounciation?

                                                          And you're right about Brazilian Portuguese, Sam. I think it's more melodic than continental Portuguese. But then I'm of the bosa nova generation... The guys who did my granite countertops were all Brazilians, and I've been trying to figure out what else I can have covered in granite just to get them to hang out and talk to each other. But a Berlitz CD would be cheaper...

                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                            Yes, tell us how to pronounce acai. I have a package in the freezer, it gives the pronunciation as "ah-sigh-ee".

                                                            1. re: steeltowngrl

                                                              Now would someone help me with the proper pronunciation of aioli? I have a horror of mis-pronouncing words when ordering - don't want that patronizing waiter put-down stare!

                                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                                    yeah, that'll do well. hooked on phonics ;-D

                                                                          1. re: visciole

                                                                            Accent-wise, Sui Mai has it right. Accent on the last syllable.

                                                                            1. re: Parigi

                                                                              Hmm, my Italian teacher always put the accent on the penultimate syllable....

                                                                              1. re: Parigi

                                                                                Ah, that's the answer: the French say eye-oh-LEE, and the Italians say eye-OH-lee. So I guess which one is correct depends upon what cuisine you're having ;)

                                                                                1. re: visciole

                                                                                  Actually the French say ah-ee-oh-lee; it's spelt "aïoli" in French ; the double dot (trema) over the i means that the a and the i are pronounced separately.

                                                                                  *I'm not sure how to put italics in my comments

                                                                                    1. re: ricepad

                                                                                      Ricepad: best pun I've heard in a long time!

                                                            2. re: Miss Needle

                                                              It's pronounced "zushi" when used in compound form as in "nigari-zushi" or "chirashi-zushi". Same as "tofu" becoming "-dofu" as in "agedashi dofu" or "goma dofu".

                                                              When used independently, it's "sushi", rarely mispronounced by anyone. . "Zushi" is a seaside town on the Miura peninsula near Hayama and one of the royal residences. I used to bike to Zushi in the summer time ages ago...

                                                              1. re: Silverjay

                                                                ..hmm, of course I can pronounce things, just can't spell them. I meant to write "nigiri-zushi", not "nigari".

                                                            3. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                              Sam, LOL. Having lived in Japan for a couple years and doing my best to learn and not butcher the language, I have a peeve for the way most people seem to pronounce "udon." Drives me nuts when they say it like it rhymes with "con," instead of like it rhymes with "bone." But they've already gotten after me for trying to correct their chopstick (hashi) technique, so I don't bother anymore. I just order a "nothingness" sake and shut up.

                                                              Oh, and when I order agedashi tofu, I have to pronounce it "agedashi dof" or it doesn't seem right.

                                                              1. re: jennywinker

                                                                Don't tell people here that. They'll start saying agedashi "doff". Folks, terminal vowels are generally quite reduced, but aspirated, something like, "A GE DaShh DOFffu".

                                                                1. re: jennywinker

                                                                  If you're going around telling people that they are using chopsticks incorrectly, and mispronouncing words that have been (incorrectly) transliterated into English, you're being very rude. Stop it.

                                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                                    Jeez louise...if I was doing or pronouncing something incorrectly, I would have no issue--and would appreciate--someone correcting me, as would most people who are open minded.

                                                                  2. re: jennywinker

                                                                    And I haven't met anyone in the US that does not know how to pronounce tofu.

                                                                  3. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                    Are Americans really "insisting" on a Mexican vs. Andean vs. Argentine pronunciation? Paella is an Iberian dish, so shouldn't the issue be whether the Americans are using correct Castilian pronunciation?

                                                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                      You are completely correct. My sincere apologies for using "insisting". Indeed, "paella" might best be spoken using a Castillian pronunciation. On the other hand, this thread is about food pronunciation; and in my limited experience, Americans are largely only familiar with the Mexican pronunciations of "rr", "ll", and the, like, depriving them of being able to play around with the wealth of other pronunciations.

                                                                      In my early experience and after having grown up speaking mostly Mexican Spanish, I initially couldn't hear some of the phonemes my Bolivian friends were trying to get me to hear and to correct my prounciation. Lessons learned in Bolivia about even simple language features helped me in learning several other Asian and African languages after that.

                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                        I have a feeling that regional variations are rife in languages, Sr Sam :-) but I feel your pain re Mexican pronunciations being picked on by South Americans. I learned my Spanish, such as it is, in Mexico and my Chilean friends sometimes give me the hard eye :-).

                                                                        My favourite example of trying to be "authentic" in pronunciation comes courtesy of my very well travelled parentals. The first time they went to Indonesia years ago they came back saying "Jawa" which is apparently the way that island is pronounced there. All I could think of was those little creatures in the Star Wars movies, and let's just say it didn't stick when referring to coffee either :-).

                                                                  4. I think it is respectful to use the "proper" name of the dish, if you like it enough to talk about it, you ask a native how to properly pronounce it.
                                                                    My peeve is people trying to use the "proper" names for things and not spelling correctly. Someone was writing about a dessert and wrote "gilato". Especially peeve-worthy when it's a printed resto menu. If they don't know the proper spelling, how likely are they to know the proper method of prep?

                                                                    25 Replies
                                                                    1. re: BeeZee

                                                                      There are few things more embarrassing than someone butchering the name of a dish while pretending to be all-knowledgeable about such things. For that entertainment value alone, I say keep at it ;-)

                                                                      That said, if I know how, I'll do it. If I don't, I won't.

                                                                      Still, what bugs me more are inconsistencies in usage. The most egregious example I continually throw out is that the Italian plural of panino is panini. The Americanized version would therefore be PANINOS, not paninis. Drives me nuts.

                                                                      1. re: BeeZee

                                                                        Don't forget one of my personal favorite menu mis-prints. Our neighborhood "Eye-talian" restaurant offers "anti-pasto" as an appetizer.

                                                                        1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                          Well..... ummmm..... errrr... It IS antipasto and it IS an appetizer.
                                                                          Pronounced.... Auntipahstoh. (not anteepaysto)

                                                                          1. re: Gio

                                                                            Yes, Gio, I know .... but on the menu it is printed "anti-pasto" WITH the hyphen.

                                                                            1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                              OIC... in your neighborhood. Thanks chef!

                                                                        2. re: BeeZee

                                                                          And I feel like a one person campaign to get people to pronounce bruschetta in the correct Italian way.

                                                                          1. re: jennywinker

                                                                            If the spoken form is so important to you, why not spell it 'right'? What spelling would lead a typical English speaker to pronounce it correctly - without having to teach them Italian?


                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                              Broosketttta, would be my guess.

                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                "Broosketttta" --Visually stunning.

                                                                                I guess we could start with servers getting it right. Lead the way, as it were.

                                                                                1. re: jennywinker

                                                                                  I once asked what the "broosketta' special was for the day (and I didn't even do the stop between the t's!) and had the server say "Our broo-SHE-tah is ..." My Italian teacher in college had the exact same problem. He said, however, "I teach Italian. It's broo-ske-ta."
                                                                                  And it's not even like we're being pretentious and pronouncing the true italian vowels!

                                                                                  1. re: miss_bennet

                                                                                    My best friend and I - who often choose Italian for our dinner dates - have had similar experiences. No matter which way she chooses to pronounce Bruschetta, somehow the server always corrects her to the opposite. It is so random - and my friend has gotten so confused that she always stares at the menu for at least a few minutes, then asks me: "Is it Bru-shetta or Bru-sketta?" And when I tell her "Brusketta" and she orders it, the server inevitably corrects her: "bruSHEtta!"

                                                                                    1. re: Morticia

                                                                                      Here's a good one: ordered a Gimlet at a (crappy) cocktail bar in my hometown in Germany. The waiter "a jimlet?" I say "yes, a Gimlet". I think many people mispronounce that drink.

                                                                                      1. re: Morticia

                                                                                        Once asked for toast for breakfast in the Philippines. The indignant waiter: "Toasted bread?" Me: "Yes, toast, please". Waiter: "You want TOASTED BREAD??!!"

                                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                          Speaking of toast, in Austria, a "toast" is a little open-faced ham and cheese sandwich - which I ordered once, thinking it would be plain toasted bread, and, being a vegetarian, I couldn't eat the ham!

                                                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                            I wonder if 'tostada' is used as a noun in the Philippines. In Mexico is does make sense to distinguish between 'pan tostada' (toasted bread) and 'tostada' (a flat crisp corn tortilla with toppings).


                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                              'pan tostado' : pan is a masculine noun, requires masculine declension for the adjective 'tostado'

                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                "Tostada" is not used in the Philippines. The waiter was speaking in English rather than Cebuano (I was in northern Mindanao).

                                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                          Hey -- that word pronounced by a very enthusiastic Italian? Sounds like at least 4 "t"s. It's almost like there's an accent on the t. Like porchettttttttta. ;-)

                                                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                                                            Because t's are aspirated, you can't really trill them, or even hold them for a long time. When there are double consonants in Italian (cc, dd, tt), they stop abruptly in the middle of the word, placing the emphasis on the penultimate syllable. (i.e. "brrroo-SKEH...tta")

                                                                                            But I try not to pronounce things like this in English sentences, because then I do sound pretentious. Unless I'm saying the title of an opera, in which case, it's Italian all the way.

                                                                                      2. re: paulj

                                                                                        Here's my bruschetta story: in Sicily, I ordered bruschetta as any dumb American would, and the waiter (who looked frighteningly like Brad Pitt) glared at me and said "brusKETTA?" And I was chastened, so a few days later in Rome I asked for "brusKETTA" and the waiter rolled his eyes and said "ah! Perfetto Italiano!" So you just can't win.

                                                                                        1. re: sciencediet

                                                                                          Sounds like a compliment to me. Sans the eye-rolling, of course...

                                                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                                                            Agree. He was probably rolling his eyes because he finally encountered an American who pronounced it correctly.

                                                                                          2. re: sciencediet

                                                                                            Maybe the Roman waiter had dried contact lenses

                                                                                          3. re: paulj

                                                                                            A typical English speaker knows how to pronounce "Chianti" and "Pinocchio." It's just a matter of becoming familiar with the correct pronunciation. So the more people who go around saying, "broo-SKET-ta," the sooner people will realize how to pronounce it.

                                                                                      3. As someone who has spent most of his life in Texas and New Mexico, I've always found it vaguely offensive when people put on a Speedy Gonzales-level "Mexican" accent to say a simple word like "enchiladas" or "tamales." Come on. Do you slip into a fake German accent when you say "bratwurst" or "sauerkraut"?

                                                                                        24 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                          When I go back to the US where I grew up, it takes a bit of thought and effort for a couple of days to not pronounce Spanish words ("Los Angeles", "San Francisco", "enchiladas", "tamales") as they are pronounced in the US.

                                                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                            Many times heard dialogue:

                                                                                            - Where are you going?
                                                                                            - San Diego.
                                                                                            - What?
                                                                                            - San Dee - ehgo
                                                                                            - Oh, I see.

                                                                                          2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                            You may find it vaguely offensive, but whenever my husband orders "flou-das" in his Midwestern (south St Louis) accent, our waiter/waitress cannot understand what he is ordering. When I repronounce it "flauTas," the waiter/waitress always goes, "OH! Flautas! Yes! Chicken or beef?" And yes, sometimes I do order "verst" when I'm at our favorite German place.

                                                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                  I loved ordering everything in Switzerland "mit unt ei!!" (with an egg.)

                                                                                                    1. re: Allstonian

                                                                                                      Should either be "mit eins ei" (with one egg), "mit ei" (with egg) or "und ei" (and egg).

                                                                                                      In Switzerland, they GENERALLY speak high German; Swiss German tends to be colloquial.

                                                                                                      1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                                        Boy, I don't know about this, OCAnn... I lived in "la suisse romande" (that'd be the French-speaking side -- I lived north of Geneve, which is pronounced "zhuh-NEVV" and not "GHENFF" thankyouverymuch), and thus learned Hochdeutsch in school, along with standard Florentine Italian and British English.

                                                                                                        So when I went to Zuerich (and this happened just two years ago) I could NOT understand anyone and had to learn almost a different language, because they don't speak Hochdeutsch at all.

                                                                                                        In Hochdeutsch, it's "mit einem Ei" for "with an egg" or "with one egg", "mit Ei" for "with egg", "mit Eiern" for "with eggs" and "und ein Ei" for "and an egg".

                                                                                                        Schwyzerduutsch, though, would be "unt ais Ei"

                                                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                          Gruezi. Yes, I'm sure you're right. After a while, my eyes start to roll into the back of my head and I start foaming @ the mouth b/c I can't keep up w/the Swiss, Italian, French & German.

                                                                                                          I'm a happy camper as long as I get my chow, merci.

                                                                                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                            My grandmother, who was from Berne, used to wish us "Schlaff gutt" as we kids went off to bed. Is this echt Schweizerdeutch?

                                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                              That's the same in Schwyzerduutsch and Hochdeutsch -- but in Hochdeutsch it's spelled "schlaf gut". Swiss German isn't a written language per se -- a bit like Cantonese in that respect.

                                                                                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                Schweizdeutsch, colloquial. It's an amazing country...with great lake fish, chocolate and white asparagus...and wonderful shopping along the banhoffstrasse! I'm jealous that you had the chance to live there. =p

                                                                                                                1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                                                  I love the Bahnhofstrasse... but in Genève we had the Rues Basses and the rue du Mont Blanc near the main train station. Bahnhofstrasse (my brain automatically write "banh" as in "banh mi"!!) is more scenic, though, and has better food.

                                                                                                                2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                  In hochdeutsch, wouldn't that be "schlafst gut?"

                                                                                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                    Nope. If you're addressing one person, it's "schlaf gut'", otherwise it's "schlaft gut". Second person singular /plural respectively.

                                                                                                2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                                  It always seemed more offensive to me when gringos--especially those who have spent their entire lives in areas where Spanish is a major form of communication--butcher the language, refusing to even attempt correct pronunciation. Especially when they have a decent vocabulary and are using it with those they consider to be their social inferiors.

                                                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                    Of the languages I speak, I think a lot of people butcher English, Spanish, and Tagalog. And I'm sure I butcher the other languages that I supposedly speak.

                                                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                      Sam, I think we're talking about two different phenomena; anybody trying hard to speak a foreign language deserves props, even when they aren't entirely successful. But deliberately bastarizing pronunciation smacks of elitism, although it may also be rooted in a fear that attempting proper pronunciation would make the user sound foolish.

                                                                                                      The bastardized pronunciations of some words (esp. place names--you have identified a few good examples) have become standard usage in American English. And I for one am not going to try to persuade millions of Angelenos to start saying Lohs AHNheles. But on the other hand, communication can only occur when people understand each other, and that's much easier when there's a common vocabulary and pronunciation. It's not just an anglo thing, but in the Southwestern US there are a lot more gringos who order curNEEdus than Andalusians who want thOHpa thEHca.

                                                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                        Sometimes I don't know what to do when speaking with the many filipinos, Indians, and east Africans who are bilingual from birth with English being one of their respective languages. Their pronunciation can be interesting for lack of a better term. Filipinos say that Americans mumble. Americans think that filipinos talk like typewriters. There is the temptation to imitate the local English rhythms and pronunciations, but sometimes sounds foolish to oneself. Makes speaking Tagalog and kiSwahili less fraught with difficulties.

                                                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                          What I find interesting with multi linguals is the way the different languages are used together - say in the Philippines with mixed Spanish, Tagalog, and English all used in the same sentence.

                                                                                                          1. re: hannaone

                                                                                                            Actually, a conversation in Tagalog will have few English words, but quite a few borrowed words that are now Tagalog--kape (cafe), tinidor (tenedor), kutsara (cuchara)--for things that didn't exist prior to the Spanish. There are no borrowed verbs, adjectives, adverbs--just nouns. Some of the more archaic Tagalog words are being replaced--aklatan by bibloteka, for example.

                                                                                                      2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                        Alan, i couldn't agree more. You put it beautifully.

                                                                                                    2. The goal is communication first, education second. Prioritize the term the audience would most likely understand most completely. Provide the alternate, if it is actually *more* accurate, as an educative aside in a non-condescending way.

                                                                                                      There is the problem of foreign terms that have reversed their way into the English language when there was already an English word for them. Like arugula for rocket. I'd use arugula for communications' sake, but hate that the perfectly pre-existing English word has been nudged aside originally out of pretension.

                                                                                                      If you told me (a New Englander) "hot dish" here in New England, I wouldn't have the foggiest idea you meant casserole. If I told you "frappe" in the Midwest, you'd have no idea that I meant milkshake, and if I used milkshake, you and I would be talking about 2 different things.

                                                                                                      Then there's "coffee regular"....

                                                                                                      From "Showgirls":

                                                                                                      Zack Carey: Nice dress.
                                                                                                      Nomi Malone: Thanks. It's a Ver-sayce.
                                                                                                      Zack Carey: It's "Versace".
                                                                                                      Nomi Malone: What?
                                                                                                      Zack Carey: It's Versace. It's pronounced "Versace".
                                                                                                      Nomi Malone: Oh.

                                                                                                      16 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                        OK...I give, what are the 2 types of milkshakes? The only one I know involves milk and ice cream for th most part. ????

                                                                                                        1. re: justagthing

                                                                                                          In eastern Massachusetts and some other parts of New England, a milkshake has no ice cream (just milk and chocolate syrup, for example) - a frappe does.

                                                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                            thanks and i thought a frappe had all to do with coffee and milk

                                                                                                            1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                              Although sadly, this is one of the regionalisms that's starting to die out locally, much like calling all soft drinks "tonic" and calling convenience stores "spas."

                                                                                                              1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                                                Really? You mean if you order a milkshake in Boston you'll get a frappe?

                                                                                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                  I think at most places, if you asked for a milkshake they would assume you meant frappe, yes, even if it's still listed as a frappe on the menu. I can't even think of anyplace locally that still has milkshakes-as-in-flavor-and-frothed-milk on the menu, although I'm sure there are some.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                    For the most part, yeah. If a place only has "milkshakes" on the menu, its a safe bet that you're getting what used to be called a frappe.

                                                                                                            2. re: Karl S

                                                                                                              Why do you view 'arugula' as pretentious? OK, 'rocket' is the common term for it in the UK, but that does not mean Americans have to use it. If it entered American cooking through Italian sources, then the use of an Italian name is perfectly reasonable.

                                                                                                              I haven't been using arugula for very long, but I've only encountered the UK name recently, in a couple of cookbooks written for British audiences. A Joy of Cooking from the mid 1970s lists arugula (= red-leaved chicory), not rocket.


                                                                                                              Apparently even the English 'rocket' derives from the Latin 'eruca' (through Italian and OF). That perfectly good English word is a mispronunciation of a mispronunciation of a...

                                                                                                              Most of the complaints in this thread are about recent mispronunciations, not ones that have become enshrined in our language.


                                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                I work at a Jewish-style bakery. We sell lots of ruggalach. One of the joys of my life is when a customer calls and wants 2 lbs of arugula. I'm always tempted to correct her, but find it oddly charming. :-)

                                                                                                                1. re: Catskillgirl

                                                                                                                  LOL..Catskill- How about Ru-Ga-Latches? Tchollah? Nishes? In spite of the mispronunciations I think it's kind of cool that these food names have made their way into the lexicon.

                                                                                                                  1. re: RichardCrystal

                                                                                                                    Don't get me started on the "challah" pronunciations! I laugh myself silly some days. We have a large Jewish population here in summer and on holidays - other times we have the goyim trying hard to pronounce some of our special items. Oh, and when we make tegellah... LOL! And the *descriptions* I hear! You know, the stuff that looks like dog-doo but tastes like honey... :-)

                                                                                                                    1. re: Catskillgirl

                                                                                                                      English pronunciations of Yiddish and or Hebrew are often different from the American pronunciations of the same words..

                                                                                                                      for example chollah v challah
                                                                                                                      shobbas and shabbes
                                                                                                                      schmock and schmuck

                                                                                                                      there are probably other food ones which I can't think of now.

                                                                                                                      1. re: smartie

                                                                                                                        Really? So a schmuck in Great Britain is a schmock? Good to know. :-)

                                                                                                                        I'm joking - it really is interesting. There are so many variants of the spellings of Yiddish words - at our bakery we use one that's pretty "average" - and hope most people know what we mean!

                                                                                                                        1. re: Catskillgirl

                                                                                                                          Phew -- I was waiting for someone to bring this up! There's no such thing as hollah...at least, outside the lexicon of hip-hop, as in "hollah back". Everyone can make that sound when they clear their throats, so why not when it's phonemically essential? And asking for "one rugalach"?? Oy.

                                                                                                                2. re: paulj

                                                                                                                  I feel very educated now...paulj, I never knew that "arugula" and "rocket" were the same thing! I always wondered what the heck Ramsay was talking about when he uses "rocket" in a dish. Thanks!

                                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                    Zucchini too, which is called courgette in the UK.

                                                                                                                3. I still remember the night when my college boyfriend came home from his job at a pizza joint, excitedly telling me about how they now had chicken parma-GUY-anna on the menu, hehe.

                                                                                                                  There is some cheese commercial that has a group of women in which one of them are purposely misprounouncing jalapenos...and it irritates the hell out of me.

                                                                                                                  Then there was that time on Will and Grace when Woody Harrelson made some comment about having cou-hoo (presumably couscous)...unless i was missing something....

                                                                                                                  No, i don't whip out a ready made accent to use but i do try to prounouce things properly...i try not to do it to others though (or at least not too much!), cuz it just comes off as snobby or rude. Although i did have to bite my tongue when i went on a (otherwise wonderful) date once and when we talked about food , he told me he likes EYE-talian. It bugs me when people say that.

                                                                                                                  And i do say filleT for fish at times...more as a verb, and that is how it's said where i come from (nfld, british origins i guess). Maybe i should re-think above....cuz you probably wouldn't want to hear how we prounounce cod au gratin (it actually comes out sounding somewhat irish, like cod o'grattin.........lol)

                                                                                                                  1. Probably the most mispronounced word I hear is "jay-ro", "jive-ro", or "gee-ro" for gyro. Pretty amusing to hear the way some folks mangle the word, but certainly not worth embarrassing them to correct them.

                                                                                                                    But really...how hard is it to pronounce "shwarma"? I always thought it looked just like it sounded!

                                                                                                                    26 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: Suzy Q

                                                                                                                      gee-ro is pretty close to a more "authentic" pronunciation than "jye-ro"

                                                                                                                      1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                        that would be for the pronunciation when it comes to gyroscopes but for the food it is more like yer-o

                                                                                                                        1. re: justagthing

                                                                                                                          The people who work at our favorite place for gyros says "yeeros".

                                                                                                                          1. re: PDeveaux

                                                                                                                            that looks/sounds the same but just plural

                                                                                                                            1. re: justagthing

                                                                                                                              Not plural, but the Greek sometimes/often drop the end-s. Yeehro, or Yeehros are both proper pronounciations.

                                                                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                Actually, "hero," as in hero sandwich, is closer to the Greek than geero. That initial not-quite-consonant/not-quite-vowel sound (for Americans) is sort of like pronounceing an "H" and a "Y" at the same time. I lived in Greece for almost a year and was just starting to master it when it was time to come home. While the name does come from the base word for "gear," as in turning, it isn't a hard "G" and it isn't a clear "Y".

                                                                                                                          2. re: justagthing

                                                                                                                            yes, that's why I said "close to" rather than exact. Upsilon and all that...

                                                                                                                            1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                              I recall once hearing a waiter in a Montreal Chinese restaurant explain to a group of rather dazed-looking Italian tourists that wonton were "what Jewish people call klep-la."

                                                                                                                              And the very waspy principal of my high school tell an assembly that the lunchroom was now going to sell "pizz-uh".

                                                                                                                              1. re: ekammin

                                                                                                                                In many restaurants in Boston, potstickers are still known as "Peking ravioli." Legend has it that Joyce Chen, whose first restaurant was in Boston's predominantly Italian North End, called them that to make them more accessible to 1950s Italian-Americans and the name stuck.

                                                                                                                                I assume that this is why salt and pepper squid is still called "calamari" in many Chinese restaurants in Boston as well.

                                                                                                                                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                                                                  Or as I've seen it on Chinese manus, "calamary."

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                    Such a rarity to find a Chinese menu that has no spelling errors. But it's so much fun to sit and read them and get a good laugh often.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: justagthing

                                                                                                                                      I just had to misspell menu, didn't I? But, you're right about many Chinese menus. It's probably because the translator heard it incorrectly in the first place.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                        Not just Chinese menus! Please! If I had a nickel for every time I read the word "brocolli" on a Western-style restaurant menu, I'd be a wealthy wealthy person.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: justagthing

                                                                                                                                        Or just odd translations in general. My favorite ever:

                                                                                                                                        Free Delivery!
                                                                                                                                        $1 charge

                                                                                                                                        1. re: justagthing

                                                                                                                                          I love reading Chinese and Japanese menus! When I worked at a Chinese restaurant during college, I could not stop giggling at what the owner's wife would write up on the specials board...my favorite was "kung pao sqee" (I still call squid "squee" with my best friend, who also worked there). And my favorite Japanese place has a special section of "vegitalian" dishes (no, they are not fusion!)

                                                                                                                                  2. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                    sorry, gee can be pronounced as the letter or G or /g/ with the long e so I wasn't sure which one you were thinking or if even those so who knows since we have not sound bytes on this site, but hey, that might be fun!

                                                                                                                                2. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                  I attended an international festival in Salt Lake a couple of years ago. While standing in line at the Greek booth, the person in front of me ordered a guy-ro (that's right. hard 'g'). I thought it was so funny that I had to order it the same way, "Yes, I would also like a guy-ro (wink!)"

                                                                                                                                    1. re: small h

                                                                                                                                      That's right, and I've heard the soft 'g' from time to time. But that was the first time I had ever heard it pronounced with a hard 'g' and I guess it just threw me.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: small h

                                                                                                                                        I've always figured that the term "hero" for a submarine sandwich is somehow derived from the "yee-ro" pronunciation, even though they are not synonymous.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                          I googled around about this, and the consensus seems to be that the sandwich is heroic in size, or one needs to be heroic to finish it. But heck, your explanation is just as good.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: small h

                                                                                                                                            feh (pronounced "feh")

                                                                                                                                            the names of things change in different languages . i don't get bent out of shape when my friends call my city "nuevo york" or my country "etats unis" i assure you i don;t call it deutchland either.

                                                                                                                                            in english the word is gyro -

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Suzy Q

                                                                                                                                    I never order 'gyros' for just this reason - whatever I try to guess they want me to say, it is *always* wrong.

                                                                                                                                    "Can I have a hyeero"?
                                                                                                                                    "a what?"
                                                                                                                                    "a hyeero"
                                                                                                                                    "You mean a jye-ro?"

                                                                                                                                    "Can I have a jye-ro?"
                                                                                                                                    "A what?"
                                                                                                                                    "A jye-ro"
                                                                                                                                    "You mean a hero?"

                                                                                                                                    "Can I have a hero?"
                                                                                                                                    "A what?"
                                                                                                                                    "A hero?"
                                                                                                                                    "You mean a hyero?"

                                                                                                                                    1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                                                      LOL! In the Village there are (or at least used to be) a couple of Greek restaurants on MacDougal Street. I swear each place had their own pronunciaton of gyro! Yeero, Jyro, and Geero were the three I remember most.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                                                        After trying and trying on the streets of NYC with Gie-ro, Gee-ro, Hee-ro, and other variations and last time receiving lamb on a sub roll instead of pita, jfood has given up, he now asks for "lamb on a pita with white sauce." Jfood just wants to eat.

                                                                                                                                    2. there are lots of mispronounciations - Americans say pahsta but it's pasta in Italy. They say minestrone and calzone but it's minstronay and calzonay and provolonay.

                                                                                                                                      Embrace all the ways of saying things!

                                                                                                                                      20 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: smartie

                                                                                                                                        Are you saying that Italians pronounce the first 'A' in "pasta" like the 'A' in "cat?"

                                                                                                                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                          I think she meant that the 'a' in pasta is much shorter than it is pronounced in the States.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                            That makes sense. The length of vowel sounds is a killer when learning languages, and something that is not universally taught overtly.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                            yes pika as if you were saying master but without the American r on the end.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: smartie

                                                                                                                                              no way- the "a" sound in "master" is not the correct pronunciation at all. the closest description I can think of for the correct pronunciation of "pasta" in Italian is that it is like the general US pronunciation (at least the most used one here in the Northeast), but with a shorter "a".
                                                                                                                                              master, cat, pass.... all way off.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: vvvindaloo

                                                                                                                                                More like the British pronunciation where the a is more of an 'uh' sound.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                  I'm Canadian, and I say the first 'a' in 'pasta' like 'master.'

                                                                                                                                                  I've always thought Americans say it using the 'o' in 'hot.' But it really depends on your diction anyway. My local area has what is commonly known as "non-regional diction." But I bet the way I say 'hot' is quite different from a Bostonian, and a Texan, and a Brit.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: miss_bennet

                                                                                                                                                    most of us on the west coast use the schwa sound for both 'a's, which is like a soft short a sound.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: justagthing

                                                                                                                                                      I've never heard someone use the schwa sound. It's works for the second 'a,' but it's so short! See, regional diction!

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: miss_bennet

                                                                                                                                                        the short a, as you mention above is much more harsh and i usually only hear that from those that are more towards the east. sorry, not sure what you meant by regional diction?

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: justagthing

                                                                                                                                                          By regional diction I mean that people have different ways of pronouncing things in different regions of the US and Canada. I guess I just don't see the schwa as being a vowel sound in the word 'pasta,' no matter where you are. Then again, IPA is regional, too; What you think a schwa is may very well be different from what I think I schwa is, and even farther from what a German or Australian thinks a schwa is.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: miss_bennet

                                                                                                                                                            ok, so i had to look it up and found (päs'tə)
                                                                                                                                                            so apparently the end a is a schwa, but the first one is a tad different, not sure what the a w/2 dots above it is called, but they reference it to the a in father...

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: miss_bennet

                                                                                                                                                      Whether it's pasta, aunt, or Ariel the 'a' is pronounced similarly for us.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                Canadians say "pass-tuh." And "Vietnam" rhymes with "clam." It's called the Canadian long A and I refuse to become THAT Canadian.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: John Manzo

                                                                                                                                                  I'd rather be that Canadian than conforn to a foreign way. It's not like we're complying with Italian diction, anyway.No offence to others, it's just that we all need to be patriotic.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: miss_bennet

                                                                                                                                                    And add the Canadian pronunciations of "drama" (near rhyme with Grandma), "plaza", etc. It's not meant to be culturally insensitive -- that's not how Canadians do -- it's just a local variation.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: John Manzo

                                                                                                                                                    Go break out your Country Joe and the Fish tapes:

                                                                                                                                                    For it's one, two, three,
                                                                                                                                                    What are we fighting for?
                                                                                                                                                    Don't give a damn,
                                                                                                                                                    Next stop is Viet-nam.

                                                                                                                                                    And it's not a LONG "A"; it's a short "A". A long "A" is what you hear in bake, shake, and fake.

                                                                                                                                                  3. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                    All 'a's are pronounced as the 'a' in cat in Italian, aren't they?

                                                                                                                                                  4. re: smartie


                                                                                                                                                    "Embrace all the ways of saying things!"

                                                                                                                                                    Those were the words jfood was looking for. Perfect.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                      thanks Jfood, I know there has been discussion before on Italian pronunciation v New Jersey Italian pronunciation. It is all ok. As long as we can communicate.

                                                                                                                                                  5. I cringe inwardly when waiters tell me about their "brushedda" and even more when the special is "guhnotchee", but as I long as I get what I ordered anything's okay with me. I do agree with hannaone though - it's when people get that snooty tone in their voice when ordering, in any language, that drives me up the wall. No matter how superior you feel when you order your escargot, it's still just snails.

                                                                                                                                                    Delicious, garlic-buttery snails.

                                                                                                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mordacity

                                                                                                                                                      My favorite mis-rendering of the name of an Italian dish is at an upscale place on the ground floor of my old office building. They make a pretty good Pollo alla Toscana that the wait staff, without exception, pronounces PO-yo (as in El Pollo Loco). One time I asked if it came with rice and beans, but just got a blank look.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                        Did they pronounce the second word "aya"?

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                          But even pollo: its poil-yo to us and poi-zho to the Argentinians and poi-yo to the Mexicans. It hurts the (ethnocentric) ears to hear the Mexican and Argentine versions.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                            A Colombian told me it's "po-joe" in Colombia vs. "po-zho" in Argentina...

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                            Once at a resort in the Poconos, my husband (born & raised in Brooklyn with a Sicilian mother) ordered the "monigawtt". The waitress was absolutely baffled until he pointed to the dish on the menu - she brightened up and said "Oh! You want the Manikottee!" I loved that. :-)

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Catskillgirl

                                                                                                                                                              My daughter plays soccer on a team that's mostly Italian girls. Watching practice one day, one dad started describing the appetizer plate he liked t have while watching TV:

                                                                                                                                                              "Some provolone, some mortadella, a nice salami.."

                                                                                                                                                              "Some gabba-gool" I chimed in.

                                                                                                                                                              He looks at me, and says "You know how to speak Italian?".

                                                                                                                                                              I replied "No, but I know how to speak Soprano".

                                                                                                                                                          3. re: mordacity

                                                                                                                                                            Oh yeah, totally forgot about the brushetta. Drives me nuts, too -- although Italian must be one of the harder things to pronounce correctly what with all the different rules.... just think of all the sch, ch, cch, etc. etc.

                                                                                                                                                            People also don't seem to know that 'gh' is pronounced as in 'get', whereas a g without the 'h' is pronounced like a 'j'. Difficult. Almost as impossible to pronounce as English spelling ;-P

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                              Hey... my Yiddish speaking grandmother trained my ears.

                                                                                                                                                              Listen to how people mangle: Kreplach, Latkes, Kugel, Kishke, Gefilte Fish, Knaidle, Blintzes and Challah.

                                                                                                                                                          4. I try very hard to use the proper names of dishes, and if the person I am talking to asks what it is, I break it down. My uncle asked me what a quesadilla was, and I told him it was basically a mexican grilled cheese in tortillas, with extra ingredients. That satisfied him.

                                                                                                                                                            I eat at a lot of mexican restaurants where there is a language barrier. Now I took a bit of german and a couple years of french, but not spanish. My daughter took three years of spanish and I helped her study. She said I was the only person she knew that could speak spanish with a french accent! I have gotten much better, so much so that the other day I was in a place and my DH was asking for a burrito without anything else but fajita meat. I was able to ask her in spanish. Then he asked for french fries, but said frijoles. I corrected him and asked for pappas fritas. She took it that I was bilingual, so she starts speaking to me in fluent spanish, which I caught part of it, but I finally had to tell her "poquito espanol." She giggled and we went from there!

                                                                                                                                                            1. This tends to be situational for me, but for the most part, I try and pronounce things correctly. That's easier in some languages than others, obviously, but in languages that I speak, I'm pretty confident I can get it right. In other languages, it's kind of hit and miss...but I make a valiant effort to get it right, and if I'm not sure (or have no freakin' idea at all), I'll ask. I don't think it's being elitist, but rather it's being respectful.

                                                                                                                                                              The 'situational' part is that I kind of adjust my pronunciation according to an educated guess about the other person's fluency in that language. For instance, if I'm ordering in a restaurant and I think the server has a familiarity with the language, I'll pronounce correctly. If, OTOH, I doubt the server knows the difference between a torta and a tortilla, I'll probably 'Americanize' my pronunciation a bit. In the case of the former, I don't want to appear to be a complete rube, but in the latter instance, I don't want to seem pretentious or snotty.

                                                                                                                                                              I'm reasonably fluent in Japanese and Spanish. In Chinese, I'm always afraid I'm ordering deep fried ear muffs, but my MIL (a native German speaker) says my German accent is better than those of her own kids. I can do Amur'kin So'thun perty durn well, too. French, however, baffles me.

                                                                                                                                                              11 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                                ricepad, you and I come from the same planet. I love trying to say things in what are to me the more difficult languages. In Vietnamese, I ask my colleagues to repeaat things a few times. But then they see me writing using Western phonetic symbols. They always then want to write things in Vietnamese, but I don't understand the Vietnamese diacritics. I love accents.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                  Some of these pronunciation problems arise because different languages have different sets of phonemes - sounds that the normal building blocks of the spoken language. English speakers clearly hear a difference between 'b' and 'v', Spanish don't. English doesn't have aspirated stops ('bh') like many Indian languages. There are also morphological rules that mess up the pronunciation (what happens when sounds are put together).

                                                                                                                                                                  But many of the problems mentioned here have to do with differences in spelling practices. It is normal for an English speaker to pronounce a written word using English spelling rules. I read the word 'brushetta' long before I ever heard anyone speak it. And since I have no knowledge of Italian, I could only guess at its pronunciation using English or Spanish rules (or poorly understood ideas of how French is spelled).


                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                    We pronounce the "v" in "verdad" and the "b" in "bastante" differently, but not as distinctly as in American English.

                                                                                                                                                                    Yes, the famous "l" and "r" being the same heard sound in Japanese, the softening blend of "d" and "th" for "d" in Spanish, the trills in Mexican Spanish, the different clicks of the Bushmen. Americans who've learned Mexican Spanish often can't hear how we pronounce the double "ll" as we do. The ability of some to quickly learn tonal languages like Thai or languages in which changing the accent of the syllable changes the meaning of the word as in Tagalog.

                                                                                                                                                                    Languages are fun; and learning food names and pronunciations should be enjoyable for hounds.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                      Languages--like food--are indeed fun! I love learning the etymology of both...esp when ordering in another language becomes natural.

                                                                                                                                                                      Me, I'm careful w/saying foreign words; Mr OCAnn, on the other hand, is the happy, loud American. I cringed when he ordered "Croakie Mon-sewer" in Paris. It's a happy tango, undoing his French faux-pas. On the other hand, his happy, loud American persona goes over very well in Japan.

                                                                                                                                                                      What it comes down to, though, is that we're happy campers wherever and whatever we eat.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                                                                                                        I like Mr OCAan. Anyone who can confidently order "croakie mon-sewer" has my vote!

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                      Amen on the interesting difficulties that growing up with a different set of phonemes can cause. One of my good friends in high school emigrated from Viet Nam when he was 12. One day we got into a conversation that about the pronunciation of "wood," "would," "world," "whirled," and "word." He really thought I was just making random assertions as to which sounded the same and which had an audible difference.

                                                                                                                                                                      Of course turnabout's fair play: when his mom made chao tom, my attempt to pronounce the name of the dish was a source of great amusement to his entire family. Apparently I was greeting someone (named Tom) instead of describing shrimp paste on sugar cane. Regardless, it was tasty...

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                        Yes - this issue has always been fascinating to me, as I grew up in a multicultural household. In Hindi, the same letter is used for both "V" and "W" sounds, so my father said "vindshield vipers" and then relating in another story, how "the man was bitten by the wiper..." But - when my Mom was trying to learn Hindi, she could never communicate properly since she could not hear the differences between aspirated and non-aspirated letters.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Morticia

                                                                                                                                                                          My friend Kumari once asked me how to fix wheel.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                        True... my neighbours, who are Mexican, go to Chili's and order the "bavy vack ribs".

                                                                                                                                                                        And Sam -- it's worthwhile to learn the Viet diacritics. It's a visual clue to the tone of the word and it's what makes Vietnamese the most Western-accessible of the tonal languages.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                          I know, but I use western phonetic signs because I have the same fun in about 50 languages.

                                                                                                                                                                      3. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                        Having read many of your posts, you and I have much in common...except I stayed in the San Joaquin Valley! Your comment WRT Vietnamese makes me think of the time a Lao coworker (in a Japanese restaurant) tried to teach me the Lao alphabet. Not only could I not distinguish many of the characters from one another, I couldn't hear the difference between a lot of them!

                                                                                                                                                                    3. It used to drive me up the wall in high school when my friend told me that her family had gone out to eat "shushi."

                                                                                                                                                                      In general I try to pronounce menu items as accurately as possible but recently I went to a French bakery and wanted a croissant aux amandes but chickened out by telling the server I wanted an almond croissant.

                                                                                                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: chuckles

                                                                                                                                                                        Next time try asking for a "Croissant fourré à la crème d'amandes".
                                                                                                                                                                        Be brave!

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: chuckles

                                                                                                                                                                          Sometimes I order Pain Au Chocolat only to have the server look at me blankly until I say "Chocolate Croissant"

                                                                                                                                                                          My friends sometimes make me say "croissant" repeatedly when we're out since apparently not saying it "Cruhsant" is hilarious

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Lemon Curry

                                                                                                                                                                            I also know that pain au chocolat can go as chocolatine, which I've seen both in Canada and France. Is it a regional term or simply an alternative?

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Lemon Curry

                                                                                                                                                                              Why not just call it a chocolate bread?

                                                                                                                                                                              When talking about pastries, we use a seemingly random mix of English and borrowed terms. We use 'puff pastry' to make 'palmiers' ('orejas' in some Spanish speaking countries). 'pate a choux' to make 'cream puffs'. Recipes for 'pains au chocolat' are right next to ones for 'almond croissants'.


                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Lemon Curry

                                                                                                                                                                                At Starbucks, I've ordered a chocolate croissant and got a chocolate donut. So the next time, I ordered a pain au chocolat, I got a "you mean chocolate croissant?"

                                                                                                                                                                                Can't win either way.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Lemon Curry

                                                                                                                                                                                  I was just waiting for someone to mention the croissant...if you pronounce it correctly, people just give you the dumbest looks, especially in the South and the Midwest...then they say, "Oh! You want the "croyyysaant"?"

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Lemon Curry

                                                                                                                                                                                    This happened this morning at Starbucks. "I'd like a pain au chocolat," I said, and I even said it in a Parisian accent, not my normal Swiss drawl, and the guy stared at me. "Pumpkin muffin?"

                                                                                                                                                                                    "Pain au chocolat. A chocolate croissant."

                                                                                                                                                                                    "Oh!!! A chocolate croissant."

                                                                                                                                                                                    "You have it labelled as 'pain au chocolat', you know."

                                                                                                                                                                                    "Weird. On the back it says 'chocolate croissant'."

                                                                                                                                                                                    And as for what I was doing buying food at Starbucks, it was the closest thing after my nearly-four-hour train ride to work.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                      Their signs used to say Chocolate Croissant. I noticed this morning they changed it (have been avoiding their dry pastries but I was hungry) so I asked for Pain au Chocolat and the guy just stared blankly.


                                                                                                                                                                                      I mean if you're gonna get all pretentious and change the signs, how hard is it to teach the name to your baristas?

                                                                                                                                                                                2. I was recently corrected by a waitress when I asked about the chipotle chicken. She said, "the CHIPOLTAY chicken?" I wasn't sure if I should repond with her pronunciation or not, just so we could be on the same page.

                                                                                                                                                                                  If I can pronounce it fairly well and understandably, I'll use the language but if I'll butcher it, I'll avoid saying it (out of respect for the language).

                                                                                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                                    OMG- the chipolte thing drives me out of my mind. Also Bobby Flay's chipotalay. I don't care about Flay, but a lot of people watch him. He has a responsibility.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Marscapone- where the hell did that come from? It's suddenly called that by nearly everybody. Stop this madness right now.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                                                                                                                      How, exactly, do you think "chipotle" is pronounced? Don't know how Bobby says it, but seems straight-forward to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                        Three syllables. He puts a ghost of a fourth in there and it grates unbelievably.


                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                          And yet, half of the places who offer it spell it chipolte. They probably also have some great proscuitto. Ugh.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. I get annoyed when so-called professionals mispronounce the name of a dish or ingredient, such as MARS-ca-pone for Mascarpone, also when someone says they like Eyetalian food, I ask them if they've ever been to Eyetaly. Another one that cracks me up is when I see a "Mescaline" salad on the menu - woo-hoo!

                                                                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jacquelyncoffey

                                                                                                                                                                                      That comment on Eyetaly just reminded me of the Amazing Race and that one contestant while they were in Taiwan. He was sitting in the cab saying how he has eaten Thai food and really likes it but he was so clueless in thinking that Thai food was from Taiwan.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: justagthing

                                                                                                                                                                                        My boyfriend and I laughed our asses off at that! It was the greatest comment!
                                                                                                                                                                                        "We don't know much about Taiwan, but we really like Thai food!"

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: jacquelyncoffey

                                                                                                                                                                                        My MIL married into an EYEtalian family and didn't you know that the proper pronunciation of the old country is IT-lee? lol

                                                                                                                                                                                        I am also amused by Italian-American mispronunciations - in the STL area, you eat "musk-a-cho-lee" at wedding dinners. And what's with "pasta fazool"? And when you buy a couple links of "zah-zeet-sah"? Of course, I realize some of these come from the lazy pronunciation of a foreign word, but they have sort of taken on a life of their own. For the longest time, I had no idea what the sausage was (the real word) because I kept looking for a word starting with a Z.

                                                                                                                                                                                      3. Worcestershire sauce is always incorrectly mispronounced by Americans. It is pronounced wooster. And if you are in Worcestershire in the west midlands of England it is pronounced Woostersheer (not shire)

                                                                                                                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: smartie

                                                                                                                                                                                          The common American pronunciation is woostershir, so it seems that the problem is -shir not wooster-.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                                                                            Have you ever heard Bobby Flay try to pronounce Worcestershire? Or horseradish? He moiders boat woids.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                                                                              In my house we regularly refer to the dish Chicken Parma Gee On Ee, as a tribute to my Scottish M-I-L's quirky pronunciations. I'm so afraid it's become habit that I may order that dish someday in a restaurant like that! I also wondered on our last trip to Scotland how in the world she would be preparing liver patties? It was Liver Pate. This is the same woman who says she and her hubby went out for some "chinky" (chinese food), yes, we have been teaching her about the whole concept of racial sensitivity.....

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: pickledeedee

                                                                                                                                                                                                Oh well, at least you're trying to edumacate her. Good Luck!

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                                                                                Hey, I live in Massachusetts, where we have dozens of localities the names of which are moiduhd by people From Away....

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. In Baltimore nothing is pronounced correctly, anyway. Nine times out of 10 the menu item will include a description. I have no problem with Italian and French but I find that if the name is entirely unpronounceable, I'l simply give the waiter a short translation based on the description.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. OK, I admit I have not read every posting..so if I am being repetitive, I apologize in advance. One of the big problems with words of foreign origin - whether they are for food or anything else - is that you are trying to recreate the word using sounds native to you, not to the place of origin. Even in English, American, British, or Australians can all pronounce the same word in differnt ways, and that doesn't even take dialects into account. In reality, native speakers of English probably do not have the capacity to pronounce Pho correctly without practice, and even then it probably isn't spot on.

                                                                                                                                                                                              That doesn't mean you shouldn't make an effort, it just means we all have to be more accommodating of people's (unintentional) mispronunciations.

                                                                                                                                                                                              10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                                                                                Thank you. You said exactly what I was thinking more diplomatically than I could have.

                                                                                                                                                                                                The only thing that this thread has convinced me of is that English is a terrible language for rendering pronunciations of words. Not only foreign words, but we can't even agree on how to portray the pronunciation of native English words.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Agent Orange

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Part of the problem is that English has already borrowed lots of words.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Also we don't have a 'royal academy' to dictate how words are spelled, and whether we can borrow words or not. Think how simple it would if if such an academy decreed that we had to use 'toast with a tomato topping' instead of borrowing the Italian word for toast.


                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                    and is it tomayto or tomahto???

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                                                                                        No Karl... it's Tuhmatah. Ya know, like lobstah, chowdah, ect.(sic).

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                                                                                          That's why it's tuhmater. The "r"s migrate from lobstah and chowdah and so on and attach themselves to the ends of words that end in vowels. (I used to work with someone who would page the store manager - "Linder Sawyer, please call extension 34.")

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Allstonian

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Yes, that's the Law of Conservation of Rs. We Yankees are frugal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Allstonian

                                                                                                                                                                                                              LOL... for you maybe Allstonian, but here, where I live, there was a fellow who had a gardening show on our local access channel. He always sahtahed his tahmatah seeds in doahs. Drove me nutz!

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                                                                                                That sounds more like Maine than Boston to me! (At least from your transcription to my mental "ear" - but wasn't that part of the problem we were discussing in the first place?)

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I had a teacher who jokingly would put on a fake southern accent and call them "dermaters." It was so funny the way he said it, I adopted that pronunciation and I forget that most other people have no idea what I'm talking about!

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. I always try to call foods and/or dishes by their name in their native language, and if I do not speak the language, I pronounce it as best I can. I, too, have been accused of snobbery/elitism/pretentiousness. But food is important to me, and I like to learn and use proper terminology.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Is it too much to expect that chefs, especially those with a lot of visibility, learn to pronounce the names of ingredients and dishes, and that they teach their staff correct pronunciation?

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I speak French and Italian, so I order in those languages. If it's a language I don't speak, like Chinese or Vietnamese, I try to pronounce the words but with my finger on the menu in case I get it wrong. I think most native speakers appreciate it when you try to speak their language, and if the situation permits, I ask them for the correct pronunciation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      But many non-native waitstaff seem happy to perpetuate incorrect pronunciation....

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cassis

                                                                                                                                                                                                        You know Cassis, I do that too - ask them for the correct pronunciation, and usually they are very kind and patient with me. One waiter at a Mexican place knew I wanted to learn, so he would hand me things and say them in spanish and make me repeat it back to him. He would say things, and I would shrug my shoulders, like I don't understand, then he would translate and say it again until I got it! It was fun for me, and he got a kick out of it too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. What annoys me is how *everyone* mispronounces "borsch". It is not borschT and never has been. There is no such thing anywhere in the former Soviet Union as a *borschT*. Where did this random "T" come from?..

                                                                                                                                                                                                        There, I said it. I feel much better now ;-)))

                                                                                                                                                                                                        24 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: TatyanaG

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Many mis-pronunciations stem from writing non-English and especially non-Western words in our modern Roman alphabet. The original words have sounds not represented in the English alphabet, but people do have to make choices. As discussed above, someone decided on "sushi" rather than "zushi" although the initial sound is somewhere in-between and is neither. I use "laab" for one of my favorite foods from Laos; others spell it "larp" (although I can't see how that was ever derived). In both cases ("laab" and/or "larp") I can't imagine Americans reading either coming up with correct pronunciations--in part because Lao/Thai is tonal and there is no way to express the tone in English.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: TatyanaG

                                                                                                                                                                                                            It came from the final Cyrillic character in the word which is pronounced "shch." Since this sound is somewhot problematic for native English speakers, it became "sht."

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: TatyanaG


                                                                                                                                                                                                              The Russian & Ucrainian spelling ( "борщ" ) ends in щ ("SHTCH" sound) , a roman transliteration ending in scht, although not absolutely accurate, still makes perfect sense.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: RicRios

                                                                                                                                                                                                                "щ" is actually is more of a "SCH" sound and no more matter how you transliterate will never have a "T" sound in it (I'm Russian, so I'm not making this up ;-)).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Pikawicca's explanation makes sense to me ("sch" being more difficult to pronounce).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: TatyanaG

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The Russian form may not have the 't', but what about the Polish, or Yiddish (borsht)?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The OED lists several alternative spellings: borsch, borscht and borshch.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    For what it's worth, Stage Deli in NYC spells it "Borscht." They have two kinds, one of which can be ordered hot or cold. Guess there's a difference between Russian soup andd Jewish soup. '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Actually, the Polish spelling is barszcz. My pet peeve is "pierogis." The word "pierogi" is already plural, the singular being "pierog".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: phofiend

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Very similar to panini, which is plural for panino. No such thing as paninis.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: jacquelyncoffey

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          And ravioli, manicotti, etc. All those lovely stuffed Italian foodstuffs ending in 'i' are plurals.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: TatyanaG

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Interesting. I've only seen it spelled as Borschtsch.... but that's in Germany. I guess we crazy ;-D

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: TatyanaG

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It has been impressed upon me by a chef friend that Chicken Cacciatore - in the style of the hunter - is incorrect. That it is actually Chicken Cacciatora - in the style of the hunter's wife. After all, he's not much of a hunter if he's bringing home chickens ;-) It makes perfect sense to me, but I don't know if I've ever heard anyone else, chef or no, use Cacciatora.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jennywinker

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Of course the reason it's called Cacciatore is because it contains mushrooms, an ingredient that a hunter can potentially lay his hands on. Some Italian nouns ending in "e" are masculine and we presume the hunter is masculine, although the idea of the hunter coming home with a chicken is pretty funny! I think the word "Forestiera" also implies mushrooms.... (and I'm sure you know that Carbonara means charcoal maker)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cassis

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        So sorry, folks: I was wrong. That "alla" was bothering me so I looked it up in my ultimate Italian cookbook, and not only is it ""alla Cacciatora" but neither of the two recipes call for mushrooms. The hunter's wife in Tuscany added peppers, and the hunter's wife in Umbria used eggplant. Typical, he goes out for pheasant and mushrooms and comes home with chicken....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: cassis

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          ...."he goes out for pheasant and mushrooms and comes home with chicken..."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          LOL! While She goes out to the garden and picks whatever's ripe. Wonder if she'll serve Pahstah on the side.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: cassis

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          OK, now I'm curious. What's the connection between the gorgeous concoction known as pasta carbonara and , uh, charcoal?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Catskillgirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Catskillgirl, Spaghetti alla Carbonara (bacon, egg) was named for the charcoal makers, who would go out in the forest, cut up some trees, stack the wood, cover it with branches with leaves, and straw, light it and wait a few days for the wood to turn into charcoal. Charcoal was used for cooking. The carbon (coal)-ari were the lowest of the low socially, but they could find eggs and pancetta or spek. This dish is the favorite not just of starving students but of anyone drunk, hungry or poor who wants a quick filling meal, maybe as a midnight snack. If the dish is gussied up, it isn't authentic! I'm sure you know the origin of Puttanesca!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cassis

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              "I'm sure you know the origin of Puttanesca!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Just in case...


                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: RicRios

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Thanks, Ric! I never thought to look there; I looked up both C and P.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: cassis

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Oh yes - I learned what puttanesca meant when I was 18. I had never thought too much about it until a kindly friend filled me in!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                And thank you for the info on the carbonara! Very interesting. It's such a yummy dish but I never heard the origin of the name until today. Thanks!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. re: TatyanaG

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Jfood is not Russian but is of russian lineage. He always called it borscht with a "t". And if you google borscht you get 499,000 hits.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Jfood is not disputing your conclusion but there seems to be ample evidence that the "t" may also be an acceptable pronunciation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            It doesn't matter if the entire US of A is pronouncing it with a "t". Nowhere in Russia or Ukraine (where the dish originated) will you ever hear it pronounced that way. People would laugh their heads off if you ordered a "borschT" in a restaurant. To each his own, I guess. I always want to laugh when I hear people ordering "prozhiud" (guess what?) or "muzzorell". These Italian words get butchered more than the Russian ones.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: TatyanaG

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The most accuate thing that can be said about the origin of borsch/borscht is that it is Slavic/Jewish. The soup is common throughout eastern Europe, and there's little chance that you won't get what you want when you order it, regardless of whether or not you use the "t" at the end.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: TatyanaG

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Given that ordering in a Russian restaurant is usually more a matter of what they have than what you want to eat, you can quite easily duck that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                "Shto yest'?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                "Borshch i kotlyet."


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                ("What is there?" "Soup and (usually chicken) cutlet." "Fine.")

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I think that the Russian word for "Borscht" ends with that crazy Russian phoneme that sounds like "shch." English speakers had a hard time with this, so just said "borscht." Makes sense to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. as Aussies think all youse Yanks bugger the lingo up no matta what youse are yackin about.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              We think the way you pronounce aluminium is HILARIOUS!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: purple goddess

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  We Yanks think the way you Aussies *spell* "aluminum" is the problem!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. Does it bother you if non-English speakers mispronounce English food names?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A few Spanish examples come to mind:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The ending is likely to be changed to a vowel: hamburgesa
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The first 'o' in hotdog is likely much more rounded than in English. The 'h' may silent.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  An initial 's' is likely to be changed to a 'es',


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Doesn't bother me a bit, but a person ordering an ",ahmburgessa" might be in for a difficult time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      There's a restaurant in Old Town, San Diego (at least I think it's still there) called Hamburguesa. Everything on the menu has a hamburger patty as the meat. Not bad, and GREAT stawberry margaritas.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        No, mispronunciations can be charming, so as long as it's not butchered intentionally! Sincere effort is always appreciated!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. My mother is European and speaks 8 languages, so pronounciation is very important to her as well as cultural context. Back in the 70s/80s, I recall a ladies luncheon she gave for the symphony board where my services were enlisted to help serve & clear. She is of Hungarian descent, but grew up in France and is a terrific cook. In our city in Ohio, French cuisine was still a little snooty in those days. She made tons of food and several varieties of quiche. One of the haughtier Symphony ladies who often snubbed my mother as a "Holocaust refugee" wanted to impress everyone with her knowledge. She told my mother that the mushroom & leek QUICKIE she had made was good despite being cold. Needless to say, that story is part of our family lore. No one in our family can order a piece of quiche without saying QUICKIE!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            My father, coincidentally also an Ohio "Holocaust refugee" though never thus snubbed, once ordered a "floating root beer" in an ice cream parlor! (Not as bad as the time he showed up to his first black tie wedding in a green suit with a black tie.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. When making and serving a dish for guests, I always try to pronounce it correctly and follow with a description. It isn't really helpful, for instance, to call pot au feu a French beef stew just to avoid sounding pretentious.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. I like learning about what foods are so I don't mind when people call them by their right names. I do however feel snobby when I insist people call a dish by its native name.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Chew on That

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                And on that same note, I feel naive when I call something by its wrong name!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. The gracious thing to do, in my opinion, is to attempt native pronunciation the first time you order a new dish and try to achieve mastery before a subsequent visit. On the pedantry/respect-for-details front, one should also never embarrass a language-mangling dining companion or staff person by correcting them in public and without solicitation of help.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. My friends on Lawn Guyland drink "kuhwaffee", as in "gimme a kuhwaffee, regulah".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. As a waiter, I was often amused by the pronunciations I heard:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Val-police-ee-ella (Valpolicella)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Bo-jal-us (Beaujolais)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Dom Per-IGG-non
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Cab-UR-Net Sav-IGG-non
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Fill-it MIGG-non

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    But the one that really confused me was a guest's order
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    for a bottle of "Matey-US". It took me five minutes of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    studying the wine list before I realized he wanted "Mateus".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. One should always try to learn correct pronunciation. But it's a pet peeve of mine when Roman alphabet translations from foreign alphabets fail to more closely approximate correct pronunciation. Why on earth is Vietnamese soup "pho" - which looks as though it is pronounced "foe", when "phuh" whould be closer to correct? Why "feng shui" rather than "fung shway"? In cases like "bruschetta", one has to know that the Italian pronunciation of "sch" is "sk" - and I don't think it's too much to expect a person to use the correct pronunciation once he's heard it. But where there is a change in alphabet, why not create a more phonetic spelling?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        You have chosen very poor examples. Vietnamese uses the western alphabet, so PHO is the ORIGINAL spelling in Vietnamese (minus diacritical marks). Feng Shui is the pinyin spelling (romanization scheme officially created by the Chinese government for writing Chinese words using a western alphabet).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        What you propose would be like showing up in Mexico and finding "Jam an Chis Zanjuches" on a lunch menu.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Very interesting analysis, but here's some help on pronouncing pho. Not too tough and very doable. http://www.lovingpho.com/pho-opinion-...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: chuynh

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            That link is brilliant, chuynh, thanks. I've asked Vietnamese servers and resto owners to repeat the pronunciation countless times and I can't seem to get that little lilty bit right. I'd given up and was pronouncing it like the French word for fire. Now I can practice at home :-).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: grayelf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Glad that helped. Obviously individuals have their own accents depending on where they're from. In the case of pho, to foreign ears it sounds different from different Viet speaking person. So naturally the foreign person assumes there is no standard pronunciation. But on the contrary. Viet people know exactly which accent and dialect the speaker is conversing in and we properly compensate for it. There's only one way to say pho, but non-Viet speakers do not understand the different accents yet.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: chuynh

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I got cocky and asked our fluent in English daughter of Vietnamese resto owner how to pronounce bo 7 mon (beef 7 ways). Yoiks, what a disaster! I think I'd best stick to Romance languages 8-). Good thing you don't have to speak the lingo to enjoy the grub!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: grayelf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I would venture to guess the daughter (who is fluent in English) would have a non-Viet accent to many Vietnamese ears. When we Viet kieu (overseas Vietnamese) go back to Vietnam now, aside from the fact that we definitely have an American sounding accent, speech pattern and body language in our manners, there's really a 30 year gap between Viet language in Vietnam and in the U.S. So we're struggling ourselves as well. But you're right, and I think the only universal language is the slurping of the noodle.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. It drives me crazy when people -- who should know better -- pronounce risotto "riz-OH-toe." Alton Brown did it on Iron Chef this week, and it surprised me. It's "riz-awe-toe."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          38 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            it's riz O toe!! As in lot not as in low. where do you get the awe sound from?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Is not! This post is in response to roxlet, who is completely wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                It's neither. It's the /ɔ/ sound, which is neither "aw" nor the American "oh", but somewhere between (an open, back, rounded vowel).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  You self proclaimed Italian experts have it all wrong, it is pronounced 'that Italian rice dish'. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I disagree: It's certainly not schwa. It's the sound an American would make pronouncing "oh," only cut in half. Most Romance language vowel sounds are very short, compared to English ones.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Maybe the placement of the accent is more important than the vowel quality. Take the accent off the 'o', and it becomes a schwa in most American speech. They'll hear the difference in accent placement, but they won't pay much attention the differences in the quality of the unaccented vowel.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        But the accent is on the "o" syllable. It is "ris O to" not "RIZ u tuh" or "rizuh TOE". Learn to speak a languange where accent is supreme and you'll quickly agree.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        In Tagalog, the words "kaibigan" are pronounced "KA i bi gan", ka EE bi gan" and "ka i bi GAN". Each word means something totally different.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          For some reason, I got the idea that the accent was on the last. That seemed to be implied in this discussion, and at least some of the dictionary pronunciations that I just looked up put it there. Others put it on the 'o', usually marking the 'o' with the 'long' bar.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'll admit, I don't speak a bit of Italian, nor do I have Italian neighbors that I can ask. And since few, if any, cookbooks bother to specify a pronunciation with their recipes for risotto, I don't think it matters.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          If I were in Italy, and needed to make myself understood, I would pay attention to how those around me are speaking. But among my American friends and relatives, the version that bugs roxlet will be most natural.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Accent on the last = "ruh suh TOE"??

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        You're correct that it's not a schwa sound, but that's not a schwa symbol; it's the "open o." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C6%86 It's the vowel sound in bawd, caught, and aural. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:IPA...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Time for a bigger monitor. Or reading glasses.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I didn't say it was schwa. Please refer to an IPA guide. The sound you're referring to is represented as /ɔ/... oh, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-mid...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Oh, and I'm from New Jersey, so "aural" and "oral" are switched from what a Nebraskan would say -- you take an "ah-rul" exam to prove you can speak a language, but you listen better when you have good "awwwww-rul" skills.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      To confuse the matter even more, it's rree zoh toe more than riz since the "i" has an "ee" sound. It's the same sound as (pizza) pee tzah. But I think it sounds pretentious unless it's done by someone who speaks Italian, with the rolled R and all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Risotto seems to be one of the most difficult Italian words to pronounce, and I find it really grates when English speakers say ree-zoe-toe. But the linguists here have indeed nailed the pesky middle vowel as something like aural, law, etc. But nobody has mentioned the really hard part, which is the double consonant, the pronunciation of which is essential in Italian and probably the hardest thing for foreign speakers to hear and pronounce.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mbfant

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It's not THAT difficult if you read it as ri·sot·to and not ri·so·tto. Same idea as "can't talk" in English, a brief pause between the two T's.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            In American English, only one "t" is pronounced in "can't talk," not two.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              pika, so it should be impossible to determine whether the person said. "Can talk" or "Can't talk".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The first t isn't fully voiced, but it's there.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                "Can talk" sounds different than "can't talk." The difference is the extra t. It's subtle, but it's there.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  That is NOT the difference. In "I can talk," the stress is on "talk," so the vowel sound in "can" becomes schwa. In "I can't talk," the stress shifts to "can," and the vowel sound remains "pure," not reduced. That is the ONLY difference in the pronunciation of the two sentences.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    There is absolutely a second phoneme in there. The two phonemes are not the same (the first is unaspirated, the second is aspirated), but the same holds true in Italian -- in the word "risotto", the first t is unaspirated and the second is aspirated (i.e., there's breath behind it).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    As for the difference between "can talk" and "can't talk", picture this conversation:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    "I'm sorry but I can't talk right now."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    "Well, I *can* talk so you just sit down and listen."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    "Don't talk" has the same quality, and is the same central phoneme as "risotto".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      No. The "T" at the end of "can't" is NEVER pronounced before a consonant by Americans. Many of us swear that we pronounce it, but we don't. Drives non-native speakers crazy, because they're expecting to hear it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Typical conversation between one of my ESL students and a fellow teacher:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Student (adult): "Helen, would you like to have lunch with us at a Korean restaurant?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Helen: "I'd love to, but I can't tolerate spicy food."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Student (slightly puzzled): "Well, then you'll love Korean food."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        You're still not making the jump to the idea that there can be more than one "t" sound. There's the aspirated t of "tell", the unaspirated t of "can't", the quasi-glottal stop of "Latin" and the palatal stop (rare in English, but rendered as "th" in Zulu). And, of course, "t" sometimes gets elided to /d/ -- cf. AE "later" vs. a Liverpool accent where it would be a glottal stop.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I just heard three separate people, in an argument on a teleconference, say they "can't tell" the difference between two options on a piece of software. There was a definite unaspirated "t" at the end of "can't" from all three.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It is possible that in Southern English this gets elided as part of the drawl (Southerners tend to practice what in French we would call "liaison", where the final consonant gets tacked onto the beginning of the next work, "sor to fli kyou might hea ra ta chora lreading".)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I suspect your ESL students are expecting an aspirated "t", which does not occur -- and does not occur as the first "t" in "risotto", either.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I suggest a reality check:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Find a non-native speaker of English, one who speaks fairly good, but not fluent English. Say to him "I can't tell the difference between chicken and turkey." Then ask him to tell you (with certainty -- no guessing) if you are, or are not, able to tell them apart.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Change it around, using "can" some of the time and "can't" at others (not before vowels). I am absolutely confident that your test subject won't have a clue.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The real test is when the guy from Balmer says the two sentences...and no understands what he said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              An interesting test, and one that does not prove your assertion at all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                One of my good friends in high school had immigrated from Vietnam just a couple of years earlier. He thought I was pulling his leg when I tried to get him to hear the difference between "word" "wood" and "world."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Just because a non-native speaker can't distinguish between two sounds doesn't mean that the sounds are the same.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The sounds are NOT the same, but non-native speakers are expecting to hear a "t," not a difference in stress or vowel sound. If you ask 100 native speakers what the difference in pronunciation is between "can't" and "can," at least 99 will say it's the letter "t." They would be wrong. It's the "a."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Most non-native speakers are NOT fluent enough to distinguish the difference in accents and pronunciation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    That's akin to asking a non-wine drinker if they can tell the difference between a cab and a merlot...or a non-beer drinker if they can taste the difference between Coors and Heineken....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The 99 are right. You're wrong. I'm outta here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Um, no. Any of the words in either of those phrases can be emphasized; the emphasis affects meaning:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            **I** can talk (she can't). I **can** talk (but I choose not to). I can **talk** (though I can't do much else).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            By the same token, **I** can't talk (maybe somebody else can). I **can't** talk (I really want to, but can't). I can't **talk** (but I can do other stuff).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            When the "can" in "I can talk" is emphasized, the /a/ is pronounced exactly as it is in "can't." But the two phrases are still pronounced differently.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The reason is that, regardless of emphasis, there's an unaspirated /t/ at the end of "can't." The tip of the tongue comes up to the front of the palate, but no air passes it. THAT is the difference in the pronunciation of the two sentences.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              ooh, Alan, my friend, I will fight you on the beaches over this one. The vowel sounds in "can" and "can't are SO different.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                While it's true that the vowel sound in "can" is usually a schwa, that sound changes when the word "can" is emphasized. Either emphasize the word "can" in a sentence, or just say it on its own. When you do, the vowel sound is exactly the same as the one in "can't."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Gotta love the English language...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Wrong! I think folks who live in more metropolitan areas where there's folks from all over the world tend to enunciate their words more...and generally take care to pronounce words (native and otherwise) correctly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Except for Balmer (the largest city in Murlin).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  There are some metro corners (HI, NOLA...and Baltimore MD) where natives add a charming twang and coexist nicely with folks who speak clearly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                putting the stress on "talk" has a different meaning than putting it on either "i" or "can" and all are legitimate

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              3. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I'm a non-native English speaker. As a Lao person who also speaks English, I can definitely attest that there is an unaspirated T sound at the end of the word Can't when saying "Can't Talk".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Can Talk and Can't Talk do not sound the same. Regardless of the word you're stressing, when you're saying "Can't Talk", Can't has an unaspirated T, whereas Talk has an aspirated T.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The reason why I think it's easy for me to hear the difference between aspirated and unaspirated consonants has to do with the fact that my native language (Lao) consists of separate aspirated and unaspirated consonants in our Lao alphabet. When representing the T sound, the Lao alphabet has at least three different characters to choose from. One of the characters represents an unaspirated T, whereas either one of the remaining two characters may be used to represent an aspirated T.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: yummyrice

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This is why, especially when I teach a room full of half asleep freshpeeps, I drop the contractions and say "can talk" and "cannot talk".
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Prevents half the misunderstandings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. To me the most important thing is one's love and interest in the dish. And few things to me are more offputting than when a server at a restaurant or the host at someone's home at a dinner party uses perfect native authentic pronounciation to announce a dish, and then it comes out horribly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. At the Caltech cafeteria, if you order the caprese panini or pizza, doesn't matter how you pronounce it (cah-PRAY-zay, cah-PREH-zay, cah-PREHZ), they'll always answer, "you mean the cah-PREEss"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        as in caprice.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I don't mind getting corrected, as long as it's the correct pronunciation and it's done nicely. I appreciate learning something new.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        But I'd rather just have them say tomato-mozzarella then correct me, uh, incorrectly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: CookieEater

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Satsuma-age (fried fish cake used in dishes like o-den)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Satusuma-imo (Japanese sweet potato)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: foodslut

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            When I worked in a cheese shop, we had a customer who always ordered Brye as in Brian, rather than Bree when requesting Brie. Had to work hard to keep a straight face, but she was a good customer...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. My favorite are Chinese names. Americans always mispronounce them with such authority!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: edhazer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            yeah, guilty as chaged. Despite it being one of my favorite dishes, I am still unable to pronounce Xiamen Chow, Mai Fun straight (I usally go with something along the lines of Sha-men but have also gone with Ha Moo or Moon (this neing how most of the englush sides of the menu write it, even Amoy (once agin if thats how the english side wrote it) often I end up just picking up a menu and pointing.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I have simlar problems with West lake soup tho in this case it more often a case of me saying west lake soup when that isnt how they deicided to translate it (I more often see minced beef soup with Chinese parsley or minced beef egg drop chowder (one place I know of even gives you the option of other meats, not just beef which makes the ordering doubly hard)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            As for confused looks, I still love the fact that a greek place near me sells a very good Tyropitakia (cheese pie). However if you try and get one and actually say "Tyropitakia" the owners (who are all fluent in greek) look at you funny until you say a cheese pie. And before you ask yes the Spanikopita is listed as Spanikopita. at least they undertand both pronuctations of "gyros". As I undestand it is actually supposed to be pronuced "chriros" with a hard CH.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            That remind me of another thing, ever since My Dad came back from a business trip in holland, I realized that gouda is actually pronounced chowda (again with a hard "ch", were not talking about ordering soup in New England) I found saying or at least trying to say it right somtimes gets me better treatment at a Dutch import store I sometime got to.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jumpingmonk

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Its "kghouuduh". Dad was not listening.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. c