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Mar 2, 2009 03:04 PM

Just how "W" is the GU in Guacamole supposed to sound?

So...... I took a break and caught Bobby Flay and wife Stephanie March making grilled flank steak, tacos and Guacamole on FoodTV. Part of the reparte was Stephanie correcting Bobby's pronunciation of the word. I speak enough Spanish to know that the "G" in Guacamole is a softer sound than a hard G in English (like in Guard or Gap) but I can't think of a way to phoneticize it for someone on paper. I'm concluding it's one of those things you have to hear and copy.

Saying "Wha"-camole is close but not completely on. "Hwa"-camole doesn't seem right either. Is there a soft G sound like that in English or a way to phoneticize it?


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    My personal pronunciation varies based on who I'm talking to.

    1. I understand that if the G precedes A or O or U, it's like the G in gun or get.

      1. Gwah-ka-mo-lay

        otherwise, it sounds like Whack-a-Mole

        14 Replies
        1. re: Caralien

          Did you read the link in Rockfish's post? It suggests that this is a subtle pronunciation thing and not as simple as that. I just wonder what the rules are.

          I've worked for years with people named Guzman, Gomez or Gutierrez (or the like) and just don't recall anything other than the hard G sound. But it does appear that there's some deviation. Maybe it's a regional difference?

          1. re: Midlife

            all of my Mexican and Spanish friends pronounce the G in their last name as a hard G. for the Hwa sound, it would usually be spelled with a J or a Oax (jaime, Jalisco, Oaxaca)

            1. re: Midlife

              it's not regional, there are some basic rules depending on what follows the g.

              G before an a plus consonant (ganar), o plus consonant, (golosa) or u plus consonant (gusto) is hard.

              G before an e plus consonant (genio) or i plus consonant (girasol) is like an aspirated h.

              G before u plus e or i (guerra, guitarra) is hard.

              G before u plus a (guacamole) is that kind of soft g or "hwa" sound that some on this thread refer to it as.

              G before üe or üi (güera, pengüino) is like an english w.

              I probably forgot some diphhthong combos, but those are the basic rules for g pronunciation.

              1. re: laguera

                Thanks. Got it!!! And that's what I thought the rules were. It's like the word guapo, which I know should bej pronounced like "hwapo".

                1. re: Midlife

                  yeah, except i think the initial consonant sound is more like a very soft g that gets caught in the back of your throat than it is like an h. Guacamole and guapo I have never heard pronounced with that slightly aspirated sound that the h implies.

                  1. re: laguera

                    Well.... yes. I used the 'hwa' because other people used it here but stated, somewhere in this topic, that I don't hink there really is a good English phonetic spelling. You have to hear it spoken.

                    1. re: Midlife

                      See the post (below) from caroline1. After hearing that I just don't know any more. Either it's my ears or that speak is pronouncing guacamole with a hard g and guapa with a soft one.

                2. re: laguera

                  laguera = "La Güera" or "La Guera" ?

                  1. re: RicRios

                    Güera! It was my nickname at a restaurant I worked at.

              2. re: Caralien

                Is that Whack-a-Mole as in "Moul" (the rodent) or is it Whack-a-Mole as in "Mo-lay" (the Mexican sauce)??


                1. re: Caralien

                  i know this is old, but this is a pet peeve. it is not gwah-ka-mo-LAY - GUACAMOLE - the last syllable isn't pronounced LAY, it's pronounced LEH. it kills me that every Spanish book i've ever seen gives people this pronunciation as if non-Spanish speakers could not pronounce "eh" - it is the same sound as the "e" first "e" in "elephant. it's ridiculous, and this one little thing makes people sound silly when they're trying to learn a language - it gives people an exaggerated "American" or "gringo" accent. really bugs.

                  1. re: mariacarmen

                    that's because people learning spanish are taught that the spanish "e" sounds like a long "a." and i suspect that you learned spanish as a native language, and maybe a regional accent when you learned to say guacamole with the "eh"? do you pronounce mole as mol'-ay, or mol'-eh? how do those who enunciate things "very properly" pronounce it? (i'm thinking, e.g., of how an englishman pronounces a word or phrase vs. an american).

                    i'm not a spanish language scholar, i'm just thinkin' out loud. i took spanish over many years in high school, college and grad school.

                    1. re: alkapal

                      all spanish speaking people i have met, from any spanish speaking country, pronounce it as "eh", not as "ay" the vowels have one pronunciation - just one. a=ah, e-eh, i-ee, o-oh, u=ooh. all are short (so it's not "oh" like "oh no", but an "o" with a short puff of air, more like "aw" then "oh" but pronounced like "awh". i know that's what people learning spanish are taught, but i don't know why, again, it appears that whoever is teaching/writing the text books believes Americans cannot make that "eh" sound , which i do not believe. (i'm saying Americans because I don't know if Spanish language books from other countries do the same thing.)

                    2. re: mariacarmen

                      Neither 'lay' or 'leh' is an IPA representation. The 'ay' might lead the English speaker to give a dipthong quality that isn't there in Spanish. But what does 'h' do? We don't English speakers to think of the Canadian interjection. Non IPA pronunciation guides are always imprecise.

                  2. I favor the Hwa-ca-mo-lay proununciation

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: KiltedCook

                      So isn't the "rule" hard G before A, O, U ? Spanish is NOT my first language --- hardly :) But the thing I've always likes about Spanish is that, unlike English, pronunciation is standard. No?

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Spanish from Spain and Spanish from various Latin American countries have differences like English from England, English from Texas and English from Boston....
                        The word comes from an the Aztecs.

                        1. re: lgss

                          So would guacamole be pronounced differently?

                          1. re: lgss

                            The word in Spanish isn't the same as the Nahuatl, āhuacamolli. So what you're left with is the pronunciation [ɣʷakaˈmole] based on Standard Spanish as defined by the Real Academia Española, which is what I was taught in high school and University. Language is for conveying ideas, as long as the listener understands what you're saying you'll be fine. Standardization of language is a topic best left to other discussion boards perhaps, as there are a slew of political and social issues attached to such a conversation.

                            1. re: rockfish42

                              I never knew that. Thank you. I DO know that there's Brazilian Portuguese as well as Portuguese Portuguese so that makes sense.

                              1. re: rockfish42

                                Where would one go to look up the pronunciation of ɣʷ ? I checked a couple of phonetic symbol sites and couldn't find it.

                                What I would assume is that there is one pronunciation in Spain (Castillian perhaps?) and another in Mexico and the Americas. I studied Castillian Spanish as a student in New york and moved to SoCal where they thought I has a lisp. :o)

                                  1. re: rockfish42

                                    Thanks for sending me back there. That was one of the sites I had checked but it took a while to be sure I had the right symbol and to figure out what the little W meant.

                                    The symbol that appears to be closest is in the "V" section and is from Arabic/Swahili, as a 'gh' sound with 'lip-rounding'(the little W). I know that sound from my school years of Castillian Spanish (and from listening to people like Jose Andres), but I think there is really no way to adequately describe it phontecially because there's no such sound in English speech. You have to hear it over and over. It certainly is not as simple as "Wha".

                                    I think I'll just soften the G and try to roll it a little. Or....... just forget about it. I love Guacamole. Can't get too hung up on how to say it.

                                    1. re: Midlife

                                      It is hard to describe phonetically and there is no such sound in English speech, but I would describe the first syllable as the sound of gently starting to caugh up a fur ball.

                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        My cat is sitting on my arm, otherwise I'd ask her to demonstrate.

                                        It's interesting that we, or I did anyway, learned arbitrary pronunciations in school that aren't quite right. But I guess if they didn't teach that way, then they wouldn't be spoken languages, would they?

                                        1. re: Veggo

                                          try to make the "g" sound in your throat the way you normally would in saying the word "gun". you'll notice that your throat (for lack of a scientific, medical term) is closing on itself. when you say "guacamole" in Spanish, your throat only closes instantaneously. it's not something you can tell someone how to pronounce, or describe phonetically. for me, it's much like the sound in the last syllable in the French word "revoir" - most non-French speakers pronounce it "rev-war" or worse, "re-vwa", but French speakers wrap their tongues around that last syllable and bend it to make that sound, and you just have to be able to feel your own tongue/throat make that move to make that sound.

                          2. Any linguists out there that can define the little *crackle* of a *g* that precedes the "hwa" sound in guacamole?

                            Love to know, as it's so hard to define.


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