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

Midlife Mar 2, 2009 03:04 PM

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?


  1. mariacarmen Jan 14, 2011 10:09 PM

    and ANOTHER, unrelated linguistic pet peeve in Spanish - grew up speaking Spanish with parents from Bolivia, surrounded by people from lots of other Spanish speaking countries. Around 10-15 years ago i started hearing people who were learning to speak Spanish would use the letter "b" interchangeably with the letter "v". As in "Venezuela" - i heard people saying "Benezuela"!!! WRONG. there is a "b" sound in Spanish, as in the word "bien" and a "v" sound, as in the word "vamos". it's not BAHMOS. it's Vahmos. ok, done with rant.

    7 Replies
    1. re: mariacarmen
      Veggo Jan 15, 2011 06:24 AM

      Like it or not, most latinos pronounce "v" more like a "b". The common phrase vamos a ver (we'll see) usually is pronounced as "bomb-os a bear" , and I accept that as soon as I cross the Rio Grande, my name becomes Beggo.
      I'll add another fly to the ointment. Huitlacoche can also be spelled cuitlacoche. Does it alter the pronunciation?
      Classic Castillian is rarely spoken in the Americas, and it is more efficacious to use a good listening ear and embrace the regional dialect.

      1. re: Veggo
        mariacarmen Jan 15, 2011 11:01 AM

        but it didn't use to be that way. i'm saying it's a new development, not just regional.

        i don't know enough about it to know how to pronounce cuitlacoche...

      2. re: mariacarmen
        paulj Jan 15, 2011 08:59 AM

        The b/v difference is a regional issue. Sounds like your version hears a big difference between them, while in other regions the difference is subtle or isn't there at all. Spanish spelling bees focus on the few sounds like this were there can be confusion (also the silent initial h). Spanish grammar books have lists of words that are spelled with 'b', and ones with 'v', as well as ones that sound the same, but have different means depending on how they are spelled (e.g. basto vasto).

        If you have a Spanish English dictionary, you might find a chapter on regional variations. The interior highland parts of Latin America tend to speak more like the older Castillian, except for Indigenous borrowings. Coastal regions had more contact with the ports in southern Spain, as well as other countries.

        This contrast is quite noticeable in Ecuador. To people who grew up in Quito (in the mountains), the costenos seem to swallow half the sounds (e.g. 'pescado' becomes 'pecado'). I don't recall how the two regions compare on the b/v issue.

        1. re: paulj
          mariacarmen Jan 15, 2011 11:07 AM

          Cubans tend to cut off the ends of their words, too. My family is Bolivian and we speak Spanish very slooooooly, and pronounce each sound. it's very easy for new Spanish speakers to listen to a Bolivian.

          Again, and i may be wrong, but i don't believe it is so much regional as something new that is being taught or being passed along. like a development in the language. for good or for bad, it is evolving (or devolving, if you are a stickler.) it's a silly personal peeve, much like, for me, an article i just read about how people now do not use two spaces after a period. this was how i learned it in school, so it bugs that people are changing it. it's a curmudgeon's perspective, i know. so back to the "b"/"v" issue - it's what i grew up with, in my own home, but also in others' homes, in the neighborhood. there was always a distinction, but at some point Spanish speaking people starting melding the two and it became more standardized.

          1. re: mariacarmen
            paulj Jan 15, 2011 11:52 AM

            Do you realize that at some point English speakers shifted the sounds of the vowels all around? It's called the Great Vowel Shift. It is why English vowels sound so different from the Spanish ones (e.g. the English 'long a' is a really a diphthong, the English 'e' is pronounced like the Spanish 'i', etc). Was that change a devolution?

            1. re: mariacarmen
              Jen76 Jan 15, 2011 12:18 PM

              Just as an aside, the two spaces after a period are no longer necessary (and whether they ever were is debatable, according to my mom who used to set type way back in pre-digital days) due to modern word processing software and proportionally spaced fonts rather than monospaced fonts.

              And I agree with Paul on the b/v issue and regional differences. Even though I'm not a native Spanish speaker, there are plenty of people who are down here in Phoenix, and I've always heard them say "v" as a soft "b" sound. I have never met anyone from Bolivia, though. I had a friend in HS who emigrated from Ecuador with her parents and spoke English with a very thick accent. Hearing Spanish being spoken around town is also an everyday occurrence.

              Guacamole - I say with a hard g when talking to other non-spanish speakers, but when talking to Spanish speakers, I definitely hear them pronounce it the way you've described in the Ranch markets. We know a guy of Mexican roots - native Spanish speaker but born in S. TX - that owns his own landscaping business, and he has done work at our house as well as at my parents' house. He loves to cook as well, so we talk food with him. He made us a big pot of pozole once and gave us tamales another time. He's an awesome fellow. My husband grew up speaking a Latin-based language and it amazes me how much he can converse with people in Spanish.

          2. re: mariacarmen
            Jen76 Jan 15, 2011 09:14 AM

            Whenever I go to the local Pro's Ranch Market - because the produce section and bakery rock, and I just love looking at the whole cow head in the meat case - those "v" sounds sure sound an awful lot like a soft "b" to my Great Lakes region American ears.

            But I get teased incessantly by the native-born Arizonans at work for saying (supposedly) "bay-g" or "beh-g" instead of however they say "bag" is usually pronounced. Now I just say "sack."

          3. Siobhan Jan 14, 2011 07:46 PM

            You are all way too smart for me - tho I will try to be better with the gwhacomole. My daughter's name is Mairead - and the d is supposed to be said "dth" but am now tierd of trying so when I am asked if it ryhmes with parade, I just say yes.

            Asta mostla

            1. 0
              0326paul Jan 14, 2011 07:10 PM

              Remember that Bobby Flay is not an hispanoparlante, not much of a Spanish speaker. In Texas, you're going to hear his pronunciation, and will hear it from many in California, as well, but not from many hispanics. Some of the hispanic language dialect speakers will have different pronunciations of the onset consonant, ranging from that of Mr. Flay, through a very soft /g/ - /k/ sound, and aspirated sound (think /h/), followed by the /ua/ or /wa/ consonant-vowel combination. The word doesn't really have a Spanish root for the part that refers to the avocado; rather it has a root from a Mexican indigenous language, combined with the ending root, and apparently did not end with the sound of the /eh/ or long /a/, but rather one of the Spanish /i/, which in English is more like our long e. This all give you great latitude for your pronunciation. My habit is to say something that approximates huacamoli, where the /h/ is the softest, nearly inaudible /k/-/h/, and the ending i is somewhat like a brief long e. Suit yourself, don't fight about it, and if you're writing from Texas, you might as well use Bobby's pronunciation.

              2 Replies
              1. re: 0326paul
                Veggo Jan 14, 2011 07:52 PM

                Glad we cleared this one up after 683 days of wrangling.

                1. re: 0326paul
                  Passadumkeg Jan 14, 2011 08:03 PM

                  Love it!

                2. NYCkaren Mar 5, 2009 01:35 PM

                  I'm tickled to see this thread! I watched that episode and was thinking the same thing. But I remember enough of my high school Spanish to know how "guapo" is pronounced so it's all making sense to me now.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: NYCkaren
                    Passadumkeg Mar 9, 2009 02:29 PM

                    NYC, me? Guapo? Muchas gracias senorita.

                    Sr. Cabeza de Guacal

                  2. Ed Dibble Mar 4, 2009 05:59 AM

                    This post touches on some old issues. For example, English has two words that mean exactly the same thing that come from the same root that are spelled and pronounced differently - guarantee and warranty - because we borrowed the words from two different forms of medieval French and because gua slides toward wa and vice versa.

                    Spanish doesn't seem to use w, so a lot of foreign words taken into Spanish have a "u" where there is a "w" in the original: think Eduardo, for example.

                    And many Spanish words that begin "guad" actually incorporate the Arabic word "wadi" - which means like stream or river. For example Guadelupe = wolf river.

                    So this is an old issue. Down here on the border one hears everything from a strong Gwa sound to a much softer gWa.

                    1. tracylee Mar 3, 2009 09:15 PM

                      OK, in Ecuador, I don't remember ever seeing guacamole, but we did have Guayaquil, where by natives, the g was pretty much silent. Why-a-keel.

                      But as I said, no guac, plenty of aguacates (again, silent g), so feel free to ignore my input.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: tracylee
                        Midlife Mar 3, 2009 10:06 PM

                        That's it!!! So are those words pronounced that way throughout Central America or is Mexico, for example, different??? If it's not regional, then what determines which 'g's are soft or silent?

                        1. re: Midlife
                          paulj Mar 3, 2009 10:25 PM

                          I've seen a discussion of regional differences in the front of a Spanish - English dictionary. There may be Wiki article about it as well.

                          Some letters like the 'll' have unique regional variations. This 'gua' may also be special. But there are some broader patterns that can be traced to colonial settlement patterns and timing. If I remember correctly many coastal parts of Central and South America have a common pronunciation which can be traced to their on going contact with the ports of southern Spain.

                          On the other hand, some interior mountain cities (e.g. Quito, Mexico DF) speak something much closer to the Castellano of Madrid. In Ecuador there is a noticeable difference between the speech in the mountains and speech on coast (Guayaquil) - in a country the size of Colorado. There are also influences from local and regional Indian languages - different ones for Mexico and for the Andes.

                          Guacamole could have its own variations that aren't reflected in the spelling just because it is a borrowing from an Mexican Indian word.

                          1. re: paulj
                            Sam Fujisaka Mar 4, 2009 06:23 AM

                            There is not much difference in the pronunciation of "gua" throughout Latin America. There are distinct differences in the pronunciation of "rr" and 'll" and others by country and region. Many people in the Andean countries find the Argentinian accent ugly and arrogant and the Mexican accent to be funny. Americans think that "ll" should be pronounced as in Mexico (brush = "cepillo" = cepiyo) even though most of Latin America pronounces if differently (cepilyo) and Argentinians (cepizho). My Colombian ex-wife couldn't understand all of the slum Spanish in the movie "Amores Perros".

                            Finally, there is little to no guacamole outside of Mexico; and if there were, in most places it would be made from a palta rather than an aguacate (different words for the same fruit).

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                              RicRios Mar 4, 2009 11:42 AM

                              GUACAMOLE in Mexico is gastronomically similar to GUASACACA in Venezuela.

                              Now, look what I found:

                              "Aguacate significa “testículo” en lengua azteca y mole se traduce por salsa (aún se usa el término en diversos platos de la rica gastronomía de México). Por tanto el guacamole es, literalmente, una salsa de cojones."


                              If that's true, it doesn't explain where GUASACACA comes from.
                              And I hope it's not what I'm thinking.

                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                tracylee Mar 4, 2009 12:17 PM

                                I found the pronunciation of the "ll" in the mountains of Ecuador, like Quito, to be more of a zh sound, like the Argentinians, it looks like, Sam. After two years on the coast, where "ll" was pronounced as a y, it was difficult to understand Serranos!

                                1. re: tracylee
                                  paulj Mar 4, 2009 01:30 PM

                                  plus the Serranos add all those extra letters like the 's' in 'pescado'

                                  1. re: paulj
                                    tracylee Mar 4, 2009 02:14 PM

                                    and they have the nerve to actually pronounce consonants the ends of words! Us costenos just kinda left them off, especially the 's's

                        2. g
                          gordeaux Mar 3, 2009 02:32 PM

                          Try it this way pronounce the G with the front of your tongue pressed against the roof of your mouth just in back of your front teeth. As in "Da me un orden del guacamole." I kinda felt how I said del guacamole - the l kinda rolls right into the G after using my tongue to pronounce it, and it kinda has the correct not soft, not hard G sound to it. When you pronounce a hard g, your toungue is kinda flat, and the back of your throat is closed. You can then use the friction to push out that air for that hard G sound. When your toungue is up, the back of your throat is open, and kinda hard to pronounce a hard sound. You only get a portion of the back of your throat to push on, so the G is softer.

                          All in all, it's pretty much a hard G sound, but it's scaled back a little. Kinda like V is actually a soft B sound.

                          1. PattiCakes Mar 3, 2009 12:11 PM

                            I belive the "g" is pronouinced a little like the "ch" in challah or Chanuka. It's an "h" sound, but back in the throat. It's followed by the "w". SOme people would term it gutteral.

                            1. c oliver Mar 3, 2009 10:39 AM

                              Here's an aside. We just watched that episode and if she speaks Spanish as poorly as she sliced that flank steak then she's not MY expert! She DID cut it across the grain, but not at an angle and at least 3/4" thick. I'd hate to eat a taco of hers. First bite and you'd have a whole big slice pulled right out of the tortilla. And Bobby mispronounced Vidalia 100% of the time. That first 'a' is a long 'a'. So mini-rant over :)

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: c oliver
                                Midlife Mar 3, 2009 11:31 AM

                                I'd agree with all of that. She's not a chef (hasn't done much acting since they got married either) but you'd think Bobby would want better quality control on his show. Anyway, I'm a guy and for me she's a lot better looking than Bobby. :o)

                                1. re: Midlife
                                  c oliver Mar 3, 2009 11:55 AM

                                  I'm a (straight) gal and I agree that she IS better looking than Bobby. And does he EVER make a cocktail that doesn't have fruit juice in it?!? But he IS charming.

                                  1. re: c oliver
                                    roxlet Mar 4, 2009 12:49 PM

                                    Does he ever make food without sugar or honey?

                                2. re: c oliver
                                  alanstotle Mar 3, 2009 12:04 PM

                                  On the other hand, you don't have to know how to slice flank steak to know that Bobby Flay mispronounces all kinds of words. Grilled meat with chi-pote-uh-lee anyone? Personally, I'd prefer mine with chee-pote-le.

                                  1. re: c oliver
                                    Scargod Mar 3, 2009 01:08 PM

                                    Yep! Vi (vitamin) Dale E uh.
                                    I would say (bear with me) that Texans (at least), say guacomole like this:
                                    gwa (softly say the gw, with mouth puckered like a carp wanting a kiss, as in "I'ma gwonna get around to it"), then ah (as in awh shucks), co, as in "coke" and then mo le ( as in "I'm in need of mo' lay" (as in sex or leche). There you have it!

                                    1. re: Scargod
                                      Passadumkeg Mar 3, 2009 01:12 PM

                                      Only Gringo Texans that can't evenpronounce the original Tejas.

                                      Walk a molee dum keg

                                      1. re: Passadumkeg
                                        Scargod Mar 3, 2009 01:25 PM

                                        Tay hass, as in "stay still you mo-fo hass so I can git on".
                                        Al Capone, where is that G-string? I'm a gonna garrote me a Jersey boy!

                                      2. re: Scargod
                                        c oliver Mar 3, 2009 01:14 PM

                                        I grew up in Atlanta but have lived in the west for decades. I used to bring back bags of Vidalias as carryon bags. Now I can get them here. I DO love them sliced the way he did them and then put on the grill, though I get mine much browner. Mmm, the season is coming up soon :)

                                    2. Caroline1 Mar 2, 2009 08:07 PM

                                      If your computer has sound (whose doesn't any more?) you can hear it here:
                                      I'm sure there may be regional or ethnic (tribal?) differences, but I find this website pretty knowledgeable.

                                      24 Replies
                                      1. re: Caroline1
                                        Passadumkeg Mar 2, 2009 10:17 PM

                                        Holy Guacamole! Drop the "G".

                                        1. re: Passadumkeg
                                          Caroline1 Mar 2, 2009 10:39 PM

                                          Well, he doesn't quite drop it, but he doesn't hit it with a baseball bat either.

                                          1. re: Caroline1
                                            Passadumkeg Mar 2, 2009 11:14 PM

                                            Better the hard "G' than mayo or sour cream.

                                            1. re: Passadumkeg
                                              Scargod Mar 4, 2009 09:14 AM

                                              Guac of ages, just for me, let me gorge myself on thee; leave the skin and pit aside, in thy unctuousness tongue will glide. Be of oneness with my soul, guacomole make me whole!

                                              1. re: Scargod
                                                gordeaux Mar 4, 2009 09:16 AM


                                                1. re: gordeaux
                                                  PattiCakes Mar 4, 2009 11:09 AM

                                                  That's right up there with Amazing Baste.

                                                  I am listening to one of my favorite Mariachi CDs (Viva el Marichi), which contains the very popular song Guadalajara. It is a very pronounced GWad. Not a HWad, or a CHWad. It is GWad. So when you don your tight black leather pants with the silver studs down the side & your 3-foot wide charro hat to sing Guac of Ages, it's GWac of Ages.

                                                  1. re: PattiCakes
                                                    Passadumkeg Mar 4, 2009 01:30 PM

                                                    Esse, dude, I'm gonna drive my Chevy to Cheecago; it's one mean macheein.

                                                    Guadalajara, but Walkamole, rubia.

                                                2. re: Scargod
                                                  Passadumkeg Mar 4, 2009 01:37 PM

                                                  A fundamentalist Texan who can't speak Spanish, shore kin yodel and cook!

                                                  Well done, but the proof is in the Texas Tornadoes:

                                                  1. re: Scargod
                                                    c oliver Mar 4, 2009 03:17 PM

                                                    I just sang this to my husband and, for the first time, I think he's beginning to wonder 'who ARE these people she's hanging out with?'

                                                    Has their ever been a thread about how CHs are creative in ways other than food? It's clear there's some talent here, albeit with an odd twist here and there.

                                                    1. re: c oliver
                                                      Veggo Mar 4, 2009 03:28 PM

                                                      Ah, the Oliver twist...dangles anonymously in the wind...

                                                      1. re: Veggo
                                                        c oliver Mar 4, 2009 05:11 PM

                                                        Twisted yes; creative no. Maybe dangle a participle here and there.

                                                        1. re: c oliver
                                                          Caralien Mar 4, 2009 05:19 PM

                                                          to all of the C's:
                                                          I've never heard guacamole as a HUACamolay. I love guac, eat it with a spoon when no one is around. It's good. So good that I will dump a star for a place in a review if they serve bagged guac.

                                                          But I've never ever heard it as oachamolay. Southern California, Northern California, Chicago, Mexico, or elsewhere (yes, there's a huge Mexican population in cold Chicago and we there in the midwest eat good Mexican food which I'm still missing now in the NE).

                                                          1. re: Caralien
                                                            Caroline1 Mar 5, 2009 12:30 AM

                                                            I've always pronounced it "(gw)OACOMOLE, in which the "gw" sound is more a thought than an actual pronunciation. There are lots of languages in which pronunciations are very dissimilar to English. The Greek "g" in "gyro" comes to mind, in which it is pronounced more like a combination of "y" and "h" than like a hard "g" in English. Not too dissimilar to the opening "g" in guacamole, but without what the Greeks call a "breathing." Sort of.

                                                            Just to do a reality check, I asked my Chilean housekeeper, who speaks little English, how she pronounces it. Her husband is Mexican, and the head chef in an Italian restaurant, so I figured she's good for a reference point. I had her repeat "guacamole" several times and there was never any hint of a hard "g". Just right into the "uacamole". For what it's worth.

                                                            1. re: Caroline1
                                                              Caralien Mar 5, 2009 05:02 PM

                                                              C1--I trust you for most things, but I'm stuck on this one. To each their own. Cheers!

                                                              1. re: Caralien
                                                                Scargod Mar 5, 2009 05:47 PM

                                                                I (think), I'm with you on this one. At least in Texas, among Texans, there is a distinct Gwa sound. Think of Jon Stewart saying, "guaaaa?"

                                                                1. re: Scargod
                                                                  Caroline1 Mar 5, 2009 09:01 PM

                                                                  Well, it's kind of interesting. Listen to tis guy pronounce "guacamole" here: http://www.spanishdict.com/translate/...
                                                                  Then type in the word "guapa" and listen to him. If you don't know how to spell "guapa" going in, you'll have no chance of spelling it correctly from listening to him. No hint!

                                                                  I've always pronounced it in a way that you think hard about the "g" rather than slam dunking it. I used to have a gf who had lived in Guadalajara for about a decade, and whenever Sue heard me pronounce it she would be all over me. "It's GWACK-uh-molay!" She's the only one I've ever known (I think) who said it that way. I figure as long as they don't bring me a bowl of ice cream when I order it in a restaurant, I'm doing okay. '-)

                                                                  1. re: Scargod
                                                                    Passadumkeg Mar 6, 2009 01:24 AM

                                                                    But Texas don't speak English; they speak Texan! Mystery solved.

                                                                  2. re: Caralien
                                                                    Caroline1 Mar 5, 2009 09:03 PM

                                                                    I'm beginning to think Spanish may be a non-standardized language when it comes to pronunciation. Just like English! '-)

                                                                    1. re: Caroline1
                                                                      c oliver Mar 6, 2009 06:49 PM

                                                                      I DO know that Brazilian Portuguese is different from Portuguese Protuguese. Why wouldn't Spanish have differences also?

                                                                      1. re: c oliver
                                                                        Passadumkeg Mar 7, 2009 02:39 AM

                                                                        Just like English, American, Canadaian, Australian, New Zealand, South African, and Texan dialects. Isolation and language evolution. My SIL speaks an antiquated dialect of northern New Mexico Spanish.

                                                                        Pakk my cah in Hahvad Yahd, dearie,

                                                                        You say sack, I say bag
                                                                        You say tennies, I say sneakers


                                                              2. re: c oliver
                                                                Veggo Mar 5, 2009 02:09 AM

                                                                c oliver: a dangled participle? Horrors! That is a condition up with which we shall not put!

                                                                1. re: Veggo
                                                                  Passadumkeg Mar 5, 2009 02:18 AM

                                                                  Dangled participle; what an age marker. Gettin' old, ain't we?

                                                                  1. re: Passadumkeg
                                                                    alkapal Mar 5, 2009 05:11 AM

                                                                    well, that depends on how far it dangles....

                                                            2. re: c oliver
                                                              Scargod Mar 5, 2009 03:32 AM

                                                              A few times, I led Church of Christ churches singing. Some things you don't totally forget. As an agnostic, life has had many turns. I have always been creative, but until recently, it has been mostly my hands doing the talking. I find it a pleasure to be amongst such good company, however anonymous. ;)

                                                  2. cayjohan Mar 2, 2009 07:48 PM

                                                    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.


                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: cayjohan
                                                      rockfish42 Mar 2, 2009 07:59 PM

                                                      I think

                                                    2. k
                                                      KiltedCook Mar 2, 2009 05:04 PM

                                                      I favor the Hwa-ca-mo-lay proununciation

                                                      11 Replies
                                                      1. re: KiltedCook
                                                        c oliver Mar 2, 2009 05:12 PM

                                                        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
                                                          lgss Mar 2, 2009 06:18 PM

                                                          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
                                                            c oliver Mar 2, 2009 06:22 PM

                                                            So would guacamole be pronounced differently?

                                                            1. re: lgss
                                                              rockfish42 Mar 2, 2009 06:27 PM

                                                              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
                                                                c oliver Mar 2, 2009 06:35 PM

                                                                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
                                                                  Midlife Mar 2, 2009 10:19 PM

                                                                  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: Midlife
                                                                    rockfish42 Mar 2, 2009 11:57 PM

                                                                    Should help

                                                                    1. re: rockfish42
                                                                      Midlife Mar 3, 2009 10:23 AM

                                                                      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
                                                                        Veggo Mar 3, 2009 12:12 PM

                                                                        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
                                                                          c oliver Mar 3, 2009 12:20 PM

                                                                          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
                                                                            mariacarmen Jan 14, 2011 09:59 PM

                                                                            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. Caralien Mar 2, 2009 03:40 PM


                                                              otherwise, it sounds like Whack-a-Mole

                                                              14 Replies
                                                              1. re: Caralien
                                                                Midlife Mar 2, 2009 04:38 PM

                                                                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
                                                                  Caralien Mar 3, 2009 03:41 PM

                                                                  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
                                                                    laguera Mar 5, 2009 09:14 AM

                                                                    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
                                                                      Midlife Mar 5, 2009 11:04 AM

                                                                      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
                                                                        laguera Mar 5, 2009 12:11 PM

                                                                        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
                                                                          Midlife Mar 5, 2009 03:06 PM

                                                                          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
                                                                            Midlife Mar 5, 2009 10:10 PM

                                                                            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
                                                                        RicRios Mar 5, 2009 11:07 AM

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

                                                                        1. re: RicRios
                                                                          laguera Mar 5, 2009 12:09 PM

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

                                                                    2. re: Caralien
                                                                      Davwud Mar 5, 2009 03:33 AM

                                                                      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
                                                                        mariacarmen Jan 14, 2011 09:53 PM

                                                                        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
                                                                          alkapal Jan 15, 2011 06:34 AM

                                                                          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
                                                                            mariacarmen Jan 15, 2011 10:56 AM

                                                                            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
                                                                            paulj Jan 15, 2011 12:07 PM

                                                                            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. c oliver Mar 2, 2009 03:30 PM

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

                                                                          1. r
                                                                            rockfish42 Mar 2, 2009 03:25 PM

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

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