They show up at the grocery store, in recipes, at food festivals and on restaurant menus — those pesky food terms that are a mouthful to pronounce.
Digging into a tasty dish of moussaka, charcuterie or vichyssoise is a lot more fun than trying to order them without butchering the pronunciation like that pig someone butchered to make the charcuterie.
Some folks are perfectly content to say those words however they want, or to simply point at the menu and say “I’ll take that.” Others like to learn the proper pronunciation because it makes them feel more confident and educated. It also helps to preserve the heritage of the culture from which the term originated.
After all, most difficult culinary words come from a language other than English and are riddled with pronunciation pitfalls such as silent (or nonsilent) vowels and noises that don’t naturally occur in English.
“Every language has its own phonetic inventory and that doesn’t always correspond to other languages,” said Jim Ogier, a professor of German and linguistics at Roanoke College.
On my blog, I recently shared a list of 10 commonly mispronounced food terms, including gnocchi, gyro, quinoa and pho. The list generated a bubbly conversation and reader suggestions of other tongue-twisting food words, such as chorizo and lychee.
To continue reading this column and to see a list of about 55 commonly mispronounced food terms, click here.
Thanks to those blog readers who so enthusiastically jumped into this discussion when I first posted about this topic!
Side note: I got an email from a Spanish professor at Virginia Tech who took issue with the reported pronunciation of the word “habanero” in today’s column. She said there is no tilde over the ‘n’ and therefore no “NYEH” sound in the middle. She says instead of [ah-bah-NYEH-roh] it should be [ah-bah-NER-oh]. I have no reason to doubt her.