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Common Food Mispronunciations and Misnomers

Fat Guy

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Just got an interesting press release from the Living Language (Random House) people with their list of commonly mispronounced food-and-wine words. Thought I'd share it with you all:


· Gnocchi (NYOH-kee)-- derivative of nocca, or “knuckle,” which refers to the pasta’s small round shape

· Charcuterie (shahr-kew-tuh-REE) -- stems from la chair, which means flesh, and cuite, which means cooked

· Pho (fuh)

· Wienerschnitzel (VEE-ner-shnit-tsel) -- means cut (as in cut of meat) from Vienna

· Quinoa (keen-WAH) -- the Spanish spelling of the original Quechua word kinwa

· Gyro(YEE-roh) -- from the Greek verb gyros, which means to turn

· Bruschetta (broo-SKEH-tah) -- from the verb bruscare, meaning to roast

· Nigiri (nee-JEE-ree)

· Crêpe (KREHP) -- from the Latin crispa, meaning curled

· Crème fraîche (krehm fresh)


· Sangiovese (san-jo-VEH-zeh)

· Viognier (Vi-ohn-YAY)

· Gewürtzraminer (Geh-VERTZ-trah-mee-nur)

· Barbera (Bar-BEAR-ah)

· Pouilly-Fuisse (Poo-yee-fwee-SAY)

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I got an A+ but the term that prevented me from perfect is admitting I murdered Gewürtzraminer (Geh-VERTZ-trah-mee-nur)until a few years ago. That, and knowing about mispronunciations of mine I don't know about yet, keeps me humble.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

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Pretty sure Gewürtzraminer and Pouilly-Fuisse are incorrect as presented.

The "ü" in German is pronounced closer to the English diphthong "oo", though there's no true phonetic equivalent in English.

And Pouilly-Fuisse is misspelled - to be pronounced as listed, it would require an accent aigu over the final "e", which it correctly has: Pouilly-Fuissé.

My French and German are both a long time ago though.

ETA: just realized Gewürtzraminer was misspelled as well, the "t" and "z" being transposed. FG, did you type this up yourself from a hard copy?

Edited by phatj (log)
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Nigiri is most emphatically NOT "nijiri." Every "g" in Japanese in pronounced hard, as in "go"

Gewürztraminer (correct spelling) is more like "Geh-vooa-ts-tra-meena" but see what PhatJ said about the ü, and with the throaty German/French r

Bruschetta has a double T, so it's "bru-SKET-ta"

Ditto gnocchi with the double C - "nyok-ki"

To be really pedantic, phở should be pronounced like "pha?" with a rising tone, but that only will impress Vietnamese :rolleyes:

Edited by Hassouni (log)
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Yeah, that'd be nice. I dunno where that horrible kyu- pronunciation comes from..

Edit: I just realized that coupon must be French for "cutting" or something similar...makes sense!

Edited by Hassouni (log)
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They're wrong about Quinua. It's KEEN-wah or KIN-wah (depending on the region), but the stress is always on the first syllable.

Man these Random House people are just flat wrong huh. That's a lot of errors, or at best-laziness.

I will give them props for crêpe, though, it drives me nuts when people say "kreyp"

Edited by Hassouni (log)
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They're wrong about Quinua. It's KEEN-wah or KIN-wah (depending on the region), but the stress is always on the first syllable.

Man these Random House people are just flat wrong huh. That's a lot of errors, or at best-laziness.

I will give them props for crêpe, though, it drives me nuts when people say "kreyp"

Alls I know is that if I go into a dry-goods seller anywhere in this country and ask for keen-WAH, they'll look at me like I've grown another head, but if I ask for KEEN-wah, they'll give me grain.

ETA - this comes from the way Kichua is transliterated. It has no native alphabet, as it was purely an oral language until the Spaniards came along. Then it became a written language, using the same rules of spelling and pronunciation as Castellano. Hence, in words of two syllables unless a diacritic mark is added, the stress always falls on the first syllable.

They've also mis-spelled the word itself. Quinoa would be pronounced keen-OH-ah, because the oa combination in Castellano is not a dipthong, it's two separate and separately pronounced syllables. It's properly spelled Quinua, in order to keep the stress in the correct place and preserve the "wa" sound at the end of the word (since ua is a diphtong and not two separate syllables - to separate them you have to use the diacritic.)

But yes, mad props for Crêpe.

Edited by Panaderia Canadiense (log)

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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I must be guilty of mispronounciation with that one then! I always say ka-ra-mel.

Surely we should add paratha here. Though there are many other Indian dishes (from various languages) that get mispronounced, this one is commonly heard because it is a common bread on menus in the West. The "Th" is a hard, aspirated T (tongue touches roof of mouth). Say "T" but then put air behind it. It is not like the th in the English word through. It's not a lispy-sounding th. That sound does not exist in Hindi.

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Actually there are two "th"s (and two "t"s as well). One is a hard retroflex (that's the tongue on the roof of the mouth thing) and the other is a soft dental where the tongue touches the front teeth. But yes, in paratha it is the hard th. To a hindi speaker, all the English ts and ds seem like they are hard, so English words that are hindi-fied have hard ts and ds. For instance "doctor" in Hindi has a hard d and a hard t.

Also the first a in paratha is a "short" a that sounds a bit like uh (but not with loads of air as the h might suggest, it's just that's the clearest way to write it in English). So it's puh-raa-tha.

Another common food word that is important to get right is dal. It is a soft dental d and a long a (like the a in the word father). The dental d is probably why so many very silly people write it as dhal. There is no aspiration, so dh is completely wrong and for a Hindi speaker this spelling is confusing as it mixes it up with the aspirated d. The best english spelling is daal. You must keep the d as a dental d because a hard d would make the word that means branch! I mean, you may be ordering dal because you are vegetarian but I am sure you are not tree-eating vegetarian!

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I'd be happy if all Americans would learn to say "coupon" correctly.


Care - a - mel.

Three (3) syllables.

NOT "carmuhl"

Must admit these, along with "erbs" instead of "Herbs" are the three americanisms in food that really grate on me.

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Right well this is definitely one that is pronounced differently in UK vs USA! In the UK it is pronounced as in your first example, for the name too. (See Basil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers for proof of that!)

Oregano is another herb that is said differently in UK vs USA.

ETA: I love that Hassouni and I thought the same!

Edited by Jenni (log)
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These sorts of articles are always hilarious, because it's a rule that any article written about commonly-mispronounced words will inevitably contain mispronunciations of its own. Just like any article nitpicking spelling or grammar will contain spelling or grammatical errors.


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I once ordered "broo-SKEH-tah" only to have the waiter kindly 'correct' me, saying, "Oh, you'd like the broo-SHE-tah?"

Also, I once asked for corn "tor-TEE-yas" with my meal, and the young lady said, "Sure, I'll bring you tor-TILL-as." No lie. Never heard it pronounced that way before or since.

I don't mind being corrected when I actually am wrong, though. :rolleyes:

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