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Common Food Mispronunciations and Misnomers

Fat Guy

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For post-graduates: Aloxe-Corton.

a-LO-ss cor-TON. Follows the same rules as Freixenet.

Very good!

Although I cannot aver that the x in Aloxe and in Freixinet should be pronounced identically; I actually have serious doubts.

You're correct, Charles. Freixenet is is a Cava (i.e., Spanish), so the "x" is pronounced as "sh".

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1


Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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Botrytis stops me in my tracks. (bot-rye-tiss?)

mille feuille draws a blank. (mill fuel?)

mange tout has always mystified me (mangy touts are people hawking tickets outside football games)

poffertjes is more difficult to pronounce than 'Dutch pancakes'

celeriac always comes out as 'celery-ack'

and I'll never get used to the UK pronunciation of yoghurt, where the 'yog' rhymes with 'jog'. In Australia the 'yo' is pronounced as in 'yo-yo'.

mille feuille - meel fuh-ee, sort of (hard to describe this vowel if you don't speak French or a language with an ö sort of sound)

mange tout - mahnzh too, sort of. the n is not really an n but a nasalisation of the vowel. think "think:" you don't say thin-k. zh is like the s in measure, or as in Brezhnev, or indeed the French j or soft g

poffertjes - not totally sure, but I think based on my understanding of Dutch phonetics that it's close to "pofferches"

celeriac is like celery-ack but with the accent on the LE not the CE, so ceLEriac

As for yogurt or yoghurt, arguably the American pronunciation is closer to the original Turkish yoğurt (yo-urrt). In rural dialects of Turkish and other Turkic languages the ğ is pronounced as a throaty g, similar to a French or German r

Also one mispronounce ALL THE TIME is orgeat. it's "or-zhaa" again with that French soft g/j sound. Hint: it's etymologically related to horchata (or-cha-ta)

I could list a whole slew of frequently butchered Arabic words, but a lot of the consonants in Arabic are really hard to describe. I'll try with one though: Hummus is "Hum-muss," with the H actually said very deep down in the throat (NOT A KH/CH SOUND!!!), otherwise it sounds like English "hum" and the "muss" rhymes with "puss". The end is a hard S, said with the tongue very low in the mouth. And it is a doubled m, just like Italian doubled consonants, hence hum-muss

Finally, I'd like to add the Turkish döner kebap/kebab since it's such a common food worldwide. Döner is NOT pronounced "donner" like the Donner party, or "donor." It's dön as pronounced in German, deune if in French, and dern (sort of) in British English where the R is not pronounced. the -er can range from anything from ér, err like in English, or air, always with the R pronounced either as in English or rolled lightly as in Italian. Kebap (Turkish convention) is Ké-bahp. That simple. It's not kee-bap/bab, as is often said in English.

Edited by Hassouni (log)
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I agree that there is a correct or standard pronunciation but you have to allow for regional variations. And the fact that there is often a UK/US English variation.

My friend who is first generation Italian-American shudders every time someone says ricotta ( re- cot- ta). She always says ree- coat- ta. I had never heard this before I met her.

Growing up people in my town either said barb-be-que or bob-e-q.

Sometimes it's a tomatoe - tomahtoe situation.

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I was brought up with fi-lay (steak) and fillet (fish or verb). But mostly I think many people take this stuff way too seriously - not that it's bad to know how words are pronounced in their county of origin.

It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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When we cook Italian food I suppose it's acceptable to use arugula and parmigiana, it's gives the impression that what we're cooking has that authentic Italian credo that is so important. But personally I like to use the perfectly good English words for them, rocket and parmesan.

I don't mind being labelled a pedant, but I use 'parmigiana' when I have a genuine Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano, and I use 'parmesan' when I have a generic supermarket parmesan-style cheese. I don't know if it's a global thing, but locally the term 'parmesan' is used pretty broadly. But even good local delicatessens happily sell imported Grano Padano as 'parmesan', which I find slightly irritating.

I agree, however, that this isn't a pronunciation issue!

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I agree that there is a correct or standard pronunciation but you have to allow for regional variations. And the fact that there is often a UK/US English variation.

Sometimes it's a tomatoe - tomahtoe situation.

Where I grew up in Kentucky, it was with most folks outside of my family, termater and I have heard many variations on this theme throughout the rural south and midwest during my travels.

And an aunt who lived in Baltimore always said taa-maa-to and was considered a bit la-di-dah! :laugh:

A local man, originally from St. Joe, MO, refers to BBQ as Barbie-coo. He works at a BBQ restaurant here in Lancaster.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett


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Haha, maybe for the American market...

Possibly, I'm not an expert on the subject... or maybe because it's a brand-name and not a standard word it doesn't have to follow the usual rules. I'm thinking a French company wouldn't intentionally mis-pronounce it's own name on it's own website for the benefit of one specific non-French market. We (myself included, not pointing fingers) here at eGullet often want to make things fancy and fussy when they seem/sound too simple on their own. Somtimes an apple pie is just an apple pie and doesn't need to be a tarte tatin aux pommes.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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How is Mascarpone not on this list?

Ah, yes... good ol' "mars-capone". I wonder if it's related to Al?

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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"But the one that really gets me is the "hal-a-PEE-no." It's such a common ingredient now. Seems like folks could have picked up on the correct pronunciation ages ago."

This is one of my pet peeves, too.

The other is calling Chiles Rellenos Chile Rellanos. I once pointed out the mistake to a young person. She got downright snotty about it and declared that that was the way her grandma said it. I think not.

Nearly everyone I know around says these words incorrectly.

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What about scone/skawn? When it seems everyone is saying things wrong, you might as well give up and join 'em, lest "they" make you feel stupid.

Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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"But the one that really gets me is the "hal-a-PEE-no." It's such a common ingredient now. Seems like folks could have picked up on the correct pronunciation ages ago."

The one that gets me is pronouncing habanero as though there's a tilde over the "n" when there isn't. This one's to the point where you end up looking dumb if you pronounce it correctly.

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I was buying boots at Nordstrom's the other day and I requested seeing them in cognac. The salesperson said "oh, you mean the


A waiter at a wine tasting restaurant served me, with great pomp, a billicart salmon (beyaCAR saMONE)and pronounced it "Billie cart salmon"

Two others that get horribly abused:

Haricot verts


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For those who insist on pronouncing "chorizo" with the "z" sounding like the soft spanish "th", please be aware that it is only pronounced that way in Spain, and only in certain parts of spain at that. A non-native speaker using that soft "z" theta sound is amazingly grating to the ear of many native speakers from outside of Spain - and the majority of native speakers are NOT from Spain.

The amount of times I hear "pa - ell - a" instead of "pa - ay - ya" never ceases to amaze me. The English seem particularly prone to this, for some reason.

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As this thread is about accuracy with an occasional dash of pedantry (I am referring to myself, of course), I am constrained to state:

haricots verts


Edited by cmling (log)

Charles Milton Ling

Vienna, Austria

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waiters love to "correct" this one, and, as Wiki puts it, "Frenchify the word"

( from Wikipedia - "Although many people, including many wine experts, have a tendency to Frenchify the word "Meritage" by pronouncing its last syllable with a "zh" sound, as in "garage," the Meritage Alliance specifically states that the word should be pronounced to rhyme with "heritage.")

"There are no mistakes in bread baking, only more bread crumbs"

*Bernard Clayton, Jr.

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The French have a ministry to assure that foreign words are Frenchified. A non french food term would not be pronounced according to the language of its home, but rather in a frenchy way.

The consensus of this thread is that they are wrong to do this, no?

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Regarding Noilly Prat, French orthography rules dictate and Wikipedia says (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noilly_Prat) that it's nwa-yee praa.

This is absolutely wrong, it's as Blether pronounces it rhyming with oily cat. Dear old Rick Stein went to where they made it and got it straight from the horses mouth. He'd been using the stuff for decades and had been wondering how to pronounce it for that long too. So he was mightily relieved to find out from the actual head honcho.

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