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Kim Shook

Pronunciation - Why do it wrong?

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I love the diversity of pronunciation heard in the USA...regional accents are fascinating. How boring would this country be if we all sounded the same? I live in the land of my-nez (mayonnaise), erster (oyster), earl (oil), ax (ask), hawt (hart)--and those are just the English-ish "mis"pronunciations common in New Orleans. I won't even begin to list the Cajun English massacres (pronounced mah-sah-crey, by the way) I hear every day. We don't all sound the same or cook the same. "Correct" to whom? If the food tastes good, I don't care if the chef bends the language.


Edited by HungryC (log)
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I hear mispronunciations of Chinese food all the time. Even from supposed Chinese food experts. It isn't 'kung poe' chicken. It's gong bao ji ding, pronounced 'gong bow gee ding." While China has many dialects and pronunciations, I'm pretty certain nowhere is it pronounced "kung po".

Of course it's not "kung po". It's kung POW! :)

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I love the diversity of pronunciation heard in the USA...regional accents are fascinating. How boring would this country be if we all sounded the same? I live in the land of my-nez (mayonnaise), erster (oyster), earl (oil), ax (ask), hawt (hart)--and those are just the English-ish "mis"pronunciations common in New Orleans. I won't even begin to list the Cajun English massacres (pronounced mah-sah-crey, by the way) I hear every day. We don't all sound the same or cook the same. "Correct" to whom? If the food tastes good, I don't care if the chef bends the language.

Completely agree (in large part because we live in more or less the same place, and disagreeing would force me never to say "earl" again). The thing that bugs me is not regional variation, but incorrectness due to ignorance. If you want to say "mask-are-poan" instead of mascarpone, be my guest. Just don't say "marsk-a-poan", because then you sound illiterate.

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Just don't say "marsk-a-poan", because then you sound illiterate.

Some of the most intuitive cooks I know are indeed illiterate. Oral culture is still culture.

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Some of the most intuitive cooks I know are indeed illiterate. Oral culture is still culture.

And illiterate means unable to read or write. Not unable speak or pronounce. Most people in the world are illiterate. It doesn't mean they can't speak their own languages or create cultural artefacts.

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Some of the most intuitive cooks I know are indeed illiterate. Oral culture is still culture.

And illiterate means unable to read or write. Not unable speak or pronounce. Most people in the world are illiterate. It doesn't mean they can't speak their own languages or create cultural artefacts.

Oral culture tends to drift.....my people speak a Cajun french understood in Paris, but absolutely frowned upon. The pronunciation is suspect, we use the "wrong" words for certain things, the accent is awful to a Parisian ear. So what? It's an oral language--most native speakers of this dialect do not read or write in French; they're completely ignorant of French spelling. Many older speakers have limited English literacy as well. Do I correct an 80 year old native French speaking Houma Indian who says "plarine" instead of "praline"? She makes damn good pralines, whatever she calls them.

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Still it is reasonable to expect a pro on TV to have enough education to pronounce stuff properly.

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I saw a recent television interview with Wolfgang Puck, who will be catering an upcoming Academy Award after-party, and he pronounced the ingredient as "Kwin-OH-a", instead of "KEEN-wah". I guess I'm in good company. :wink:

I was disappointed to learn that Mise en Place was pronounced "Meez-on-PLOSS". As as child, I learned to read phonetically and thought it was always "Meez-en-PLAYCE".

Don't get me started on "Acai" or even "Beethoven" (BEETH-oven :laugh: ).

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For me it's writing "alot" as one word, when meaning, of course, a lot .... Arrgh!

Here's a cute post by someone who shares this pet peeve:

http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/04/alot-is-better-than-you-at-everything.html

Some of the most intuitive cooks I know are indeed illiterate. Oral culture is still culture.

And illiterate means unable to read or write. Not unable speak or pronounce. Most people in the world are illiterate. It doesn't mean they can't speak their own languages or create cultural artefacts.

I especially like the way you worked that last word in there with the usual British spelling - I'm pretty sure you know that most Americans would spell it artifacts. :laugh:

(I'm Canadian and though we follow British spelling on many words, I do believe that most Canadians would also spell it artifacts.)

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I always find it amusing to listen to non-native speakers butcher the language, whatever that language may be, while trying to instruct us about technique.

Emeril is a scream when he is telling us how to make some Creole classic, all while yacking away in broad Falls River, MA accent. It's even better when he has a guest with an impenetrable Southern accent.

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I was living in Wyomissing when I first heard THANKSgiving from my Dutchy in-laws.

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The pronunciation of radicchio is my personal pet hate. The generally accepted North American pronunciation I have heard on many programs drives me mad. I can grudgingly accept that it is a valid pronunciation, but I still personally believe. there should never be a dik in radicchio. rah/DEEK/kyoh or rah/Dee/chi/oh is what I grew up hearing , depending on the region of Italy the person saying it came from. I never ever heard rah\dik\eeoh until food network , and most memorably Bobby Flay. An addendum to that pet peeve was Ted Allen's pronunciation of treviso ,when talking on chopped about radicchio di Treviso ,which had me yelling at the TV like a lunatic.

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Some of the most intuitive cooks I know are indeed illiterate. Oral culture is still culture.

And illiterate means unable to read or write. Not unable speak or pronounce. Most people in the world are illiterate. It doesn't mean they can't speak their own languages or create cultural artefacts.

Although if you can't read and all you hear is the wrong pronunciation then its understandable if you don't self correct when seeing the word spelled out.

Which does nothing to explain why the military consistently uses the word "nucular" for "nuclear".

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We moved to small town Iowa from big city California many years ago. I was in the one and only market looking for tortillas. I asked where they might be and said the word as I always had. A woman next to me corrected me by saying that the word was tortilla and the" till " rhymed with "fill"

Later I found out that she was the Spanish teacher at the local high school! . Watcha gonna do?

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To put some humour into the discussion:

.

But check out

for a contrarian view.

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I'll see your Clooney and raise you a Fitzgerald

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If you can't pronounce it, you shouldn't be cooking with it....

Now you're just being silly.

For the record, I cook with things that I can't pronounce all the time; I simply meant that when a cook repeatedly mispronounces a word, even after being corrected a few times, it pisses me off quite a bit, and so I deliver the above statement...simply to imply that if you're incapable of "learning" maybe you shouldn't be cooking anything, exotic or mundane.

Sorry for any confusion, I was just trying to explain my rationale at work...

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For the record, I cook with things that I can't pronounce all the time; I simply meant that when a cook repeatedly mispronounces a word, even after being corrected a few times, it pisses me off quite a bit, and so I deliver the above statement...simply to imply that if you're incapable of "learning" maybe you shouldn't be cooking anything, exotic or mundane.

Just because someone has difficulty with language skills does not mean they can't bake a cake. One of the best home cooks I know can't speak English very well, mispronounces many words, but I bet you'd have similar problems trying to converse in her language - Armenian - and I bet your tabouleh and stuffed grape leaves fall short of her's

Toots speaks a few languages, and English is not her best. Sometimes she just can't find the right word in English, or pronouncing it is difficult. Sometimes she runs through several languages in her mind before coming up with the correct - or close-to-correct - English word. My favorite example of this is the word inversion. I have back problems, and use an inversion table http://www.energycenter.com/ec_graphics/ep-550_cvb_2.jpg to help stretch my back and reduce pain. The word inversion is, for some reason, strange for her in this context, so she calls my inversion table an "upside down table." And you know what, I think it's a better, more graphic description than inversion table.

Perhaps you're painting a generalization with too broad a brush ...

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Shel- I apologize if my statement caused offense, as I meant none.

What I meant, specifically, was young, punk-ass cooks, born in America, to english-speaking parents.

I deal with a lot of young, fully American cooks, who simply refuse to embrace the language of their own homeland! That is what most pisses me off.

I speak English fluently, and love it, but can also be lost when trying to dig a word out of the old noggin lol. I fully understand the concept of brain-farts, I have them often. I also refuse to look down on anyone who struggles with English, but only if it is not their native tongue. If you were born in America, and still refuse to even entertain the idea of pronouncing certain words properly, perhaps my kitchen isn't the place for you...ya know?

Again, my friend, I meant nothing insulting to you or yours......may you both live happily, and long!

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I took no offense ... we're just discussing concepts, ideas, and clarifying our thoughts.

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Good deal Shel! Glad to hear it!

HungryC, I know of what you speak! I iived in Louisiana (Baton Rouge) for about 4yrs, and learned quite a bit of what we called bastard French, and loved every minute of it! When I later worked with a really French chef, I used the terms that I had learned there...and got my ass ripped, royally!lol

I agree with almost everyone that pronunciation is both regional and unimportant, as long as the intent and usage are proper. I just happen to be a grammar-nazi, for reasons that I still don't quite fully understand...

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Some of the most intuitive cooks I know are indeed illiterate. Oral culture is still culture.

And illiterate means unable to read or write. Not unable speak or pronounce. Most people in the world are illiterate. It doesn't mean they can't speak their own languages or create cultural artefacts.

Oral culture tends to drift.....my people speak a Cajun french understood in Paris, but absolutely frowned upon. The pronunciation is suspect, we use the "wrong" words for certain things, the accent is awful to a Parisian ear. So what? It's an oral language--most native speakers of this dialect do not read or write in French; they're completely ignorant of French spelling. Many older speakers have limited English literacy as well. Do I correct an 80 year old native French speaking Houma Indian who says "plarine" instead of "praline"? She makes damn good pralines, whatever she calls them.

That's clearly not what's being discussed in this thread, though. Someone who's on TV as an "expert" on food has the means to know better and continues to mispronounce words that they presumably hear others pronounce correctly on a regular basis, it displays something different than cultural drift.

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Some of the most intuitive cooks I know are indeed illiterate. Oral culture is still culture.

And illiterate means unable to read or write. Not unable speak or pronounce. Most people in the world are illiterate. It doesn't mean they can't speak their own languages or create cultural artefacts.

Oral culture tends to drift.....my people speak a Cajun french understood in Paris, but absolutely frowned upon. The pronunciation is suspect, we use the "wrong" words for certain things, the accent is awful to a Parisian ear. So what? It's an oral language--most native speakers of this dialect do not read or write in French; they're completely ignorant of French spelling. Many older speakers have limited English literacy as well. Do I correct an 80 year old native French speaking Houma Indian who says "plarine" instead of "praline"? She makes damn good pralines, whatever she calls them.

That's clearly not what's being discussed in this thread, though. Someone who's on TV as an "expert" on food has the means to know better and continues to mispronounce words that they presumably hear others pronounce correctly on a regular basis, it displays something different than cultural drift.

Yeah, but we tend to digress. I think we were originally talking about mispronunciation by television "professionals" but we've gone off into another realm here.

Now, when we're discussing cultural drift, local pronunciation, and whatnot? I don't think it's so important about pronunciation. But for folks who are supposedly disseminating informational content on a mass-media sized platform? It's incredibly important.

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I love the diversity of pronunciation heard in the USA...regional accents are fascinating. How boring would this country be if we all sounded the same? I live in the land of my-nez (mayonnaise), erster (oyster), earl (oil), ax (ask), hawt (hart)--and those are just the English-ish "mis"pronunciations common in New Orleans. I won't even begin to list the Cajun English massacres (pronounced mah-sah-crey, by the way) I hear every day. We don't all sound the same or cook the same. "Correct" to whom? If the food tastes good, I don't care if the chef bends the language.

Completely agree (in large part because we live in more or less the same place, and disagreeing would force me never to say "earl" again). The thing that bugs me is not regional variation, but incorrectness due to ignorance. If you want to say "mask-are-poan" instead of mascarpone, be my guest. Just don't say "marsk-a-poan", because then you sound illiterate.

Thanks, Mike. This is more what I meant, but couldn't seem to get to! I am from the southern US and I have lots of words that I pronounce in a southern way: oil, mayonnaise, etc. I'm not going to change and neither should anyone else. AND I was really making the point about food professionals who are in a position to inform and show us something possibly new and unknown, not about US :smile: !

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