10 Foreign Foods You're Probably Pronouncing Wrong (Slideshow)
March 7, 2016
Nobody expects a foreigner to master the names of every food, but here are some common dishes with common mispronunciations
Açaí — /ä-sä-‘ē, ä-sī-‘ē/
We get it; nobody wants to pronounce a four letter word as three syllables. Also, people are generally too lazy to include the necessary accents when writing açaí, especially for the “C.” (And to be honest, I’m copying-and-pasting, because even I don’t know the keyboard shortcuts off-hand.) But that’s no excuse to say the Brazilian-Portuguese (by way of the indigenous Nheêngatú) name of this berry incorrectly, especially since you can get away with two different pronunciations. “Ah-sah-ee” and “ah-sigh-ee” are both right, and even getting close will earn you partial credit. Just please don’t say “uh-ky.”
Bruschetta — /bro͞o’skedə/
This might be one of the most commonly mispronounced food names, mainly because it’s not a new or newly-trendy food item, but one that has graced the antipasto section of Italian restaurant menus and become ingrained in diner’s brains for a long time. What it comes down to is this: In Italian, “ch” generally makes a hard “k” sound, so bruschetta is pronounced “broo’skeda” and not “broo’sheda.” On the flip side, “ci” makes a “ch” sound, hence why ciabatta bread is not “see-bah-ta” or “key-bah-ta,” but “chə-bah-ta.”
Crudité — /krue-dē-tā/
Most people just stick to saying vegetables or veggies in place of the French “crudité,” (or maybe they just say “hors d’oeuvres,” because that one has been mastered by most) simply because they know “crew-dite” is wrong. Just remember there is an accent at the end, and use that to finesse the finish. Say it with us: “Crew-dee-tay.”
Espresso — /e’spres,ō/
It seems like most people are aware that the strong Italian coffee drink “espresso” is not pronounced “expresso,” but simply get lazy when it comes to actually saying the word. The expresso route may be the easier, more natural (and sometimes more common way) to hear espresso pronounced, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct.
Foie Gras — /fwä’grä/
What would this list be without another sneaky French word or phrase? Enter foie gras, the delicacy often pronounced as “foy grass,” which should really be “fwa grah.” I know, you think you’ll sound like the snooty cartoon stereotype of a French chef, but at least you won’t sound like an ignoramus. It also beats saying the English translation for foie gras, “fat liver,” which sounds more like something you’d get after drinking too much merlot.
Gyro — /yē’rō/
What’s wrong with saying the Greek term “gyro” like “gyroscrope?” Well, for starters, the “G” is barely pronounced at all. It’s there, but only hinted at. The easiest way to explain the proper pronunciation is to drop it completely, and simply say the “yro” like “yee-ro.” It may not be exactly right (and some will argue “jee-ro” is still OK), but it’s much more accurate than saying a “guy-ro” or “jeye-ro.”
Hummus — /’ho͝oməs/
You know, if we’re supposed to be pronouncing hummus (the Turkish word for chickpeas) as “hoom-uhs” and not “hum-mus,” we should probably just drop that second “m.” Right? Wouldn’t “humus” make a lot more sense? Regardless, the dictionary people won’t answer my angry letters, and we’re all stuck spelling and pronouncing hummus like a bunch of chumps.
Phở — /fuh/
If I had a nickel for every time someone mispronounced the name of the most popular type of Vietnamese noodle soup — or at least hesitated before saying it correctly — I could buy an awful lot of it. People usually nail the “ph” as an “f” sound (not a whole lot of “pa-ho” out there), but it’s odd for non-Vietnamese to lock down the “uh,” at the end, as opposed to an “o” sound. We get it, it’s confusing, so don’t feel bad if the proper pronunciation has you thinking, “What the phở?”
Panini — /pə-nē’nō/
Surprised to see this one on here? Probably because the typical pronunciation of panini (Italian sandwiches) is correct, except for the fact that most people are unaware it’s a plural term, with “panino” being the singular. So asking for “one panini” is wrong; just as wrong as asking for “five paninis,” because the “s” is unnecessary and repetitive.
Quinoa — /’kēnwä/
The superfood grain quinoa has probably reached a point in its recent popularity surge that most people know “kwi-noh-a” is not the correct way to say it. However, there’s still some clear confusion and uncertainty as to the right way. The Spanish version of a native South American word, quinoa is pronounced “keen-wah,” which should be easy to remember if you, like us, are keen on the protein-packed seeds.