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How not to mispronounce your favorite dishes

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You place your napkin on your lap. You sit up straight. You chew with your mouth closed and wouldn’t dare put your elbows on the table. You’re the epitome of exemplary dining manners. 

And yet, when the waiter saunters over and it’s time to utter your pick for a preferred plat du jour, all that fine dining know-how goes right in the trash compactor when you say, “I’d love the broochetta, some bowl-a-bise, and an ex-presso to finish, please.”

Our dining world has become so abundantly multicultural with an ever-growing influence of dishes from eastern and western Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America, of course none of us know how to pronounce it all. And this is exactly why Eat24 writer Justin Sanders came up with a list of the top 10 biggest offenders in murderous mastication pronunciation.

Eat24 is a to-your-door online ordering service that allows hungry couch potatoes to get a list of local places that deliver in over 1,000 U.S. cities. But while discovering your stomach's desire from the safety of your own home might allow you to avoid having to say “chipotle” out loud, you can’t hide forever – as Sander’s found out himself.

“I was having lunch with a buddy one afternoon when I got the idea for the list. We went to a Vietnamese place, and I wanted pho. And I pronounced it ‘foh’ -- and my friend got mad! It’s actually said ‘fuh.’ So it got me to thinking: What other kind of food words are mispronounced?” Sanders got back to the office and started cross-referencing the myriad menus Eat24 has access to and realized he was onto something.

“I started with Asian cuisine, because there are always lots of super popular things in that area that are sort of hard to pronounce if you’ve never heard anyone say them right. Then I started looking at other contemporary and higher-end dishes, and I found things that I know, but I’d probably butcher if I said them out loud. And that’s awkward!”  

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with asking your server in a restaurant how to pronounce a dish or ingredient, but to get you started on the road to palatable pronunciation, here’s Sanders’s Top 10 List of Most-Mispronounced Food Words – and how to say them correctly before you eat them!

10. Bruschetta

Those yummy little slices of bread with chopped tomato, garlic, and olive oil can sometimes be unwieldy to eat – and also to say. Correct pronunciation: broo-skeh-tah.

9. Gnocchi. 

In Italian there are a few double-consonant combos that can easily trip up your tongue, like the “gn” in those delicious, popular pasta dumplings, gnocchi. Also, just like in bruchetta above, that “ch” sound is hard “c,” not a soft “ch.” Correct pronunciation: nyoh-key.

8. Espresso

Do you see an “x” in there? You don’t, do you. Sure, it’s a short, fast little coffee and that might make you feel compelled to express it expressly, but it’s all esses to us (and you!). Correct pronunciation: eh-spress-oh.  

7. Chipotle

We like smoked, dried jalapeno peppers so much, we were universally willing to embrace a fast-food restaurant named after them. And if something is that well known, we can all definitely take a second and learn how to say it. Correct pronunciation: chih-poat-lay.

6. Beignet

Donuts! Who doesn’t love ‘em? These powdered-sugar laden clumps of fried doughy goodness made famous at New Orleans’s Café Du Monde have become a monde hit indeed, showing up on dessert menus countrywide. Correct pronunciation: ben-yay.

5. Sriracha

For some of us, a meal without hot sauce is like a day without sunshine. Drab! And this tangy, spicy Thai condiment has become a big favorite for many, giving ol’ Tabasco a run for its chili-laden money. Correct pronunciation (after a phone call to the Huy Fong Foods Company in Los Angeles who makes the most popular version of the sauce): Sih-rah-cha.

4. Quinoa

No one could have predicted the skyrocketing popularity of the Latin American seed-turned-omnipresent side dish, quinoa, so it’s understandable that it’s fast acceptance hasn’t given us much time to get our tongues around the word. Correct pronunciation: keen-wah.

3. Gyro

“It sounds more like ‘hero.’ To say ‘ji-roh’ is the worst thing you can  do,” says Sanders,  who says that he learned you can also throw a soft “z” sound in there, too, and it’s still considered a-okay by Greek standards. Correct pronunciation: yee-roh or zhee-roh.

2. Quesadilla

When we see a “qu” in the U.S., we can’t help but want to say a “kwuh” sound, but not so in Spanish pronunciation! And the double “l” isn’t your cue to fa-la-la – two l’s together is actually its own letter in the Spanish alphabet, and sounds like a “y” in this delicious cheese and tortilla snack and any other Spanish word you see. Correct pronunciation: kay-suh-dee-ya.

1. Worcestershire. 

Oh, those crazy Brits – they do like their complicated, consonant-laden names! Named for English town in which it was first bottled, Worcester, this brown-colored condiment has never met a meat it didn’t like. Correct pronunciation: woos-tuhr-sheer.

Since Sanders posted his list, he’s gotten oodles of noodles of suggestions in his inbox for more. His latest additions: turmeric (ter-muh-rick); mascarpone (mah-scar-poh-nay); dulce de leche (dool-say-deh-lay-cheh); relleno (ray-yen-oh), and bouillabaisse (bool-yuh–baze). Got any more? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!