Don’t Offend your Foods- Pronounce them Right!

Jan 30, 2017 | Language

Why pay attention to Food Pronunciation?

Pronunciation is the way words are spoken in a particular language independent of any regional dialect or accent. Correct pronunciation encompasses right intonation & stress on specific letters along with the sound. The way a word is pronounced is not always in line with its spelling and is largely influenced by the etymology or origin of the word- the primary reason that causes people to mispronounce words.

The spread of globalization has led us to adopt different aspects of foreign cultures; the impact is particularly noticeable in our food habits. Many of the food items that we eat regularly are borrowed from various cuisines such as French, Italian or Chinese. Since they aren’t “English”, the way these items are actually pronounced can be quite different from the way they are represented and spelt in English language. This makes it difficult, even for native speakers, to get their pronunciation right. In this article, you’ll find out some commonly mispronounced food items and the right way to say them.

We all love eating, but how often have you found yourself in an uncomfortable situation where you encounter a new item on the menu and are not quite sure how to say it to the waiter? If this has happened quite often to you, don’t worry! It’s perfectly normal; there’s always the lingering fear of embarassment on getting it horribly wrong. From jalapeno to mousse, pronouncing food items can be a little tricky at times. To allay your fears, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common food items that we generally mispronounce and the right way to say them. Get them right the next time you eat!

“My name can’t be that tough to pronounce!”

– Keanu Reeves

Correct Pronunciation of Commonly Mispronounced Food Words:

1. Menu

Correct pronunciation: Men-yu

Source(s):   Cambridge Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Menu seems like a rather simple word to pronounce but is quite widely mispronounced, especially by non-native speakers. The ending ‘u’ in menu is not pronounced as “oo”, but is actually pronounced as “yu” or “you”. Thus, the correct pronunciation of menu is “men-yu”.

Commonly mispronounced food words: Menu

2. Cucumber

Correct pronunciation: Kyu-Kum-Ber

Source(s):   Cambridge Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

These green vegetables, good for hydration and digestion, are an integral part of salads. The word has 3 parts: ‘cu’, ‘cum’, ‘ber’. Let’s look at the right pronunciation of each part individually and then as a whole. ‘cu’ is pronounced as “kyu”. ‘cum’ is pronounced as “kum” or the word “come”. ‘ber’ is pronounced as “ber” as in amber or ember. Overall, the correct pronunciation of cucumber then becomes “Kyu-Kum-Ber”.

Commonly mispronounced food names: Cucumber

3. À la carte

Correct pronunciation: Aa-Laa-Kart

Source(s):   Cambridge Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Derived from French, à la carte means choosing items from the menu separately as opposed to a combo or a buffet. The first 2 parts of the word, ‘à’ and ‘la’ are pronounced in a straightforward manner as “aa” and “laa” respectively. ‘Carte’, however, contrary to what many people think is not pronounced as “kar-tay”. The correct pronunciation is simply “kart” or “cart”. Thus, the right pronunciation of à la carte is “aa-laa-kart”.

Most Commonly mispronounced food names: A la carte

4. Lettuce

Correct pronunciation: Let-tis

Source(s):   Cambridge Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Another integral part of salads, lettuce was derived from Old French letues. As with many French words that are borrowed by English, the spelling can be quite misleading for a layman. The ending ‘uce’ in lettuce would lead one to believe that the pronunciation would be “oos” or “yus”. However, the right pronunciation of the ending ‘uce’ is simply “is”. Thus, the correct pronunciation of lettuce is “let-tis”. In many US versions, the ending ‘uce’ may also be pronounced as the word “us”.

Most Commonly mispronounced food words: Lettuce

5. Fork

Correct pronunciation: Fo(r)k

Source(s):   Cambridge Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

We all use forks for eating, don’t we? Then it’s time to get its pronunciation right too. A lot of us tend to pronounce fork as “fawrk”, pronouncing the ‘o’ as in words like lot and pot. However, that’s incorrect. The ‘o’ is pronounced as in the words ‘pork’ and ‘both’ and the ‘r’ is not emphasized but spoken quickly in conjunction with ‘k’ just as in the word ‘pork’. Thus, the correct pronunciation is “fo(r)k”.

Commonly mispronounced food words and how to pronounce them: Fork

6. Gelato

Correct pronunciation: je-laa-toh

Source(s):   Oxford Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Derived from Italian, gelatos are ice creams that are very popular. However, in pronouncing gelato, people tend often to make a mistake. First, the pronunciation of ‘ge’ is not “jee” but is actually “je” as in the word ‘jet’. Second, the pronunciation of ‘la’ is not “lay”; instead it is “laa” as in the word ‘last’. Thus, the correct pronunciation of gelato is “je-laa-toh”.

Commonly mispronounced food words and how to pronounce them: Gelato

7. Muesli

Correct pronunciation: Myus-lee

Source(s):   Cambridge Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

The name of this common breakfast cereal is of Swiss-German origin. Its spelling can be a source of confusion for people while pronouncing with many often incorrectly pronouncing it as “mooz-lee”. However, the right way of pronouncing it is “myus-lee”.

Commonly mispronounced food names and how to pronounce them: Muesli

8. Tortilla

Correct pronunciation: Tor-tee-aa

Source(s):   Cambridge Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

For those who love Mexican or Spanish cuisine, tortillas are hot favorites. The word is of Spanish origin and its English spelling can be highly misleading when pronouncing. Although spelled with “lla” in the end, both the ‘l’s are silent with only a “aa” sound at the end! The ‘ti’ is akin to pronouncing the letter ‘t’ itself as in T-shirt. Thus, the correct pronunciation of tortilla is “tor-tee-aa”.

Correct pronunciation of commonly mispronounced food words: Tortilla

9. Taco

Correct pronunciation: Taah-ko

Source(s):   Oxford Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Taco is a word of Mexican-Spanish origin referring to the Mexican dish consisting of a folded or rolled tortilla filled with seasoned meat or beans. The way the ‘a’ is pronounced, however, is not as in the words ‘lack’ or ‘back’. Rather, it is pronounced as “aah”. Thus, the right pronunciation of taco is “taah-ko”

Most mispronounced food words: Taco

10. Vermicelli

Correct pronunciation: Ver-mi-che-lee

Source(s):   Cambridge Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Vermicelli, derived from Italian verme (meaning ‘worm’) is a type of pasta made in long, thin threads. A lot of Indians will also recognize it from the popular sweet dish, kheer or payasam. Though the pronunciation of vermicelli is relatively straightforward, the part which many get wrong is the pronunciation of ‘ce’, which sounds not like “se” but “che” as in the words chess and cherry. Thus, the pronunciation of vermicelli is “ver-mi-che-lee”.

Most mispronounced food names: Vermicelli

11. Onion

Correct pronunciation: Uh-nion

Source(s):   Cambridge Dictionary, Meriam-Webster Dictionary

The ‘O’ at the beginning of onion often misleads people to pronounce it as “O-nion”. However, the right way to say it is actually “Uh-nion”

Correct Pronunciation of Onion

12. Espresso

Correct pronunciation: Es-press-oh

Source(s):   Cambridge Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Probably because we are used to the word ‘express’ with coffee, a number of us end up saying “ex-press-o”. However, it is spelt with a ‘s’ in place of ‘x’ and the pronunciation follows suit- “Es-press-oh”

Commonly mispronounced words

13. Almond

Correct pronunciation: Ah-mund

Source(s):   Cambridge Dictionary

The word ‘almond’ comes from Old French almande. However, the “Al-” at the beginning may have been the result of a confusion with the Arabic article al. The correct way to pronounce almond is by replacing the “al” with “ah” while speaking.

Mispronounced Words List

14.  Jalapeño

Correct pronunciation: Hah-lah-peh-nyoh

Source(s):   Cambridge Dictionary,  Merriam-Webster Dictionary

The word jalapeño has its origin in Mexican Spanish, where the ‘J’ sounds like a harsh ‘H’ in English. Also, the ‘ñ’ sounds like ‘ny’. So, the correct pronunciation is actually “Hah-lah-peh-nyoh”

Commonly Mispronounced Food Words

15. Croissant

Correct pronunciation: Kwah-son

Source(s):   Cambridge Dictionary

When English borrows words from French, it’s usually hard to represent them as they sound. Croissant, with its French origin, is no different. The right way to pronounce it is actually “Kwah-son”!

Correct Pronunciation of Croissant

16. Raspberry

Correct pronunciation: Raz-ber-ee

Source(s):   Cambridge Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

This fruit, though seemingly easy to pronounce, is actually a bit tricky. The “sp” in raspberry is not pronounced like in words such as “grasp” and “wasp” but has a ‘z’ sound. Hence, the correct pronunciation is “Raz-ber-ee”

Mispronounced Food Words List

17. Mojito

Correct pronunciation: Mo-hi-to

Source(s):  Cambridge Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Mojito has its roots in Cuban Spanish. As in the case of jalapeño, the ‘j’ sounds like a ‘h’. So, the right way to pronounce it is “Mo-hi-to”

Commonly mispronounced food-related words

18. Caramel

Correct pronunciation: Kar-ah-mehl

Source(s): Cambridge Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Caramel is pronounced quite like the way it is written. Quite a few of us incorrectly pronounce it as “Car-mel”, but its correct pronunciation is “Kar-ah-mehl”

Commonly Mispronounced English Words: Caramel

19. Mousse

Correct pronunciation: Moos

Source(s): Cambridge Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Another word borrowed in English from French, it looks quite similar to the word “mouse”. However, its pronunciation is pretty different and the right way to say is “Moos”.

Funny mispronounced words: Mousse