Dear Salty: My family and I were trying out a new Italian restaurant for the first time last week. We were waited on by a young woman who did a fine job with everything—no complaints in terms of her service at all. But while she was reciting the specials, she mispronounced the word “guanciale” when talking about a pasta dish. She said it like “gwin-chell-lee”? It was pretty far off from the correct pronunciation, but I didn’t say anything, because it seemed condescending. But later that night once we got home, I was debating with my kids whether I should have corrected her to save her the embarrassment of saying it wrong in the future (we were split 50/50 on it). It’s an Italian place, so I don’t think it’s far-fetched that guanciale could be on the menu in the future. What say you?
Dear Guanciale Guy,
You really made a lady think about this one, and not just because I got side-tracked dreaming of Italian meats. I did a lot of “on one hand” and “on the other hand” before finally making up my mind. (I’m just telling you this so you can appreciate me for the genius philosopher that I am.)
You have to think really hard about your intentions here. Are you just trying to sound sophisticated and show off that you spent half a semester studying abroad in Rome? If so, go stand in the shame corner with people who pronounce croissant as “kwah-sonn” instead of “cruh-saaaaandt.” If your intention is really and truly kind-hearted, then yes, it might save her some embarrassment if you very delicately correct her.
But all of this depends on how you deliver the correction. Tread very delicately. We’re all human, and mispronunciations happen. The server is probably going to feel kinda mortified that you corrected her, so you don’t want her to be pissed off or feel talked-down-to on top of that.
If I was you, I’d play dumb a little: “Oh, wait, is that the same as guanciale? Have I been saying it wrong?”
Hopefully that would get her to scamper back to the kitchen later to ask a manager or a chef. (Keep in mind, she might have heard it wrong from one of them in the first place.)
This is really as far as you should take the correction. If she continues screwing it up in the future, that’s not your problem to solve, and you risk sounding like a pompous gasbag if you keep harping on it.
Long story short: Mention the correction in the form of a gentle question, cut her some slack, and leave it at that.
Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or just a general question about life we can help you with? Email us: email@example.com