I consider myself to be pretty adept when it comes to speaking and writing in the English language. It’s something that just always came naturally to me, perhaps because in Catholic school the nuns would rap our knuckles with a ruler if we pronounced a word wrong. Thanks to Sister Margaret, I’ll always know how to pronounce “catechism.”
Despite my childhood trauma, there are still a few rather common words that I’m still unclear on how to say correctly—and many of them are food-related. Thankfully, I’m not alone in this. According to data compiled by Writing Tips Institute, there are a lot of folks out there struggling to pronounce “charcuterie.”
Writing Tips has created a list of the 10 most commonly Googled pronunciations, half of which somehow involve food. In the top spot—the most sought after pronunciation of all—was “acai.”
Now, this is one I already know how to pronounce, but unfortunately I learned it the hard way. When I first became aware of the trendy “health” food, I, like many, assumed it was pronounced “ah-kai.” It was only when I said that in the presence of coworkers far cooler than me that I learned I was making an ass of myself. In fact, “ass” is much closer to the actual pronunciation, “ahs-eye-ee.”
The second most-searched food term is one that still perplexes me: “gyro.” I regularly hear the name of this meaty pita sandwich pronounced at least four different ways: “zhir-o,” “yee-ro,” “jai-ro,” and “hee-ro.” I usually go with “jai-ro,” because that’s what it looks like to me. But according to Merriam-Webster, I’m in the wrong with this one. Apparently, it’s either “zhir-o” or “yee-ro” when referring to the sandwich, whereas “jai-ro” is reserved for the abbreviation of “gyroscope.” Although I’ve been pronouncing it wrong, I do feel somewhat validated in confirming that it’s not pronounced “hee-ro.” In New York, a “hero” is how people refer to a sub sandwich, which is quite different from the Greek specialty of rotisserie meat with tzatziki.
The third most mispronounced food is another one that I’m iffy on: “charcuterie.” Usually when I say this word, I’ll say the first syllable confidently and loudly before trailing off and finishing the word in a whisper. Before double-checking myself, I’m about 60% sure it’s “shar-kyoo-te-ree,” and I’m about 90% sure that even if that’s incorrect, people will still understand what I’m trying to say. Well, according to Merriam-Webster, I’m actually pretty close! The proper pronunciation is “shar-koo-te-ree.” An easy way to remember it: Charcuterie isn’t cute.
As an Italian-American, I’ve never had any trouble with number four: “gnocchi.” If you’re unsure how to say it, it’s “nyo-kee.” One time, I was watching a cooking show where the chef kept calling it “no-kee” and I promptly changed the channel.
But the last food-related search term is one that is sure to spark debate: “Worcestershire.”
I’ve always pronounced this word “worst-uh-shure” because that’s how my parents said it. Obviously, that’s not the phonetic pronunciation, as the word appears to have at least four syllables, given all its vowels and consonants. It turns out there are two acceptable pronunciations, and both contain only three syllables: “wuh-stah-sheer” or “wu-stah-shah.” Since I don’t have a British accent, I’m going to go with the former.
Oh, and in case you’re interested, the remaining five non-food words in the list were: nguyen, omicron, gif, kyiv, and dogecoin. How did you fare with those pronunciations?