Cat got your tongue? Well, there’s a reason for that. Perhaps it’s the number of syllables or consonants or diacritics that makes it hard to pronounce a word correctly, but whatever the case, a recent report from online word search database WordTips reveals just how often we mispronounce the names of the food and drinks we consume on a regular basis.
In August of this year, the WordTips team gathered data from TasteAtlas, an online reference manual for local foods and drinks for 130 countries around the world. This data was matched against Forvo.com, an online database of user-submitted pronunciations. This methodology supposes that a higher number of listens on a given word on Forvo indicates the likelihood of those words to be mispronounced.
The results were mapped in some artfully designed graphics that demonstrate just how many common local foods leave us with uncertainty.
What are some commonly mispronounced food words?
You may be surprised to learn that “burger,” an American dish with German roots, is the most searched American food pronunciation, according to WordTips. I know, I was surprised too; “burger” clocks in at 886,000 listens on Forvo.com. The British and French pronunciations are obviously different from the American one, so perhaps we’re all just checking to hear what others say.
Joining “burger” near the top of the list are the words “BBQ,” “pecan pie,” “coleslaw,” and “poke,” which all make sense when you think about it. Americans seem split on whether to pronounce “pecan” with a “can” or “cahn,” and “poke” doesn’t always have an accent mark on the “e” to indicate the “-ay” sound. As for BBQ, maybe people are confused about whether to say “barbecue” or pronounce it as the three-letter abbreviation.
When you expand the map a little bit, the word “chorizo” takes the reign for being the most mispronounced word in the world, with 22 million listens worldwide. According to WordTips, the confusion lies in the fact that there several acceptable pronunciations for the word. Should it be cho-ri-tho or chur-ree-zow or should it be something else? It doesn’t help that MasterChef popularized the debate surrounding this word in 2017.
Other notable food items include “croissant” in France (2.9 million listens), “scone” in the United Kingdom (1.2 million listens), and “hummus” (79,000 listens), which is the most mispronounced word in six countries, including Egypt.
What about the most mispronounced drink names?
Americans love to celebrate with a drink, but somehow we mispronounce one of our favorite spirits the most: “bourbon.” But while that word clocks in at 64,000 listens, the winner overall around the world is “rioja,” a wine that comes from Spain (1.4 million listens), and “rakija,” a popular Balkan fruit brandy, is the most mispronounced drink in five countries.
In a way, it’s reassuring that we are looking up these pronunciations, interested in learning about the words and discussing them properly, as locals do. If you’re planning on traveling abroad anytime soon, you can do your own research and check out the rest of the list here.