“Flaming Yon” and Other Food Names You Might Be Saying Wrong

When someone in my family achieves an accomplishment, like getting straight As or making the grocery store cookies last longer than 10 minutes after they’re purchased, we all go out to a local Japanese steakhouse to celebrate. Most of us get the same order every time, the filet mignon with fried rice, thus allowing us to completely bypass the menus. Normally, this is not a problem, until, of course, you eat at a different steakhouse one night and find that “flaming yon” is not listed anywhere. It’s only after you’ve been told that the “filet” is on page two that you realize the other person did not mispronounce your favorite dish (why would they stop at “fla-“ and not finish the name?), that in fact, you’ve been saying it wrong the whole time. Ever since that fateful night, I began to wonder what other food words I’ve been saying wrong. There are quite a few:

Bruschetta is broo-sket-tuh, not broo-sheh-tah.

Italians really know their appetizers. They also really know how to construct words that can tie my tongue into permanent knots, like the ones your headphones end up in after two or so seconds in your jacket pocket. Bruschetta is a popular dish that involves grilling little slices of bread, slathering it with garlic and olive oil, then topping it off with tomatoes, beans, cheese, pine nuts, calamari, chocolate chip cookies… everything tastes good on Italian bread so you can’t really go wrong. That is, unless you’re trying to pronounce the name, in which case, everything can go wrong because according to the dictionary, “bruschetta” is said with a hard “k” rather than a smooth “sh” sound.

Espresso is ess-press-oh, not ex-press-oh.

If I heard you say “ex-press-oh” in real life, I wouldn’t pounce on you like a wild animal because chances are, I’m saying the same thing. Espresso is just one of those words that everyone says too fast to begin with, probably because they’re hopped up on espresso when they’re ordering another espresso, so no one really has time to accentuate all those added “s”s.

Gyro is yeer-oh, not g-eye-row.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) taught me a lot about Greek culture, but it missed one vital fact: how to say “gyro.” As it turns out, the opening “g” is misleading because the word “gyro” sounds more like Scooby Doo trying to say “hero” than the pronunciation that its spelling suggests.

Pommes frites is pohm-freet, not pom-mes free-tes.

One of the world’s most delectable finger foods, pommes frites are a good addition to any meal. Just slice a potato into elegant strips, dip them in exotic oil and fry them to perfection to get a delicious side dish that everyone will love. Yes, I’m describing French fries, but when you use the French term for them and spruce up your language, you can make them sound like a legitimate side to any fancy meal. Just make sure to get the pronunciation down first so your French friends don’t giggle when you serve them “pom-mes free-tes” instead of “pohm-freet.” I mean, they might giggle anyway, but at least you can say you tried.

Açaí is ah-sah-ee, not ak-eye.

Anyone looking to have their mind imploded can just Google the actual pronunciation for “açaí.” Who knew a word so short could be so terribly easy to mess up. The majority of the confusion comes from the squiggly mark tacked on to the bottom of the “c,” which turns “ak-eye” into “ah-sigh-ee.” Moral of the story: never trust letters with tails.

Guacamole is wah-cah-moll-ay, not gwak-a-moll-ee

As if anyone needed another reason to like guacamole. While the American pronunciation of “guac” includes the hard “g” sound at the beginning, the Spanish version (read: the actual version) starts with “wah” and ends with “olay” making it significantly more fun to say.

Sriracha is SHee-rah-cha, not SRee-rah-cha.

I’m not a fan of hot sauce myself (I ordered extra spicy chicken at an Indian restaurant once…RIP taste-buds) but I can hardly go out in public nowadays without seeing a Sriracha bottle either on outdoor seating tables or occasionally in someone’s hand as they drink it like water. So I was interested to learn that Sriracha is actually less complicated than it looks when it comes to pronunciation. As one woman notes in this “sriracha pronunciation video” (because apparently other people struggle with this problem), “you omit the ‘r’…you just say ‘shee-rah-cha’!”

Sherbet is sher-bet, not sor-beh or sher-bert.

I like sherbet just as much as the next girl but that doesn’t mean I go around adding extra “r”s into the pronunciation. I mean, any real sherbet fan knows there is no such thing as a second “r” in sherbet. It simply doesn’t exist, like Loch Ness Monster or your romantic relationship with Bradley Cooper.  Now if you would excuse me, I have to go close all of my internet tabs describing how to pronounce the word so no one knows I’m not, in fact, an expert.

In an effort to avoid another “flaming yon” embarrassment, I ask you this: what other foods have common mispronunciations and what are they?

Featured image via Shutterstock.