You say broo-sheh-tah. I say broo-ske-tah. Should we just call the whole meal off?
Dining out gives people a night off from cooking and clean-up duty, but it can also serve up a buffet of pronunciation pitfalls.
The Wall Street Journal recently revealed that, after years of testing, Olive Garden’s gnocchi sales finally took off after the dish was further described on the menu as “traditional Italian dumplings.”
In the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, a study titled “The name-pronunciation effect: Why people like Mr. Smith more than Mr. Colquhoun” further proved people are more likely to favor easy-to-pronounce names than difficult-to-pronounce ones. In the case of Olive Garden, traditional Italian dumplings (Mr. Smith) won the popularity contest against gnocchi (Mr. Colquhoun), and added an extra comfort level for diners.
A similar study by Hyunjin Song and Norbert Schwarz at the University of Michigan concluded that “fluently processed stimuli are judged as more familiar and elicit a more positive affective response than disfluently processed stimuli.” That is, if something – for instance, an ingredient – is difficult to pronounce, the consumer automatically assumes it's more harmful if it sounds unfamiliar.
Tongue-twisting dishes are not only risky, they can bring up deeper social and class anxieties. “There is a class-raising association with knowing other languages,” says Margaret King, a cultural analyst and director of a Philadelphia think tank that studies how consumers determine value in products.
“It could be a form of speech anxiety. When one is anxious about public speaking, it is more often than not a symptom of the ego and a fear of making a mistake or being embarrassed in front of people they do not know,” says Lyndsey Elliott, an Orange County, California-based psychologist.
She continued, “In the same vein, when someone is at a dinner on a date, with co-workers, and/or in mixed company, a similar effect of anxiety can take place. ‘People will think I am dumb’ or ‘I want to make a good impression’. People tend to play it safe in social situations where there could be any risk of looking anything but their very best."
All this anxiety has the potential to boil over when the waiter is standing there, order pad in hand. But professionals, both in and outside the restaurant industry, are eager to soothe diners’ pronunciation fears and even empower them to make more delicious decisions.
“It’s a sign of sophistication to admit your ignorance. Sophisticated people don’t get caught up in this or judge themselves or get caught up in dealing with people who do,” says King.
When you order the jota, for example, order with conviction.
Jota (pronounced yota) is one of executive chef Carmen Quagliata’s northern Italian specialties at the lauded Union Square Café in New York City. He says he tries to counteract any unfamiliarity with the Italian phrasing by also including an English description or story about where the dish originated from.
“I don’t think that much about how comfortable someone is going to be. I do think about if this is the best way to market this dish that I’m dying for people to have,” Quagliata says.
And even if the diner butchers the pronunciation, the restaurant’s waitstaff is instructed to never correct them. After all, they themselves had to learn the phonetic pronunciation of all the dishes before service.
“It’s only a teaching moment if they invite it; otherwise, it’s just pure enjoyment,” says John Ragan, the wine director for Union Square Hospitality Group, the parent company of Union Square Café.
When it comes to wine, Ragan advises his staff to connect the dots during their own wine education. When a person understands why a grape is pronounced a particular way because it’s from a certain region of Spain, for example, they can infer even more information that the wine list may not convey. If the guest seems receptive, they can even share this knowledge.
“Understanding the culture is understanding the language,” Ragan says.
Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology & Viticulture Institute in Ontario, Canada, concluded that consumers not only liked the taste of a wine better when it was associated with a difficult-to-process name, they also would pay more - an average of $2 more in fact - for the more linguistically challenging winemaker.
“I would say that because consumers have an intuitive theory that that which is rare, is more valuable, they will tend to prefer the wines with more difficult to pronounce names,” says Antonia Mantonakis, an Associate Professor at Brock University involved in the study.
King agrees that the inverse for wine makes sense, because there is a common perception of wine as being more refined.
Whether it’s food or wine, don’t sweat it; point to it if you’re too intimidated and let the waiter deal with it, King says. “They’re there to help you, not make you feel on trial.”
“If you don’t know what something means or how it is pronounced, you are not alone. I liken it to ‘there is no such thing as a stupid question.’ Usually someone else wants to know the answer as well, so why not take the lead and initiative and just ask?” Elliott says.
In the age of instant information, Elliott says diners can familiarize themselves with the online menu ahead of time in order to know how things are prepared and decrease angst around choices that they may regret later.
“People may shy away from fancy names because they don't want to be disappointed, end up hungry or seem exposed or silly for ordering something they shouldn't have to begin with,” Elliott says.
And if nothing else, the more risks taken, the better as far as King is concerned.
“You’re not going to be judged on your Burmese pronunciation the way you will be judged on your French and Italian. The expectation of expertise isn’t there.”
Five Tips for Anxious Orderers
1. Research the restaurant ahead of time; online menus are your friend. Especially if you're dining out with a date or business partner, you don’t want to be stuck for 30 minutes trying to decipher the menu when you could be engaging in conversation.
2. Still wary? Listen to online pronunciation guides, or if you have a smartphone, there are food translator apps available.
3. Let the server take charge. Order last and say, "I love how you say the dishes, I want to make sure I'm saying this right…” or say, “I'm really interested in this beef preparation, can you tell me more about it?" Usually, this will lead the server to repeat the full name of the dish.
4. Take risks. Bradford Thompson, a menu design instructor at the French Culinary Institute, says people should be more willing to take a chance with an appetizer than an entrée. With a bad appetizer, you can still recover; whereas a bad entrée can put a damper on the entire meal.
5. Have confidence. Don't be afraid to mess up. It's not what you say, it's how you say it. There’s always room for interpretation, especially for a non-native speaker.
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Even if I don't know what a foreign word means, I'm always learning exactly how to pronounce it. If I never encountered it before that I'm unable to pronounce(happens every once in a while. I can't know the entire cuisine of another country), I will ask the server.
There is one thing not mentioned here – those people who seem somehow proud to not know any foreign words, and almost glory in not desiring to learn. The world is getting smaller – it's time to learn to communicate.
I find the whole foreign language/ claasy thing a hoot. An upscale Italian place in town is called Manga Qui. Say it fast, it means "eat here", say it carefully and it means "eat this". Geesh. That's in neon on truck diners the length of I10. Gnocchi are potato blobs and I can't stand them. If a gyro is on the menu, even in a Greek owned diner, and you pronounce it correctly, the staff gets confused. Chicanos call them refritos, tejanos call the frijoles (as do Colombians, Hondurans, Guatemalans.) They'll leave them off the plate if you say 'no beans'. Coq au vin is just chicken with wine. I loved the 'new cuisine' of the nineties when dishes had long names that were basically ingredients lists. Pulled pork by any other name would taste as sweet.
I'm old enough to remember when “traditional Italian dumplings.” meant Sophia Loren.
How about tip #6 – Become educated. If you have the sophistication to step out of the spagetti and meatball circuit and go to resturaunts which serve more complex dishes – or if you cook more complex dishes yourself – it is probably time to man up and and stop being an ignorant bum. I know we Americans don't like to hear it, but there is something called knowledge and it is available to everybody. If you don't have it, or are unwilling to spend a little time getting it – you probably don't belong in the fancy resturant in the first place.
I've never had a problem with this. If I don't know how to pronounce something, I just say so, and ask if anyone I'm with or the waiter knows. Even at business functions this works to alleviate tension and people relax and are happy to share their knowledge with you.
No one speaks every language, and even those who speak that language don't always pronounce things the same. Gnocci, the dish miss LeTrent pronounced as (nyoh-key) in the video? My grandmother who lived in Southern Italy most her life pronounces it nyahck-ee. Both pronunciations are correct, and they are both from the same language.
Since that's the case, put pride in your pocket and relax. If you happen to know the name of a dish, feel free to use it. If not, just admit it. Chances are, you'll connect better with everyone else at the table. Unless you are sitting with a bunch of "foodies" who are trying to top each other in their pretentious food wars. (Sorry, I hate these people. If you are a foodie and not a pretentious jerk about it, this doesn't apply to you.) And honestly, I've never once asked a waiter for the name of a dish in a friendly way and had them act like I was an ignoramus.
Is "Big Mac" all that hard to say for you?
I believe it's pronounced "Beeg Mache."
That really wasn't all the clever of an insult, by the by. You might want to try again.
Thats La Beeg Mache
I once ordered Bruschetta and pronounced it correctly (Bruce-ketta) – only to have the waitress tell me it was pronounced Bru-shet-a. Wait staff should NEVER correct a customer without being 100% sure they are pronouncing the name of the dish correctly.
I guess I never realized it was embarrassing to mispronounce a word in a foreign language. Openly asking for help shows that you're secure in your lack of knowledge, and people shouldn't shy away from doing so.
My city has a fantastic cajun restaurant, with many menu items in a French/creole hybrid language that many people have trouble pronouncing. When I order something, I just say the item's name phonetically, then ask the server for the correct way. Now I know that my favorite Seafood Courtbouillon in Red Wine Sauce is pronounced "coo-be-yon".
Personally, if I butcher the pronunciation, I'd be glad to have the server politely correct me (i.e. no smirk). I'm just a customer, not an expert food critic. My ego doesn't depend on being able to show off like that.
Judging from some of these posts, though, I think the servers would be better off just keeping their reactions to themselves. Touchy customers who get insulted will probably punish you with a bad tip.
Besides, who at Carrabba's would care if you mispronounced "tilapia nocciola."
I find that often when you mispronounce a word, the waitstaff will politely correct you by repeating back your order with the correct pronunciation (which they typically do with all orders anyway). I find that the best way of dealing with the situation, because, while no one wants to be rebuked by their server, you also don't want to walk around mispronouncing a dish for life.
is this really news? CNN you are in constant degradation to yourselves as a facet of American media. No wonder we're considered rude ignorant idiots.
This is an article on food... this article pertains to the names of food... it talks about ordering food and not knowing how to pronounce the word and how there have been studies on human behavior when it comes down to actually ordering it and either being comfortable or not comfortable enough to say it aloud. If you think CNN is lacking in real news, then go somewhere else and get your news. Also, don't read articles titled "it's pronounced hos-pit-tal-it-tee". What did you think you were reading??
Why is there one of these on every single article? This is not news, it's a food blog that happens to be connected to CNN. If you didn't want to read this, why did you even click on the article?
No it's not news, nor did CNN say it was. Look at any good newspaper. They have many sections which are not news, like a lifestyle section. It is not news but it is still informative and for you to make such a lame criticism leads me to believe you are a petty person with nothing better to do than find fault where no fault lays. Grow up.
In New Orleans I ordered a Cafe Au Lait as "caff-ay oy lot", but also pointed because I knew it wasn't right. You know what? My friend and I had a chuckle over the butchered pronunciation and the waitress brought me the correct drink.
In Taiwan, I can't read or speak Chinese so I point to pictures of food or, when ordering from the street vendors, to whatever they have on display that I want to eat.
I can't imagine what delicious food I would have missed when on travel, or even just in my own city, just because I was afraid of the pronunciation. Should I have missed out on eating gnocchi on top of a mountain in Northern Italy because I don't pronounce it 100% correctly?
An excellently presented article which I found both interesting and informative. For me, the following sums it all up –
"It’s a sign of sophistication to admit your ignorance. Sophisticated people don’t get caught up in this or judge themselves or get caught up in dealing with people who do,” says King.
So true, and applicable to many aspects of daily interactions with others. Extends far beyond restaurant dining .
If a server corrects my pronunciation (or smirks at it), said server has lost his tip.
I hate to see something like gnocchi dumbed down to dumplings, though. They are a specific thing, not generic dumplings, and the "gn" sound in Italian is a wonderfully characteristic of the language. Just keep the name and let people deal. Really.
Spoken like the Ugly American. How DARE they correct your pronunciation to ensure you get the correct meal. They can probably tell early enough from you anyway they won't be getting a tip. Actually makes their job easier.
I myself would actually like to say it correctly. Pretty much just common courtesy I guess but hey, that's just me!
GET ME MY STEAK BOYYY!! I WANT IT WELL DOWN BOYY!! AND BRING ME SOME KETCHUPPP
that's pronounced 'catsup' sir,....LOL ;-)
What is Italian for "I'm going to spit in your gnocchi"?
Jota is pronounced "HOTA".
The J in Spanish sounds like H in English.
Please do not say YOTA.
Oh, please. My husband and I went to a (then) favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican place some years ago (when I used to eat meat) and ordered birria from the very young woman who waited tables. My spouse ordered (he speaks Spanish fairly well), and the girl screwed up her face and acted like she didn't know what he said. I repeated his order, and she did the same thing. Spouse pointed it on the menu, and she rolled her eyes and said, "Oh...birria!"...pronouncing it exactly as we had. It was purely a stupid power play on her part - ethnic hatred, I suspect, as we white folk were in a very brown part of town. You know what she accomplished? The loss of two loyal customers. We never went there again.
You are right. And Mexican food is glorified chopped meat.
There are numerous dishes that are not focused on "chopped meat".
Mmmmm...birria! I hope you found somewhere more polite that serves it. First time I saw it as a special on a menu at my favorite Mexican place, I think I pointed and nodded vigorously. The servers don't speak much English and I'm trying to get better at my restaurant Spanish, but they'd never correct me unless I asked them to.
No it isn't – it is an Italian not a Spanish dish. Read the article instead of trying to impress people with your non-existent gourmand expertise.
You know, there is no J in Italian. I'm not familiar with the dish, but what I gather from a quick Google is it's Slovenian in origin. Maybe it made its way down to Fruili and retained the J. But the upshot is...I'm not sure how it would be pronounced in Italian!
it is normally pronounced as Y e.g. Juventus the famous football club is pronounced Yooventus and Jove the Greek god was spelled Iove (I not an L) in Latin as in yove. It is never pronounced as H
Basic Jota, or Jota di Base: Though one might not associate sauerkraut with Italy, it's common in Friuli, and is central to Jota (pronounced Yota), a simple, hearty bean and sauerkraut soup from Trieste.
Bean and saurerkraut soup. So that's what I've been making all of these years and not even knowing it. All my friend thought that I was crazy for making such a weird dish.
First, it's an Italian dish not Spanish or from another Spanish-speaking country. Specifically the article mentions northern Italy, which upon visiting you would see the area has a distinct German influence (several areas I was in everything was bilingual – Italian and German). And in German, the "j" is pronounced as "y". Simple example: "yes" in German is "ja", pronounced "ya".
Except this was a dish in an Italian restaurant so I would expect them to say it with an Italian pronunciation don't you think? Might want to concentrate on reading comprehension before you jump to criticize an article.
I'm considered pretty smart by those who know me, but I'm also a pretty big guy, was a varsity athlete as an undergrad. So, I dunno, maybe it's those two combined facts that make me perfectly comfortable saying "I want that right there" (pointing at the menu) "how do you say that anyway?" Hehe... if someone wants to think I'm dumb because of it, I play along and spend the evening doing my best "dumb jock" caricature. It's kinda fun sometimes. but for the most part people recognize that being able to admit you don't already know everything shows your self-confidence. Chicks dig it. Well my wife did, so that's all that matters to me.
Not really a problem when you compare it to other problems in the world.
If I am with my friends or family, Ill butcher it, as they know I normally butcher the English language. However if I am with professionals, I will skip what I cannot pronounce. As to not seem uncultured.
This is ridiculous...just say "I don't know how to pronounce this" or "I know I'm going to pronounce this wrong."
Usually, it turns into a good laugh for everyone. Some people are so sensitive.
Case in point:
Me: (sees "assam" tea on menu, want to order a cup) I'm going to pronounce this all wrong...
Barista: go for it anyways
Me: I'll have the "awesome" black tea
Barista: It's "ah-SAHM", but I like your pronouncination better!
and a good time was had by all
Do you know why Latin is a dead language?
Because no one speaks it anymore.
Do you know why there is so much controversy over how to pronounce different words in English?
Because it's not a dead language.
Because it's being spoken & used by various cultures all over the world, English will continue to evolve and change with every usage and purported mis-usage. Just because it doesn't sound right to your ear doesn't necessarily mean it's being pronounced incorrectly. How else would the word "Doh" have made it into the Oxford English Dictionary? Language evolution.
Who axed ya? ;)
People, croissant is said by not pronoucing the final "t"; it is a French word..if ur a hillbilly, or uneducated, then go for that last "t". Would you pronounce Gnocchi as "notch-ee" or Spaghetti as "spag-hetti"? If so, internet pronunciation sites will help you to talk gooder, if u no wut I'm sayin' – howjsay (com) is a great one. Buy buy.
Way to post out of thread numbnuts.
@ThreadPatrol: Thanks douche. That's French for shower and it's pronounced "doosh". Please patrol ur attitude.
It is pronounced 'N-Yawkie' dude.
No it's called – I don't speak French or Italian. I am American and I believe that I speak/write English very well. I say croissanT and knock-ee and probably everything else wrong. I believe the only time you really need to worry about that is if you are American and you still say yo-grit or, like you, turn your nose up at everyone "below you" in this cultural heirarchy. Get over yourself.
Asking the waitstaff is usually not a good idea. They don't typically pronounce them correctly either. Just order what you want to eat and if they don't understand what you say, then point.
Interesting that the professionals interviewed for this article said that the server shouldn't correct. I'm terrible when it comes to pronoucing unfamiliar words and I couldn't tell you the number of times I've been corrected, or the server pretends like they don't know what I'm talking about. I just keep right on ordering new things, though. I think I'd rather get it slightly wrong than be one of those people who pronounce things with an accent. It realy annoys me when someone pronounces "croissant",for instance, with a silent T.
You shouldn't pronounce the " T " in croissant. I'm French... I should know!
Croissant is both a french word and an english word. When pronouncing it in English, you do not put an accent on it and you pronounce the "t". I agree, English speakers who put accents on words sound ridiculous. There is no reason to do so.
That's why we Americans call them Crescents.
As they say, "when in Rome", otherwise it's just pretentious. If you were in France, yes try to pronounce it the French way, but in an English speaking nation, use the native accent and pronunciation. The example I like to give is how you pronounce state or city names in the USA that are borrowed from other languages. No one uses Spanish accents or pronunciations speaking of San Francisco or Los Angeles, California nor does anyone say "Illiinois" like it was French.
HipHop – you may be technically correct about San Francisco and Los Angeles, but wrong in general. Ever been to Ojai or La Jolla?
Trust me, Mr. Pillsbury, there is no comparing a croissant with a "crescent".
Agreed. I know the correct French pronunciation, but I am not going to use it in an English speaking area because croissant has been anglicized. Saying it the French way in the US would sound about as silly as a someone in France intentionally pronouncing the "h" when ordering a hamburger.
You're allowed–you're French. I'm not French, and I don't pretend to be, so I don't say things with a French accent (or other applicable accent when speaking English). Actually, you're probably not French either.
This whole "when in America" is just aggressive ignorance. Pronounce it however you want. It's either wrong or it isn't. So long as you get the food you wanted, it doesn't matter. But a word is pronounced a specific way. If a language swipes that word, it is still pronounced the same way. Much like the word "tongue." It was swiped from the French word "langue" - complete with unpronounced words. Those of you who insist on pronouncing the final "t" in croissant, I insist you also pronounce "tongue" as "tohngyoo."
You sound insufferable and pretentious.
Depends on who I'm with. If I'm with close friends I'm comfortable with I'll ask one of them or the waiter. If I'm on a date with someone new or dining with people I don't know well I'll just order something I can pronounce.
If I'm not sure I ask the server. I've eaten in enough places to look at the menu and wonder...though more are better at putting down the description of what the item actually is. I love trying new food and will try most things at least once...but I'm not typical middle class American, my dad was in the miliatary and we moved enough to be able to try new things.
Sounds like you are a typical middle class American.
Jealous, are we?
If you're going to frequent a particular ethnic cuisine, learn the basics of the language's pronunciation. My Restaurant Japanese is so impeccable that servers often try to engage me in conversation, only to discover that my vocabulary is limited to please, thank you, and the words on the menu.
Good for you.
For the rest of us, we eat where we want, and point if we don't know how to pronounce something.
Learning the language before you even know if you'd like the cuisine is silly.
Evidently reading comprehension is not your strong point. KC didn't say anything about trying out a cuisine–s/he said "frequent", which implies that you've already tried it and plan to go deeper enjoying it. Also, KC suggested learning the basic pronunciation, and not the actual language itself–the two are not the same.
mom pronounces "au jus" as "aah juce". My sister interpreted that as "odd juice" and ordered it that way in front of her boyfriend. He snickered and nicely explained it to her after the server was gone. That's how she learned that mom is not all that and a bag of chips with regards to pronunciations. Now she asks, just as I do.
Does she know the "thing" she is asking for is "jus?" Au jus means "with jus".
"He snickered and nicely explained it to her ..."
It's true that trying to pronounce many foreign food names leaves many middle class Americans feeling out of place and uncomfortable. Just like putting in a full day's honest labor often leaves many Europeans feeling out if place and uncomfortable.
Give me a break. You should be able to check of multiple answers because I've done whatever it takes. And, guess what? Even if Paris I had a great time because I stink at trying to pronounce anything in French, said so and everyone was great.
"I'll take 'The Rapist' for 800, Alex."
An al bum cover for 1,000 please
That's Foreign Flicks Mr Connery...
All time jeopardy parody line – ever.
Don't forget "The Pen is Mightier"
That's what your mother said last night!
I know your tricks, Trebek!
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