Editor's Note: Click on the words in bold to hear the pronunciation.
There have been lots of memes on Facebook lately devoted to vocabulary; “17 Misused and Made-Up Words That Make You Rage” is one example. And Weird Al Yankovic recently released a video entitled Word Crimes, an entertaining look at language errors. This particular English major feels as though the new song was written just to make her smile.
Prompted by this trend, I thought it might be fun to look at the most common mistakes among food terms. I’ll take a Tums to prepare myself.
Au jus: When I had a television, I would watch Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. The man has a great gig: drive around in a cool car and get paid generously to eat gleefully and gluttonously. Repeatedly, Guy talks of serving a sandwich “with the au jus.” Apparently he is unaware that the term “au jus” means “with juice,” namely the cooking juices from roasting meat. So, when Guy says “with the au jus,” he is really saying “with the with juice.” He could say “serve it with the jus” or “serve it with the juices.” He could say “serve it au jus.” But he needs to stop saying “serve it with the au jus” because it grates on my nerves. May I also say that the term is pronounced “oh ZHOO,” rather than with an “aw” sound? Saying “aw” is reserved for admiring babies and puppies.
Bruschetta: Bruschetta is an Italian word, and a singular one. (The plural is bruschette.) The fabulous appetizer of a lightly toasted garlic-rubbed bread slice topped with tomatoes or other tidbits is called a “brew-SKEH-tuh,” not a “bruh-SHET-uh.” The h after the c makes it a hard sound, like a k. (This is the same explanation for our pronunciation of spaghetti; without that h, we’d be saying “spah-JEH-tee.”) This particular word is mispronounced so often that I keep wondering if dictionaries will start accepting alternates. But, like Queen Elizabeth — whom I’ve heard will repeat another person’s mistake, rather than make someone feel self-conscious in having appeared to be a twit before Her Majesty — I refrain from correcting those who say this the wrong way (except in my head, of course, because we know we all judge silently).
And here are a few easy ones:
Crêpe: Please say “krehp,” not ”krayp.” I could bore you with an explanation, but I’m going to ask that you trust me. If you don’t trust me, I’ll have to resort to a tedious grammar lesson. Neither of us wants that to happen.
Panini: It’s plural. People say, “I‘ll have a panini,” but that word indicates more than one. One panino. Two panini. Do not order two paninis, which is making a plural of a plural. (Similarly: one paczek, two paczki, never paczkis.)
Biscotti: Pronounced “bee-SCOH-tee,” not “bis-CAH-tee,” this follows the same pattern as panini — one biscotto, two biscotti. I tend to say biscotti because I’m not sure if I‘ve ever eaten only one at a sitting. Ditto for ravioli, because one lone raviolo would be pitiful.
Now, of course, I have only proven myself to be a crank and a kvetch. I am aware of this, even if I don’t intend to change.
But in my defense, Sue Quinn, of The Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog, once wrote:
“I ask Richard Ehrlich, the chairman of the Guild of Food Writers, whether it is wrong to hurl a bread roll at the television screen when food words are mispronounced. ‘It is very important for food professionals to say things correctly,‘ he assures me. ’For broadcasting professionals especially, a mispronounced word can become common parlance, and the integrity of the word can be lost. Whenever someone speaks professionally about food, they have an obligation to know and convey the correct pronunciation. It’s not about showing off, but showing respect for the dish or ingredient you’re talking about. A nod in the direction of correctness is all I am asking for.’”
And a few biscotti to eat while asking.