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Old 04-10-2006, 08:02 PM   #1
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French and Italian food pronunciation

Hopefully the bolded syllabels will still be bold when I paste this.

En Français
"In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language."
-Mark Twain. The Innocents Abroad

Given the fact that the French look down their Gallic noses at the way French Canadians pronounce the language, the odds of impressing a French waiter are slim to none. A French menu is a minefield of silent letters and multiple sounds for a single letter. And for every rule, there are at least a dozen exceptions. Here's a list of some of the things you'll see, followed by an approximate pronunciation.

Aioli: ay-oh-lee
Au jus: oh-zhoo
Bechamel: bay-shuh-mell
Bernaise: bare-nayz
Boeuf Bourguignon: buhf Boor-geen-yahn
Bouillabaisse: (buie-yah-bayz)
Brioche: bree-ohsh
Buerre blanc: burr-blahnk
Canape: kahn-uh-pay
Champignon: sham-pin-yawhn
Confit: kohn-fee
Coq au vin: kok-oh-vah
Coquilles St. Jacques: ko-kee san zhak
Crepes: krep
En brochette: ahn-bro-shett
En croute: ahn-kroot
Endives: ahn-deev
Escargot: ess-car-go
Foie gras: fwah-grah
Gratin: grah-tan
Haricots verts: ar-ee-co-vair
Hors d'oeuvre: or-derv
Paillard: pie-yahrd
Pommes de terre: pom-dih-tair
Pommes frites: pum-freet
Paté: pah-tay
Potage: po-tahzh
Prix fixe: pree-feex
Salade Nicoise: sa-lahd nee-swahz
Saucisson: so-see-sawn
Tartare de boeuf:tar-tar dih buhf
Terrine: teh-reen
Tournedo: toor-nih-doh
Vichyssoise: vee-shee-swahz

In Italiano
When the stars make you drool just like pasta fazool, that's amore. But when "Gnocchi di patate con coniglio" leaves you tongue-tied, that's something else altogether. Two useful things to remember are:
  • <LI style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0in; MARGIN-TOP: 0in; PADDING-LEFT: 0in; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; MARGIN-BOTTOM: 0pt">"C"s and "g"s are soft (like an "s" or a "j" when followed by an "i" or "e." Both letters are given their hard pronunciation when followed by the letter "h."
  • Stress usually falls on the second to last syllable.
While you can probably fake it at Olive Garden, when you're upping the antipasto, here's a list that might come in handy.
Aglio: ah-lyoh
Antipasto: ahn-tee-pahs­-to
Biscotti: bis-cot-tee
Bistecca: bees-tek­-ka
Bolognese: baw-law-nyeh-she
Bruschetta: broo-skeh-tah
Cacciatore: kah-chuh-TOR­-ee
Calamari: kal-uh-mahr-ee
Calzone: kahl-zone-neh
Canoli: kah-noh-lee
Caprese: ka-pray­-she
Carbonara: kar-boh-nah-rah
Conchiglie: kon-keel-yeh
Coniglio: koh-neel-yeh
Farfalle: far-fa-lee
Funghi: foon-gee
Fusilli: foo-sill-ee
Gelato: jeh-lah-toh
Gnocchi: nyeh-ah-kee
Insalata: een-sa-la-ta
Manicotti: man-ah-Cot-tee
Marscapone: mas-car-poh-nay
Mostaccioli: mos-ta-choh-lee
Mozarella: maht-suh-rehl-la
Pane: pah-nay
Parmigiana: pahr-muh-zhan-na
Patate: Pah-tah-tay
Pecorino: peh-kuh-ree-noh
Pollo: Pohl-loh
Prosciutto: proh-shoo-toh
Radiatore: ra-dee-ah-Tor-ee
Risotto: rih-saw-toh
Tagliatelle: tah-lyuh-tehl-ee
Tiramisu: tih-ruh-mee-soo
Ziti: zee-tee
Zuppa: zoo-puh

A word on wine
Given the popularity of the grape, you probably already know your way around a wine list as far as most varietals go, and we're not going to suggest that you pronounce Champagne as "shahm-pahn-yeh" because people will think you're affected. And they'd be right. Still, there are a few that are sometimes mispronounced. Here's a list for the record.

Beaujolais: bow-zhuh-lay
Cabernet Sauvignon: cah-burr-nay sow-vee-nyohn
Châteauneuf-du-Pape: shah-toe-nuff due pahp
Gewürztraminer: guh-vurtz-trah-mean-er
Malbec: mall-beck
Muscadet: moo-skuh-day
Muscat: muss-cat
Pinot Grigio: pee-noh gree-gee-oh
Pouilly-Fumé: pooh-yee few-may
Rioja: ree-oh-ha
Sangiovese: san-joe-vay-zee
Sauternes: so-tern
Sauvignon blanc: so-vee-nyohnblahn (swallow the "c")
Sé millon: say-me-yohn
Shiraz: Australians call it shih-razz, Americans say shih-rahz. Now who's putting on airs?
With a little practice, no waiter will shame you and no menu will daunt you. Although, when it comes to ordering Thai food, you're on your own.


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Old 12-10-2007, 12:15 AM   #2
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i liked this post. a fun read for a midnight shift.

in nomine patri, et fili, et spiritus sancti.
beidh ar la linn.
wisdom is often in short supply within ones' ego.
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Old 12-10-2007, 09:02 AM   #3
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Location: Galena, IL
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I love this post. There is a waitress in a local restaurant who truly mangles the names of the foods on the menu. I mean seriously bad, I'm no linguist. But then there are local words and pronunciations of "foreign" words that drive you crazy until you get them (and still do, to be honest with you). But this is a great guide to get the uninitiated started. And, yes, I've experienced the snobbishness that French, French-Canadian, and Cajun-French differences can evoke. If I pretended I couldn't understand a southern accent or a New England accent or an upper-class British accent or a cockney accent, I'M the one who'd be considered an idiot. But somehow in French, your way of speaking is the ONLY way. Haha. Doesn't matter. I have a palate formation that makes it so that I cannot roll a French "R" correctly, so in all French dialects, I sound terrible. Luckily I can laugh at myself and get everyone to laugh with me.
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Old 12-10-2007, 09:12 AM   #4
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Aioli: ay-oh-lee
not quite..... they actually SAY "ay-oh-lee."

Muscat: muss-cat
that's a gun! the grape is muss-cat!
Wine is the food that completes the meal.
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