Commonly Misspelled and Mispronounced Foods

January 7, 2011

Photo by Stu-Spivak

Just the other day I received an email from a Mr. della Santina, one of our new Foodista users who was, rightfully so, disappointed that we had so many Italian recipes incorrectly spelled: linguini, fettucini, scallopini, etc…The correct spellings, in fact, end with E not I.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to live abroad: 3 years in Japan, a summer in Greece, and 6 months in Italy. From those experiences I learned that we Americans are not the only ones to slaughter a foreign language. In Japan, an internationally recognized company had “Eye Blow Pencil” printed on their eye brow pencil packaging. I don’t know about you, but if my eye ever starts blowing I’m calling the doctor! And a major food company created a tubular chocolate-filled digestive snack called “Collon.” Though indeed a tasty treat it’s hard to get the image of a digestive tract out of one’s head. Adding an additional L doesn’t change that fact.

Why is it so hard for us – and I’m not saying just us Americans – to correctly pronounce and spell foreign words? Generally, the words are not that difficult in the first place! We’re clearly just lazy. When Barnaby and I watch food shows we’re astounded when we hear famous chefs say things like “habañero.” The H is silent and there is no eñe on the N as there is with jalapeño (ah-bah-ne-roh).

So why, as a founder and the editor of Foodista, do I allow such bastardizations of language, such as “linguini,” to sneak into our index? Simple: team Foodista is all but 5 people and we can in no way correct all of our hundreds of thousands of pages.

That’s why we built Foodista the way we did so that we can leverage the knowledge of the masses, rather than a few individuals, to create and share great content. But it takes work! As a “structured wiki” we rely both on the community and fancy-schmancy algorithms (much like Google uses) to bring in content. What does this mean? Information is not always correct. Why? Because we humans created the content in the first place and clearly it is not always accurate. As a wiki we hope that our knowledgeable community will help us correct what is wrong, and that takes work!

That said, Mr. della Santina, as a New Year’s gift to you and to all my Italian friends I am going to spend some time correcting “linguini, fettucini, scallopini” and others. I hope you’ll all help us too! :)

While we’re on it, here’s a short list of more commonly mispronounced/misspelled food words.

Jalapeño: “pay” not “pee”

Chipotle: chi-poht-lay

Mascarpone: there is no R preceding the S. Many commonly incorrectly pronounce it “marscarpone” or “marscapone.” It is “mahs-car-poh-nay.” Don’t forget the E on the end!

Bruschetta: the “sch” is pronounced “sk” as in “school.” The Ts sound like Ts, not Ds.

Foccacia: “Fo” is fo, not “fa.” The “ci” is pronounced “chee,” not “sh.”

Parmigiano is commonly both incorrectly pronounced and spelled Parmesano

Sake (both the Japanese beverage and the word for salmon): the E is pronounced “ay,” as in “sah-kay,” not “ee.”
Sashimi: I’ve heard some people (on Top Chef no less!) say, “Shashimi.”

Pho (the Vietnamese soup): “fuh” not “fo”

Giro is yee-roh

*Being from Oregon I also need to set the record straight. It’s Oregon, not Ory-Gone :)

And a few more resources:



Diane, White On Rice Couple's picture

My younger siblings say Pho, but the elders and I say Ph?. The difference is minimal. We all enjoy eating it, which is what really matters. :D

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Chris's picture

Perhaps one of the problems is that words like linguine are also spelled linguini in the dictionary. This makes it really hard for a spell checker to pick up the correct spelling.
Like to, too, two.

Brooke - in Oregon's picture

Wow I really have been butchering words! lol Thanks for the lesson, not that I will always be correct in my speech but at least I can try. Just found your blog, wow have I been missing out :)