English-American Dictionary for the Foodie

I found myself watching the Food Network in my recent trip to New York. It’s basically Food Porn, American style. Iron Chef, Emeril Live, this stuff flies off the televisual shelves like a Delia whisk. But one thing that sticks out when I watch these shows, and actually turned from being irritating to downright antagonising is the way the Yanks have a different way of pronouncing certain ingredients that the rest of the world don’t seem to have a problem with. I was left wondering why on earth this ended up like it is. Arrogance ? Ignorance ? Either way, it must be as confusing as hell when the Yanks come to the UK (we, on the other hand, have a better interpretive understanding of such simple concepts.)

So, I thought I’d list all the ones that I came across. Hopefully this may be of use to any Brits visiting the US, or vice versa.

  • Herbs : pronounced “erbs” (drop the H), similar to “honest”
  • Parmesan : pronounced “par-ma-szharn” (long ‘a’ at the end, ‘s’ pronounced ‘sh’)
  • Basil : pronounced “bay-zil”
  • Oregano : pronounced “o-REG-a-no” (emphasis on the 2nd syllable)
  • Filet : pronounced “fill-ay” (emphasis on the 2nd syllable)
  • Apricot : pronounced “A-pricot” (hard ‘a’ as in ‘avenue’, rather than ‘ace’)
  • Shrimp : not pronounced any differently, other than you NEVER have it in plural, no matter how many you have

I could add a whole second category here for words that are substituted:

  • Cilantro / Coriander
  • Egg plant / Aubergine
  • Scallions / Spring onions
  • Zucchini / Courgette
  • etc

But then I realised that I could quite easily end up writing a whole book on that one. If you know of any others, feel free to comment.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by maireaddoyle on January 23, 2010 at 23:18

    We use the terms scallions in Ireland, so that one has gotten me into trouble in the UK too. To me spring onions and scallions are actually different things.

    The aubergine/courgette one is the one that trips me up here in Aus, because they use those words here too and I can never remember the non-French word.

    The ‘erbs one really pisses me off everytime I hear it (especially when somebody I know quite well in Ireland does it, because I know it’s both incorrect and an affectation).

    I am guessing the “parmesan” pronunication is a sort of halfway house to pronouncing it the Italian way (“parmigiana”) – but still annoying.

    The other one I had to look up one time was “arugula” (ar-OO-gu-LAH”) – which is what, I believe, they call rocket.


  2. The other one we have here is the eschalot (I knew I would remember eventually).

    Mostly it means shallot, but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it means spring onion/scallion.

    Sometimes I am really not too sure at all.

    Where the hell did they get that spelling?


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