You’re an American in Paris, walking along the Seine, when you pass a street vendor selling fresh croissants. You walk up and ask: “May I have one cruss-aunt, please?”
The vendor looks at you, judgment in his eyes, and replies that, yes, you may have a “kwa-sahn.”
If you’ve ever had an experience like this, you understand how easy it is for foreign food names to get lost in translation. In countries around the world, some foods in particular are routinely butchered by hapless out-of-towners.
Depending on where you’re from and where you’ve traveled, some of the following examples of commonly mispronounced foods may seem laughably obvious. But chances are, there are at least a few that you've been saying wrong for years.
It’s time to get your mind out of the gutter when it comes to pronouncing this popular mushroom found in staples throughout Japan and many other Asian countries.
Often used in traditional medicines as well, this fungus is both delicious and practical. Unfortunately, it's also a real mouthful to say.
The proper pronunciation is "she-tah-kay."*
*Source: Forvo, the largest pronunciation dictionary in the world, based on pronunciations by native speakers.
Ube is a vibrantly colored yam that comes in purple shades like lavender and violet, and is sometimes just stark white. The tuberous root vegetable is popular in many Asian dishes, such as curries and stir fry, but is equally delicious served plain after being grilled.
The proper pronunciation is “oob-beh.”
Banh mì — a popular Vietnamese sandwich enjoyed at street food stalls all around the country — can easily trip up those who try to order it.
To make matters more confusing, “banh” actually means cake, not bread or sandwich, even though Banh mi is always savory, never sweet.
The proper pronunciation is “bahn mee.”
These unripe soybean pods are beloved by locals and foreigners alike all over Asia, but especially in Japan. And for good reason: they mix rich flavor with high nutritional value.
Edamame is usually served in the pod after being boiled, steamed or grilled, with a bit of sea salt.
The proper pronunciation is “ed-ah-mah-may.”
It's debated exactly where sriracha originated; some say Thailand, others Burma. Regardless, everyone’s favorite hot sauce is a real tongue-twister to say.
The red rooster comes in an array of spice levels and flavors. If the thought of hot sauce makes your tongue swell and your eyes water, try the yellow Sriracha; it’s mild and smoky.
The proper pronunciation is “see-rotch-ah.”
This sweet refreshing summer treat is an American word that even many Americans mispronounce. Sherbet is not said “sure-bert” as there is not a second “r.” Scoops of sherbet can be enjoyed on their own but are best used in a fizzy punch.
The proper pronunciation is “sher-biht.”
(Oh, and if you’re trying to order sorbet, popular in Italy and France, which is similar to sherbet except it doesn’t include any dairy? That’s “sor-bay.”)
“Hummus” actually means “chickpea” in Arabic — which is fitting, as that's typically the main ingredient in this versatile spread.
The dip can’t be traced back to one particular country but is popular throughout the Middle East and the Mediterranean. More recently, it’s been embraced in North America and Europe as well.
If you want to pronounce this like it looks, as “huh-muhs,” think again. The proper pronunciation is "hoom-uhs."
This flat-bread wrap stuffed with rotisserie meat, vegetables and tzatziki sauce is a hero of the food world.
Just don't pronounce it that way.
The proper pronunciation is "yee-roh."
No need to be childish and giggle when you order a wiener in Germany. The “w” sounds like a “v,” so no one will think you’re asking for something naughty.
Wieners are made from a mix of pork and beef; if you want just pork, order a frankfurter instead.
The proper pronunciation is “vee-ner.”
If you’ve been pronouncing this sheep’s milk cheese like it rhymes with Lego, well, you’ve been saying it all wrong.
Manchego cheese comes from the Manchega breed of sheep that live in the La Mancha region of Spain.
The proper pronunciation is “mahn-chay-goh.”
Fun fact: tapenade is actually from France, not Italy. The paste of finely chopped black olives mixed together with extra virgin olive oil and herbs originally comes from Provence, close to the Liguria region of Italy.
The proper pronunciation is “top-en-ahde.”
This traditional French appetizer consisting of raw veggies and dipping sauce is as healthy as it is difficult to pronounce correctly.
Which is to say, very.
The correct pronounciation is "kroo-dee-tay."
Is there anything quite as perfect in the morning as a fresh-from-the-oven buttery croissant enjoyed with a perfectly roasted cup of coffee? I didn’t think so.
Just know that when you’re in France, you’ll want to pronounce “croissant” properly in order to avoid making your server cross.
The proper pronunciation is "kwa-sahn." (There are also some proponents of "kruh-sant.")
Beignets actually originated in Rome. Today, they're more closely associated with France, and are a staple in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
These fried treats rolled in delicate powdered sugar may just be the perfect food. But if you’re ordering them by asking for “ben-gays,” you’re embarrassing yourself.
The proper pronunciation is “ben-yey.”
The northern Italian version of Spanish tapas typically consists of seafood dishes and is found in bars throughout Venice. Pair it with an aperitif cocktail such as a Hugo or an Aperol spritz.
And make sure to practice how you order it.
The proper pronunciation is “chih-keh-tee.”
You probably already knew that this creamy cheese is the key ingredient in decadent tiramisu, and in some cheesecake recipes. And you're likely aware that it hails from Italy.
But you’d be forgiven if you’re not quite sure how to say it.
The proper pronunciation is "mas-car-poh-nay.”
Pastas, it seems, are tricky to pronounce correctly (outside of Italy, of course).
This tubular pasta originally hails from Rome, and is today particularly popular in Sicily. Try it with Italian sausage, or baked with beef.
The proper pronunciation is "ree-gah-toh-neh."
You won’t want to miss out on this bread just because you can’t order it correctly. It’s crusty on the outside, soft on the inside — pure carb-loaded perfection!
The proper pronunciation is “chuh-bott-uh.”
Nowhere in “espresso” is there an “x” — but that doesn’t stop many from calling this coffee drink an express-o.
Yes, an espresso is usually consumed quickly by Italians, but that’s the only thing express about it.
The proper pronunciation is “e-spres-oh.”
Focaccia is a flat oven-baked bread that’s topped with herbs and spices. You’ll usually find it in sandwiches or as table bread to dip into fresh local olive oil.
For Italians, it’s a breeze to say. For outsiders? Not so much.
The proper pronunciation is “foe-kah-chuh.”
Sometimes referred to as a Mexican turnip or Mexican potato, this root vegetable can be served raw, as a snack, or diced up in a salad.
As with "jalapeno," the trick here is to remember that the "j" is pronounced like an "h." And the "i" is pronounced as "ee" rather than "ih."
The correct pronunciation is "hee-kah-mah."
Pro tip: There’s no “gave” in the pronunciation of agave, a type of succulent found in Mexico that’s used to make a liquid sweetener and the alcoholic beverage mezcal.
The proper pronunciation is “ah-gah-vee.”
This Swiss cow milk cheese is hard and yellow with a slightly salty and sweet flavor, but its pronunciation is soft and gentle. It takes five months to a year to age, so remember that the cheese “grew” and you’ll say its name correctly.
The proper pronunciation is “grew-yare.”
You may be surprised to learn that the British English word for eggplant is aubergine. You may be further surprised to learn that the word isn’t pronounced the way it looks. At all.
The proper pronunciation is “oh-buh-zheen.”
This delicious sauce can be found all over the Mediterranean region. It’s made of garlic and olive oil and sometimes includes egg, too. The texture is similar to mayonnaise, but the taste is a million times better. (Statistical fact.)
It’s so good, it’ll have you saying “ay!”
The proper pronunciation is “ay-oh-lee.”
The debate about the proper way to pronounce lychee can finally be put to rest. The Cambridge Dictionary states that the fruit can be pronounced either the British way of "lie-chee" or the American way of "lee-chee."
The American English pronunciation is “lee-chee.”
The beloved white wine comes from the Bordeaux region of France and is made from green grapes. As tempted as you may be to order a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, you may be a little intimidated if you’re unsure how to pronounce it.
The proper pronunciation is “saw-vee-nyon-blahnk.”
Here’s how to remember the correct way to pronounce the ancient grain of farro. Farro kernels have been found in Egyptian tombs — and the word is pronounced like you’d say Egyptian “pharaoh.”
The proper pronunciation is “phar-row.”
A crêpe is a very thin pancake filled with sweet toppings from France. If the pancake contains savory fillings, it’s actually a galette.
You’ll need to exercise if you eat too many, so remember that it should rhyme with step.
The proper pronunciation is “kr-ep.”
This spice comes from a flowering plant and has a similar flavor to licorice. And no, it doesn’t rhyme with niece.
The proper pronunciation is “an-iss.”
This creamy Italian cheese is drool-worthy and low in fat, but you’re probably saying it wrong. Remember, it looks and sounds just like terracotta.
The proper pronunciation is “rih-cot-uh.”
This bitter leaf vegetable is also sometimes called chicory (pronounced “chik-uh-ree”) or frisée (pronounced "free-zay"). In all cases, it’s not easy to say.
The proper pronunciation is “ahn-deev.”
The "o" is pronounced like "skoht" rather than "aht" when saying the name of this dry Italian biscuit made of almonds.
The proper pronunciation is “bee-skoht-tee.”
This Greek filo pastry is stuffed with copious amounts of spinach and feta cheese. It’s not easy to order, as the pronunciation is a bit complex, but getting it right is worth the effort.
The proper pronunciation is “span-ah-koh-pee-tah.”
This traditional Provençal fish stew is from Marseille, France and traditionally calls for many different types of fish. Like many French words, it is easy for English speakers to botch.
The proper pronunciation is “bool-yuh-behz.”
These beloved Polish dumplings stuffed with savory fillings like potato and cheese come with an intimidating name. But don’t fret: Pierogi is pronounced exactly as it’s spelled.
The proper pronunciation is “pie-ro-gi.”
This French sauce is mayonnaise- or aioli-based and can be flavored with everything from curry to pickles to paprika. It can completely transform a seafood meal — but first you have to be daring enough to try to order it.
The proper pronunciation “rey-muh-lahd.”
After a few drinks on Bourbon Street, you may not correctly be able to order this traditional New Orleans stew, typically made with shellfish and served over rice. Once again, this is a French word that often tongue-ties English speakers.
The proper pronunciation is "ay-too-fay.”
This French wine, like many of its peers, can be difficult to say — especially after, well, a few glasses of wine.
The proper pronunciation is “se-ra.”
These deep-fried balls of rice stuffed with savory fillings like seafood or cheese are Italian in origin — and incredibly difficult for non-Italians to order correctly.
The proper pronunciation is “are-ahn-chee-nee.”
You’ll remember how to say this French cheese name correctly when you recall that camembert goes well with honey. Bears love honey and “bert” sounds like bear, not bart. (Hey, we’re trying here.)
The proper pronunciation is “kam-uhm-bair.”
This semi-soft cheese is named after the city in Holland where it hails from. The phonetics of the city and cheese are exactly the same.
The proper pronunciation is “gou-duh.”
Ravioli is ordered at restaurants across the globe, but is commonly mispronounced by anyone who isn’t Italian. Pasta ripiena, otherwise known as stuffed pasta, hails from areas across northern and central Italy, so head to those regions to try authentic ravioli renditions.
The proper pronunciation is “rah-vee-oh-lee.”
This dish is as difficult to say as it is for many non-French people to eat. (Snails are a delicacy in France, but not a regular part of most other diets.)
Remember, snails are pretty slow, so they don’t “go” very far, which is how “got” is pronounced.
The proper pronunciation is “es-kahr-goh.”
This salty cheese from Cyprus is an absolute delight when it’s been grilled and slowly melted over fresh bread. And it’s actually quite simple to say once you’ve heard it pronounced correctly.
The proper pronunciation is “hah-loo-me.”
Nutella was introduced after a shortage of cocoa during World War II, when pastry-maker Pietro Ferrero decided to make a spread with hazelnut.
Few people know that this origin story is from Italy, not France. Even fewer, it seems, know how to pronounce the food accurately.
The proper pronunciation is “new-tell-uh.”
Prosciutto is an Italian-food word that’s frequently butchered by foreigners. The pronunciation isn’t the only thing being butchered — prosciutto is a salted ham that’s air-cured and served in a variety of cuts and flavors.
The proper pronunciation is “proh-shoo-toh.”
This spicy Mexican chili pepper is notorious for its heat — and for the many ways foreigners mispronounce it. The “j” is pronounced like “hah,” and the tilde over the “n” means it ends with peyn-yoh (not pee-no).
If you’re intimidated by the spice of a raw jalapeno, remove the seeds and just eat the flesh.
The proper pronunciation is “hah-luh-peyn-yoh.”
It’s acceptable to pronounce guacamole as guac-a-mole-lee. But you’ll really impress your server if you can order everyone’s favorite dip the way many native Spanish speakers do, as “wak-a-mol-ay.”
Quesadillas are one of the easiest Mexican dishes to prepare, and quite possibly the most delicious (there, we said it).
Who can resist corn tortillas, preferably homemade, stuffed with cheese and fillings such as sauteed veggies or diced meat, then grilled to perfection? Dos, por favor!
The proper pronunciation is “kay-suh-dee-yah.”