Thursday, August 11, 2016

Speaking like a native

On the one hand, America, hats off for attempting pronunciation felicity for so many non-English words. It's a brave endeavour. Well done for saying 'ris-oh-dow' (for risotto). Never mind that few Italians pronounce risotto with a 'd' in the middle. It's nice that you try. Your 'he-ro' (for gyro), and 'rio-ha' (for rioja) put our 'giro' and 'rio-kah' to shame.

I think the Brits just decided, generations ago, that we would Anglicize all the foreign words we appropriated. Probably we decided that around the time we were teaching those pesky colonies how to play cricket and make a proper cup of tea. The cultural imperialism is a shameful stain on our history. But at least we are consistent.

Meanwhile, well meaning Americans have got it all confused. Two cheeses will make my point amply.

First, may I present 'Bleu cheese'. Not a typo, it is apparently a proper noun. And French. Even though it's being presented as cheese not fromage. This makes no sense.

Secondly, can we talk about parmesan? There is parmesan, as we call it in England. Then there's parmigiana, as they call it in Italy. And then there's 'parm-ah-jahn', as Americans would have it. Which also makes no sense.

On balance though I think America gets full marks for effort. They could have taken the easy, British way out and just said it as they see it. Instead they do their best to pronounce foods in a manner true to their origins. There are a lot of foods from a lot of places: no wonder they are a little confused.

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