It is grievous (greeve-us) not “gree-vee-us” pronunciation

If we’re going to eat it anyway, does it matter how we pronounce it?

Last week’s Masterchef sausage-gate had people up in arms over how to say “chorizo”. The programme narrator referred to the popular spicy banger as “chuh-REE-thoh” while the creator of the dish in which it was used in talked of “shuh-REE-zoh”. But, honestly, most people will know what you mean if you say “chore-ree-szo” with no particular emphasis on the middle syllable. Emphasis is always a knotty problem. Someone once told me you should stress the third syllable of a Russian name – fine until you get to Putin.

The British are notoriously slack at other languages and this can yield enormous comedy value. On holiday on the Costa Del Sol we drove out of a tunnel, where a sign in Spanish reminded motorists to turn off their lights. It said something like “Atencion de sus luces”, whereupon my late father-in-law, who was at the wheel, immediately slowed down. “Loose chippings,” he announced with confidence.

I confess to having a difficult time with quinoa which, in all innocence, I called “qwin-oh-wa” – how on earth was I supposed to know it was “keen-wa”... which sounds impossibly show-offy.

“Keen-ya” was the pronunciation of the African country preferred by the British colonials, I understand, while “Ken-ya” is the popular choice in 2017.


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Enjoying a friend’s barbecue, I asked where the burgers came from. “Tess-coss,” he replied, putting a cheeky spin on Tesco’s. In similar vein, a friend from Essex talks affectionately of Dargen-harm”; Scandi Dagenham, I presume.

Most of the time the way we say it matters not a jot but I really do object to “nuke-a-lur” when the word is “noo-clear” or “new-clear”, if you prefer. This is a rare instance of the Americans adding a syllable as opposed to excising one as in “al-oom-in-um”; most usually “aluminium” on this side of the Atlantic. (I have learned to deal with the mildly offensive term “he/she snuck off” rather than “he/she sneaked off”)

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It is only polite to defer to other people’s pronunciation, however. I don’t care if I’m eating “bru-shetta” or “brusque-etta” as long as it tastes good. And so what if people like “expresso” instead of “espresso” while they’re waiting for their train at St Pancreas and so on and so on etc (that’s et-set-er-rah, not eck-sett-tra by the way.)

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