Food Names We’re Saying That Make Us Feel Embarrassed

Can you relate?

We’ve all had that one experience before. We’re out to eat with friends, and there’s something we can’t pronounce on the menu. But, it just so happens that that’s the one thing you want. The description, which you can read, sounds like everything you’re craving. So, what do you do?

Personally, I’ve tried to google the food before the waitress came around. Half of the time, this works. Other times, the WiFi is so slow and unpredictable that I can’t manage to do the research in time. Plus, I’d hate to hold up the group.

Here’s the good news: your waitress has literally heard of everything. She’s witnessed every mispronunciation of the world, and there’s a guarantee that at least 15 people have butchered it even worse than you will.

Plus, it’s a learning experience. If you order it and love it, you’ll come across as much more knowledgeable next time.

That said, there are still a ton of other mispronunciations you’re making about more basic ingredients and dishes. In fact, by this point in life, you might be judged by your nearest and dearest friends. So, here’s a refresher course on food words, just to make sure you’re on the right page.

1. Pho

This is a big one, since pho is getting more and more popular. Plus, it’s an absolutely delicious noodle dish that you’ll end up craving daily.

Even though it looks like it’s pronounced the same as “foe,” you should be calling it “fuh.”

Which is why you should laugh at the hilarity if a “Pho King” restaurant makes itself present in your city.

2. Quinoa

You’ve probably had quinoa before: It’s a protein that’s used in place of rice or noodles. You can have it as a side or as a main bowl mixed in with meats and veggies. But okay. I’m not going to lie — even today, I mentally pronounce this one as “Kee-noah.” But, I’m very wrong.

It’s “Keen-Whah.”

Good thing I don’t talk about quinoa all that much in public.

3. Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce! You know, that brown bottle that you’ve used a couple times for flavor? That bottle with the name you probably have avoided saying out loud. This one’s a bit of a mouthful.

In America, it’s pronounced as Worse-tes-sure.

Fun fact: It’s named after the city of Worcestershire in England. Still a tongue twister, but nowhere near as bad as it looks.

4. Herb

If you pronounce the H in herb, you’ll probably get a few laughs.

Just pretend it doesn’t exist, as it’s actually pronounced “Urb.”

HOWEVER, if you live in the U.K., you may be saying it with an “h,” and that’s totally correct. So just FYI, some words are pronounced differently depending on where you live.

5. Sake

Nope, this isn’t the same as the “sake” in the old-timey phrase “Oh, for Pete’s sake!”

Sake is a popular Japanese rice wine, and is actually pronounced as “sah-keh.”

Personally, I was pronouncing it as “sah-kee,” which is also wrong. Good thing I’m more of a merlot girl.

6. Cognac

On the topic of alcohol, let’s discuss cognac. Pronouncing it as it looks is pretty adorable (i.e. “Cog-nack”). But, incorrect.

It’s actually pronounced cone-yak.

And the more you look at it, the more of a “cone-yak” it feels. Very robust, classy, and maybe you need to wear a fur coat while drinking it.

7. Charcuterie

It seems really easy to refer to charcuterie — which is an assortment of cold meats and cheeses often presented on a board — as “char-cuttery” or “char-cute-ary.”

But, most people prefer the pronunciation of “shar-koo-tary.”

So, the next time you’re at a fancy party and you see a gorgeous display of salamis, cured meats, and cheeses, you now know to say what? “shar-koo-tary.” There you go. Nailed it.

8. Gnocchi

Gnocchi is this delicious potato dumpling that you can eat with pasta sauce, veggies — anything you want. Want to order it at a restaurant but too scared you’re going mispronounce the word?

It’s not guh-nocci, nor is the G silent.

If you want to actually be correct when you tell your waiter you’d like some gnocchi, you’d say “ni-oh-key”

9. Cabernet Sauvignon

If you’re a fan of red wine, you don’t want to butcher this one when you order it at your next dinner. In fact, you probably don’t want to butcher the pronunciation of any kind of wine if you like a glass or two every now and then.

No, it’s not “cab-er-net sah-vig-non.”

You pronounce the dry red as “Cab-Er-Nay Soh-Vin-Yawn.” With the capitalization of letters (FYI, if you’re writing it out).

Now don’t you feel so fancy?

10. Riesling

On the topic of wine (because what better topic?) you might accidentally call Riesling “Rice-ling.”

It’s actually pronounced “Reez-ling.”

The white, usually fruity and semi-sweet wine has a semi-difficult name to pronounce, but hey, the more you know.

11. Chianti

What can you say — it’s important to know the names of your wines since that’s an adult topic that can either make you look classy and knowledgeable or really behind.

Chanti is a popular Italian red wine that’s dry and has a slight tart cherry undertone.

And you say it like this:”Key-Ahn-Tee.”

Not too hard, right?

12. Rioja

Okay, one last wine. This one is even harder than the last. You probably want to say something like “rio-jahh” but please, please don’t.

Rioja is red wine that comes from Spain (it’s fruity and full-bodied), and it’s pronounced as “Rio-hah.”

Not so hard right? But honestly, this one was hard!

13. Poke

This is a big one since poke bowls are popping up in food courts nationwide. The concept of a poke bowl seems kind of crazy to some people (sliced raw fish and rice) but for those who have been eating sushi since the dawn of time, it’s not so wild of an idea.

Haven’t tried it because of the raw fish aspect, or because you can’t pronounce the word?

Simple, it’s pronounced “po-kay.”

Now go forth and try it out!

14. Gyro

It’s pretty tempting to call these “Gye-ro’s” since that pronunciation has been thrown out everywhere.

This is one of the few on the list where it’s still socially acceptable to call it that, as it’s so common.

But if you want to be legit with it, you’ll say it’s a “yee-row,” kind of like “hero.”

15. Kefir

You might have seen this product by the dairy section and had no clue what it was. But since it’s gaining popularity, you’ll want to make sure you’re not looking foolish by messing up the pronunciation.

The most popular pronunciation is “ka-feer.”

Want to try it? Kefir is a (usually flavored) fermented milk drink, very similar to yogurt. It’s probiotic-friendly, and many say it can be great for your gut.

16. Endive

This leaf vegetable makes its way onto a lot of fancy menus, so you’ll want to make sure you’re pronouncing it correctly.

So many places will call it “en-dive,” but it’s best known as “on-deev.”

At least, that’s what Gordon Ramsay calls it, and I trust him with most food pronunciation.

17. Jicama

Yeah, yeah. You’ve probably called this “ji-comma” before, but that J actually has an H pronunciation.

If you’re chatting with chefs, don’t be dumb. Make sure to call this vegetable “Hick-uh-muh.”

And that’s it! You’ve got 17 words down for sure, so you won’t have to fear again.