Co-op to issue pronunciation guide on exotic foods


Rioja cork source Flikr

Over the last few decades, the taste in British food has become more exotic. What in the post-rationing years was reviled as being stodgy and plain has now become influenced by dishes and ingredients from all over the world. This has been reflected in supermarket shelves which have become filled with new ingredients, many of which people have difficulty pronouncing. To help both staff and customers with this, the Co-operative Food has decided to issue a training guide to staff on the correct pronunciation of foods in store. And pronunciation guides next to the items on shelves. Top of the list of course, the undisputed middle class grain: Quinoa ‘keen-wah’.


Not all of the pronunciations given though may be familiar even to the consummate foodie, as there remains controversy in the way certain names are anglicised or not, and how much you emphasise certain consonants. Rioja for example is given in the Co-op manual as ‘Ree-o-hah’ however many people in Britain would be more used to ‘Ree-ok-ah’, in fact the Spanish pronunciation of the ‘j’ is a more like the ‘ch’ in loch but softer. Similarly common British pronunciations of foreign dishes have become established here already often on the basis of spelling and a change to the native pronunciation may raise some eyebrows in stores, Bouillabaisse for example is often pronounced ‘boy-a-baise’ in Britain, but the Co-op gives the more typical French pronunciation ‘boo-yuh-baize’ .


The Co-ops desire to ensure both staff and customers are comfortable with how to say these dishes seems well founded. A recent national survey suggested that of the 2000 people surveyed around 69% did not know how to pronounce Quinoa. In true British fashion though the same survey suggested that this was not putting anyone off giving it a go, with less than one in 50 people surveyed saying they would avoid ordering something for fear of mispronouncing it.


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