I was walking home from the train this evening and I heard a woman speaking with someone on her mobile phone. She was talking about some restaurant and how much she enjoyed their food. She then proclaimed that they had absolutely delicious “fill-ehh mean-yawn.” I shuddered right there on the street. A complete and full ripple through my body. I was completely and utterly disgusted. What is wrong with me?

This is not the first time something like this has happened — not even with the filet mignon. In Seattle there was a restaurant that advertised its delicious fih-laye mihn-yawn. I asked around and people didn’t seem to be bothered at all about the ad. They said that they thought that it was the normal way to say it.

If enough people make the same mistake, does that mean that it is no longer a mistake? If, for example, everyone decides that it is better to say “Tar-zjay” instead of “Target” does that mean that you are supposed to say it that way? For about a year or so I thought it would be funny to say it in this extremely pretentious manner and my brother Michael even approached a store employee once to get him to correct me. I’m all about saying it the way the employees do now.

I also take exception to the mispronunciation of pretty much all things foreign — French, Italian, or otherwise. I wonder how people are taught to say things incorrectly. It really rubs me the wrong way when people say things like “Day-zha VOOOO” and talk about going to a restaurant called boo-poh dee beep-oh. The name of the restaurant is Buppo di Beppo. In Italian, vowels are always — ALWAYS — pronounced the same way. Hence the U always has an OO sound, the o has an OH sound, the I has an EEE sound, and the e has an EH sound. You don’t say spaghEEtti, you say spagh-EH-tti. Let us not forget the double z, which always sounds exactly like it does when you are talking about the great food that comes in slices with cheese and sauce — pizza!

Is it just me that goes so crazy when I hear things like this? Am I the only person who refuses to say something unless I know exactly the proper way to do it? I mean, really — I want to know if there is something seriously wrong with me and what I can do about it. I know it has to be bad because I will just let loose with a correction even if I have just met someone.


  1. This is a touchy, topic, Gordon.
    I don’t think many people know how to pronounce something unless they’ve heard it before and that’s when a gentle correction can be helpful… but rarely is…
    One of my professors at Columbia was Liviu Ciulei — few people know how to pronounce his name, let alone spell it… unless they are Romanian.
    I only knew how to spell and pronounce his name because I’d worked with him the year before at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. and I heard everyone correctly pronouncing his name all day long. If I didn’t have that depth of exposure, there’s likely no way I would’ve become the Morningside Heights expert on everything Liviu. SMILE!
    “Janusz Glowacki” is another former Columbia professor of mine — and few people correctly pronounced his name. I learned how to sound it out and say it effortlessly and I tried to teach it to my fellow coursemates. My effort was not always appreciated…

  2. Personally, I am thrilled when someone says my name the correct way.
    It certainly is a touchy topic. I have been yelled at for attempting to correct pronunciation. “THIS IS AMERICA! I’M SAYIN IT THE AMERICAN WAY!” has been shouted at me.

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