or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Food Fight

"To thine own self be true," said Shakespeare by way of Hamlet: but what if in doing so, other people don't know what you're talking about?

Bruschetta has been a wildly popular appetizer for the last few years: it's essentially salsa on toast, but you see it the menu of nearly every popular restaurant. Unfortunately, you also see the misspelling "brushetta". That's because virtually everyone pronounces the word that way.

They're wrong. It's a word of Italian origin, and in Italian, "-sch-" is pronounced "-sk-". It ought to be pronounced "broo-SKET-ta", not "brush-ETT-a", and yet that second pronunciation is how it's invariably heard in North America--in the parts of it I've been to in the last few years, anyway.

It's true that words of German origin that have made their way into English such as "klatsch" and "kitsch" pronounce "-sch-" as "-sh-"; that's how the combination of letters is pronounced in German. It's also true that when and where I was growing up, "maraschino" was pronounced with that same "-sh-" sound, "mar-a-SHEE-no". That's why I honestly don't know what to do. I want to pronounce "bruschetta" properly (since it seems to me that as a new import into English it ought to be pronounced in the Italian manner, at least until it's been around long enough to be naturalized and attain an English pronunciation), but I also want to be understood and not seem prim and schoolmarmish.

Are the people who pronounce the first syllable of "bruschetta" as "brush" actually wrong? Is it already a naturalized English word and therefore subject to the whims of English? (When Terri Schiavo was much in the news, we discovered that, counterintuitively, her last name was pronounced not "skee-AH-vo" but "SHY-vo".) There is, after all, no standardized pronunciation of the sound in English: everyone pronounces "school" with the "sk-" sound, but some people pronounce "schedule" in the British manner, "shed-yool".

Do I remain faithful to what I believe is right and pronounce it "broo-SKET-ta"? Do I ensure that I'm understood by pronouncing it the popular fashion? My solution is to avoid the problem altogether by never ordering the dish.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Was just googling how to pronounce schedule and came across your blog...

If I was in an Italian restaurant, I would pronounce it "broo-SKET-ta" but if not, I would just say it wrong like everyone else!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 6:12:00 AM  
Blogger pyramus said...

It's the path of least resistance, and I can't blame anyone for taking it. It's been almost three years since I wrote that blog post, and I'm worn down to the point that I'm pretty sure I'd pronounce it as if it were spelled "brushetta", too. But I still hate that misspelling!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 10:44:00 AM  

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