How to Pronounce “Financier”

financier

THE financier, a refined, butter-rich, miniature French cake, has a storied past that goes as far back as the 17th century to a community of French nuns called the Sisters of the Visitation.

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How to Pronounce “Culinary”

I never knew there were two ways of pronouncing “culinary” until I noticed Anthony Bourdain stretching his first syllable on the word: KYU-luh-nare-ree. It was in one of the episodes of Mind of a Chef, where he paid homage to the great sushi chefs in Japan, among whom was that smiling-faced sage from Kyoto’s legendary Kikunoi restaurant, Chef Yoshihiro Murata. Continue reading

How to Pronounce “Gesture,” “Gesticulate,” and “Gibberish”

NOT all “g”s are the same. There are two kinds—the hard “g” and the soft one.

Hard “g” is articulated from the back of the throat. Words like giggle and giddy, give and govern are all produced with a hard “g.” Then, there’s the soft “g,” produced with the mid-section of the tongue touching the roof of the mouth. The effect is akin to a “j,” as in jump and joke. Continue reading

How To Pronounce “Aesop” and “Adage”

ONE of the most joyous memories of my growing up years was luxuriating in the company of our collection of Ladybird books. There was a famous composers series, a treasury of nursery rhymes and classic fairy tales, and one called Famous Legends with Medusa and the Minotaur gracing its cover. Then, our all-time favorite: a double- or perhaps triple-book series of Aesop’s fables.

aesops-fables-1

aesops-fables-2The stories remain as vividly as the colorful illustrations, even the image of the knackered spine not just on Aesop’s fables, but the other more ardently read books that served us so well—first my elder brother, two years older than me, right down to my other brother, who’s three years younger.

The other memory that’s etched in my mind is that all of us at home pronounced Aesop like “AIR-sop” instead of “EE-sop.” Thankfully, our ignorance of Greek pronunciation had in no way affected our appreciation of his fables and wise saws.

While googling quotes by Aesop, I came across so many sayings, quotes, and adages attributed to him, including “Necessity is the mother of invention” and “United we stand, divided we fall.” It would be an interesting exercise to line up all those sayings against the respective fables he had told, or to match the distilled observations on our folly and deviousness, kindness of heart and compassion against the acts and words of all the animals that have starred in his tapestry of tales. Alas, that would be a luxury in these wildly busy days of unending drama and digital diversions!

To make up for this, I shall indulge in a little detour: the word adage is not pronounced “uh-DAGE,” but “AIR-didge.”

adage |ˈædɪdʒ| (n)
a proverb or short statement expressing a general truth: the old adage “out of sight out of mind.”


I invite you to write to me at  viv@mywritinghome.com if you have any word ideas you’d like to share.

How To Pronounce “Nonchalant” and “Sans”

NOT all French words are pronounced the French way.

Nonchalant, for instance, is pronounced French: non-shuh-LON.

Sans, on the other hand, as I had discovered only recently, doesn’t sound like how a French would say it: , that squiggly worm above the ‘a’ denoting a nasalized sound, one you’d make rather easily when you’re stuffed up with a cold, or if you’re trying to sound like a cat. It sounds a little like saw, with its vowel pulled into a nice nasal note. Continue reading