My Top 3 Culinary Pet Peeves – Linguistic Edition

As much as I am a huge supporter of cultural exchange when it comes to culinary adventures, sometimes the barrier that is human language proofs that food, is in fact a better way to communicate than actual language. Here are my culinary (linguistic related) pet peeves:
(Sidenote: Being a person whose English isn’t his first language, the irony of writing this post definitely isn’t lost on me.)


We are of course talking about the Spanish rice dish which… you know what? Instead of me trying to describe what Paella is, I will let popular culture do the job for me, cue the Seinfeld music please:

“It’s a Spanish dish. It’s a mélange of fish and meat with rice. Very tasty.” –George Costanza
“Have you ever had really good paella? It’s an orgiastic feast for the senses, a wanton festival of sights, sounds and colours” –Cosmo Kramer

I’ve actually seen celebrity chefs on TV pronounce paella wrong. For those who don’t know, you don’t pronounce double L’s in Spanish language, so if you’ve been pronouncing it wrong, time to stop.

(Photo credit: Albuixech)


shiitake mushroom

Just like English language, Japanese also uses the pattern of <insert name here> + Mushroom in order to identify their mushrooms. Enokitake, shiitake, matsutake, etc– as you can probably guess by now from the pattern, the Japanese word for mushroom is ‘take,’ which leads to our problem: Shiitake, ‘shii’ is the name of the wood where the mushrooms grow on, so calling it shiitake is equivalent to calling it shii mushroom mushroom. Unfortunately, it is so ingrained in the English language that despite knowing that it’s wrong, I often have to use the phrase shiitake mushroom to refer to it in conversations. So in summary, ‘shiitake mushroom’ is redundant, which brings us nicely to the next point:

Chai tea

When people refer to ‘chai tea’, most of the time they are thinking of masala tea/masala chai, an Indian spiced tea beverage. Masala itself means spice mix, in the case of masala chai, usually containing cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Like the mushroom issue we had before, chai actually means tea, so calling it chai tea is calling it tea tea. So Starbucks, please know that your ‘Iced Classic Chai Tea Latte’ is linguistically wrong.

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