Articles & News - Food Pronunciation Anxiety

Do you have a very slight anxiety when it comes to ordering food at a restaurant that you can't pronounce? Would you be deterred by the food and just go for the names with which you are familiar? Even if it's not a conscious decision, apparently it can be a deciding factor on your menu choice. If you can't pronounce it, you may subconsciously believe it is more harmful to you than it is helpful. It's alien, it's foreign, it's a no-no.

Studies done by the Wall Street Journal, the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and the University of Michigan have found that the more familiar a name is, the more positively it is received. Not only does familiarity come into play but anxieties about class differences might as well. Perhaps the more foreign sounding object will give away to a fellow diner that it is too high class (or low class) for the person ordering if it is mispronounced. Another thought is that maybe it shows ignorance; you don't want to seem stupid in front of your dinner mates so you avoid it. On the other hand, something foreign-sounding can also have its appeal. The article states that wines with harder-to-pronounce names are received better and have diners willing to pay more for such. Perhaps then, it matters on the sophistication of the menu item. Olive Garden's gnocchi sales went up only after they changed the listing to "Italian potato dumplings."

Perhaps you should embrace the pronunciation enigma as a moment to seem more open-minded - try to learn from it!

Reader questions: Do you get anxious at a restaurant with things on the menu you can't pronounce? Does it make a difference? Do you take risks on the food? What do you think when your dining partner(s) mispronounce menu items?

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