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Pho Pronunciation: You Can Say It, Pronounce Pho, Say: Phở...

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Cuong Huynh
Posts: 448
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Pho Restaurant Consultant
Joined: 13 years ago

Richard: Pho as a word is Vietnamese, influenced by French. Anyway, many Asian words are not easy to pronounce to a Westerner or even another Asian person, or conversely, Western language to an Asian. In my opinion, the key is to care and learn. The way I look at it is, if I am eating a foreign dish, then I would expect it to have a foreign-sounding name. And by the way, try google "far" or "fah" to get pho. I'm just saying.

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Richard
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 Richard
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The point is that it is written in Roman letters and it spells either 'po' or 'fo'. Neither which is close to the actual pronunciation and is misleading.

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Cuong Huynh
Posts: 448
Topic starter
(@cuonghuynh)
Pho Restaurant Consultant
Joined: 13 years ago

Richard: First off I want to say I appreciate your views and comments. The reality is, the proper spelling of the modern Vietnamese word for this dish is phở. For lack of any other way to do it, the "Westernized" version of it has been and will continue to be "pho" for some time to come. Many English speaking people don't have a problem with it, while many others do.

If your beef with all this is about the spelling versus pronunciation of pho, then consider a perspective on why it is so hard for many to learn to speak English: Words Are Not Always Pronounced The Way They Are Spelt. Talk about spelling vs. pronouncing! How the heck do you pronounce the gh as an f in the words cough, enough, laugh, rough, and tough is beyond many of us. Fortunately I do not have a problem learning English, but many of us Vietnamese did and still do. We just deal with it.

Speaking of misleading, maybe it's not misleading at all. The modern Vietnamese language has been converted from Chinese characters to alphabet under French colonial times. To borrow from Wikipedia for convenience's sake, "Much of Vietnamese vocabulary has been borrowed from Chinese, and it formerly used a modified Chinese writing system and given vernacular pronunciation. As a byproduct of French colonial rule, Vietnamese was influenced by the French language; the Vietnamese alphabet (quốc ngữ) in use today is a Latin alphabet with additional diacritics for tones, and certain letters." Source: Vietnamese language from Wikipedia. So please blame the French for this 😉 If the British had colonized Vietnam back then, we would probably have your "far" or "fah."

By the way, I'll just share another interesting and funny bit here. Vietnamese communists (at least those during and right after the Vietnam War) never liked the French, and they actually started using fở in place of phở. But really, that did not work well at all; beside the fact that we Viet just laughed at such attempt and would never use it that way, they were still using the Western alphabet and the French accent marks in fở.

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harry
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 harry
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thanks for this, cuong. i absolutely love pho-the delicately sweet, aromatic broth, the razor thin slices of rare beef that cook in the broth as you eat them, the crunch from the bean sprouts and ground peanuts...such a delicious and healthy dish. i just had a bowl(as well as a couple of 'summer' springrolls with grilled pork) a few hours ago! After listening to your files, i will attempt to order properly next i pop in for lunch-no more 'i'll have # 33..' thanks again!

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Cuong Huynh
Posts: 448
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(@cuonghuynh)
Pho Restaurant Consultant
Joined: 13 years ago

@harry: Very eloquent in describing your pho. And watch out, you may give your server a shock, as they'd never expect a Harry to order his pho speaking Vietnamese.

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stop being so pretentious
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 stop being so pretentious
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if you're an american ordering this in america, it's pronounced "foe" like Poe. anything else is pretentious and grating on the ears of any decent-minded people in the vicinity. anyone who says "fuh" or "fa" or whatever in the context of an English conversation is an awful human being. Dropping a heavily accented and culturally intoned word into a sentence spoken in a different language makes you a terrible person. people who say, "let's go get some fuh" are just as bad as people who say, "let's go get a burrrrrrito" (rolling their Rs like an idiot), especially when they're from a culture different than the word they're arrogantly trying to pronounce is from.

and stop getting all high and mighty about the need to respect a [bleep]ing bowl of soup. it tastes good. that's all. it doesn't need you to protect it, much less protect its pronunciation.

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Cuong Huynh
Posts: 448
Topic starter
(@cuonghuynh)
Pho Restaurant Consultant
Joined: 13 years ago

@stop being so pretentious: Thanks for spending the time to read the article and provide feedback. Your message has been edited for content. I'm pleased that you enjoy phở, just don't hate so much.

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Huh Pho
Posts: 1
 Huh Pho
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Joined: 8 years ago

If Americans can learn to pronounce "quesadilla" or "chipotle" correctly - then they can certainly master the proper pronunciation of Pho.

Thanks for the primer.

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