Pronunciation: chic

Discussion in 'English Only' started by 8769, Mar 8, 2007.

  1. 8769 Senior Member

    Japanese and Japan
    The following is a comment by an American woman on the word “chic.”
    "Chic" is a word from French and when it's used in English, it means sophisticated, elegant, fashionable. Sometimes people mispronounce it on purpose, though, in order to ironically refer to something that is the opposite, and in that case, I call it "chick," which is a much more English-style pronunciation of this spelling.
    Is her way of pronouncing the word “chic” ironically like “chick” as in the word “chicken” only her own way or is this pronunciation fairly common?

  2. GuitarMaestro Senior Member

    Tucson, Arizona
    USA English
    Pronouncing it "chick," like a baby chicken, is simply wrong. The word is properly pronounced "sheek," or "shiek," like an Arab ruler. If you are going to use foreign words, you might as well use them correctly.
  3. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Hello GuitarMaestro, but isn't it an established principle that foreign words in a language take on a pronunciation of their own, peculiar to the language they are being taken into? I agree with you about Sheek, but not with your final sentence.

    To illustrate my point: the French towns Boulogne, Calais, Paris and Reims all have a particular pronunciation in English, and it would seem remarkably pretentious to pronounce them as a Frenchman might. In English we say Reams and not Rins, some people even say Marsails. French words in the language, like restaurant, chic, vieux jeu, and mayonnaise, take on a pronunciation particular to English.
  4. bludger77 New Member

    I've never heard "chic" pronounced any way but "sheek". If someone were to say "chick" to me, I would have no idea what they were talking about!

    I'm a snob, so I pronounce French cities correctly (I just really like saying "Rheims"... I'm so proud that I know how to say it with the French pronunciation and besides its a cool word). But I always say Paris as Paris not Paree, because everyone knows Paris, and nobody knows "Rhance" or "Ren".
  5. mrbilal87

    mrbilal87 Senior Member

    English (NAmE)
    I would agree that I've never heard "chic" pronounced any other way than "sheek". If someone said "chick", as in a baby chicken, I would probably be thinking of a woman.
  6. GuitarMaestro Senior Member

    Tucson, Arizona
    USA English

    While I would agree that some specific words have taken on a domestic pronunciation of their own, that doesn't necessarily make it correct. While I would also agree that an American referring to "Paree" instead of "Paris" would sound pretentious, it, and other specific words, mostly place names, have become convoluted into other languages and have become accepted as they are. On the other hand, I do think that saying "chick" instead of ""sheek" or "gyro" insead of "yeero" is just incorrect. I think that one should give a language the respect that it it deserves, even if it's not one's own native tongue.

    On the other hand, saying "nucular" instead of "nuclear" apparently qualifies one for elected office in America, so maybe my thinking is a little too pedestrian.
  7. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    I have heard people pronounce "chic" like "chick" as a joke, or ironically. I don't know that I'd say it's common, but I think people would understand it to be ironic or mocking in tone if it were in the right context. In fact, we used to joke about in my teenage years with "chick" and "swayve" (for "suave").

    I don't know anyone who seriously pronounces "chic" like "chick" and thinks it is correct, though.
  8. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    One interesting problem I face concernes the word clique - pronounced 'cleek' in English. The Welsh, a very socially sensitive lot among whom I was brought up, love the word and pronounce it 'click'. To avoid seeming bizarre I always say click in Wales, and cleek in England.

    I've never heard a Welshman pronounce chic. I don't know what he'd say.
  9. mgarizona

    mgarizona Senior Member

    Phoenix, AZ
    US - American English
    Some words are fully absorbed into the English language and some are not. It generally has to do with the frequence and the milieu in which the words are used. Most English speakers couldn't pronounce the word 'bulletin' in a properly French fashion if their lives depended on it, but luckily most English speakers have no idea that it ever was a French word. It is a word that has been wholely absorbed into English. 'Chic' is not, probably because it is an inherently urban, high-brow word and is only used by persons for whom its frenchness is a definite plus. (Here's a thought: think of the one like ground pepper, and the other as whole pepper corns!) Thus anyone who pronounces it other than 'sheek'--- the quicker and more clipped, the better--- is either being funny (common) or is woefully undereducated (common).

    As for Sheik, which guitarmaestro mentioned, hasn't that word's pronunciation shifted from 'sheek' to 'shake'? As in Zappa's "Sheik Yerbuti" ('shake your booty')?

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