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QUINOA - Are YOU pronouncing it like a snob?

This all started when I was asked the question: How do you pronounce Quinoa ? How to Pronounce Quinoa Image: www.aukihenry.com A bit o...

This all started when I was asked the question: How do you pronounce Quinoa?

How to Pronounce Quinoa
Image: www.aukihenry.com
A bit of history tends to ensue when I answer this question for people.  The back story is important to the topic and will give you some basic facts about Quinoa that are at the very least mildly interesting, but will also let you decide if you want to pronounce the word based on its origins or based on what you hear around you.

On that note, what is Quinoa? It is referred to often as a 'pseudocereal', it's not really a cereal, and is also not really a grain as some mistake it to be as it does not come from a grassy plant.

The Quinoa that we eat is a seed from a leafy plant that is native to the mountainous Andes region.  It is often touted as a 'superfood' (bleh, don't lets get started on the overuse of the term superfood in foodie circles nowadays).

There is so much huff-and-fluff about this word and the correct way to pronounce it, accompanied by a good measure of patronizing superiority when people hear what THEY think is the incorrect pronunciation of the word, so here's the basic background that might help you not be THAT person ... the pronunciation snob.

'Quinoa' is the Spanish version of a Quechua word kinua or kinúwa.

The Quechua are a people comprised of several indigenous ethnic groups from South America, predominately the Andean region, they have cultivated and eaten the crop  for thousands of years and it is still a staple of their modern descendants today.

When saying Quinoa / kinúwa both individual vowels are pronounced.  As the Quecha pronunciation this will be sounded out phonetically as kee-NOO-ah

The Spanish variation of the word is very close to the original with less emphasis on the drawn out "oo".  The pronunciation follows the basic phonetic rules of the language.

 - "Qu" is pronounced as a short and soft "K" sound.  Think Cat, Kettle, Car, Kite.  "Qui" - with the addition of the weak vowel "i" this is pronounce "KEE". Think Keep, Keel

 - Strong vowels when placed together in Spanish are sounded out as separate syllables.  This is important to the pronunciation of "noa" as it is properly pronounced as NO and Ah.

Hence the Spanish derivation Quinoa is pronounced kee-NO-ah.


The last pronunciation that has been popularised by the trendy foodie blogger set and TV chefs is a highly Anglicised version.  This permutation of the original has slurred together the two distinct syllables for the vowels resulting in the approximation of KEEN-wah.

Regardless of how YOU choose to pronounce it people ... just remember, pronunciation snobs are #LAME so smile, be happy and don't bring that party down by dissing on the way someone says the word if you know what they mean.

That being said I hope this has given you a little education in the origins of the food that even I will admit to eating from time to time.

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The Official Auki Henry: QUINOA - Are YOU pronouncing it like a snob?
QUINOA - Are YOU pronouncing it like a snob?
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