Spanish Sausage: Chori[s]o vs. Chori[θ]o

Since I was giving the British TV food chefs a bit of a hard time for a slight mispronunciation of Spanish, I thought I should point out the Jamie Oliver did use a Spanish ingredient – chorizo sausage – and pronounced it correctly as [čoriθo] with a “th” or /θ/ for the Spanish z.

But wait (I hear from the U.S. students of Spanish I) – shouldn’t chorizo be [čoriso] with z pronounced as [s]? Yes if it comes from a Latin American country like Mexico. In Latin America the letters c and z are pronounced as [s], while back in Spain, they are pronounced as [θ]. Both appear to come from original Old Spanish [ts] c,ç or [dz] z.

Normally, this would be just linguistic trivia, but here the pronunciation difference reflects an actual culinary difference. According to Norman Van Aken ( the chorizo of Spain is somewhat like pepperoni with a little paprika kick (I can attest to that) while Mexican chorizo is softer like an Italian sausage and goes well with scrambled eggs. Some equate Mexican cite lang=”es”>chorizo with Spain’s chorizo fresco (or “fresh chorizo”).

So…If you are from the U.S. (especially the West coast), chorizo is probably the Mexican variety and should be [čoriso]. But if you’ve got the harder Spanish variety instead (which may be more likely in Britain), then it really would be [čoriθo].

Truth be told, I doubt any Spanish native speaker makes a distinction because all dialects tend to pronounce c,z in just one way. But since English can make the /s/ vs. /t/ distinction, I have decided to have two lexical entries for the chorizo sausage family – [čoriso] for the fresh version and [čoriθo] for the cured version. It’s a good thing that I noted that grammar isn’t always logical.

FYI – Jamie Oliver was using the cured version…[čoriθo]

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