Trend Watch

'I Don't Know How to Pronounce Gyro'

/YEE-roh/ and /ZHIHR-oh/

Lookups for gyroplay spiked on March 14, 2017, when a widely shared sketch from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and country singer Luke Bryan began with them ordering from a New York City food truck and ended with a music video for a song called “I Don’t Know How to Pronounce Gyro.”

Gyro comes from the Greek word gyros meaning “turn,” and part of the confusion comes from the fact that it was borrowed twice into English: initially, it came as a shortening of words like gyroscope and gyrocompass and pronounced /JEYE-roh/. This use began in the very early 1900s.

Then, around 1970, the word was borrowed again, but this time from the world of international cuisine rather than science. The turning spits of meat were also named using the Greek gyros (“turn”), but this more recent borrowing followed Greek-influenced phonetic rules rather than English ones to give us /YEE-roh/ and /ZHIHR-oh/ as common pronunciations. The definition for this kind of gyro is “a sandwich especially of lamb and beef, tomato, onion, and yogurt sauce on pita bread.”

Pronunciations for words are also included in dictionaries. They could have looked it up.

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