How do you pronounce magret?
March 21, 2010 1:00 PM   Subscribe

How do you pronounce magret?

Magret is the breast of a mallard or Barbary duck; it's lean, hence the name (from French maigre). As a French word, it's pronounced /ma'gre/ (mah-GREH), and I would expect the English loan word to be pronounced similarly (mah-GRAY or muh-GRAY). However, the only printed source I have that gives a pronunciation says MAY-gray ("long a" in both syllables, stress on the first). This seems odd to me, so I would like very much to know how you say it or have heard it said, if you have professional experience with the term (e.g., have worked in the food industry, for Gourmet magazine, etc.). No guesses, please, I can make my own!
posted by languagehat to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've only ever heard it pronounced "MAY-gray".

I have worked as a consultant to food manufacturers for over 10 years. Although not with anything to do with duck products.

Bear in mind that there is this chap, who may or may not be responsible for Anglophone bastardisation of how the word is pronounced.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:10 PM on March 21, 2010

Thanks very much, I can rest easy now!
posted by languagehat at 1:44 PM on March 21, 2010

The French would say
posted by yclipse at 2:19 PM on March 21, 2010

Yes, in French it's pronounced (using English sounds, anyway): "mah-gray", with just a touch more emphasis on the "gray". (I have a B.A. in French language and literature, and have lived in France for nearly 11 years. Also, though entirely an amateur cook, magret de canard is one of my very favorite things to make and to eat, especially in orange or fig or four-spice sauces. Damn. It's 11pm here and now I'm craving a magret.)
posted by fraula at 3:00 PM on March 21, 2010

I'm not asking about the French pronunciation (I thought I'd made that clear in the post, but never mind). I'm asking specifically about how it's said in English by those who use the term (restaurant workers, food writers, etc.).

I notice that MuffinMan lives in London, so I'd love to hear from Yanks, especially if they know a different pronunciation.
posted by languagehat at 3:16 PM on March 21, 2010

MuffinMan, I went to a talk in London about Simenon and took me a good 20 seconds to figure out who was that Meg Ray everybody was talking about.

But I'm almost sure that waiters in the US have been telling me all about their magrets as if they were saying it in french except almost nobody in the anglo saxon world of restaurants can pronounce the R the french way - the gargling R is the best description that occurs to me - so it comes out soft. Also the "et" is pronounced like you say soufflé in english. Sooflay. Or bidet. Beeday. So, I guess "mah-gray".

Hope some native english speaker restaurateur comes by this thread to confirm. Or not.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 3:34 PM on March 21, 2010

A friend who's a professional chef in the US reports that he's only ever heard it pronounced mah-grey. (I have only heard it pronounced thus as well.)

We hypothesize that the Brits simply subvert French pronunciations on purpose.
posted by desuetude at 4:01 PM on March 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Bless you all and your informed answers. I love this place!
posted by languagehat at 5:15 PM on March 21, 2010

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