The Pain of Pronouncing Au Bon Pain

It’s weird to stop and think about some of the great things I went through most of life without knowing:

Au Bon Pain - LOL WUT?

the taste of pesto, the sting of whiskey, the sound of Kiefer Sutherland yelling “DAMMIT” as a terrorist flees the city with a wry smile on his face. Now added to the list of things I [think I] now know: how to pronounce Au Bon Pain.

You’re a jerk if this has never been an issue for you.  Or you’re French (like I said, you’re a jerk).  I, like many, have been fighting this battle my whole life.  Aww Bon Pain? Oh Bun Pah? Aww Buh Pay?  No idea. And they don’t try to give you any help on this either.  Put an accent in your name so I know how to ask my co-workers if they want to grab lunch at your place. When you’re confusing the Google Translate bot, you know you’ve crossed the line.

Side Rant: Wouldn’t this be a great commercial?  I’ve never seen an Au Bon Pain commercial, but for a place that has so little personality that it won’t even tell you its name, wouldn’t it be comforting to see them make fun of themselves?  Just walk up to random people on the street (or actors “on the street”) and ask them how to say it.  Heck, I have a friend who would be perfect.  He says it all as one word (AwbahPUH) with a pop on the “P” where his cheeks blow out and his jaw drops a little just to show you how much of an idiot you look like if you say it that way.  It’d be perfect.  Get on that, AwbahPUH advertising team. (Editor’s Note: My friend has since informed me he would pronounce it “awbonhpahhh,” if that has any effect on your life.)

Let’s get back on track…

That whole getting lunch there thing – I kind of can’t do it if I don’t know how to say your name.  But those days are now behind me…sort of.  All my online searches for the proper pronunciation of the name came up empty.  So I went to the Wikipedia page, and whaddya know? Some French characters right next to the title! Well, I don’t speak French, so I had to click those little characters, and here’s what the descriptions tell me:

Au – Pronounced like the “o” in “mole”

Bon – “B” is what you think, then it’s a “nasalized” version of the “o” in “sore” (no mention of the “N”)

Pain – “p” is what you think, then it’s a “nasalized” version of the “e” in “best” (again, who cares about “N”s? Let’s just throw themn at the end of every wordn!)

Saying something “nasalized” is apparently lowering the back of the roof of your mouth.  Piece of cake!  Now you all can join me in acting like I know how to pronounce Au Bon Pain even though I still really have no idea.  I’m just going to go with “Oh Bwa Peh” and see if anyone flinches next time I say it.  They won’t.  They don’t know how to say it either.

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