Paul Frank paulfrank at POST.HARVARD.EDU
Thu Oct 7 03:39:17 UTC 2010

As a native speaker of Chilean Spanish, this is something to which
I've paid close attention since my family left Chile a few terrifying
weeks after September 11 (1973, not 2001). In the 1980s, most
Americans I heard pronounce the word Chilean said "ChilAYan"; most
Brits said "Chillyin" (to borrow your spellings). I was living in the
UK and in East Asia at the time and hanging out with Brits and
Americans (and Chileans too). In the 1990s I began to notice ChilAYan
from British mouths, including BBC presenters. I'm less sure about
"Chilly" and "Chee Lay." I've always said "Chee Lay" or even "Chile"
(pronounced the Spanish way). Incidentally, one of my pet peeves in
the 1980s was the affected pronunciation in the middle of English
sentences of "Nicaragua" and "El Salvador" as if they were Spanish
words rather than perfectly good English words that ought to be
pronounced the English (or American) way. You sometimes hear this on
NPR: an American speaker pauses for a millisecond to pronounce some
Spanish place name or personal name as if she or he were speaking
Spanish. But I digress...


Paul Frank
German, French, Italian > English
Neuch√Ętel, Switzerland
Tel. +41 77 4096132
paulfrank at
paul.frank at

On Thu, Oct 7, 2010 at 3:21 AM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at> wrote:

> Back in my day (1950s), "Chile" was pronounced like "Chilly."
> "Chilean" was pronounced as "chillyin." But since then "ChilAYan" has become
> the media standard because it sounds more Spanishy. Sort of.
> Similarly "Chilly" has become the media "Chee Lay" because it sounds more
> Spanishy.
> However, today I heard Tony Harris on CNN utter a new pronunciation that
> sounds like an American trying to sound Spanishy no matter what: "ChillAY."
> Like _Ole_!
> JL
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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