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Why is the word 'bologna' (as in a bologna sandwich) pronounced so differently from the way it's spelled? The word 'lasagna' isn't pronounced 'lasagney'...

The American sausage is derived from a similar Italian sausage that originated in the city of Bologna, yet the name of the city is pronounced more like the word 'lasagna', which leaves me wondering where the pronunciation came from...

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what are you talking about? i pronounce it bolOGNA –  leshow Jul 27 '11 at 19:52
    
Maybe they wanted to make a distinction between Bologna the name of the town, and bologna, the name of the sausage. In both the cases, in Italian the -gna part is pronounced the same as in lasagna, and lavagna. –  kiamlaluno Jul 27 '11 at 20:19
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Baloney is a modification of bologna, used to mean both the smoked sausage and nonsense. The pronunciation of bologna, when used to refer the smoked sausage is similar to the pronunciation of baloney. The pronunciation of Bologna, when referring to the town, is very close to the Italian pronunciation, which is /boˈloɲɲa/ (compare it with /laˈzaɲɲa/ for the Italian lasagna). –  kiamlaluno Jul 27 '11 at 20:34
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Interestingly bologna is a term fairly restricted to certain regions of Northern Italy. If you go in the South and ask for "bologna" they won't understand what you are talking about (use mortadella instead). –  nico Jul 27 '11 at 22:38
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3 Answers 3

This is speculation on my part, but my thinking on the pronunciation is based on this entry at the Online Etymology Dictionary: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=baloney

baloney: slang for "nonsense," 1922, Amer.Eng. (popularized 1930s by N.Y. Gov. Alfred E. Smith), from earlier sense of "idiot" (by 1915), perhaps influenced by blarney, but usually regarded as being from bologna sausage (1894), a type traditionally made from odds and ends.

balogna/baloney -> |bəˈloʊni| blarney -> |ˈblɑrni|

It is imaginable that some NY regional dialects could either reduce the pronunciation of 'bologna' to the point of sounding like 'blarney', or conversely that 'blarney' is lengthened to sound more like 'bologna'. Since they both have definition senses of something stupid or nonsensical, and the Irish and Italian influences of NY, I could see how the dialect environment could have wreaked havoc on our poor baloney.

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It seems to be a mispronunciation of the French spelling Bologne (which I think the French pronounce with that under-voiced schwa they're so fond of at the end).

Am I the only one who remembers the old Oscar Meyer commercials where the announcer unironically touted "Oscar Meyer beef buh-LOAG-nah"?

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+1 This is the only answer that makes sense to me (except for the nitpick that the "undervoiced schwa" is no longer there ... nowadays the French end the word with an unpronounceable combination of consonants; we English speakers stick in the undervoiced schwa so we can pronounce it). –  Peter Shor Sep 17 '11 at 14:03
    
@Gilles -- the French spelling . –  Malvolio Sep 17 '11 at 23:44
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Actually, "baloney" comes from a pronunciation of the city name. "Phony baloney" or "that's a bunch of baloney" is a dismissal of the sort of philosophical discussion that spread out of centres of higher education -- particularly Bologna docta. Anti-intellectualism is not a new phenomenon, and the folks who were using the "baloney" pronunciation would probably have loved it if the folks they were insulting had tried to correct it to "bolonya".

(See also: dunce, derived from the name of John Duns Scotus.)

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Do you have a source showing the city being pronounced as /baloney/? –  Marthaª Jul 27 '11 at 21:07
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The city is not pronounced as /baloney/, the audio file on the wikipedia page the OP linked is the correct pronunciation. –  Alenanno Jul 27 '11 at 22:38
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Of course the proper pronunciation of the city's name is not, and never has been, /baloney", and I never said "the pronunciation". (Try reading.) What I said was that it was a pronunciation of the name -- the same one that gave us polony and baloney for the sausage -- among common folk in England. Try reading widely of old books (and give your heads a shake). –  bye Jul 28 '11 at 7:57
    
@Stan you're right, I misread there. Luckily I didn't downvote... But you said "[...] is a dismissal of the sort of philosophical discussion that spread out of centres of higher education -- particularly Bologna docta." Isn't that meaning that some people from the city contributed to spread that pronunciation? –  Alenanno Jul 28 '11 at 8:47
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What the answer says is "Actually, 'baloney' comes from a pronunciation of the city name." It doesn't report which pronunciations of the town were used, and it doesn't explain why the pronunciation is different for the town name and for the sausage name. –  kiamlaluno Jul 28 '11 at 19:17
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