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I was extremely mocked by colleagues (good humor) when I said the word "pizza" in the middle of the conversation.

Given my accent, the way I pronounced it was closer to "peedtza", with a slight hint of that "d" that I never noticed myself until they brought it up.

They were saying it should be pronounced "peetsa" with no "d" or "z" in there.

Is my pronunciation absolutely wrong? Or could it be pronounced like that as well?
I don't know if that matters, but we are in America, so a comparison between British and American English is welcome.

I can take criticism, so be as blunt as you want!

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14  
Actually, you probably didn't say it with a true [d]. In English, a [t] is usually very sharp, and heavily aspirated at the beginning of a word, or else replaced with an alveolar tap [ɾ] or glottal stop [ʔ]. In the rather uncommon case of [-iːtsə], the unaspirated [t] can sound an awful lot like a [d] to an English speaker, especially if you articulate it as a retroflex [t] rather than a dental one. –  Jon Purdy Dec 15 '10 at 1:55
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Yeah, what Jon said... –  CJM Dec 15 '10 at 13:40
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It's /Peetza/, trust me. I'm italian. –  Jefffrey Jan 23 '11 at 12:28
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@Jon Purdy: I don't think that really fits here. Intervocalically, [t] can be realized as [ɾ], but never in a coda before a [z], as we have here. The word could be pronounced as [piʔtsə], with an extra glottal stop, or it could be pronounced as [pidzə], but it couldn't be [piɾzə] or [piɾsə] in English — those are impossible. If it sounded like a [d] then it was probably a real [d]. The only thing that comes to mind that would not require a true [d] pronunciation is if BeemerGuy significantly lengthened the vowel before [tsa]; often times we use vowel length as a voicing cue in English. –  Kosmonaut Jan 28 '11 at 0:12
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I think what happened is that BeemerGuy came closer to pronouncing pizza as many Italians do than what some recommend is the only and correct pronunciation. In this case, he pronounced the double z but probably overstressed the first z leading to an almost vibrating sound (that's how I interpret his dtz-a) Pizza is pronounced how it is written, the i in Italian language is not as long an ee sound that seems to be the impression here. I don't know if Americans happen to slightly exaggerate the "ee" sound. Anyway British ipa here it comes: /ˈpiːtsə/ and in Italian it's [pìz-za] –  Mari-Lou A Oct 13 '13 at 8:55

4 Answers 4

up vote 13 down vote accepted

It's definitely "peetsa", both in British and American English. There is no correct alternative pronunciation. If your accent imbues a subtle "d" sound, I wouldn't worry too much about that and people should be understanding.

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The word pizza is from Italian and the spelling is still Italian in many languages (in all languages using Latin alphabets that I know of), in Italian it's pronounced /pittsa/ with a "long" (or "double" as I would call it in Norwegian) t sound.

Why it has a long [i] sound in English I don't know, maybe it's related to how English speakers always pronounce French final "é" as "ay" (like Café French: /kafe:/ English /ˈkæfeɪ/). The long "ee" /i:/ sound is probably closer to the italian /i/ sound than the short /I/ sound ("bin" etc.) even though it's too long.

(I think it's pretty silly correcting someone for their pronunciation of a loan word when it's actually closer to the origin than the English version.)

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The origins of the word "pizza" are widely speculated but most of the speculation implies that the word originates from a variant of the Greek or Italian words for "bread" ("picea," "pitta," and many more have been suggested). I don't know much about these languages but it would seem that none of these have a true "d" sound in them.

I have only heard it pronounced with the "t" sound and given the possible origins I'd say that "peetsa" is correct.

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Italian definetely has it.wikipedia.org/wiki/D and Greek en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delta_(letter) . But letter Z is pronounced differently in both of them. As in German btw (e.g. Zurich is pronounced as Tsurisch (last three as same sound, again, no such sound in English) –  Andrey Jan 24 '11 at 13:18
    
Actually, in Italian the written letter "z" may correspond in different words to two different sounds: /ts/ (for instance in "zio", uncle) and /dƷ/ (for instance in "zona", zone). The first one, in its long form, is the one in "pizza". –  DaG Mar 3 '12 at 10:53

I live in an area where the only dialects I tend to hear are South Midland, American Southern, and AAVE. I commonly hear "pete-sa" and "pee-sa". I can't recall ever hearing it with a "d" sound clearly pronounced in it.

However, food words are about the most susceptible words in the language to regionalisms, so it wouldn't surprise me to hear alternates, and I doubt I'd make a huge deal of it if I did.

There is one exception. Whenever I hear a New Englander say the word "corn", I can't stop myself from doing a bad Captain Kirk impression from Star Trek 2.

Khaaaaan!!!

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