The letter s in the word Parmesan (meaning the cheese, named after the Parma region of Italy) is pronounced quite widely (Br & Aus AFAIK) as a /z/, per Wiktionary:

  • UK, also found in the US: /ˈpɑɹ.məˌzɑn/
  • found in the US: /ˈpɑɹ.məˌʒɑn/

And in Australia (no reference, just experience) it's /ˈpɑɹ.məˌzɑn/ (maybe heading for /ˈpɑɹ.məˌsɑn/).

However, in Seattle WA and Portland OR, the locals all (IME) pronounce it with a soft /ʒ/ sound, like in the French je, so /ˈpɑɹ.məˌʒɑn/

Is this a "northwest only" variation? How much of the US says /ˈpɑɹ.məˌʒɑn/?

Does this also occur in other countries?

I note that Merriam Webster includes the spelling pronunciation "-zhan" (albeit last) as an alternative pronunciation.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Feb 9 '17 at 6:15
  • 1
    I grew up in Texas and never heard the word pronounced otherwise than with the final syllable "zon." However, my daughter, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, always pronounces the word with the final syllable "zhon." All I can say is, she didn't learn that pronunciation at home. – Sven Yargs Jun 1 '18 at 6:29

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