In years of writing about dog breeds, I’ve learned to let my source say the breed name first, in case I embarrass myself mispronouncing it. And for any of us inclined to play the Name that Breed! game when meeting new dogs, we make a better impression articulating the name correctly. I certainly won’t impress anyone calling a Dogue de Bordeaux a “Dog Bored You.”
Let’s take a look at seven commonly mispronounced breed names. You’ll first have to excuse my spelled-out pronunciations as I attempt to make them both readable and memorable. After all, with due respect to Mr. Webster, the dictionary’s standard pronunciation keys are a starting point, but they’re often dull and forgettable.
- Shih Tzu: The royal history of the Shih Tzu doesn’t prevent us commoners from butchering the pronunciation of his name. But no, Shih doesn’t sound like the four letter S word. The correct pronunciation is shee dzoo. How to remember? Try:she’d rather go to the zoo. As for the ‘dz,’ try saying dah-zoo, but in one syllable. And don’t sneeze! Luckily you needn’t pronounce a plural (Shih Tzu-sies?). Shih Tzu includes singular and plural.
- Bernese Mountain Dog: Our second mispronounced name is rather commonly misspelled and thus mispronounced. For some of us call the Bernese Mountain Doga “Burmese Mountain Dog,” as though he was developed in Burma rather than the Alps. But if we spell it correctly, odds are we will say it correctly: Bur-neez Mountain Dog.
- Shar-Pei: A Shar-Pei, our third mispronounced breed, starts with the simple “Shar” as in the beginning of sharp. But now comes the tricky part. A Shar-Pei isn’t a shar-pee (rhyming with “me”) or a shar-pie (rhyming with “eye”). He’s a shar-pey (rhyming with “say”). How to remember? Well, trying paying attention to a Sharpay.
- Coton de Tulear: Next let’s talk about the Coton de Tulear. Let’s get right to it: he’s a Cah-ton de Tu-lay-ahr. And to shorten the name, the Coton isn’t a “Cotton,” but rather a Cah-ton. Because while the Coton was named for his cottony coat, his title is French.
- Belgian Malinois: The Belgian Malinois is often the victim of mispronunciation or flat out fear of pronunciation, but with their increasing popularity it’s time to clear things up! Another breed that falls into the misheard category it is often mistakenly called the “Belgium Malinois.” And while they do hale from Belgium, the appropriate term is Belgian pronounced, Bell-gin. Now for the tricky part, Malinois, Mal-in-what? Actually that is not too far off! Correctly pronounced Mal-in-wah, you can remember it with our Mal-in-what (the “t” is silent) trick or by keeping in mind the name has french roots.
- Cane Corso: Up next the magnificent Cane Corso. No, his name isn’t pronounced “cane” like a stick used for walking. Cane has two syllables (pull out your dusty Latin book) and the name is pronounced Kah-nay Kor-so. Corso rhymes with Torso if that helps.
- Schipperkein: Most of us try to pronounce Schipperkein a host of complicated variations, including my own original attempt which was “Schwhip-perk.” But it’s simply Skipper-Key. It’s easy to remember if you know the history: he was a watchdog on boats. In fact, the key was, maybe he was the skipper.
- Weimaraner: Next up is the often misspelled and mispronounced Weimaraner. If you google this one you are likely to only end up more confused by the theories on how to pronounce this one! Vie-mah-rah-ner seems to be the most widely accepted by those who know the breed best and want to stick to the German roots, but in “America speak,” Why-may-rah-ner works too!
- Xoloitzcuintli: The Mexican Hairless Dog known as the Xolo, is pronounced (according to the dictionary)assho’lo-its-kwint’le. But for me, I remember how to say the name with Show Me It’s Quint-lee. For obvious reasons, the breed often goes by a shortened name: Xolos (ShowLows).
- Leonberger: We Americans (okay fine, maybe it is just me!) often have difficulty with the simplest German words. Thus the Leonberger may become the Lay-on-the-burger. But let’s give this giant breed her due: The Leonberger is basically pronounced Lee-On-Burger. For short, Leonbergers go by Leos. And no, that’s not pronounced Lay-O’s. It’s Lee-Ohs, like the Leo zodiac sign.
- Lhasa Apso: As frequently misspelled as it is mispronounced. Also called the Bark Lion Sentinel Dog (much easier to pronounce), the Lhasa Apso was developed as an indoor guard dog in Tibet. The “Lh” is a rather confusing consonant combination. At the risk of oversimplification, just forget the H for now. Syllables are the key. Try saying LAH-suh-AHP-soh and you’re on your way to peace and prosperity (Lhasas were said to bring both to their households).
- Bichon Frise: Now despite the next breed’s popularity, pronunciations may run amuck. The Bichon Frise is not the Bick-on-the-Fries or the Bitch-one-freesh. Instead, this delightful small companion is properly called a Bi???n ‘fri?ze?. Still confused? Try Beesh-on-Freeze-zay.
- Affenpinscher: The monkey dog, the Affenpinscher, also creates some confusion in the pronunciation and spelling department. Affenpinschers, moustached “little devils,” were bred in Germany as mousers. The small breed is pronounced af·fen·pin·scher, or in my own squeezed variation: Aff-fin-pinch-her.
- Samoyed: a beautiful white arctic breed, is often mispronounced as the Sam-OY-ed. (with the “oy” rhyming with toy). Instead, try taking out the Oy and replacing it with an “uh” sound. And move the accented syllable to the end. The result? Maybe not a Dr. Seuess-ian “Sam-I-Am,” but rather a “sam-•a-YED.” Still unclear? Well, the dogs are also lovingly known as Sammies. (rhymes with jammies!). Problem solved!
- Shibu Inu: ell the Shibu Inu is up next as one of the most mispronounced (as well as unknown) dog breeds. I think the variations on the mispronunciation are delightful, given the breed’s independent nature. Perhaps each Shibu has his own pronunciation of his name? As for humans, often we hear Shy-Boo-In-Uh. Next up: “Shib-you-in-you.” I like that one best, but it’s inaccurate to say the least. The correct pronunciation is: she-ba-‘e-nü. All those markers confusing you? Try SHEE-bah-EE-noo.
- Mudi: Let’s not leave our pronouncement journey through the canine kingdom without commenting on the Mudi, a lesser-known Hungarian breed developed to work sheep and cattle. So while arguably their herding heritage gets them plenty muddy, that’s where the connection to mud ends. The breed is pronounced Moody. Need a reminder? Well, the Mudi has a renowned ability to work difficult or moody cattle.