Desi- a word which refers to the people, cultures, and products of the Indian subcontinent.
One too many times I have been stopped in mid conversation by Indian friends regarding my terrible use of the word Desi. It’s not that I’m using it disparagingly, or that it’s being used in the wrong context. You see, I’m pronouncing the word incorrectly. Every time. Without fail.
“Do you want to watch a Desi film?”
“You know, a Desi film?”
“Oooooooooh, you mean Desi.”
“Yeah, that’s what I said.”
“No, you said Desi.”
Fortunately I’m not the only guilty party. The mispronunciation of the word Desi is widespread, almost a pandemic, becoming instant comedic fodder for Indians who have a penchant for correcting foreigners.
Learning how to pronounce Desi is like the Indian version of when you learned the difference between potato and potahto as a child. Except there is only one right way to say Desi and you will be tested on this.
The letter D spoken in Hindi can be the same as the letter D in English. For example, diary, double, and determine are all pronounced with the same D as in daal, darshan, and dupatta. Desi is different in that it is spoken with a dental D. This sound (which isn’t used in English pronunciation) is most similar to words beginning with a “th” sound such as the, there, or throw. Using this analogy, Desi is then pronounced as “they” for de and “see” for si: “they” is pronounced the same as in English and “see” is pronounced the same as the letter “C” in English. Place the emphasis on “they” rather than “see,” to correctly pronounce Desi as “THEY-see.”
That wasn’t so bad. In fact you might say it was…easy. Get it? Rhymes with Desi. Anyone?