Is it boo-teek or bow-teek?

By Maggie Burch
Woman Shopping in Boutique
Credit: James W. Welgos/Getty Images

Southerners are known for a lot of things: our hospitality, our love of college football, our barbecue, and not least of which, our unique way of talking. We have one of the most famous and distinctive dialects in the country (if not the entire English-speaking world), noted for its slow pace and heavy drawl. Not to mention the one-of-a-kind phrases and vocabulary we like to pepper our speech with. From being "fit to be tied" to "fixin' to do something," an out-of-towner might just need a dictionary to follow a casual conversation.

But we Southerners also put our own spin on the pronunciation of more commonly used words. And I hate to break it to y'all, but we aren't always right. There are plenty of words where the pronunciation or emphasis on certain letters is up for debate, but one where it is not: boutique.

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If you're going shopping on the weekend and say to your friend, "Hey, want to pop into that little boutique?" how do you say the last word? Do you pronounce it boo-teek or bow-teek (like hair bow)? If you said boo, then you'd be correct.

Boutique means little shop in French, and while there are plenty of foreign words we've incorrectly Anglicized into the English language (niche, for one, ought to be pronounced kneesh not nitch), we owe it to ourselves (and the French) to keep this one in check. The first syllable in boutique is pronounced the same as it is in bouquet, another word we've adopted from the French. So now you know, and can confidently drawl out the word boutique as much as you want, as long as keep that first syllable correct.