No Shet, Shirlock

Raymond Chen, a Slate reader, is confused over how to pronounce the name of the recently arrested Chilean “Senator for Life”. He notes the following versions:

Most people: Pee-no-shay

BBC: Pih-no-shay

NPR’s Daniel Zwerdling: Pee-no-shet

As it happens, none of the above is entirely correct. A Chilean would say: “Pee-no-CHAY.” (If the accent sounds too contrived, “Pee-no-chay” will do.)

The common American formulation, “shay,” is probably an attempt to make the name sound French. Though possibly Gallic in origin, “Pinochet” is now a fairly common Chilean name. The “shet” formulation is an attempt to read a Spanish word as an English word. Explainer lacks a theory for the BBC.

Next question?

Explainer thanks Professor Carmen Marta Silva-Corvalan of USC for her help.