Been taking a lot of heat around the office today for my pronunciation of a certain word: salsa.

Everyone I’ve polled so far pronounces the word with a broad “a,” as in father; I say it with a short “a,” as in carrot.

For a few minutes there, I thought it was a regional thing. Here’s the provenance of my accent: Arlington (south of 50), Richmond, New York City. I checked with Darrow Montgomery, who was born in the District, spent most of his early childhood abroad, and has lived in D.C. since age 12. He says it with a broad “a.” McKenna! I thought. He grew up in Falls Church, not far from me, long before all the fancy people moved to D.C. He says it with a broad “a.” (That could just be social-climbing on his part; he abandoned NoVa for the District in 1986.)

It was getting pretty lonely around here, me and my short “a.” Then I called my wife. “Pronounce the word spelled s-a-l-s-a,” I demanded. She said it exactly like I do. Problem is, she’s from Edinburgh, Scotland. “I don’t think you used to say that,” she said when I repeated it to her in turn. “You sound Scottish when you say that.”

I called McKenna again. “Have you found any compatriots?” he asked. I told him no. “I don’t think you will, except in Scotland,” he said.

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