Once and for All: How to Pronounce Lillet

This vintage sign is telling people how to ask for Lillet. “Lilet” is the phonetic spelling: Lee-LAY.

 

It’s lee-LAY.

It’s true that normally, when those the double L’s appear in the middle of a word, the two L’s would turn into a “y” sound. For example, fille (girl) is pronounced “FEE-yuh.” So, if you were strictly following French pronunciation rules, Lillet would be “Lee-YAY.”

But this is French, and there are always exceptions to every rule. And in this case, it’s lee-LAY.

How do I know this? This above sign, seen in a French restaurant, tells me so. And in a visit the the Lillet museum in Podensac, France, I was told that for many years, the French advertising campaign for Lillet misspelled the aperitif on purpose: “LILET.” That way, the French would pronounce it right (lee-LAY).

Even today, you can see old signs on stone buildings in France purposefully misspelling Lillet as “Lilet” so that the French will pronounce it right. Here’s an example:

Vintage ad tells the French how to pronounce Lillet. Photo by Lezzles via flickr.

Once the aperitif (and its pronunciation) caught on, the company went back to the original spelling.

Fortunately, enjoying Lillet is easy: Simply pour it over ice and, if you like, add an orange peel. It’s a fantastic apéritif. (For my enthusiastic ode to the apéritif, click here.) And mixologists today often use it in cocktails.

Recipes:

The Art of the Aperitif – Or Why Potato Chips Taste Better in France

Celebrate French National Cocktail Hour

Apéritif Dînatoire Menu

 

 

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