How to Pronounce Things in Provence

Especially among a people who cut their teeth on the Academie Française, that holy arbiter of the French language, there are variations allowed when speaking French in Provence. The rule of thumb here is to pronounce everything, even letters that aren't there. Pain becomes "peng" in the south. Vin becomes "veng," enfin "on feng," and so forth. One of the words caught in the crossfire is mas. This old Provençal word for farmhouse is a "mahss" in the south, but Parisians hold out for a more refined Frenchification: "ma." Cassis is another booby trap. Parisians refer to the blackcurrant liqueur made in Burgundy as "cass-eess" but southern French locals refer to the wine from the coastal country east of Marseille as "cass-ee." If that weren't confusing enough, Parisians also call the town of Cassis "cass-eess," much to the ire of the locals, who insist they live in "cass-ee."

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