Stuff Catalans Do: Xiuxiueig


Did you freak out when you saw this word? People tend to when they see a piece of text in Catalan because of the liberal sprinkling of ‘x’ s,  and they tune out thinking that it’s a weird and unpronounceable mish-mash.

In fact xiuxiueig is one of Catalan’s most lovely onomatopoeic words. Repeat after me: sheeoo-sheeoo-WEDGE. It means whispering. From the verb xiuxiuejar – sheeoo-sheeoo-wedg-A – to whisper.

The letter x may represent three different sounds, the first of which is the freak-out one.  It’s pronounced like English ‘sh’, okay?

So:  no prizes for getting these right: xampú, xèrif, xocolata, Xile, Xina.

Xarxa (sharsha) is a network.

And in xip and xat English ch- has been reduced to sh.

In the middle of a word the sh sound is written as ix,  the most obvious example being la Caixa – la casha.  So, the famous poet J.V. Foix  and his family’s emblematic pastisseria Foix de Sarrià is:  Fosh.

There are also quite a few words where Catalan x corresponds to Castilian j (pronounced ‘ggghhh’) so in fact the Catalan versions are easier to say:  Xavier (Javier), the Valencian towns Xàbia (Jávea) and Xàtiva (Játiva), and the Christmas turron from Xixona (Jijona).

In international words like taxi, it’s pronounced as in English.

And it’s pronounced –gs in words like examen (exam), exemple (example) and exercici (exercise).

As a letter of the alphabet, it’s pronounced ‘iks’. But there’s no need to to get tongue-tied with raigs X if you need an X-ray. Just say radiografia.


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