Ol’ Bighead Strikes Again: On How To Correctly Pronounce “Chipotle”

Ol’ Bighead Strikes Again: On How To Correctly Pronounce “Chipotle”

In which Jason and Atlanta writer/raconteur Randy Osborne discuss the proper way to pronounce “Chipotle.”

JASON
Hey, Randy! I hope you’re ready to finally figure out once and for all how to correctly pronounce “Chipotle.”

How have you been saying it this whole time? Chip-ole-tay? Chip-olt-lay? Chee-pot-ell? How do you do it, Randy? How do you sleep at night, with all this ambiguous Chipotling? Jerk off into a warm glass of milk?

Sorry! I thought combining two home remedies for insomnia might be the secret to going to sleep faster. I guess jerking off isn’t exactly a “home remedy.” Although I did read once on the internet that orgasms reduce sinus swelling.

If this is true, I should have sinuses the size of atoms by now—although any ear, nose, and throat doctor will probably tell you that masturbating your way to smaller sinuses is the nasal equivalent of trying to fold a piece of paper in half more than eight times.

Too bad there isn’t a home remedy for uncertainty of how to correctly say the word “Chipotle.” “Just rub a walnut on a burrito and whisper ‘Chipotle’ over and over until the word feels right in your mouth” or something. Actually, I think the walnut-rubbing thing is a lifehack I read on the internet to get nicks and scratches out of your wooden furniture.

But what lifehack will remove the nicks and scratches from our tongues as we struggle to say “Chipotle” correctly to our wives and friends and even our hated enemies, Randy? “Meet me in the Chipotle parking lot for a fight” doesn’t sound as menacing if you aren’t saying it correctly.

The Chipotle parking lot on my street is cramped and tense, and is the perfect staging ground for a fight. Once I unlock the secret of its name, I will be the greatest warrior the fast-casual Mexican market has ever seen!

Anyway, while I’m fighting in a Chipotle parking lot, you’ll probably be rubbing your furniture with walnuts and sleeping like a baby. Eventually, all that zen-like rubbing will cause your mind to enter a place of calm focus, and the correct pronunciation will come to you in a flash.

All you needed was for the din of your thoughts to settle down for a moment so the right way to say “Chipotle” could reveal itself to you, Randy—like a man handing you a life-changing message in a crowded room, or a man handing you a life-changing burrito in a crowded Chipotle.

So tell me, Randy—how do you do say it? Meet me in the parking lot of proper elocution and battle my ignorance!

RANDY
When I first moved here, I ate burritos from Willy’s almost every night, two huge burritos and a bottle of wine. I slept on an air mattress in my closet like a vampire, for the dark and quiet. It was the perfect setting, after all the wine was gone, in which to cry about San Francisco.

The manager at Willy’s, named Colin – this was the Willy’s in the Edgewood Retail District – began to recognize me as a pathetic regular customer. One night he said, “Dinner’s on us this time! Good to see you again.” At least he was telling the truth about the first part. So I had free Willy’s, from his Colin to my colon.

This is by way of saying I don’t much like the burritos at Chipotle because they cannot be fully customized. At Willy’s, in contrast, you move down the line, pointing at ingredients and saying, “I want more of that!,” which is how I wish I could go through life in general, instead of weeping drunk on an air mattress in the closet like a vampire.

Well, I don’t do that anymore. I was single back then, and now I am dual, with an ordinary bed right out in the open. We dine upon burritos only when we happen to be in Decatur, and raging.

I don’t do heroin anymore, either. Never did, but have you seen that fabulous Neil Jordan movie, The Good Thief? It’s about an aging, alcoholic gambler / heroin addict in the French Riviera who pulls himself together so he can rob a casino. Bob is played by Nick Notle. Along the way, he gets involved with an insanely hot younger woman, Anne, played by – wait for it – Nutsa Kukhianidze. I really like movies that feature old guys like Notle with much younger women. Maybe you are with me on this.

The Nick Notle character goes from a booze-swizzling, needle-jabbing forger of signatures on artwork by “famous” painters to a dapper, slick thief with a luscious chick on his arm. Instead of knocking himself out with whiskey and smack every night, he settles in with a glass of warm … no! No. Anyway, you should see the movie. In the end, Notle cleans up nicely, in more ways than one.

Now I’ve sort of forgotten the question you asked. I know. It’s Nutsa.

JASON
Well, Chipotle hasn’t forgotten about you, Randy. In fact, when you look back and only see one set of footprints, that was Chipotle carrying you! Just like Jesus.

Why is Jesus’ first instinct to pick you up like a baby when you’re distracted by past misfortunes? Seems odd that Jesus would be marching around on the beach picking people up and putting them down just because they’re bummed out by their memories.

How does Jesus figure out his system for picking you up and putting you down? Does he read your facial expression as you look back on your life, and then if you start to furrow your brow he scoops you up?

I once went to Panama City beach with my girlfriend and paid $40 to rent a beach chair, and then a guy steered his kayak right out of the ocean and pulled it up directly in front of my chair. I feel like if Jesus is picking up things on the beach, maybe he could lift that kayak instead of me? And throw it several miles into the ocean?

It seems like Jesus is a little preoccupied with your legs getting tired. I don’t mean to brag, but I walk two miles every weekend, unless my dog gets winded, which she always does, because she has stubby bulldog legs and a huge head, which is why my girlfriend calls her Ol’ Bighead. In fact, my girlfriend also says that I have a larger-than-average head, Randy—she has stated on numerous occasions that when I take my dog out it looks like “two bobbleheads walking each other.”

What I’m getting at, Randy, is that I have great calves. So when it’s my turn to take a walk on the beach with Jesus, I hope he notices my amazing gams (after emitting a low whistle at the sight of my oversized cranium) and decides to smite the kayaks of my enemies instead of hoisting me up like a newborn.

RANDY
Every time I see my name at the top of the section where it’s my turn to write, Jason, I hate my first name all over again, and more so. Did you know that more people named their kid “Randy” in the year 1955, which is the year of my birth, than in any other year in history? The reason is unknown, if there is a reason. I forgot to ask my parents and now they are dead.

Is the Panama City girlfriend the same as the “man you got a big head” girlfriend? I ask because years ago, in Rockville, Md., a guy I’d just met at my new job greeted me the next day with, inexplicably, “Good morning, Jason!” So as not to embarrass everybody east of the Potomac, I replied with a similar, cheery-ass, here-we-are-in-this-goddamned-corporate-office, “Good morning, Joe!,” which was (and I’m pretty sure still is) his actual name. Next thing, I heard the woman in the cubicle adjacent to mine clattering away on her keyboard – an email to me, it turned out.

“Did he just call you Jason?”

“I’m afraid he did. Henceforth, he shall be known to me as Winston.”

So apparently I looked to him more like a “Jason” than a “Randy,” which is A-OK, even if it means having a jumbo noggin and paying dearly for a beach chair in Panama City, since “Randy” is a word best limited to novels banned in the Victorian era and “Jason” has always, to me, implied Argonauts.

There’s upside to mistaken identity, though. After I told my friend Cheryl about mix-up at the office, she developed a code of sorts. It took me a while to figure out, and went like this: Anytime I made lewd remarks to her, anytime I started with the groping overtures, whether I was drunk or sober, she would immediately begin to refer to me as “Jason,” while imploring me to exhibit better, more gentlemanly behavior. By which she meant the opposite, she would later admit, but the pretend-fact or masquerade that it was “Jason” and not randy Randy who made the groping remarks and the lewd overtures transformed whatever happened next into something halfway normal, or at least acceptable. She was usually drunk, too. Her real name isn’t Cheryl.

Kayaks scare me, because they can flip over with your legs inside them while you are upside down in the water, panicking, unable to get your legs out of this basically long, hollow tree, because the water creates a vacuum seal, and then you perish, gurgling, having only wanted to be recognized as Nature Boy, the adventurer, by all the trout fishermen you passed, one of whom is interviewed by the TV news, yes, I saw him, he appeared to lack confidence, and was propelled instead by a kind of jittery resolve, this is tragic, well, I got two nice browns and a rainbow today.

JASON
Randy, as fascinated as I am with all this erotic vacuum sealing and lewd groping and getting off on having your legs encased in a tree, I have to warn you that if you get stuck upside down in a kayak and Jesus sees you, he will not flip you back over. He’ll carry you around if you can make it to shore, though.

That’s the deal, Randy—if you can free yourself from the binding kayaks of life, Jesus will give you a piggy-back ride the rest of the way.

So how do you say it, Randy? How do you pronounce “Chipotle?” I want to know before I die. For some reason I get the impression that if I ask Jesus, he’ll say it weird. The Bible never really covered that part of Jesus’s life, on whether or not he was good at pronouncing words.

The other day I pronounced “scion” incorrectly on a stage full of people. I bet Jesus knows how to say that one, what with its definition being “a descendant of a notable family.” Families don’t get much more notable than The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit, Randy.

So tell me, Randy/Jason/Winston/Jesus/Cheryl/Joe/whatever-your-real-name-is, how do you pronounce “Chipotle?”

Let’s settle this once and for all.

RANDY
If only things could be settled once and for all, Jason! We’d all get free piggy-back rides from Jesus. The sadly prosaic truth – older men such as yours truly are good at sadly prosaic truths – is that I pronounce “Chipotle” (while refusing to capitalize the word for the sake of a brand) (older men rage against the machine, live on the edge, are rebels) the way it should be pronounced. That is, “chee-poat-lay.”

Your “scion” story is unfortunate. As a greenhorn newsman in my radio days, when reading copy on the air, I was confronted for the first time by the word “appellate” – as in, you know, the court of appeals. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, so I said “APPLE-ate.” Right into the microphone. For the next month, I had to deal with people in the hallway of the radio station who wanted to know more about the activities of the APPLE-ate court, haw haw.

It turns out “Chipotle” derives from the Aztec word meaning “smoked chili,” since it is a “smoked chili.” Those Aztecs knew what they were doing. Specifically, it’s a jalapeno, or “an jalapeno,” if you’re one of those phonetically sounding writers. Which would you use? Readers, I’m sorry to say we may have another installment here.

Illustration by Joe Karg.

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