You say ‘chili,’ New Mexicans say ‘chile’

Virgin of Guadelupe and chilesSome spelling mavens unfamiliar with New Mexican chiles may have cringed at the spelling of the word chile throughout the Aug. 3 post, “The perennial question: Red or green?”
Although the dictionary may say otherwise, the correct spelling of the word for those tasty red and green delicacies grown in New Mexico is chile, the way it’s spelled in Spanish.
And New Mexicans are very persnickety about it. So persnickety, in fact, that Pete Domenici, New Mexico’s longtime senior senator, now retired, spent considerable time pontificating on the matter in Congress.



“New Mexicans consume mass quantities of this magical and life-giving fruit from birth, and labels on chile products, descriptions of dishes at New Mexican restaurants and billboards and advertisements all reinforce the fact that chile is spelled with an ‘e’ and not an ‘i,'” Domenici said in a speech entered into the Congressional Record in 1983. “A naivete exists among native New Mexicans who wrongly assume that everyone spells it with an ‘e.’
“Even the dictionary makes the error,” Domenici waxed on. “Knowing that criticizing the dictionary is akin to criticizing the Bible, I nevertheless stand here before the full Senate and, with the backing of my New Mexican constituents, state unequivocally, that the dictionary is wrong.”
He asserted that chili — spelled with an ‘i’ — is what New Mexicans know as “that inedible mixture of watery tomato soup, dried gristle, half-cooked kidney beans, and a myriad of silly ingredients that is passed off as food in Texas and Oklahoma. The different tabascos and jalapeno sauces added to the mixture do little good and in most cases simply cause a casual visitor to suffer great gastrointestinal distress.
Chile pinot noir“Contrast this to New Mexico, where ordering a bowl of chile is a delightful experience,” Domenici said. “Hospitable as we are to all visitors, we have chile that is mild enough to make a baby coo in delight, or hot enough to make even the strongest constitutions perspire in a sensual experience of both pleasure and pain.
“I could go on and on about the wonders of red and green chile, but in reality, all I wanted to do was inform Congress on the correct way to spell the word.”
As a result of Dominici’s impassioned oration, the Albuquerque Journal announced: “The I’s of Texas are no longer on us. ‘Chili’ is dead. The only time we will use ‘i’ will be when we quote the written word of some Texan.”


1 Comment

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One response to “You say ‘chili,’ New Mexicans say ‘chile’

  1. Rennae

    When you’ve gotten sick on a bowl of green chile stew your favorite chile is definitely RED.

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