The Great Ramen Debate


Brain things, Food / Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

Confession: In my family, being technically correct is nearly as important as being technically Christian. I wish we didn’t care so much about the right way to do everything. Or think everything. Or say everything.

My husband and I fought this fight long before the kids came along, but they joined right in. I now have a fourteen-year-old who will oppose me not in defiance, but on principle.

Example: His sister agreed to pay him fifty cents for a job. They shook hands on it. The job was successful but simple, and she burst into tears because she had only wanted to pay him twenty-five cents but felt pressured into agreeing to the higher amount. [Pressure? What pressure? I didn’t pressure you, he said.] As the Mom, I came up with a Solomon-caliber compromise. She could pay him twenty-five cents, and I could pay him another. They would both win. But this was NOT OKAY to my teenager. This was teaching his sister that tears will get her out of handshake bargains. She PROMISED. It’s not about the money [though I notice he is not backing down on that either], but the principle of the thing.

We have many skirmishes of this kind in my house.

I, who am a semi-squishy liberal and think this kind of thing is so not worth losing emotional equilibrium for – until I am the one clearly in the right – lose my cool more than I wish I did. Sometimes I just say, “We’re doing THIS, because I’m the mom.” It works less often than it used to.

On the upside, we will never have to convince our kids of the importance of absolute truth.

The great debate of late has been the pronunciation of Ramen noodles. Ryan came to marriage saying RAHmen, I came saying RAYmen. We solved this early in marriage by ignoring the issue, with Shari sneakily looking it up online and finding she was RIGHT, which always gave her that little edge of superiority over her deluded love and his family. Naturally, she could be tolerant when he said it wrong, though. I mean, it was just a word!

She made sure (without trying of course) that all the children in this family ended up saying RAYmen.

This summer, we added a new kid to the family, our six-year-old foster son. RAYmen is one of his favorite foods from his old life, that and Spaghetti-O’s. But he pronounced it RAHmen. Okay, fine. I’ve outgrown that argument anyway. But my kids so have not. Every time we sat down to a bowl of it (and it was more often than I am proud of, believe me), the controversy broke out again.

“Mmmm, RAHmen! Yes!”

“You mean RAYmen.”

“No, I mean RAHmen. Jenny agrees with me now.”

“Well,” I’d say, “as long as it’s all RHYMin. How about ROO-min?”

“It’s RAYmen. How do you say it, Kelly?”

Far into lunchtime, the bickering stretched on until, invariably, one of the adults in the house put a firm end to it. The kids thoroughly enjoyed this process of negotiating and slamming. It made me crazy, because I knew I had the correct knowledge, but who cared enough to make such a big deal about it?

Then one day when the play-argument broke out again, my teenager said, “It’s RAHmen. I looked it up.”

“What?!” I said. “I looked it up. It’s RAYmen.”

“Back in 1990?” he said.

Okay, he didn’t say that exactly.

We agreed to look it up then and there, choosing three sources as our authorities (Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster, and that YouTube name pronunciator). Best of three won. As it turned out, all three agreed, and my son was right. I won’t embarrass myself by telling you how long I sat on my phone, looking up a few more websites just to find somebody who’d agree with me. (It was hard going.) Turned out that the original Japanese word was something like RAYmen, though it might be LAYmen or RAYmyen. Somewhere along the way, the British world and hence everyone else settled on RAHmen. I think that’s silly of them, but on the other hand I’m not arguing for authentic pronunciations of other imported words.

What is it that so nettled me about shifting roles from right-and-magnanimous to wrong-and-acquiescent? Or wrong-and-stubborn?

Magnanimous: generous or forgiving, especially toward a rival or less powerful person
Acquiescent: ready to accept something without protest, or to do what someone else wants
Stubborn: having or showing dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something, especially in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so

Are those the only options?

“And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Cor. 12:31-1:1)

Okay. I am a big girl and I feel as loving as can be expected. But from now on, I’m calling them Shut Up Noodles.

35 Replies to “The Great Ramen Debate”

  1. I find this terribly funny on about five levels. Top level is the family emphasis on being technically correct. There exists another family like ours: unbelievable but true.

    1. Yes, I get tired of calling them any name because of the proper pronunciation being different than what I grew up with . . .

  2. “On the upside, we will never have to convince our kids of the importance of absolute truth.”

    Um…yeah. πŸ˜‚

    1. I had to read this to my family because… well…. let’s just say I live in a house where we “will never have to convince our kids of the importance of absolute truth” either!

      My husband’s prompt response to the 50 cents story? “Duh. She could have completely short circuited that argument by making the girl keep her promise to pay 50 cents and then promptly turning around and giving her daughter 25 cents just because she wanted to and she can do whatever she wants with her money!”

      πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ Leave it to him.

  3. Raymen all the way. Is it a geographic pronunciation? Can I use the “I don’t care what the dictionary says cause their wrong” line?
    So much fun from this far away.

    1. I was laughing the whole way through, but the last paragraph had me laughing out loud. My oldest son and I have had many a tiff over the technicalities of life. Problem is, he won’t back down even when he’s CLEARLY wrong…wish I’d know where he learned that…

      1. This is a another subject altogether. I remember a difference of opinion with my dad after I read Green Grass of Wyoming. There is a little girl named Penelope in that book. I said Pen a lope and Dad said, “That’s pronounced Pen el o pe.” And I argued with him! I hope I told him he was right and I was totally wrong before he died.

      2. Solve it by calling them the Asian name, since they are from Asia;) in Thailand they are simply called Mama noodles, it’s the brand. In China, they are in pinyan, fang bian main, and that’s what they will always be for us. So there, you are still one up on the teenager;)

  4. Just gotta say, based on Japanese ancestry and limited knowledge of Japanese: definitely “rah”men. πŸ™‚ It’s unambiguous when written in the Japanese phonetic scripts, no “ay” about it. (And yes, the “r” is flapped, a bit lik ea Spanish “r”, to something between an American English “r” and an “L”.)

  5. No arguments on how to pronounce shut up!πŸ˜„ Same conflict in our house, complicated by a husband who wasn’t brought up on Ramen (bless his mother!) who calls them Roman noodles half the time.

    1. Imagine my surprise and shock when I discovered that the great commandment had nothing to do with being right??! Still learning how to live from love and especially, how to model that to a houseful of opinions (aka teenagers). 😍

  6. Hilarious! I can totally relate. I was used to saying “season all” but dear husband says “season salt”. Why does it bug me (only a little)? About Ramen – in my childhood (in the nineties πŸ™‚ they were also called oodles of noodles. I still call them that and I doubt if your family could mispronounce that πŸ˜‰

  7. Our family also thrives on healthy right/wrong controversies. I’m impressed that you checked three sources. Usually Merriam Webster settles our pronunciation issues.
    Bother, it’s really Rahmen? I’m a reluctant convert too. Fortunately we don’t eat oriental noodles often. There’s an avoidance option. πŸ˜…

    When I was growing up, we called them Vondie noodles (spelled that way for pronunciation only). This was after a Cambodian man who introduced us to the noodles. I remember his family and some of their story of escape from Cambodia when the communists took over.

    My husband and I had a good chuckle over the shut up noodles.
    Happy eating.πŸ˜ƒ

  8. Hahahaha!!! I find this absolutely hilarious! 1) because I can painfully relate with the arguing children and 2) because I can painfully relate with being disgruntled about the shift from right-and-magnanimous to wrong-and-stubborn. πŸ€¦πŸ˜‚ Lord, help us.

  9. We grew up saying Raymen, you know, years ago. More recently we’ve been hearing rahmen. I thought maybe it’s like the Barthelona vs Barcelona or Venezia vs Venice. It depends on which language your speaking as to how you pronounce it. We had many lively debates/arguments growing up that involved words and word usage. We were also split right down the middle on which was best, mayonnaise and salad dressing. πŸ™‚

  10. Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster, and that YouTube name pronunciator as authorities? Noooooooo! Dictionaries have their own authority, namely common usage: dictionary editors spend a lot of time reading newspapers, popular books, and so on, so it would make more sense to look up a bunch of videos of TV chefs or something. Or, if you want a regional ‘dictionary’, just ask a lot of people in your neighborhood how they say it. It’s been many years since dictionary editors have made their decisions by asking which spelling or pronunciation is the closest to Latin.

    Arguments at our house are often about which sources to use to end our other arguments. It keeps things interesting. Or petty and embarrassing. Or both, by turns.

  11. Shut Up Noodles, works for me. Got a good laugh from this. πŸ˜‚ Why is it so hard to be wrong when it’s something we thought we were so so right about? 1 Cor. 12:31-1:1 – thanks for including this, what a perfect reminder

  12. Never even THOUGHT of saying ray-men instead of rah-men noodles…we have this kind of argument all the time around here; not pronouncing a word correctly, or taking a phrase out of context. At lunchtime today, for example: my brother said I have a headful of hair. I said: “Well, if I have a headful of hair, I must have no brain!” πŸ˜‰

    1. Correction…it was my SISTER, and not my brother, who gave the “hairy” comment. See how the corrections never end?!

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