I often get words wrong. Completely wrong. For a few weeks, I’ve had swimming around in the back of my head remember to write about cache, remember to write about cache, remember to write about cache. Write about how to pronounce it, and what it even means. So today, I thought I would enlighten all of us (myself) about the proper definition and usage of the word. And hopefully get it out of my head because it’s annoying. [ed: Doubly annoying because I am still pronouncing it wrong in my head. Every time. Saying it with two syllables. Still.]
This interest in correct pronunciation goes back to a moment in time, circa 1990 or 1991, when I was having my first taste of grown-up living, in a very nicely-kept mid-century 3 bedroom, two bath rental home, near 50th and France, with grown-up amenities including a tuck-under two-car garage and a subscription to the Star Tribune and a so-fancy-I-feel-rich snow plow service, included in the rent which divided three ways came out to be $266.66 or $266.67 per month–and yes I think we were still so young and idealistic about the fairness of life that we even rotated on who got to pay a penny less that month. (What the hell? Did we just have so little else to think about?) Imagine. You could actually live in luxury digs, own a decent used car, have full health insurance and money leftover, making around twelve bucks an hour, back then. No home improvement projects, no kids, we were rich in time and money! (But poor in something, I’m sure. I’ll let you know when I think of what it was.)
Did we really have so little to think about “back then?” I recall a lot of impassioned discussions of the wrongness of the (first) Gulf War, about how much we detested (the first) George Bush, and equally enthusiastic discussions of who was playing at the Uptown Bar that weekend and who’s in for Twin Peaks, and should we get Pasqual’s or Szechuan Express? (Full indoctrination into the world of What’s for dinner? = Take Out was completed here on W. 49th Street.)
I do miss those days of roommates and shared meals and shared love of TV shows and wasted Saturdays and oh yeah, the impassioned political discussions. So there I was at the table in the sunny corner of the kitchen of our grown-up rental (seriously, it was so grown-up that when we had a couple of larger gatherings there, i.e. keggers, at least one party-goer would assume it was one of our parents’ house).
It was a Saturday morning, and I was enjoying our cost-divided-three-ways Star Tribune, and had just read some front page story about Kuwait or Iraq or something related to Operation Desert Storm (ugh), and was sharing this important new development with my then-roommate (and creator of the Happy Anniversary Card featured on the St. Patrick’s Day post) there at the kitchen table. I read a few sentences aloud, in possibly an overly-dramatic tone to convey my outrage and concern: “Blah blah blah Kuwait, blah blah blah, Hussein, blah blah blah military coup. . .” And, yes I did pronounce it coop, like chicken coop.
This former roommate and current friend is lovely for so many reasons, most notably her frankness, her forthcomingness, her lack of need to censor many of her thoughts and feelings. (Perhaps we’ll devote an entire post to that very quality of hers, and touch on the highlights of 25 years of When this Quality is Unveiled in Interactions with Complete Strangers, and the (sometimes life-threatening) Mayhem that Often Ensues, but first I’ll need to secure her permission. Stay tuned.) So, let’s remember we find it lovely that she so unabashedly shares her opinions of you with yourself, so we won’t judge her harshly when I tell you that she smashed my beautiful foil swan from Figlio–oh wait, that’s a totally different story.
What I meant to say is that so we won’t judge her too harshly when I tell you that she looked at me with a mixture of surprise and disdain and said, loudly, “Coo, Ally! It’s pronounced coo.” Which was her shorthand way of saying: “You, my 4.0, GRE-acing roommate, may think you are smart, and you may in fact soon be heading off to get a Ph.D. at a prestigious Midwestern institution of higher learning, but your lack of common-sense, real-life-useful-knowledge-that-matters is striking. Remarkable, even. Astonishing.
To which I say: I already know that. (But seriously, coo? Like a pigeon coo? I had no idea.) And it’s okay that you smashed my swan. Because I do know what really matters in life, and of course I wouldn’t hold a grudge for all these years over such a small unimportant thing. I can always get another one. Just because I haven’t gotten another foil swan in twenty-two years of frequent dining-out with left-overs doesn’t mean I’m not about to get another one any minute now.
So, yes, it was a deeply formative moment. The “Coo” vs. “Coop” moment, I mean. The Pigeon vs. chicken moment. Not the swan moment. We have let that go. And let us never speak of it again. The formative moment that revealed the vast discrepancy between my book smarts and my street smarts, between my ability to read a word and my ability to correctly pronounce the word, and to then use it in a sentence. Twenty-odd years later, along with a couple more decades of reading more new sophisticated words, and hearing new sophisticated words correctly pronounced on Minnesota Public Radio, yet still failing to put the two together, the chasm remains. Perhaps has even deepened.
Just today, at coffee with a friend, I tried, unsuccessfully to use the word millieu in a sentence. Still not sure of its exact meaning, or pronunciation, but pretty confident I was slightly-to-mostly off on both. (Now that I think about it, it is quite often words that seem to be of French origin that trip me up. Damn Frenchies, and their Au Pairs, which I also am never sure if I’m saying right. Aw Par? Oh Pear? Whatever.)
Well I hope at least one of you readers will benefit from my public service announcement for today, which is this: The word cache is pronounced “cash.” Like money. Like rhymes with “smash” or “bash.” It means “a secure place of storage, or something hidden or stored in a cache,” according to my friend Miriam Webster.
But do not say “ka- shay!” That is only correct if you wish to say cachet, which is an indication of approval, or the state of being respected or admired; prestige. Here is an example.
Being rich … doesn’t have the cachet it used to. –Truman Capote
By the way, don’t get him mixed up with Al Capone. Truman Capote wrote about a real murder in In Cold Blood, and kind of ended up being friends with the murderer, which sounds like it would be a mobster story, but it was Al Capone who was the mafia guy, and who did a lot of different murders. I know, I have done the same thing, thinking I was going to see a film about Al Capone and the story of the book In Cold Blood, which turned out was confusing because you’re like halfway through the movie thinking ‘Why does he seem kind of more like a gay socialite than a mobster?’ and ‘I didn’t know he hung out with Harper Lee? and, wait–What? Also their last names do not rhyme.
Back to the main point, which is cache (without an accent over the e) is pronounced “cash,” like money. And it means a secure place of storage or a hiding place especially for concealing and safekeeping valuables and treasures.
Now, I’m not much of a shopper, but there is also a store that calls itself Cache. Which makes sense, if you go with the “store of treasures” definition. However, guess what? They put a little decoration over the e, so the store is really called Cachè. Or Caché. Or Cachê, Or Cachě.
Do they want to have us pronounce it “ka-shay“?
I think retailers are not always the brightest bulbs, especially fashion retailers, so maybe these people called their store the wrong thing. The mark makes me think you really want your store to be called Cachet! Like, she has a lot of cachet, because she shops at Cachě! If someone feels like calling the store at the Mall of America to see how they answer their phone, maybe we could clear up this mystery. Maybe even interview the clerk about What does the name of your store even mean? And then report back. 1. MALL OF AMERICA, 952-858-9211. Cupcake reward! Or if you prefer,donut reward, from Yo Yo!
One last thing, if you drive by Yorktown mall, across from Target at 70th & York, I believe you will see this or similar signage:
CACIQUE. You might think this word, too is cache or cachet, but again you would be wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. (Smash, smash, smash the swan.) This is not cache. Cacique? Is it not obvious? This is pronounced “ka- seek,” like hide and go seek. I don’t know what they sell at this store, if it is even a store, but Google suggests that it might be something related to a native Indian chief or an area dominated primarily by a Spanish culture. Similar to Chico’s maybe? And again, why Chico’s (which is masculine)? Why not Chica’s? And is it Southwestern style, or Latin American style or American Indian or Mexican or Spanish or Edinan-in-Sanibel-Island-Florida style?
Once again, time to get the kids, so need to wrap up, but one more thing, in case you didn’t know, queue is pronounced “cue” like “pool cue” and there is actually some relationship between cache and queue, in computer language. (Are you now saying cache correctly in your head? One syllable. Rhymes with stash.) Don’t ask me what either word means in computer language, though. My only college C was in MIS 3300 (Management Information Systems). In this particular area, not even book smart. You could ask my bro-in-law, though, he would totally know. Super book smart and street smart, in computers and other real-life things. Even fashion smart, although not so much in his younger days (see crocheted mock-overalls vest in photo below.)