Against all odds, the impeccably posh British chef Nigella Lawson has emerged as the main character on Twitter today. Not for any wrong-doing or cancelable offenses, though—merely for her particular pronunciation of the word “microwave.”
A clip from Lawson’s latest BBC 2 series, Nigella’s Cook, Eat, Repeat, made the rounds this morning, especially on the American Internet. Lawson is preparing what appears to be something like mashed potatoes, when she picks up a cup of warm milk to add a bit of fat to the dish. She informs viewers that she’s warmed it up in the microwave, but pronounces it something like “mee-cro-wavey.” It’s almost as if she’s made it rhyme with the correct pronunciation of the fashion label “Loewe” (loe-AY-vay, fyi).
It quickly went viral.
“Nigella Lawson saying ‘Microwave’ like this has made my Christmas already,” wrote user @EtceteraWithEst, the original uploader of the clip that has now clocked in over 1.1 million views.
The Internet ran with it, many comparing it to John Travolta’s unique pronunciation of the name Idina Menzel at the 2014 Oscars ceremony.
While some were just overjoyed by the silliness of it all, others seemed to take it as evidence that Lawson is comically out of touch.
It’s not hard to see why. First of all, many Americans tend to view Brits as refined and upperclass (at least, Americans who have never seen the original Love Island). There’s also the matter that most food personalities, regardless of country of origin, tend to shy away from using the microwave, the humble appliance of choice for the busy proletariat.
Add to that Lawson’s general vibe. She's better known in the United Kingdom, but has appeared on enough American television to leave some sort of impression. Her voice even guest starred on an episode of ABC’s Modern Family—though the joke was that it was an incredibly posh and sultry voice. She’s descended from British political power on one side and food industry power on the other, and she’s the ex-wife of Charles Saatchi, perhaps London’s most powerful contemporary art collector. She’s carved out such a specific cultural niche that she’s one of the few chefs to have ever appeared on the cover of an international edition of Vogue.
So it’s easy to see her pronunciation of the word as some sort of upper crust British peculiarity. These are the people who insist on calling cookies “biscuits,” and refer to trucks as “lorries.”
Alas, as Lawson confirmed on Twitter, it’s just a little “camp” inside joke.
As it turns out, she just likes to pronounce it that way for the same reason American mothers love to refer to Target as Tarjé. It’s just fun.