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Is it chile or chili to describe peppers?

By Judy E. Hamilton, Staff writer

It’s a hot debate regarding the spelling and meaning of “chile” or “chili” in reference to peppers.

According to the Los Angeles Times’ stylebook, ‘Chile’ is the country in South America, but ‘chile,’ with a lower case letter c, is the pepper.

The plural is ‘chiles,’ and ‘chili’ is the dish consisting of beef, chiles, etc.

Got that so far?

The Associated Press Stylebook — which the Charleston Gazette follows — states:

“Chile: The nation.

“chili, chilies: The peppers.”

In the American Southwest, the stew is spelled ‘chile’ and the peppers are ‘chile,’ as well. This may be due to the Spanish heritage of the region preferring the original word to the anglicized word ‘chili.’

To make matters more confusing, The Oxford English Dictionary gives ‘chilli” as the primary usage with ‘chile’ and ‘chili’ are variants.

The Webster’s New International Dictionary prefers ‘chili.’

Some food writers would like for the word ‘Capsicum’ — which refers to the plant on which the peppers are grown — or ‘pepper’ to be used.

Only one thing seems certain — the debate will continue.


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