It’s a hot debate: chile vs. chili

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In Mark Magnier’s Column One article Thursday, he wrote about the “ghost chile” of northeast India – considered the world’s hottest pepper.

But it wasn’t the spice that made readers uncomfortable – it was the spelling of “chile.”

“I have never seen the pepper spelled with an ‘e’ rather than an ‘i,’ and I am sure that this was an error,” wrote Julie May of Los Angeles.

And Judith Perles emailed: “Please tell Mr. Mark Magnier about the difference between chili and Chile. Chili gives you an ulcer, although Chile, the country west of Argentina, could give it to you too in a different way. P.S. I am not from Chile, and I don’t even eat chili con carne!”


However, Magnier (and his editors) were simply following The Times’ stylebook, which explains it this way:

Chile: The country in South America. Lowercase, it is the pepper; plural is chiles.

chili: The dish consisting of beef, chiles, etc.

Of course, this matter is confused by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The band apparently didn’t consult the stylebook.

--Deirdre Edgar

Top left: Chile peppers growing in Santa Ana. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times.

Top right: A bowl of chili. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

Bottom: The Red Hot Chili Peppers performing in 2010. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times.