Illustration: Florie Duhau

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Yes!, It's pronounced "fuh"—a slightly rolling "uh" sound, as in "fur" without the r, or almost exactly like the French word for fire, feu. And sure enough, the French feu is usually considered to be the origin of the word. Many linguists trace the beginnings of "phở" back to Hanoi of the 1860s under French colonial rule, and perhaps to pot-au-feu ("pot on the fire"), the name for a classic Burgundian beef stew made with vegetables.

Before then, the Vietnamese rarely ate beef, but with the French, it became a major food item (although phở can also be made with chicken, called phở ga). The Vietnamese added noodles to the "pot" and then chopped off the "pot-au" from the classic French dish's name, and thus, a new all-Vietnamese classic was created. But others (particularly in China) trace the origins of "phở" to the beef-eating Chinese, with a Chinese word for noodles, fen, transmogrifying to "fuh" in Vietnamese. Whatever the origins, at least everyone agrees on one thing: It's not pronounced "fo."