I’m sure many of you have wondered, as I have, what the “correct” pronunciation of Pinochet’s family name is. Well, Eric Bakovic has not only wondered, he’s thoroughly researched it, and this post on Phonoloblog (a follow-up to his earlier Language Log post) has everything you will ever need to know on the subject. Short answer: you can pretty much say it however you like and be correct (in the sense that there are Chileans who say it like that). There are northern dialects in Chile where ch is realized as [š], but more important is the social element; Bakovic quotes a Slate Explainer article by Daniel Engber as follows:
The confusion starts with the ch sound, which can serve as a marker of social class in Chilean Spanish. In educated speech, the Spanish ch is similar to the English pronunciation, as in the word chess. But popular dialect turns the ch into something more like sh. A high-class Chilean would probably pronounce the country’s name as “chee-lay,” while someone with less status might say “shee-lay.” Likewise, the same two people might describe the ex-dictator as “pee-no-chay” and “pee-no-shay.” …
It gets more complicated with the final t. As a general rule, the whole syllable—”chet”—should be spoken aloud. But in casual conversation, Chileans tend to drop the final sound. Someone who pronounced Pinochet as “pee-no-chet” would be correct, but he’d also be speaking in a formal (and perhaps a bit uppity) tone. On the other hand, some Chileans are inclined to use the French pronunciation of Pinochet, since the name is of French Basque origin. In that case, they’d drop the t and go back to “pee-no-shay” or “pee-no-chay.”
Finally, there are those who forgo the other options in favor of the somewhat-derogatory nickname “Pinocho.” When graffiti artists scrawl Pinochet’s name, they sometimes render it as “Pin” alongside the number eight, or “ocho” in Spanish. Thus, “Pinocho.”
Chileans point out that however you say the name, you’re unlikely to be corrected. … It wouldn’t be awkward for two people to have a long discussion about the ex-dictator using two different pronunciations.
How did Pinochet himself say it? Three different sources told the Explainer they knew or remembered how the general or his family pronounced the name. And they gave three conflicting answers. You can hear Pinochet utter his own name two seconds into this video clip from 1980—it sounds a lot like “pee-no-chay.” If you’ve come across another audio or video clip in which Pinochet or a member of his family pronounces the name, please send it to the Explainer.
Bakovic points out that it’s not actually all that clear how he’s saying it in that video because the sound quality is so poor, and also that “Pinochet’s Wikipedia entry says his father was a ‘descendant of Breton immigrants who arrived in Chile during the 18th century’, and Brittany’s quite a way from the Basque country.” Final -t is pronounced in Breton, for what that’s worth, but I’d love to get the actual etymology of the name if anyone knows it.
Bakovich goes on to provide much more information about South American dialects (in particular, my beloved porteño); I recommend the whole post to your attention.