Sunday, July 8, 2007

Tawkin' Right

July 8

Having posted yesterday on Pecan Bars, and referring to Ina Garten's demonstration of her recipe on Food TV, I omitted a pet peeve -- the mispronunciation of the word "pecan."

I grew up in Alabama, and I never heard it pronounced any way but "puh-cahn," with the accent on the second syllable. Occasionally we had to straighten out a Yankee who came to town, obviously one who'd only read the word and never heard it. They tended to say something that sounded strangely like pee-can, offensive in the utmost to our delicate ears, but amusing, perhaps, to four-year-old boys.

Until Paula Deen, who has an accent I find delightfully authentic. I have actually heard her defend her pronunciation, "pee-can," and tell people that she grew up in pee-can country and that's the way it's pronounced! Even Ina Garten believed her!

Well, I'm sorry. I lived in Atlanta for a few years, but have not spent much time in rural Georgia -- but I can testify that in Alabama and Mississippi, also pecahn country, I never heard it said the way she does, by a local. Never. I wouldn't even say it's a controversy. I have no doubt of Paula's authentic roots, and otherwise her Southern accent is impeccable. But I am flabbergasted if it's true that her Mamma and Grandmamma 'nem all pronouced the word that way.

So let me make this recommendation to all who inquire. Puh-cahn is the way to say the word. It's a delicious nut, so let's give it the respect it deserves. It just plain sounds better that way.


Anonymous said...

When I lived in Charleston, SC, they said it pee-can, too.

Charleston, South Freaking Carolina!

I was stunned.

Restless Native

Mary Lois said...

I Googled "how to pronounce pecan" and got tons of opinions. One article from the Pecan Growers of America said that in the South 45 per cent of people said "pee-can" but in the rest of the country it was pretty much 50 - 50 puhkahn to peecan. Wonder what part of the South was polled!

Some said they usually said pee-can unless they wanted to be pretentious. Others said a pee can was what they kept under the bed for emergencies.

I stick by my original opinion.

Southern Boy said...

Looks like I gotta help you folks out. If pah-kahns were grown in the north, I'd let you yankees have a half stake in pronunciation rights, but since they ain't, you got nothing to say about how the word 'pecan' is pronounced.

As far as what the Pecan Growers of America has to say about the pronunciation, their position ain't worth a tadpole tail. Them folk are filled with yankees who wanted to get away from that god awful northern weather and moved south, and got in the business of planting pecan orchards.

You don't see us southerners wanting to change how 'cranberries' is pronounced to 'crawnburries, do you? No, so butt out and let me enjoy my pecan pralines, pronounced pah-kahn prawleens, not pee-can prayleens, that tasty, but not 'pecially good for you candy for which New Orleans is noted for. By the way, that's Nawlans, not New Orleens. When yawl gonna get it rat?

Meade Skelton said...

I'm from Virginia, and I have always said Puh-cahn. I think Pee Can is hilarious, though! And I was shocked when I heard fellow Southerner Paul Deen utter Pee-Can on National TV !

Mary Lois said...

I can't believe that Paula Deen defends that pronunciation, but she does. But, Meade, you and I (and about 50 million others) know better.