THE PECAN PRONUNCIATION RESULTS (PPR) are HERE:
From Tim Badger:
I found the comments from
Jeff Jones about the pronunciation of pecan interesting and opposite of my
experience. My wife's family is from southern Mississippi, where they
pronounce the word as "peh-KAHN". My golfing buddy is from the Savannah,
Georgia area and pronounces the word
as "PEE-can". I'm originally from New England and grew up saying "PEE-can".
I really enjoy TOWFI.
From Todd Augsburger:
Here in northwest central Ohio, I was firmly taught be
my mother to say "pee-KAHN". My wife's family does the same. But not "puh-"
anything--where does that come from!
As a kid, I always mentally associated the "PEE-kahn" pronunciation with
Pekinese, which sounded the same to me, and seemed illegitimate "as a dog
breed" as well. (Our dogs were big farm animals.) Of course, I also spent a
lot of time down at the "crick" (creek) when my "fokes" (folks) allowed--but
that was mostly because of my "daddy's" influence.
Thanks for again providing something worth reading!
I grew up in Boston, and as best I can recall people
there pronounce it "PEE-kan". I've lived in southern Ohio for years
now, and here it's pronounced "puh-KAHN".
From David Finfrock:
I agree with Melanie. I was born in Mississippi and
since age seven have lived in Texas. No rational Texan would say anything
other than puh-KAHN. A PEE-kan is what we used as young children in the back
seat of the Ford station wagon when we were traveling cross-country and my
father wouldn't stop at the rest areas.
From a reader:
My grandfather grew and sold puh-KAHNs on the
Alabama-Mississippi border just west of Mobile
starting in the late 30's. He lived there from the 20's, but he was born in
Texas. Some of my relatives raised in the Mobile-Biloxi area seemed to be
saying B'cawns. I seem to remember that PEE-can pie was as common as puh-KAHN
pie, but one always cracked puh-KAHNs to make a pie.
In 1979 or 1980, in Tallahassee, someone from rural north-central Florida
said, "A PEE-can is a Georgia toilet." Most of the people in that discussion
were from north or central Florida, mostly females aged 18-20, and (as I
recall) all but one of them agreed that puh-KAHN was the proper
pronunciation. Interestingly, everyone agreed that puh-CANN was a correct
Tallahassee has a Talpeco (Tahl-PEE-coh) Road, which used to be the central
driveway for the Tallahassee Pecan Company, but the nut is nearly always
pronounced puh-KAHN "except by some people from up north." North of us is
My husband grew up in a small town outside Savannah Georgia in the 50's and
60's. He says PEE-Can at least 90% of the time. His family and townspeople
say PEE-can nearly all of the time.
Well, I was raised in Brooklyn NY - but dad was from
all over the South, mostly West Virginia - we always pronounced it
"pee-KAHN." We moved to upstate NY when I was 10 - and it was
pronounced the same way there . . . really good issue by the by!
From a reader
I asked on a couple of loops. Here's the first slug of
Angela of South Carolina says: Pee-Can.
Aryn of Southern California says: I say it PEE-can, but if I read it on
paper then it's puh-KAWN.
Leslie of Louisiana says: Anyone who says PEE-can down in these parts gets
directions to the toilet. :lol: It's PAH-KHAN in every place I've
lived (except the Northeast, which said WALNUT -- hehe). I've lived in
Texas, LA, FL and family in MS, AR, GA, NC. So at least MY family and
friends from those areas call it PAH-KAHN (same as for pies). I imagine
since pecans are grown in the south, it should be pronounced however they
say it is from that region. In LA since we're kind of famous for pralines (PRAW-LEENZ)
and crawfish (CRAW-FISH), you can imagine the irritation we feel when we
hear ppl call them PRAY-LEENZ and CRAY-FISH. ;-)
Kathy of Arkansas says: What Leslie said. If someone around here said
PEE-CAN, they'd get laughed right out of the county. One exception on her
statement. We don't have crawfish; we have crawdads.
Sylvia from Arkansas says: If you say ya'll, you say puh-kahn. Same for
tree, nut and pie. I'm past 70, grew up in Ark, lived one year in
Calif, five in Alabama, and the rest in Texas. I never heard
a Southerner say pee-can... or say ya'll when meaning one person, despite
the movies and TV. Interesting, hope you get lots of replies.
Charlaine from Mississippi says: I grew up in Mississippi, and we laughed
when we heard people say PEE-can. It was Puh-CAHN for us, any time we said
Cynthia of South Alabama says: I grew up as far south as you can
get--Mobile, Alabama--I have always said puh-KAHN pie, and crack puh-KAHNS,
but, heck, I just do that cause it's the
way my family says it--people are always so different. I grew up in the 80s,
graduated in the 90s...
Diane, from Gainesville Florida (but raised by a Canadian father), says:
Alex in England says: We might get a PAY-can from up north. Or a Peeeeeeee-can
from Cornwall. “Up north” means Northumberland, Newcastle-ish.
B in North Florida says: North Florida raised, North Georgia born and always
say Puhcahn for the nut and Peecan for the pie. Not sure why!
Jenna from Philadelphia says: When I lived in Philadelphia, I always heard
PEE-can. Then I moved to Durham, NC, and everyone around here says puh-KAHN,
for both the pie and the nuts. I pretty much alternate which one I use
because they both sound right to me. I'd make a generalization that the
second pronunciation is more Southern.
Debra of Southern California says: In Southern California, I say pee-kahn.
Zee from California says: I’m with Billy Crystal: PEEEE-CAN pie! Okay, I'm a
third generation native Californian -- and we have NO accent. Fer shure.
Cate, from Atlanta, Georgia, says: PuhKahn.
Kathy of Texas says: I say puh-kahn for both the pie and the nut. I've lived
in Texas all my life. (born 1956). My father was raised on a Pecan farm and
this is how he was always said it too.
Charlotte, of Ontario, says: I say Pa (sort of a silent 'a', like in a soft
'p') Kahn, for both the pie and the nut, but I know that's gonna sound
weird you to guys. I'm Canadian, live in Ontario and both my parents have
thick Scottish brogues so I tend to say some words weird. I was born in
Leigh, from New York, says: Always have pronounced it PEE-can. Same for nut
and pie. I grew up in New York, but now live in Los Angeles.
Terri of New Jersey says: Here in my part of the world, no matter what we
are doing with the nuts, they're Pee-CANS. I would be laughed out of north
Jersey if I said puh-KAHN. Not to mention they might mistake me for a Red
Sox fan. ;)
Larissa from Oregon says: Heh. Actually, I say it a third way--it's a
combination of the two. PEE-kahn. (not can) And that's the only way I say it
for both pie and nut. I've never had an argument w/anyone over the
pronunciation, and I was born and raised in Oregon, where mostly people say
puh-kahn. I think I developed the third pronunciation because I've spent a
lot of time with southerners, who tend to say PEE-can. And I was born in
Elizabeth from Oregon says: Raised in Oregon (Hi Larissa!!) but lived all my
adult life in Europe and have been contaminated by the Brits after living
many many years as an honorary Brit in Brussels, so we’re talking odd
background. But have been a professional interpreter for 30 years so can’t
afford many mispronunciations and instinctively I’d say PEE-kan for the nut
and Peh-KAHN pie. Then again I’m such a linguistic mongrel…
Tyler from Arizona says: Isn't that interesting? I never thought about that
or even noticed the difference. I say PEE-can pie, but if I'm cracking
pecans, I say pi-CANS (short i). I'm pretty much from Arizona.
Gerda from Southern Wisconsin says: I say "pee-KAHN" when I'm talking about
the nut. But I change I say it "PEE-kahn pie". The "ee" will naturally be a
bit shorter when the emphasis is on the
"KAHN". It's actually an odd word. Whenever I say it I have a vague feeling
that I'm saying it wrong, which was true even back when I was growing up in
southern Wisconsin in the 50's and 60's. (born 1954). I'm from southern
Wisconsin (28 years), but have lived in California, Masschusetts and upstate
New York since then. I'm not really sure how it's said around here.
Gina of Long Island says: Long Island always has to be different.
Ann, of the Texas Gulf Coast, says: I say pi-cans like Tyler, but for all
instances. Never, ever PEE-can with a nasal "can". I'm a native Texan,
Gulf Coast variety. For some reason, I've always thought Southeasterners
said PEE-can, but I don't know why.
Mary Anne, from the south, says: I grew up in - and have always lived in -
southern states. My life span crosses too many decades to talk about. I
don't know anyone personally who says PEE-can, when referring to pie or
anything else. I've heard strangers say it and I've heard it on TV and in
movies, but it sounds wrong - even comical - to me.
IHE from Michigan says: I'm from Michigan, and I mostly say puh-Kahn. I
really try to avoid saying it altogether. For the pie, I sometimes say
Pee-can, but it's sort of in a silly way- exaggerating my husband's Texas
M from Southwest Georgia says: Growing up in South Georgia, all I ever heard
was "pee-can". Except for the reporters on the local news who wanted you to
think that their education was a
little more Harvard and a little less Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.
On the whole though, I think it's a regional thing. In Southwest Georgia
where I was raised, we mostly say "pee-can". In Middle Georgia and North
Florida, they say "puh-kahn". I always used the argument though that one
doesn't open a "kahn" of beans. They open a "can".
Alice from NY, CT and CA says: Pie and nut the same: pee-KAN. Born
1948, lived in NY, CT, CA.
Tina from Ohio and Arizona says: I say PEE-Kan and I live in Arizona. But my
entire family says it that way and they are from Ohio.
Brenda of Nevada says: (Which, btw, is Neh-va-da. One does not say the
middle "a" with an "open up and say aah...."sound, as though you were
receiving a throat exam. And the final "da" is the way the Irish say
Dad. "Da.") Pee-kahn.
Jennifer in South Florida says: After When Harry Met Sally... I can only say
Faith, from 50 miles SW of Atlanta, says: Puh kahn. We tend to drawl it out.
Definitely, my one side of my
people are from Louisiana and Texas. They say "PEE-cahn." My friends from
the Northeast, and from Cali, say "peh-CAHN." Never met an exception to this
in my near four decades on earth.
I grew up in Oklahoma
and I always pronounced it puh-KAHN.
I'm from Minnesota, and
we say something like"pee-KAHNS" or "puh-KAHNS- depends on the person - I've
More from a Reader:
Cialo from eastern Minnesota says: I grew up in
eastern Minnesota, and it's been pee-kahn
for me, for both nut and pie. I had to read your question carefully to
understand it; never really been in a debate about that before. Now,
Bah-sil and Bay-zil (basil) on the other hand...
Clarification by New Jersey Terri: PeeKANN
May, from South Africa, says: I'm originally from South Africa and we say
peecan, which is also the way I heard them pronounce it while I was in
England. Living now in Calgary, I had an argument with the local ice
cream parlour - I asked for butter peecan and he wouldn't give it to me
unless I pronounced it "correctly". When I refused he tried to tell me that
all 1st language English speakers pronounced it that way - well I'm a first
language English speaker too but he would not believe me. My husband was
rolling on the floor that I would have a standup argument and not just
humour the guy to get my icecream. Having emigrated, I find that I hang on
to "my" language pronunciation and spelling much more than I would ever have
Darragha of the Pacific Northwest says: PEE-KAHN.
Kim of Ontario says: PEE-can.
Patrice from Charlotte, North Carolina, says: I say PEE KHAN pie and PEE
KHANs for the nut.
LOL...I'm a mix of BOTH of your examples. I grew up in Charlotte, North
Carolina. (I'm an 80s
girl *g*)Nope, I've never argued the pronunciation of pecan...but don't get
me started on the word WRESTLE.
Lynne of Georgia says: I've lived in Georgia all my life, and I've heard it
pronounced three ways: puh-KAHN, PEE-kahn, and PEE-can. I pronounce it the
second way. About half of my family members pronounce it the first way, and
the rest use the second. Some people who live here pronounce it the third
way, but in my experience, these folks are typically not native Georgians. I
was born in Newnan and lived there and in Franklin until I was eighteen.
From 1981 to 1983, I attended Berry
College in Rome. In 1983, I transferred to Georgia Tech, and I've lived in
the Atlanta area ever since. Some Georgians use puh-KAHN and PEE-kahn
interchangeably, depending on their mood at the time. The third
pronunciation is unusual enough, at least in the rural (okay, semi-rural
nowadays) areas just west and south of Atlanta, that you'll see native
Georgians giving each other the "They must not be from around here" look if
someone pronounces "pecan" that way.
Barbara from Pennsylvania says: I'm from Pennsylvania and I say PEE-can in
all usages of the word. However, the word creek is pronounced as "crick"
except when it's part of a town's or proper
name, then it's pronounced as "creak." Thus, the town Mill Creek is
pronounced as Mill "Creak" instead of Mill "Crick". Regional dialects have
always interested me.
Gail of Texas says: Texan child of Texans. PEE-can is a can of peas. Period.
I remember watching a wonderfully romantic movie about historic Cajuns (give
me a minute, and I'll remember who was in it) with their lovely French-ish
accents, and they said pe-cohn with a very very French accent, nasalizing
the N. And I think that's why Texans and folks west tend to say pi-CON.
Because it's filtered through that French pronunciation. And yeah, I spent a
lot of my childhood picking up pecans off the ground and cracking them two
together in my hands... Armand Assante! That's who was in the movie,
Belizaire the Cajun. Lovely lovely romantic movie.
Rickey of Mississippi says: Okay, in Mississippi it's --puh-KAHN and by the
way --- it's PRAW-leens, not Pray-leens and CRAWfish not CRAYfish.
Louis from metro Tampa, Florida, says: Puh-KAHN for the nut, PEE-can pie
Carol from Monticello, Florida, says: I grew up saying PEE-can, but when I
went up North I learned to say puh-KAHN.
Mary from Mississippi says: Pee-KAHN
Courtney from Gainesville, Florida, says: PEE-kahn
Shirley of South Louisiana says: Puh-KAHN
Shirley from Memphis, Tennessee, says: Puh-KAHN
Robert of extreme SW Georgia says: 90% of the people say PEE-can. The
PEE-can. I always say puh-KAHN. I don’t ever say “ain’t,” either.
Paula of Albany, Georgia, says: PEE-can
Norm from the Bronx, New York, says: PEE-kahn for the nut, puh-KAHN pie
Katrina from Lake City, Florida, says: PEE-can
Nancy from central Ohio says: Puh-KAHN or peh-KAHN
Kelly, who first heard of them in Tallahassee, Florida, says: Puh-KAHN
Barbara, from small-town Jasper, Florida, says: PEE-can
Kristi of Jacksonville, Florida, says: PEE-can
Carole, from South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia, says: PEE-can
I'm a native southerner, 60 years old, born in North
Carolina. I've lived there and in Virginia for almost all my life, with a
couple of years in D.C., and in the north, travelled a lot too. I'm with the
puh-KAHN is southern tribe, But -- an important but -- all my life I have
heard the more country among us in piedmont NC, mountains of NC, and
southern Virginia say PEE-can (and charge that puh-KAHN Pronouncers are
putting on airs).
I had relatives in Alabama and Georgia, including a -- hmm, what . . .
cousin in-law -- who raised puh-KAHNS, and the all pronounced the
word thus; i.e., correctly :) .
I’ve lived my whole life in Chicago and the North
suburbs of Chicago; and while I’ve heard people from this area say all the
variations you’ve listed, the way I’ve always pronounced it, and most of the
people I know who are from this area pronounce it (other than those with
that distinctive “Chicago accent”) is “puh-KHAN”.
I was born in Arkansas, learned to talk while living
in Texas (taught by my native Arkansan parents, though), and was educated
entirely in Louisiana, where I have lived for the last 35 years. I visit
relatives in various parts of Arkansas several times a year. I live now just
a few miles from the Mississippi border, and so I frequently visit that
state, as well. Everyone I know says puh-KAHN, except those with the
New Orleans accent know locally as "Yat"--they say puh-KAWN (rhymes with
"lawn"). If I hear PEE-can, I know I am dealing with a foreigner.
P.S. As to my Southern bona fides, I do not eat instant grits nor do I put
sugar in my cornbread.
Regarding the pronunciation of pecan, I was born and
raised in central and south Mississippi of parents from Arkansas and
Tennessee. We all said "puh-KAHN" as did every local person I can remember
from school and work. We always thought that only Yankees said "PEE-kan" -
just as the tourist who was asked if he wanted grits said he would try one.
Good work on your website.
My name is Mandi and I just recently found your site -
very neat. I have lived in a little town in northeast Georgia all of my life
and have always heard pecan pronounced PEE-can. I, however always found it
not to my liking and have adopted the pronunciation, "peh-KAHN." For the
record though, I have been known to cook and eat instant grits, my biscuits
are not that great and I really hate fried green tomatoes.
It's puh-KAHN. I'm from South Carolina... well
actually I was born in Texas, and have lived in the Southeast all my life
(other than about 9 years in Tennessee, which *isn't* southern... where they
say PEE-kan.) One of my college friends is from Ohio. She would say PEE-kan.
I always had to stifle myself to keep from laughing. ;) Pee pee can anyone?
Being a native Virginian whose neighbors and friends
included words like "spargus" in their culinary vocabularies and whose
parents grew up in southern New Jersey but spent many of their adult years
in southern Georgia, I can say with authority that pecan is pronounced "pic-KAHN".
puh-KAHN - Me, all of my relatives in Texas, and
Northeast La. and all of my friends, except the yankee ones who say PEE-kan.
Our Nawlins relative say pih-KAAAHN
I thought I would share my anecdotal evidence for the
pronunciation of "pecan". I grew up in East Alabama; my mother is from
Mobile. She says puh-KAHN. I have heard this pronunciation widely used in
Mobile. I currently live in South Georgia, where the prevailing
pronunciation is without a doubt PEE-KAN, with a secondary stress on the
last syllable. My kinfolk in North Florida also unfailingly say PEE-KAN.
I have never heard a native Southerner say PEE-kan, with no stress at all on
the last syllable. I usually find myself using PEE-KAN, unless I'm in a
setting where I'm self-conscious about my speech, and then I fall back to
puh-KAHN, which seems to have more a sense of gentility.
I would love to hear more reports from the Gulf Coast, as compared to other
regions of the south.
Thanks for a great Site!
I grew up in South Louisiana and have lived in
Southeast Texas for almost 20 years. My kin and I all say "puh-KAHN". In
fact, in all my 46 years, I have not heard a true southerner say PEE-kan!
It's definitely a northern affectation.
From Obed Odom:
I was born and raised in North Louisiana and I agree with you completely
about the pronunciation of pecan, discussed in issue 204, page 4, of
TOWFI. Everyone in the South that I know pronounces it puh-KAHN. I don't
know what part of the South Jeff Jones comes from, but it must not have been
Louisiana or Texas. Maybe in Georgia they say PEE-can, but I can tell you
that in Louisiana people at all socioeconomic levels say puh-KAHN!
From Chris Malone:
I have always heard pecan pronounced "puh-KAHN" here in Houston, Texas
except by an elderly friend from Georgia who pronounced it "PEE-kan."