You Say "To-may-to", I Say "To-mah-to"

Pronunciation is a funny thing, and I seem to have provided plenty of humour on the subject over the last few days. Obviously the way I pronounce things is the correct way, but it still causes sniggers, giggles and belly-laughs wherever I go in this fine country.

The farmers market on Sunday provided a plethora of sniggering opportunities; there was the titular “to-may-to” / “to-mah-to”, buying a huge amount of basil (“bay-sul” / “baz-ul”), and the very confusing, you say “arugula”, I say “rocket”. OK, so that’s not quite the same thing.

Today, yogurt was discussed, not only spelled differently in the UK (yoghurt), but also pronounced yog-ut, again leading to giggles all around.

Last week I ordered a banana nut bagel, that’s right, a “bu-nah-na nut bagel”, causing delighted guffaws. Now bananas are where I draw the line (everyone: “that’s what she said”). I sometimes remember to go with bay-sul and to-may-to, but I just can’t do bananas. It’s just plain wrong. If you’re reading this with an American accent, try a little experiment: out loud, do your best English accent, as always pulling it from your Hugh Grant/Emma Thompson vault. Now say, “Oh my gosh, is that a banana in your pocket, or are you just bloody pleased to see me?”, but use your version of “banana”. You see, it just sounds stupid. So “bu-nah-na” it remains.

The above examples are obviously products of colloquialism; but we also have poor pronunciation as a product of stupidity, when people say things like:

  • Espresso – “Ex-presso” – please people, give me a frickin’ break. This one is so damn easy it’s not funny. Where is the ‘x’ in espresso? Tell me? If you can’t find an ‘x’ in a word, don’t pronounce an ‘x’ you daft muppets.
  • Lackadaisical – “Lack-sa-daisical” – again, where are we pulling this new letter from? This should be Pronunciation 101.
  • Nuclear – “Nuc-u-lar” – we have a “nu” and a “clear”, put them together and we have….???

My favorite though, came this evening at dinner. I was sitting at the bar in a restaurant, and the guy next to me ordered his food. He ordered the steak frites. That’s right, the “steak frights”. Is he scared of the steak he’s ordering? The steak arrived, and his colleagues asked him what he had ordered. It had now changed to “steak fritz”, the very common German dish.

And the irony of it all? It turns out that he had asked to replace the frites for mashed potatoes.

I say “po-tay-to”, you say “fritz”. Let’s call the whole thing off.


~ by eddie on October 15, 2007.

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