Much like George and Ira Gershwin started the whole “to-may-to” / “to-mah-to”, “po-tay-to” / “po-tah-to” debate back in 1937 with their popular song Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off, (incidentally, the same year that W.S. Stuckey built his first lean-to stand to sell his pecans and pecan candies) we’re going to tackle one the biggest foodie debates going today over the proper pronunciation of “pecan”. Yes, we realize that might be a pretty big task to take on, but we’re Stuckey’s – we know our way around a pecan!

Let’s Go Back to the Start

The pecan’s etymology comes from the Native American “pakani”, though no one can say for sure whether it’s the Illinois, the Algonquians, or the Cree, as they’ve all been credited with the word. Nevertheless, the Franco-Americans were calling it pacane (pronounced “PECK-anne”) by the early 1700s. It later earned its way into the American lexicon of our founding fathers (Thomas Jefferson once gave George Washington some pecans to grown on his Mount Vernon estate) and a little over 244 years later, the correct pronunciation is still up for debate.

In fact, if you go to the American dictionary Merriam-Webster online, you’ll find no less than three ways to pronounce the word:  “pick-AHN”, “pee-CAN”, and “PEE-can”, respectively. It’s the same over at dictionary.com.  As a result, all of this still begs us to question: What really is the correct way to pronounce “pecan”?

It’s Not a Just a Southern Thing

Well, while you may have grown up thinking that the pronunciation was a regional thing where those in the North pronounce it “pik-AHN”, and those in the South, you pronounced it “PEE-can”, research conducted by Dr. Joshua Katz while he was still a doctoral student studying statistics at NC State University suggest otherwise.

Using data collected by Bert Vaux from the University of Cambridge Dr. Katz created interactive dialect maps, one which shows fours different ways Americans pronounce pecans: “pi-KAHN”, “PEE-can”, and “PEE-kahn” and “Other”.

Looking at the pecan pronunciation map above, you can pee-KAHN is the choice of a majority of Americans’ pronunciation of the word; however, there are parts of  Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi where pik-AHN  is the preferred pronunciation while those living in Wisconsin, Michigan and most of the northeastern part of the U.S.  continuing down the Atlantic coast prefer PEE-can.

Additionally, like the “to-may-to” / “to-mah-to” of the early 20th century, the differences in the way we pronounce pecan are not only about where we live, but it is also used as a way to try to identify class difference. To this day, there are Americans who think PEE-can is not as refined or upper-crust as pee-KAHN with its broader a sound. This can be seen in cinema and theater of the early to mid-1900s where the longer a pronunciation in DAH-ling (darling), among other words, is quite prominent.

There is still another school of pronunciation where people will pronounce  it pick-AHN when talking about the nut on its own, but if  they’re covering a log roll in sweet, nutty goodness, or there are mix inside a deliciously divine confectionary then they pronounce it as a PEE-can log roll or PEE-can  divinity.

Still the question of how to pronounce pecan properly remains, so perhaps we should leave the answer to the experts.

 Pecan Professional Posits Pecan Pronunciation

When Alexander Ott, the Executive Director over at the American Pecan Council, was asked why he thought that Americans are so diverse in their pronunciation of pecan, Mr. Ott said that he thinks it’s because pecans are “grown in so many different places—15 states from coast to coast.” When pressed on what he believed was the correct pronunciation, he said he welcomes all pronunciations and doesn’t really care which one they use, as long as people keep eating them, he’s happy.

We tend to agree with Mr. Ott. Just like “to-may-to” / “to-mah-to” and “po-tay-to” / “po-tah-to” (and, really, have you ever heard anyone at all pronounce it “po-tah-to“?), it doesn’t really matter to us if you pronounce it “pi-KAHN”, “PEE-can”, and “PEE-kahn” or “Other” –  we’ll still have our delicious PEE-can log rolls and PEE-can Divinity among many of our other PEE-can candies waiting for you at any of our Stuckey’s locations.  You can even choose our bags of pi-KAHNs available in a wide variety of flavors including Toasted and Salted, Honey Roasted, or Vanilla Bourbon all at a Stuckey’s location near you.

No Stuckey’s near you? That’s okay. We’ve been mailing Stuckey’s pecan rolls and other fine pecan candies, along with other Stuckey’s merchandise to our customer’s homes for years and we can do the same for you today. Visit stuckeys.com for more information.