American English Pronunciation: How do you say Pecan?

Do you say “pu-KAHN”, “pe-KAHN”, or “PEE-can”? The latter reminds me of an emergency restroom substitute — but I digress.

I only mention the pronunciation of pecan because today is Pecan Day. Did you know that the pecan is the only nut tree native to North America? Or that the name pecan comes from an Algonquin word meaning “nuts requiring a stone to crack”? Or that eating pecans could improve your love life? No kidding — I learned all these wonderful facts and more from the National Pecan Shellers Association.

But what I did not learn was the official American English pronunciation of the word pecan.

In honor of Pecan Day today, I decided to take a survey to see if we can figure out where the different English pronunciations of the word pecan originated. It’s a highly debated topic, and one that doesn’t appear to have a definitive answer. The major dictionaries list more than one pronunciation, though “pu-kahn” is listed first and seems to be the most widely accepted.

Does it depend on which American accent you have? Some say the split between “pu-kahn” and “pee-can” falls on the Mason-Dixon line, but my research so far says not. Though many southerners say “pu-kahn” and many from the Northeast say “pee-can”, it isn’t consistent. One theory I read suggested that people from more rural areas, regardless of location, say “pee-can”, while those from larger cities say “pu-kahn”. Another said that the accepted pronunciation has changed over time. So, has it changed? Do you pronounce pecan differently from your parents or grandparents?

Here’s your chance to contribute to some unscientific but fun research:

Tell us where you grew up, whether it was a small town or larger city, and how you pronounce pecan. If you pronounce it differently from other family members, tell us that too. If you learned English as a second language, tell us whether or not your English teachers were native speakers and if you know where they grew up. Invite your friends to participate as well; the more responses we get, the more accurate the results will be. I’ll post a summary of the results in a few days.

Happy Pecan Day!

Remember to tell us about your American English pronunciation of pecan in the comments below.

Note: When this post was originally published, there was one comment:

  • 9/23/2010 4:07 PM buttercup1 wrote: I’m currently in the Niagara Region of Ontario, and almost everyone here says PEE-can 🙂 I was actually surprised.