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Let's Call The Whole Thing Off
July 2, 2006 12:42 PM   Subscribe

Which accent or dialect commonly pronounces "pot-tay-to" as "poh-tah-to"?

Yes, exactly like in the song "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off". I say "to-mah-to", all Canadians and Americans I've met say "to-may-to", but I pronounce "po-tay-to" in exactly the same way, and, thinking about it, I have never heard anyone say "po-tah-to" outside of that song. Not once.

Is it just a conceit for the song?
posted by Jon Mitchell to Society & Culture (12 answers total)
 
Yes -- the rest of the lyrics of the song make it clear it's a conceit.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 12:43 PM on July 2, 2006


I say tomato, you say tummytoe
posted by Robot Johnny at 12:52 PM on July 2, 2006


My 82-year-old landlady, who is of upper-crust New England Republican stock, says "to-MAH-to" but not "po-TAH-to." For whatever that's worth.
posted by Dr. Wu at 12:55 PM on July 2, 2006


Nobody says "potahto," not even Dan Quayle.

I find people who say "tomahto" are also likely to say "adVERtisment" (instead of "adverTISEment") and probably "vahze" instead of "vase."
posted by La Cieca at 2:38 PM on July 2, 2006


Midland Irish accents are heavily influenced by Gaelic and tend to use the open back unrounded vowel [ɑ] for "a", instead of the more commonly encountered (in English, anyway), the monopthong [eʲ]. This pronounciation can often carry over in daily English usage.
posted by meehawl at 2:52 PM on July 2, 2006


Hmm. I'm Australian with a terrible strine accent (eh mite?) and i said tom-ah-to, vahze and adVERTisement. I also say pot-ay-to.
posted by b33j at 3:02 PM on July 2, 2006


the rest of the lyrics of the song make it clear it's a conceit.

Really? Can you be more explicit? I've heard the song a zillion times and never got that from it.
posted by languagehat at 4:08 PM on July 2, 2006


I knew an Indian (as in from the subcontinent) girl who would say "to-mah-to" and "po-tah-to." However, I can't say that I've heard other Indians doing the same.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:55 PM on July 2, 2006


the rest of the lyrics of the song make it clear it's a conceit.

Really? Can you be more explicit? I've heard the song a zillion times and never got that from it.


"So, if you go for oysters and I go for ersters
I'll order oysters and cancel the ersters."

That seems pretty over the top to me. Also, educated fleas do not fall in love.
posted by bendybendy at 9:58 PM on July 2, 2006


That was the only other pronunciation in the song which gave me serious pause, to be honest. But according to this at least one person with a New Orleans accent pronounces it this way. Also, not being from North America I just assumed it was a regional or now outdated pronunciation I'd never encountered before.

It goes without saying that educated fleas don't fall in love. Their intensive education leaves them dissolute and joyless.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:51 PM on July 2, 2006


I've heard non-native English speakers in Britain say poh-tah-to. They were generally taught American English in school, and so when they were told to say toh-mah-to here, they figured potato must change the same way.
posted by reklaw at 7:40 AM on July 3, 2006


"So, if you go for oysters and I go for ersters
I'll order oysters and cancel the ersters."

That seems pretty over the top to me.


Nope, you're just not familiar with the classic Brooklyn accent (to which the classic New Orleans accent is comparable in this respect). The sounds oy and er were interchanged (it's not that simple, of course, but that was the popular impression of it, which is what counts here). The lyricist is making use of an actual dialect, not inventing.
posted by languagehat at 8:26 AM on July 3, 2006


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