The Georgia Pecan Growers Association and singer Lauren Alaina offer their take on the proper way to refer to the tree nut.

By Max Bonem
Updated July 17, 2017
Bourbon Pecan Pie
Credit: © Con Poulos

Some say to-may-to, while others say to-mah-to. Similarly, some say po-tay-to, while others say po-tah-to. But what about the one nut that everyone eats in pie-form at Thanksgiving? What is the correct way to pronounce “pecan”? Is there even one "correct" way? For the first time ever, we have an answer to the (kind of) age old question.

According to chart-topping country singer, American Idol Season 10 participant and Georgia native Lauren Alaina, the answer is “pa-KAHN,” with greater emphasis placed on the second syllable. In the first of two videos created by the Georgia Pecan Growers Association, the singer debates the correct pronunciation and pairs two different versions of the word with “pie” to see which sounds best. After a bit of pondering, Alaina’s final answer is the softer “pa-KAHN,” rather than "PEE-can," which is more commonly heard in the Northeast.

The video featuring Alaina is part of a new national campaign for the Georgia Pecan Growers Association, in which the organization aims to raise awareness of their state’s famous nut, while also educating consumers on pecans’ health benefits. "We are encouraging all of our Georgia Pecan growers to share the news about these pecan subjects," said Samantha McLeod, executive director of the Georgia Pecan Growers Association. "These are fun video segments that will draw attention to Georgia Pecans in a light 'make you smile' way."

Obviously, there is no one way to pronounce "pecan" and with four common pronunciations heard across the country, it's one of most regionally varying words in the American English language, along with "caramel," "mayonnaise," and "syrup." The word "pecan" actually comes from an Algonquin word first recorded by French traders exploring the lower Mississippi River region in the 1700s. As the word spread throughout the young country, each section of the population customized the pronunciation to their liking and thus created a perfect conversation starter for every awkward Thanksgiving dinner in recorded history.

While pecans are most well-known in pie form, they're also great on salads, roasted, in soups, as a crust for chicken and in salsa. For even more pecan recipes, click here.