Does Scone Rhyme With 'Cone' or 'Gone?' Mary Berry Weighs In on the Debate
In the song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” a famous line goes, “You like po-tay-to, and I like po-tah-to; you like to-may-to, and I like to-mah-to.” The lyrics poke fun at the idea of dialects, and as an American living in England, it’s something I deal with all the time. Just as Americans and Brits prefer different words for eggplant—for some reason it’s “aubergine” in the U.K.—the two countries also pronounce all sorts of words differently. I’ve come to accept that both pronunciations are correct; it just depends where you’re from. And plenty of stubborn old Brits will argue tooth and nail that I am still wrong.
So as a stubborn old Brit herself—albeit a totally delightful one!—we probably should have known where Mary Berry stands on pronunciation. During last night’s episode of Britain’s Best Home Cook, a contestant presented Berry with “a cheese and butternut squash skōn.” Berry, as any good Brit over the age of 80 would do, immediately replied, “Are we a skän or a skōn?” clearly putting her preferred pronunciation first. Likely realizing that arguing pronunciation with your British elders isn’t worth the battle, the contestant immediately swapped versions. “Skän,” she parroted. To which Berry affirmed, “I’m a skän.” Someone probably should have pointed out to Berry that she is, in fact, a human and not a bread, but I digress.
For the record, according to major dictionaries like Oxford and Merriam-Webster, “scone” has two, equally correct pronunciations: one that rhymes with “cone” and another that rhymes with “gone.” The Cambridge Dictionary even goes so far as to explicitly label the “gone” pronunciation as U.K. and the “cone” version as “U.S.” Based on Berry’s pronunciation, those designations would seem accurate.
However, the British so love arguing over pronunciation (we really need to get these people American football) that even those within the U.K. picked up the debate on social media. “Mary Berry pronounces ‘scone’ like ‘gone’ or ‘scon’. Not ‘stone’ or ‘throne,’” wrote English Twitter user MrStuCambell-Carran. “There we go. The Queen of baking has spoken. #DebateSolved.”
But that didn’t stop another Twitter user from going straight for the jugular. “Have actually always found her rather pompous” posted Lin Wells of Chelmsford in defense the “cone” version, “no doubt my pronunciation is more common!”
Meanwhile, it turns out Berry was even among the minority when it came to her two other co-hosts. Both Chris Bevan and Dan Doherty pronounced the word skōn. But hey, neither of them were on The Great British Bake Off, so can they really be considered an authority on the Queen's English? On that note, maybe somebody should just ask Her Majesty how it's pronounced!