Is it “puh-CON” or “PEA-can”? We settle the debate once and for all—mostly.

By Betty Gold
November 03, 2020
Credit: Getty Images

2020 has been one hot mess of a year, guys. Between the global pandemic, polarizing election, and nationwide toilet paper shortage, Americans have been tested in ways we didn’t even know possible (even the word “tested” strikes a nerve).

Given the state of things, the holidays are going to look a little different this year—and not just because they’ll likely feature more outdoor dining, digital dinner parties, and smaller guest lists. Rather, there is going to be a lot more ~material~ for the family members to debate about at the dinner table in 2020. The good news? We’re here to arm you with a worthwhile drama-free debate that you can chime in with before anything (or anyone) gets heated: What is the proper way to pronounce the word “pecan”?

Seriously, it’s genius. People have extremely strong feelings on the matter—so much so, in fact, that American Pecans is launching The Super Safe Pecan Debate, which they have deemed as “the partisan issue you can passionately argue without risking your invitation to next year’s family gathering.”  

To settle the debate once and for all, American Pecans is calling pecan fans from across the country to visit to cast their vote for “PEA-can” vs. “puh-CON". The debate ends on November 6, but you’ll see the results as soon as you select your side. Currently, puh-CON is in the lead, with 66 percent vs. PEA-can’s 34 percent—and 290,000 voters (!) have weighed in.

“2020 has given us a lot to discuss—and even more topics to avoid at this year’s Thanksgiving table—but ‘puh-CON’ vs. ‘PEA-can’ is one debate you can safely bring up with family and friends,” said Alex Ott, executive director of the American Pecan Council. “Even across the 15 pecan-growing states from California to the Carolinas, growers and shellers themselves say it differently. So we’re asking America to help us settle it once and for all and encourage everyone to join in on this fun, light-hearted debate. But no matter how you say them, we can all agree that pecans belong on every Thanksgiving table.”

Here, we went straight to the source and polled pecan growers from the “pecan belt” states to get their hot take. The result? Agree to disagree, folks.

“As many of our ancestors were part of the education system, the tradition of the pronunciation has been handed down as follows: puh-CONS are a gift from above; a PEA-can is a porcelain pot you place under the bed. Our fifth?generation is now born and will be taught as we were all taught. However, we sometimes modify our response and say that we grow PEA-cans but we sell puh-CONS.”

"The best response I ever heard to this question came from another grower who told me, 'When they bring $2 per pound or more, they’re puh-CONS; when they bring $0.50 to $1, they’re PEA-cans.'"

“There are two answers I give when asked how to pronounce pecan, one silly and one more serious. The silly answer is that we don’t care how you pronounce it as long as you buy them! The serious answer is different. Shortly after I came back to my family’s pecan business, about 40 years ago, I was at a Southeastern Pecan Growers meeting in Sandestin, Fla. During the cocktail party, I asked Felix Marbury, a lion in the industry and a contemporary of my father, how he pronounced pecan. I remember his answer to this day. He said, 'Son, most people say PEA-can, but us growers say puh-CON.'"

“Everyone here in my pecan world pronounces it puh-CON, as the native Americans did. They were the first to name our beloved nut.”

“It’s puh-CON. A PEA-can is something my mother used to put under her bed as a child before going to sleep.”

“Where I was from in the western part of the U.S., we always pronounced it puh-CON, and the nice farmers from Georgia would have that southern twang to it PEA-can. Either way, they are just the best.”