"potato" vs. "potahto"?

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Fri May 19 18:29:30 UTC 2006

On May 19, 2006, at 10:24 AM, RonButters wrote:

> In a message dated 5/19/06 1:12:06 PM, s-mufwene at UCHICAGO.EDU writes:
>> The following sentence occurs in an article published today in the
>> Chicago Tribune about the US Senate's vote to declare English the
>> "national language":
>> "We think it's basically the same thing. It's a `You say potato, I
>> say
>> potahto' kind of thing," said Tim Schultz, director of government
>> relations of U.S. English Inc.
>> I have always heard the variation about "tomato." Is there really a
>> [p@'ta:to] pronunciation of "potato" too?
>> Sali.
> You say tomato, and I say tomahto,
> You say potato, and I say potahto--
> Tomato, tomahto; potato, potahto--
> Let's call the whole thing off.
> Song (Cole Porter?)

yes, Cole Porter.

but the "potato" part of the song was in there just to get a rhyme.
is there any evidence of pronunciations of "potato" with [a] rather
than [e] *before* "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off"?

in fact, is there any evidence that some people now use the [a]
pronunciation, except in an allusion to the song?

for what it's worth, the OED doesn't list it.


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