"potato" vs. "potahto"?

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Fri May 19 21:59:38 UTC 2006

I used to say "tomahto" till I was ridiculed out of it, but I've never heard anyone say "potahto."  Some fifty years ago I asked my grandparents why they didn't say it (to be consistent with "tomahto"), and their response was something like, "because no one says 'potahto.' "

  So evidently they'd never been aware of it outside of the song either, as far back as the 1890's.


"Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "Arnold M. Zwicky"
Subject: =?ISO-8859-1?Q?Re:_=A0_=A0_=A0_"potato"_vs._"potahto"=3F?=

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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