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half pecans in a bowl

How to Pronounce Pecan

How do you actually say the word pecan? There are a few words that seem to incur ongoing debates on their pronunciation — pecan is one of these words. Unlike most words and phrases with alternate pronunciations, the pronunciation of pecan is not strictly regional — in general, it appears to be up to individual preference on how the word is pronounced.

So, have you ever debated with someone on how to pronounce pecan? Is there a right or wrong pronunciation? Continue reading to find the insight you crave.

Where Does the Word Originate From?

To set the stage, the actual pecan nut originates from the American South and Mexico as a wild species of nut. The pecan is the only nut born and raised in the Americas. First discovered in the 16th century, the pecan continues to be one of the most valuable nuts you can purchase in North America.

The first people to harvest and cultivate pecans were the indigenous Native American tribes, particularly the Algonquian. The Algonquian people were located in North America, and more specifically within the forested areas around the Ottawa and St. Lawrence River, so they had access to many wild pecans.

As for the actual word, pecan originates from “pacane,” an Algonquian word that means requiring a stone to crack. Compared to other native nuts, the pecan was one of the easiest nuts to crack, making it a fast favorite amongst Native Americans and European settlers.

In the rest of America, the pecan was first popularized in the early 1800s and the late 1700s. This is when the pecan started becoming a popular item within the industry to buy and sell.

Farmers and scientists began to experiment with which planting methods would produce the best pecans in the early 1800s. A South Carolinian scientist, Abner Landrum, was known for a budding technique that would combine two “better” pecan plants in order to create a hybrid new plant.

The ideal pecan is one that’s large and thin-shelled, and the first person to become more widely known for optimizing this pecan growing technique was a man named Antoine from Louisiana. Antoine was the first person to graft one of these ideal wild pecans into seedlings, giving him the title of the first person to plant an improved variety of pecan.

This research helped pave the way for the delicious pecans we harvest in the United States.

cracked pecans

How to Pronounce the Word Pecan

Knowing the history, it is also important to go into all of the different pronunciations of pecan.

Here is a list based on popularity:

  • pee-KAHN — most dominant phrasing nationwide
  • PEE-can — most dominant on the east coast
  • pick-AHN — popular in areas like Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi
  • PEE-kahn — popular in areas like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Wisconsin and northern Minnesota

What’s even more interesting is that people who prefer certain pronunciations will sometimes change how they say pecan when using it in certain compound words. For example,  people do this when saying “pecan pie.”

The last, more unconventional pecan pronunciation is the scientific name, which is Carya illinoinensis. You won’t find many people bragging about their famous Carya illinoinensis pies, though.

Georgians and Pecans

As far as the pecan pronunciation debate goes, since Georgia is a southern state, most Georgians tend to pronounce pecan as pee-KAHN, or a hybrid version of this, like “puh-kahn” or “pih-kahn.”

As the largest producer of pecans due to its ideal climate for pecan trees, Georgia holds weight in this debate. However, there are a total of about 15 states that have significant pecan industries.

Other than Georgia, these are the top states that also produce pecans:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Louisiana
  • Missouri
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Texas

Georgia produces approximately a third of the pecan harvest in the United States — weight-wise, this is about 88 million pounds of pecans. To put that in perspective, it would make about 176 million pecans pies, according to research done at the University of Georgia. Another great aspect of Georgia-grown pecans is that they can be purchased year-round! Georgians can enjoy their pecan pie and other recipes all year, while also providing pecans to surrounding states.

Who Says pee-KAHN vs. PEE-can?

Throughout the United States, pee-KAHN is the most dominant pronunciation, followed shortly by PEE-kahn and PEE-can. The remaining usages include pick said pee-KAHN or some hybrid version of this pronunciation.

If we compare this data to similar debated words with different pronunciations, the results do not show any clear differences on why this happens. Other words that have different pronunciations include coleslaw, caramel and cake icing:

  • Coleslaw: People will call it slaw, coleslaw as separate words, any variety of type of slaw and just simple coleslaw. A majority of people from the South use the word slaw, while that usage is less popular in other regions.
  • Caramel: The results of this study came back as the most similar to the testing done on pecans. The two-syllable version “car-ml” is the most prevalent, mainly used in the North, Midwest and Western United States. In contrast,  the three-syllable pronunciation, “carra-mel,” was much more popular in the South and along the east coast.
  • Frosting: The results for the word “frosting” were definitely the broadest. Between “frosting” and “icing,” there is no clear divide, but the upper Midwest has a clear preference for frosting. The East Coast and southern states seem to use the words interchangeably.

No matter how you pronounce the word pecan, most everyone will understand your meaning. And while pronunciation varies, America’s love for pecans does not. To this day, pecans are one of the most popular nuts in the United States for baking, snacking and cooking. The rich, buttery taste complements a variety of salty, sweet and spicy flavor profiles. Include them in a trail mix or sprinkle on your morning bowl of oatmeal for an everyday treat, or have a rich and decadent candied or chocolate-covered pecan.

Try Pecan Nation Pecans Today

There is a reason why pecans are still so popular and valuable in the United States, and it’s because they are delicious, nutritious, convenient and an incredibly versatile snack to enjoy at any time of day. Pecan Nation offers a variety of flavors for you to try, including cinnamon, roasted and salted, maple crumbles and natural.

If you’re looking for a snack that adds healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals to your diet, shop our sweet and savory roasted pecans at Pecan Nation!

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