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Car-mel vs. cara-mel/Pee-can vs. Puh-cahn

It's killing me. I've seen cooking shows as well as hearing in real life people who say "Car-mel" rather than cara-mel...Pee-can vs. Puh-cahn...oh and All-mond rather than Ahhh-min.

For me--its "cara-mal, pee-can and ahh-min.

What about you? What IS the correct pronounciation anyway?

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  1. CAra-mel, pee-can, and AL-mond

    1. This thread will inevitably go around and around on this issue, but for me the bottom line is that when differences in pronunciation are strongly tied to regional dialects, no single pronunciation is correct, especially since the dictionary recognizes all the various pronunciations for the words you mentioned. I'm not suggesting that we can all just say any word in anyway we wish and consider it correct, but for many words there are legitimate reasons for differences in pronunciation, and to label one or the other as the correct way doesn't do much good.

      However, the cheeky side of me says that I grew up in northeastern North Carolina, with a slightly watered down version of the traditional Outer Banks accent that is supposedly the closest thing to Elizabethan English still in use. So clearly, the way I say it is right :)

      And for the record, when coming out of my mouth it's cara-mel, pee-can, and all-mond.

      10 Replies
      1. re: mpjmph

        <<So clearly, the way I say it is right :)>>

        LOL, mpj. I like your attitude and your enunciations down there.

        However, I'm from western Connecticut, where we don't have accents. A "tech" of lockjaw, maybe, but no accents, LOL. ;-)

        I say "CARR-a-mel", "puh-CAHN" and, like thew above, "AL-mond".

        1. re: Steady Habits

          i'm originally from North Jersey (though i've also lived for nearly a decade each in Atlanta & SoCal) and my pronunciations are the same as those of Steady_Habits...which makes perfect sense since Northern NJ & Western CT are the same region.

        2. re: mpjmph

          LOL! I guess what bugs me about the word "caramel" is that it is NOT spelled "carmel" (as in the city in California). So when pronunciations are said as "carmel" or when it's written out that way, it irks me no end.

          PEE-cahn, or pee-CAHN, or PEE-can - doesn't much matter to me on that one. And I've just tried saying "almond" and I realize I pronounce it "ahh-mond".

          1. re: LindaWhit

            In case you haven't noticed, English spelling often does not correspond to the pronunciation. Or to put it another way, English spelling 'rules' are a complicated mix. For some people the written form of a word is the definitive one. But for thousands of years, people have spoken their languages correctly without reference to any written form. In addition the spoken form tends to evolve over time, while the written form lags behind, retaining 'fossils' so to speak, of earlier spoken forms.

            1. re: paulj

              Yes, I'm completely aware that English words as written do not often jive with the pronunciation.

              However, I'm at a complete loss to recall another word in the English language where the letter "a" is on its own or part of a very short syllable in a particular word (i.e., CAH-rah-mel) that simply gets dropped from the word altogether as it does in this pronunciation: "Car-MEL".

              If there are others, I would love to know them.

              1. re: LindaWhit

                At most that 'a' is pronounced as schwa - an unemphasized, nondescript vowel sound. It's not surprising that it might elided. Without digging further into English morphology, its placement between the 'r' and the 'm' may have something to do with the tendency of English speakers to drop it. I suspect linguists have studied this, and published papers on the phenomenon.

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  The elision of the schwa - what a great book title! - is not so uncommon as you might think, Linda. Most of the ones that come immediately to mind are non-culinary (like the first a in balloon, the second one in paraffin, or the i in terrible, in some regional dialects), but to keep it strictly chowish, consider the second e in vegetable. Some people pronounce it; many do not.

                  1. re: BobB

                    OK, I agree with the second "e" in vegetable...that's a very good example, as I myself pronounce it "vegtable".

                    But I've never heard paraffin being pronounced "parffin". But perhaps I've just never been in a part of the country where people pronounce it that way. :-)

            2. re: mpjmph

              We folks in Maryland don't have any accent(LONG)

              Make sure you read the Oral Exercises part 2 - they're great!


              For those of you who are from Maryland (Merlin) enjoy and try not to laugh too hard.

              For those of you from out of town (not from or in the State of Maryland), if you plan a visit, you may want to practice.
              Translations available, free of charge! (:^)}<

              Only a Merlin resident could appreciate... The Merlin Dialect

              The Merlin Dialect is spoken by a mixed population which inhabits a
              triangular area on the western littoral of the Chesapeake Bay, bounded
              roughly by a line commencing at Towson's Toyota, then westward to
              Frederick Mall, thence following the western border of the cable TV franchise and the string of McDonalds' along Route 50 to the Bay.
              All of these lands and the natives thereof are known as the Land of
              Merlin. They divide it further into semi-tribal areas called Cownnies "COUNTIES"
              (e.g., Ballmer Cownny, [ Baltimore ] PeeGee Cownny, [ P. G. or Prince
              George] Hard Cownny, [ Howard ] etc.).

              The dialect area is centered on a market center called Glimburny, where the people come on weekends to trade their goods. Because of the numerous words and phrases common to both Merlin Dialect, and modern English, linguists have long postulated that there is some kinship between the two.
              Speakers of Merlin Dialect are all able to understand standard English
              from babyhood, chiefly because of their voracious appetite for television.However, they invariably refuse to speak standard English, even with outsiders who obviously are not understanding a word they say.

              Lesson 1 Vocabulary

              Baldmer - Our city
              Merlin - Our State
              Allanic - an ocean
              Arnjuice - from the sunshine tree
              Arn - What you do to wrinkled clothes
              Arouwn in all directions - norf, [North] souf, [South] ees, and wess
              Aspern - what you take for headaches
              Bald - some people like their eggs this way
              Bawler - what the plumber calls your furnace
              Beeno - a famous railroad
              Brawl - Broil
              Bulled Egg - An egg cooked in water
              Calf Lick - bleevers are Protestant, Jewish, and ...
              Chest Peak - A large nearby body of water
              Colleyflare - A white vegetable
              Cownny - a state gubmit division, such as Anne Arundel or Prince George's
              Downey Owe Shin - Summertime destination "Down to the ocean" (such as
              Droodle Pork - Druid Hill Park
              Drooslem - city in the Holy Land
              Duddeney - yes, he does, duddeney?
              Err - a time measurement of 60 minutes
              Far place - requires wood
              Fard - area between the eyes and the hairline
              Faren Gins - Red trucks that put out fires
              Farmin - the people who fight fars
              Flares - Such as tulips
              Ford - opposite of backward
              Idnit - it is
              Ignernt - ignorant
              Hi Hon - How we always say "hello"
              Holluntown - Highland Town
              Klumya - Rouse's new city (Columbia)
              Meer - what you look at in the morning
              Munlaw - married to your fodlaw
              Nap Lis - State of Merlin capital
              Norf Abnew - North Avenue
              Numb - a conjunctive 1st person pronoun: "Aw've bin workin six errors numb
              Ole Bay - What our crabs taste like
              Oreos - Not a cookie, but our baseball team
              Paramore - Power mower
              Payment - That strip of cement that you walk on
              Plooshin - let's get it out of the Cheaspeake
              PohLeese - Those guys in uniform that git ya when you're speeding
              Sarn - what a pleece car or Farn Gin makes noise with
              Sem elem - Seven Eleven
              Share - Hot water that cleans you in the morning
              Slong - "good-bye"
              Sore - drainage under the street
              Spearmint - experiment
              Tarred - What happens when you work too hard
              Warsh - What we do with dirty clothes
              Warshnin - our nation's capital
              Warter - What we drink (can also be Wooter)
              Winders - Those glass things that we look out of
              Wooder - what you wrench your hands with
              Yerp - Europe
              Youz - you all
              Zinc - where you wrench your hands or wash your dishes

              Lesson 2. Oral Exercises .... Listen and Repeat:
              Merlin: Ah herd sarns at sod the hass a bat hunnert toms lass not. Itsem Ann Earl Canny farn gins.
              Standard: I heard sirens outside the house about a hundred times last
              It's those Anne Arundel County fire engines.

              Merlin: She raider boskle from Droodle Pork to dantan Ballmer wither oz clazed.
              Standard: She rode her bicycle from Druid Hill Park to downtown Baltimore with her eyes closed.
              Merlin: The Hard Canny Toms sayz the canny cancel pace pained bon
              Standard: The Howard County Times says the County Council postponed buying ambulances.

              Merlin: Pitcher bane soot owen. Weer goon danny ayshun.
              Standard: Put your bathing suit on. We're going down to the ocean.

              Merlin: Ah sawn ambalance good dan Rosters Tan Raid a bat a huunert molls
              an air, nit was porn dan rain.
              Standard: I saw an ambulance going down Reisterstown Road about a hundred miles an hour, and it was pouring down rain.

              Merlin: It spaced a snaid mora. Better pitcher snay tars owen.
              Standard: It's supposed to snow tomorrow. Better put your snow tires on.

              1. re: Hue

                The "warsh" thing--it is also common in parts of Jersey--like Central and South. When I moved from NYC to New Jersey I thought Jersey people had weird accents;) I should talk--being from NY!!!!!!!!!!

            3. mpjmph is completely right about this thread going around and around, and that it's probably entirely tied to regional dialects, but I have a funny line to share.

              My grandmother, who was born and bred in Laurel, MS and spent the 2nd half of her life running a praline shop on Royal St. in New Orleans, was appalled at her northern grandchildren's pronounciation of "pecan". She would proclaim "A Pee Can is what I keep under my bed on cold winter night. A Pah-cahn is what I put in my candy".

              This pronounciation thing also relates to "ap-ri-cot" and "ape-ri-cot". I'm firmly in the former camp on that one!

              16 Replies
              1. re: RosemaryHoney

                I have a similar explanation for pronouncing it pee-can based on the pronunciation of male anatomy, just didn't think it would be appropriate for this board. The most diplomatic explanation I've heard is that a pee-can is something you pick up off the ground and a pah-cahn is something you buy in a store.

                1. re: mpjmph

                  Anyone who thinks he/she doesn't have an accent is being pretty naive. Assuming that no singular place/region of the world is the be-all-end-all in "correct pronunciation" of any given words, then anyone and everyone may say certain words differently from you or me. I don't really understand the point of this question. To the OP, are you that irked that someone might pronounce a word differently from you or are you simply being pompous? Are you that convinced that your way is the only way? I have an aunt who grew up in the same city as I did, but came from an Irish background. Her parents' accents were essentially the same as hers and mine. Yet, she pronounces the word "garage" as GAIR-ahge, while I pronounce it gah-RAHJ. Why the difference? Who knows. Why do some say GAY-la instead of GAH-la? It's simply an issue of influences during formative years, IMHO. I don't berate someone for saying PECK-an, pih-CAHN, PEE-can or pee-CAHN, no matter how I personally pronounce it. "Po-TAY-to, po-TAH-to, to-MAY-to, to-MAH-to. Let's call the whole thing off".

                  1. re: 1sweetpea

                    the one that always got me was the ex saying in SHU rance

                    1. re: thew

                      Well, how do YOU say it? Are you a Brit/Canuck/Aussie?

                      1. re: pikawicca

                        It's really common in the South to hear "IN-shure-ence", and most of the US says "in-SHURE-ence", not "in-SHOE-rence".

                    2. re: 1sweetpea

                      Actually, I do not consider myself, nor do I consider the tone of my post to be pompous. When I state "....it kills me"--I am merely saying those words in a tone of curiosity and fascination. Is my way the only way? No--perhaps not for others but for me it is--the way I pronounce the words is easier for me--whether correct or incorrect. Growing up with Grandparents from Ireland, there are not only certain words I've pronounced differently than from my peers, but there are words I've used replacing others--for example: rather than use "expensive", we've grown up saying "dear". My dad never used the word "zero"--he always used "naught" and instead of the letter "z"--we grew up hearing "zed". To state that this post is pompous--well--it's just pompous. This post was meant as "food for thought" --nothin' more--nothin less!

                      1. re: jarona

                        I didn't mean to seem hostile or to cause any offense to you jarona. I just got the impression (tongue-in-cheek, perhaps) that you thought others were incorrect in their pronunciations of certain words. Using completely different words to describe the very same thing is definitely regional/cultural. I find that aspect of the English language fascinating. I love hearing an Aussie refer to a bathing suit/swimsuit as a "tog" or "swim tog". That's a colloquialism. It makes me curious as to what I might say that would cause someone from another country to wonder what I mean. I'd love to know. I try to enjoy the linguistic quirks that abound. To attempt to explain them, though, might be worth a PhD dissertation in regional linguistic variations.

                        1. re: 1sweetpea

                          No offense taken--sometimes the written word can take on an entirely different tone than the spoken. The "tog" "swimtog" thing reminds me of the "jumper" for "sweater" that my grandmother always used and the "nappies" for "diapers".
                          Speaking of pronounciations--the first time my fiance used the word "corinishon"(sp)--I thought he was talking about "cornish hens"--my NY accent and his French accent clash. A lot!

                          1. re: jarona

                            That's awesome. Here's an outright mistake that I found endearing in my own SO: he said that such and such "passed mustard", instead of "passed muster". I had to hold back my laughter. Of couse, I once said: "mis-chee-vee-ous", instead of "mischievous", as a result of a mispronunciation by my dad. My SO looked at me, stunned, and asked if I was serious. Now that's tact! Needless to say, I haven't done it since. :-)

                            1. re: 1sweetpea

                              OK. I am ROTFLMAO right now. I ALWAYS say "mis-chee-vee-ous"--always! Not only that, but speaking of mustard (ha ha)--at home my SO says "moo-tar" rather than the "mus-tid" that I pronounce:)

                              1. re: jarona

                                Moo-tar - that's more or less the French pronunciation of their word for mustard, moutarde. Is he a Francophone?

                        2. re: 1sweetpea

                          You say car-MEEN-uh, I say car-MINE-uh. Let's Carl the whole thing Orff.

                          A lot of the almond farmers around Sacramento (home of the Blue Diamond company) pronounce it as a-mon First syllable rhymes with "can." No audible "l" anywhere in the word.

                          According to a friend who has an almond orchard, the farmers understand that it's an unconventional pronunciation, but they know that the nuts are gathered using mechanical harvesters that grip the trees around their trunks and shake the "L" out of them.

                          1. re: 1sweetpea

                            I've heard "to-MAH-to," but never "po-TAH-to." Don't think anyone actually says this.

                        3. re: RosemaryHoney

                          My Alabama-native mother said exactly the same thing about the "pee-can" under the bed. She made pah-CAHN pies, thank you very much!

                          1. re: MsMaryMc

                            It's odd - I have no Southern in me - SW PA family, grew up in Europe/Canada and I also say 'pah-CAHN'.

                        4. I say puh-cahn, and cara-mel, except for "caramel corn" which is always car-mul for some reason. Weird.

                          1. Each of this is a regional variant in the USA. All correct in their respective regions. Having been raised in the NY area to parents from CT, gone to college in the upper South, and living for a generation in eastern New England, my own accent is quite the mongrel.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Karl S

                              CARE-a-mul, puh-CAN, and AH-mond, here in BAH-stun.

                              1. re: Karl S

                                I've lived all over, too, from Texas to Ohio to Boston to NJ to England to... I had a linguist (professor) who loved pinpointing people based on accent peg me as being from southern California back when I had never lived there (have since). I peg it to having watched too much Brady Bunch in my younger days and wanting to be Marcia Brady. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. It's probably why I say "Pork Chops and applesauce for dinner" in an odd way.

                                But, having lived all over, I'd heard all the variations of all those words.

                              2. "cara muhl", "pee con", "all mun" & "all munds"

                                1. When in Rome...
                                  hence, I order pee-can pie at Peter Luger's but Puh-cahn pie at the Georgia Pig

                                  1. cara-mel, pee-con and although I grew up in an area once known as the Almond Capital of the world I have a propensity to say ammon

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: BeefeaterRocks

                                      Grew up in southeast Georgia:

                                      Care a mel
                                      pee can
                                      all mond

                                      One that gets me is Vidalia Onions, most people say it differently than those of us who lived in or around Vidalia, GA. It's Viii day ya

                                      1. re: alliedawn_98

                                        Vidalia, GA. It's Viii day ya
                                        And that's one I pronounced Vuh-DAHL-ya. Didn't realize it was a long "i" on the first syllable and a long "a" on the middle syllable without pronouncing the letter "l".

                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                          It's ok. From what I've seen over the years, the only people who pronounce it the way I explained is the people who live in the area. lol

                                    2. I grew up in southeast Michigan, and I say:

                                      all-mon (and I have never heard it pronounced ahhh-min before & I have been all over, interesting to learn of this pronunciation)

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: cheri

                                        I'm a New Yorker. Raised in NYC and Longg-Guyland--hence the ahh-min pronounciation. Hey. Until I was an adult I thought the pronounciation of Aluminum foil was Aluminum "ferl". I kid you not. I also grew up in a house with a "terlit" rather than a "toilet":)

                                        1. My husband knows that he prounounces pin and pen (bin and Ben) identically. I too get annoyed with CARmel, but what really gets to me are SAMMich and SAMwich, AArng, WaRshington, or syllables where they don't exist (exceptions would include different spellings, ie aluminium in Britain, aluminum here--got it).

                                          Almonds, potatoes, pecans--if it's regional and based on the actual spelling of the word, I respect the differences.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Caralien

                                            Don't forget tin and ten... we had the very same conversation over the holidays. Since we all grew up in the same region, we all have very similar accents (pin and pen sound the same...).

                                          2. I say: pih-CAHN, CAIR-uh-muhl, and AHL-mun (as in Alman Brothers.)

                                            On the subject of pecan pronunciation, I should not that my family in Georgia says PEE-can.

                                            1. there is a whole thread that starts out about knife and fork habits, and becomes a post about pronunciation.

                                              One of the funniest threads on CH, IMHO.


                                              1. I must be confused because i say pee can sandy and puh-cahn pie

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: quazi

                                                  I do the reverse. Pee-can pie just rolls off the tongue, yet puh-cahn is my default pronunciation for the nut.

                                                  When I was a kid I said car-a-mel, until one of my friends told me that I sound like a FOB. Americans say cahr-muhl. How wrong he was!

                                                2. Interesting that last night (Christmas Eve) in a lull in the conversation -I asked questtion of family and guests regarding pronouncing above words as we had Pecan Pie and Almond Brittle-consensus was "AL mend ","Peecahn" , "Apri-cot" and "Carah-Mel". Those who disagreed were forced into the kitchen since this seems a discussion that could get heated.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: foodseek

                                                    It's regional. In America, anyway. And it's regional elsewhere too, just a different kind of regional.

                                                  2. Well, when I grew up (in central Jersey) we said "pee-CAN" (note the stress is on the second syllable), AH-min and CAA-ruh-mell (first vowel is the sound in "hat").

                                                    I hate hearing "car-mul", but now I've lived in enough places that I say "AHL-mund", and I still say "caa-ruh-mell", and I switch between "pee-CAN" and "puh-CAHN".

                                                    Also, is it a pray-leen or a prah-leen?

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                      Wouldn't it depends on whether you use pee-cans or puh-cahns???

                                                      1. Since I'm a French speaker, I confess I always assume that people who write or say 'CARMEL' aren't sufficiently educamated. :grin:

                                                        8 Replies
                                                        1. re: TheSnowpea

                                                          Well, I pronounce it car uh muhll. Car like the vehicle. I think that would still be based on the spelling, right?

                                                          all mond, puh cahn

                                                          NE Louisiana

                                                          1. re: Becca Porter

                                                            I'm trying to figure out how I can transpose the way I pronounce it. Mmm ok.

                                                            When I say it in English, my first A is very open and the front of the mouth, like the exclamation 'Ah'. And my R is a bit more rolled, because after all, French is a Latin language XD. It's pretty close to how I say it in French.

                                                            Pee-cahn (in French, I say PAH-CAN ... we write Pacane)
                                                            All-mund (AH-muhnde in French, we write Amande)

                                                            What is the etymology of caramel, I wonder. Ah, went and looked it up
                                                            caramel :
                                                            1725, from Fr. caramel "burnt sugar," ult. from M.L. cannamellis, traditionally from L. canna (see cane) + mellis "honey;" though some give the M.L. word an Arabic origin

                                                            1. re: TheSnowpea

                                                              I also am a French speaker, though I had a teacher (in Switzerland) correct me when I said "pacane" -- she said the official phrase was "noix de pécan", which sounds stilted to me, especially since the tree is "un pacanier".

                                                              That said, though, I've never heard "AH-munde" in French -- I say "ah-MAHND" (okay, well, actually, I say ah-MAHN-duh, but let's leave my accent out of it).

                                                              Carmel, c'est un ordre réligieux, une montagne en Israël et une ville nord-californienne située au bord de la mer. Ce n'est pas une confection quelconque.

                                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                you're right, I put the emphasis on the second syllable. I mistyped myself LOL As for pacane, it checks out as correct in Le Grand Dictionnaire, so I think you can use it correctly.

                                                                I agree with you about Carmel: I always think of the mountain first.

                                                                1. re: TheSnowpea

                                                                  Accent on the last syllable sounds more natural (to me) when talking about the mountain in Israel.

                                                                2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                  French has its share of silent letters, including an 'e muet' (and silent final consonants)

                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                    Thanks Paul -- I actually did know that, but certain regional accents in French (Provençal, Savoyard) pronounce the "e muet" -- since I have a Savoyard accent I tend to pronounce the final E, but Parisian French (which is what they purport to teach in American schools) would have it remain silent... so the official RTF (Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française, the official name for the former state broadcaster) pronunciation would be two syllables (approx. ah-MAHND) with the second syllable nasalised, but in Haute-Savoie you would hear three syllables (approx. ah-MAHN-deuh) with the second syllable not really nasalised at all.

                                                                    Incidentally, in patoues (the regional language of Geneva, which is all but dead in the city itself) the word for almond is kòquemòl (or similar to it, there's not a set orthography), which would be written "coquemolle" in French and translates directly to "soft nut". You really only see it in the name of the pastry "cornettes de coquemolle" or "cornettes de croquemolle", which are almond croissants.

                                                                  2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                    Fiance says "ah-mah" for almond. He is Parisian--geeeee he has such a funny way of pronouncing all his words:)

                                                            2. Canadian (from the Ottawa area and has lived in Montreal and now Calgary...east/west coasters will have their own variations):

                                                              I say: Care-A-Mel, Pee-CAN (accent on the second syllable) and All-mund

                                                              1. How do you pronounce 'caramelized'

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                  Ah, now that's a word I didn't grow up hearing exactly so although they're related I waffle between CARE-A-Mel-ized and CAR-mel-ized

                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                      My dictionary says 'caramel' comes to English from Spanish (via French). There's not doubt that in Spanish that the second 'a' is there: 'car-a-me-lo'. But English has changed that to a schwa., 'uh' - an unaccented soft vowel sound that readily disappears in fast speech. The fact that most of us don't have distinguish the candy from the monk in every day speech may also have something to do with its elision.

                                                                  1. As a life long Southerner, I say puh-can although most of my friends say pee-can, and I don't care - we are both talking about the same nut.
                                                                    My sweet wife grew up with a palomino she named car-a-mel, that works for me.
                                                                    I am more than indifferent about almond pronunciation.
                                                                    What I hate is to hear the L in the word salmon.
                                                                    It rather reminds me of vee-hicle and thee-ater, my fellow North Carolinian's preferred pronunciation of vehicle and theater.
                                                                    As a child I made up my favorite "local" sentence - "
                                                                    when I bent over to pick up my hosepipe my inkpen blew up on my necktie"