The Battle of the Scone: The Great Pronunciation Debate
The scone. A symbol of Britain, a British tradition, and a delicacy that has to be tasted by the many who travel to our shores. But as with the occasional odd thing in Britain, the scone is not something that comes without its controversy.
While the scone is undoubtedly the number one treat in our afternoon tea selection, there is still an element of uncertainty over how to pronounce it (And when we say ‘element of uncertainty’, what we mean is: raging debates, ruined family meals and the loss of lifelong friends).
To solve this dilemma we decided to survey 2000 people across the UK asking them to settle the debate once and for all. While we were conducting the survey we also came across a few other debateable pronunciations. Tongue for example. Supposedly some in the North pronounce it to the sound of ‘tong’? Hmmm.
To settle these debates and find out who is truly right, we also surveyed for the correct pronunciation of the words tongue, tooth and vase. Find out all the results in the graphics below or visit our Google Doc in the methodology to access the raw data.
Scone - National
When it comes to the subject of the scone, Britain is as divided as it was when it came to Brexit. In our survey the results lean on the pronunciation of scone to the sound of ‘gone’ with 53.60% of the vote, but it’s a tight win as scone to the sound of ‘bone’ took a decent 40.60% of the vote.
Scone – Regional
So it’s official. As a country, Britain believes that scone should be pronounced to the sound of ‘gone’. But how does the pronunciation debate differ in the different countries and regions of the UK? To find out we further surveyed each of the 12 regions of the UK with the same question. Out of the 12 regions only three voted in favour of scone to the sound of ‘bone’, with the West Midlands, London and the East Midlands all voting in favour of the supposedly posher enunciation. Interestingly you can also start to see a reveal divide between the northern and southern regions of the UK in this survey. While the northern regions opt to rhyme it with ‘gone’, the southern regions seem to favour rhyming it with ‘bone’. The regions most confident in their pronunciation were Northern Ireland and Scotland with over 80% positive that scone should be pronounced to the sound of ‘gone’.
Tongue – National
Another word that is often met with scorn or derision when pronounced incorrectly is the very tool that helps us enunciate. The tongue. Is it tongue to rhyme with ‘young’ or is it tongue to sound of ‘tong’? While the results of the survey were far from conclusive, the eventual winner was tongue to sound of ‘young’ with just over 70% of the vote.
Tongue – Regional
Interestingly, this is the first set of results that DOES NOT seem to follow the North/South divide. For example, while the Northern regions in Scotland, Northern Ireland and North East of England seem confident in pronouncing it to the sound of ‘young’, the West Midlands, the East Midlands and North West England prefer the ‘tong’ pronunciation. With this though, the South East, South West England and London all seem to agree with the Scottish that it should be pronounced tongue to the sound of ‘young’. Strange one.
Vase – National
While the scone is unquestionably the most fiercely debated pronunciation in the English Language another hotly contested word is vase. Should it be pronounced to sound of ‘ace’, or should it rhyme with ‘stars’? With vase to the sound of ‘ace’ often accused of being a purely posh adoption, the British public seem to agree that the correct pronunciation is vase to sound of ‘stars’ with over 80% voting for this option.
Vase – Regional
In our regional analysis though, a few of the regions seem to be a little less sure of the correct pronunciation. While all regions do in the overall agree that vase should be pronounced to sound of ‘stars’, Northern Ireland and Scotland, surprisingly, seem to be a little less confident in their pronunciation. In particular Northern Ireland seems to enjoy the ‘ace’ enunciation with 31.25% voting for this option.
Tooth – National
In our final analysis we decided to find out whether it should be tooth to the sound of ‘youth’, or tooth to the sound of ‘tuth’. Probably the least controversial in our survey, the results didn’t throw up any surprises with nearly 90% voting for tooth to the sound of ‘youth’ as the proper pronunciation. Tooth – Regional Interestingly, in our regional analysis, only the West Midlands and Wales showed any interest in tooth to the sound of ‘tuth’. With 20% voting for this pronunciation in those two regions, this was a huge rise compared to other regions in the UK who would only give it around 6% of the vote. Similar to the trend seen in the tongue pronunciation analysis, there was no correlation between the North/South divide as seen in the scone analysis.
While we know that the debates will still rage, the family meals will still lie in ruins and the lifelong friends will still be lost - at least you now have data on your side. Or not, depending on where you are from. So it’s official. It’s scone to the sound of ‘gone’, tooth to the sound of ‘youth’, tongue to the sound of ‘young’, and vase to the sound of ‘stars’. Now that's settled, it's time for a scone. Hmm, but is it cream and then jam, or is it jam and then cream...
This survey was conducted by the market research organisation One Poll. Sent to 2000 people, the national survey was split evenly across all regions of the UK. All the questions have been checked for compliance with the MRS code of conduct. Access the raw results of this survey here: Pronunciation Survey Data