How do you pronounce scone?

Know we know: Are the Scots, widely credited as the inventors of scones, the real authorities on the matter?

A slightly messy indulgent fresh cream scone with strawberry jam

A slightly messy indulgent fresh cream scone with strawberry jam

 

How do you pronounce scone? To rhyme with gone or bone? Or do you fluctuate between the two, depending on the company you’re keeping?

In 2016, a YouGov poll was conducted across the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland to geographically locate the different pronunciations of this buttery treat. According to the survey, afternoon teas in Scotland and Ulster would include scones as in “gone” while folks further south in England, Wales and the Republic of Ireland would be ordering scones in “bone”.

The poll was conducted as part of a larger project called The English Dialects App, headed by Cambridge University’s Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics. On the subject of scones, lead researcher Dr Adrian Leeman said: “Our data shows that for the North and Scotland, scone rhymes with gone, for Cornwall and the area around Sheffield it rhymes with cone – while for the rest of England, there seems to be a lot of community-internal variation.”

The Scots are widely credited as the inventors of scones, and the proof provided often involves the Scottish poet Gavin Douglas. Virgil’s iconic Latin poem, The Aeneid, was translated into Scots English by Douglas in 1513 (think of Douglas as the Baz Luhrmann of the 16th century.)

He mentions scones in one of the lines of his poem, and it is believed to be the first time the word ever appeared in print. Though the cultural links to England and Ireland are indisputable, could it be argued that the Scots have an older relationship with the scone and that therefore the correct pronunciation of scone is the Scottish way?

On an episode of Britain’s Best Home Cook in 2018, queen of baking Mary Berry made headlines when she confirmed she pronounces scone as in gone, the Scottish way. In their song Peach Scones, the young American poet and singer-songwriter Hobo Johnson, backed by his band The Lovemakers, shouts “If I try to confess my love for scones . . .” rhyming with bone.

“For the record,” writes Mike Pomranz in Food & Wine in 2018, “according to major dictionaries like Oxford and Merriam-Webster, scone has two, equally correct pronunciations: one that rhymes with cone and another that rhymes with gone. The Cambridge Dictionary even goes so far as to explicitly label the gone pronunciation as UK and the cone version as US.”

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