8

The argument about the pronunciation of scone:-

skoʊn, skɒn noun 1. a small, light, biscuitlike quick bread made of oatmeal, wheat flour, barley meal, or the like.

reappeared in the pub last night, as usual with no-one being able to produce a convincing argument about which of skoʊn or skɒn was correct. So I'd like to know, is there any historical or etymological reason for one to be preferred to the other?

In my travels up and down the country I have heard it both ways whereever I have lived, but is there a regional or geographic divide for the pronunciation? Do non-British English speakers also have this argument?

8

1 Answer 1

2

Taken from the Online Etymology Dictionary:

scone (n.) - "thin, flat cake," 1510s, Scottish, probably shortened from Dutch schoon brood "fine bread," from Middle Dutch schoonbroot, from schoon, scone "bright, beautiful" (see sheen) + broot (see bread (n.)).

It should be noted that the word schoon in Dutch has taken on the meaning of the English adjective "clean". The pronunciation of schoon, linked below to its Google Translate page, rhymes with bone. I would conclude, then, that the "long 'o'" variation of scone is the correct one, etymologically speaking.

References:

Etymology - http://etymonline.com/?term=scone

Translation/pronunciation - http://translate.google.com/#en/nl/clean

2
  • 2
    It’s more complex than that, I’m afraid. The somewhat diphthongal pronunciation of the Modern Dutch digraph ‹oo› is newer than Middle Dutch (where it would more likely just have been [oː]), and in the 14–1500s, a long /oː/ in English was also pronounced vastly different from the diphthong we have today. I would venture that the [oː] sound of Middle Dutch probably sounded more like a short /o/ to some English-speaking people when they borrowed it, and more like long /oː/ to others; hence the dichotomy. Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 9:35
  • 1
    (And incidentally, the same word has in the Northern Germanic languages taken on the meaning of ‘lovely/beautiful’) Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 9:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.