Like many people during the referendum campaign when I am confronted by someone asking for my view on the great issue of the day I say, “It’s pronounced scone” and wander off in the opposite direction. However, it appears that this view is controversial with many campaigners arguing that I should not be in favour of “scone” but should prefer the pronunciation “scone” instead.
Now we all know that when you see the word scone you pronounce it “scone”. To do otherwise would indicate that you came from the wrong part of the country or wrong social class. And we couldn’t have that now could we? Merely saying “scone” when these people from other classes or other parts of the country say “scone” helps us assert ourselves and confirm our essential right-ness in the world. However, sometimes we are exposed, through the media, to those that are clearly wrong-headed.
Like many of you for some time I have been concerned about the poor pronunciation of people appearing on cookery programmes. Last year, for example, in the Great British Bake Off – a competition to find Britain’s best amateur baker – during the episode where they made scones, one contestant insisted, throughout, on pronouncing it “scone”. Now I tolerate individualism as much as the next person, but this casual disregard for proper pronunciation infuriated me. I wrote to the BBC – complaining that the word “scone” had been pronounced “scone” during the show (not by the presenter, I noted, but only by the contestant) and this showed declining standards at the BBC. When my e-mail complaining about this was read out on the radio I was shocked to hear the presenter pronounce “scone” as “scone” and “scone” as “scone”! This completely reversed the point I was trying to make. And despite numerous e-mails and phone calls the BBC refused to deal with my complaint and contrary to my strongly worded e-mail the presenter remains in work continuing to utter the word “scone” to listeners on a regular basis. It’s a scandal.
Raising the issue on twitter occasionally, I would always stress when I typed “scone”, that it was pronounced “scone” not “scone”, but then it became apparent that some people offered a third mode of pronunciation: “scone”; and some a fourth: “Scone”. Now clearly “Scone” is wrong. Unless you are talking about the place Scone – but why would anyone confuse Scone with scone? Only a blithering idiot would make that mistake.
Anyhow, with the referendum coming up I thought it appropriate to seek the views of people on twitter as to whether scone was pronounced “scone”, “scone”, or “Scone”, or was some alternative pronunciation used, or did people use a combination of them. The poll generated much heated controversy with people deploying all of the sophisticated arguments we have seen in the referendum campaign to support their pronunciation of scone. Some argued that saying “scone” would let in the BNP, or allow extremists to determine how we pronounce “scone” in future. Others that saying “scone” would make your MP work harder. Some believed that people were too stupid to say “scone” and could only say “scone”.
The argument was moved onto a different level by comedian, Richard Herring, last night as another twitter user and I asked him if he pronounced it scone, scone, or Scone?
“@loveandgarbage scone for me”
“Some debate on how to pronounce “scone”. I pronounce it “scone”, but some are saying “scone”. Let’s have a vote to see which is right.”
Novelist Marika Cobbold also had firm views.
“@Herring1967 I’m saying ‘scone’.”
With these celebrity endorsements it became apparent that the straw poll would have greater participation than I anticipated. And the final results were informative:
Total: 400 votes
These figures are very informative. The clear win for scone over scone is not surprising and indicates clearly the potential influence of geography and class on the vote. Holding the vote on a day when the people from the other part of the country were doing something else was always potentially going to skew the poll. But if people felt strongly enough about whether it was scone or scone the other lot would have managed to get their vote out. Additionally, though, we all know how the weather, class, and complacency can influence the vote.
The biggest surprise in the vote though was the high vote for permutations featuring the answer “Scone”. of all the possible options “Scone” is the only one that is plainly incorrect – but attempting to explain its high count is difficult, and one for psephologists rather than me. However, I make two initial assumptions. First, it appears that there was some sort of protest vote. Given a choice between “scone” or “scone”, some were frustrated at the broad similarity of the options and perhaps felt that “Scone” offered something different. Alternatively, the high vote for “Scone” (and permutations including “Scone”) could merely reflect that many voters are too stupid to be given the vote.
Anyway, with the dispute between “scone” and “scone” resolved conclusively in favour of “scone” I am satisfied that the next time I write to the BBC demanding that they sack a presenter for saying “scone” then my complaint will be taken rather more seriously.