Press release

Would you like a sconn or a scoan?

Two-thirds of us think that scone should be pronounced "sconn", according to a survey into people's pronunciation preferences.

John Wells, Professor of Phonetics at University College London, has just released the first results of his new survey, based on answers from nearly 2,000 people from England, Wales and Scotland.

They were asked which pronunciation they preferred for a hundred or so words. And for scone, 65% voted for "sconn" and only 35% for "scoan". 'This is an interesting word,' says Prof. Wells. 'There seems to be no difference between the north and the south of England, although the Scots are solid for "sconn". Some English people think that "sconn" is ordinary and "scoan" is posh, but others think it's the other way round. This is the first time we've had a vote on it!'

Several trends can be detected by comparing the answers given by older and younger people.

Older people will be shocked that the under-26's prefer "misCHIEVous" to the traditional "MISchievous". Younger people will laugh at the older ones who don't know how to pronounce gigabyte (starts like giggle) or who think that a shopping mall is like The Mall by Buckingham Palace (the young call a shopping mall a "maul".)

The influence of spelling means that more and more of us prefer to say forehead as "fore" plus "head", rather than making it rhyme with "horrid".

The all-pervasive influence of American English is responsible for the young turning to "skedule" in place of the traditional British "shedule". But we still like to say niche in a French sort of way, "neesh", rather than "nitch", as the Americans do.

The survey formed part of the research for a forthcoming new edition of the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary.


Prof. J.C. Wells, Dept. of Phonetics & Linguistics, 
University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT
0171-380 7175
or visit

J.C.Wells home page

Placed on the web 1999 04 20