Po-tay-toh, Po-tah-toh

The add old adage “you say po-tay-toh, I say po-tah-toh” is interesting. I am not talking about the meaning we get from this saying, but rather the fact that it is one word said two different ways. This is basically regional and where you grew up determines which pronunciation you use. It works with tomato and aunt as well as many other words.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, I wish to talk about one word, namely a name. The name being that of Leigh. So, how do you pronounce it? I am willing to bet that 99.99% of people will say Leigh is pronounced Lee. There is no other way to say it. Is that true?

Answer being, uh, no. It isn’t true. There is another pronunciation to this name. What is it? It is lay. People scoff and sneer and say that makes no sense. Really? Let’s take a wander down vocabularly lane, shall we? Evidence that it can (and probably should be) pronounced lay:

  1. Sleigh (how do we say this word? slay! with the long a sound)
  2. Raleigh (ok, some people will say raw-lee vs. raw-lay)
  3. Eight (last time I checked it was pronounced ate, again long a sound)
  4. Freight (frayte)
  5. Weight (wait)

Enough with the word games. I know they are probably not the most convincing, but I just thought it was nice to point out. In the English language, what does the vowels ‘ei’ put together sound like? Think about feint (pronounced “faint” not “feent”). It is the “ie” combination that is actually pronounced as the long e sound versus the long a sound. Now, I am not saying that everytime “ei” is together it will be pronounced this way (like agreeing), but I am willing to say that the majority of words with “ei” should be pronounced with the long a sound.

So why do so many people pronounce Leigh as Lee vs. Lay? And why did I spend a whole blog post on this particular topic? Well, look at my name: Leighton Nichols (pronounced lay-ton). Tis a nom de plume, but Leighton is derived from my middle name, which is? You guessed it, Leigh. And no, it is not pronounced Lee. My father, for whatever confounding reason, gave me one of the commonest middle names and decided that it will be Lay vs. Lee.

It is a pet peeve of mine when people get the pronounciation of my middle name wrong. Petty? Probably, but it just annoys me. Just like when people start adding extra letters to my first name.

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3 thoughts on “Po-tay-toh, Po-tah-toh

  1. uh-oh! spell check isn't working! i was told once that the way i spell my first name is "weird". you 'n' me, we spell our first names the same… what's so weird about it?!?as an american, i say the last letter of the alphabet is pronnounced "zee". but everyone i talk to on the phone with says it's "zed". …totally messes me up, every time.and speaking of raleigh (i say "ralley" and you say… "rallay"?), how'ya explain "missouri"??? i say mizzurry, but people from there insist it's mizzurrah.

  2. I have even heard it pronounced mizzuray. I know, so many people say our name is spelled wrong, but I would like to think it is the "right" way to spell it, lol.Isn't the last letter of the alphabet zee? I have heard zed before, but not in reference to the alphabet.

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