As you might expect, here at the “Friend” we love words – and conversation can become lively pretty quickly when there’s a disagreement over how to use them. When we were preparing our August 12 issue, the cake recipes in the cookery feature proved unusually controversial. You see, there are strong views on how to pronounce scone, and there are five of them in our August 12 issue, on sale from Wednesday. As it turned out, we’re pretty united on this one – in the “Friend” team, we all rhyme scone with “gone”, but why?
When I was growing up in a mixed Irish/ Scottish family, I learned it was scone to rhyme with cone in Ireland or when with Irish relatives, and scone to rhyme with gone the rest of the time. (It was easier that way).
It’s a debate that comes up often. In fact, it has featured in university surveys to map how words changes with time and geographical area. In 2016, Cambridge University researchers launched an app to help them track a series of 26 words and phrases, including scone.
After analysing data from over 30,000 users they produced a series of maps that shows how language use has changed around the country from the 1950s. They’ve also produced a map that shows just where the great scone divides occur!
Almost everyone in Scotland rhymes scone with gone (unless they’re talking about Scone, the village near Perth, in which case, it’s “skoon”). That holds pretty much until you get down to a line through York and North Wales. It then changes to a roughly 50:50 split through the rest of England and Wales, though there are a couple of strong patches of “cone” rhymers from Hull to Stoke-on-Trent and around London. And over in Ireland? It’s mostly “cone” country until you get north of Dublin and east of Sligo. So that explains why the “Friend” team are united and why I’ve grown up bilingual when it comes to scones!
Meanwhile, tuck into those scrumptious scone recipes in our next issue – however you pronounce them!