Yesterday I went to Trader Joe’s.

I heard a rumor that they had peonies. It was true. When I walked in the door it was amazing. The flower section was full of red and white and pink peony flower bunches.

Just for the record, peonies are my second favorite flower on this planet next to hydrangeas.

They would be in first place if the flowers lasted for more than a hot minute.

Seriously.

If you blink, the peonies will be gone until next year.

I grabbed bunch after bunch of flowers and tossed them into my cart and started whistling and pushed the cart up to the front and unloaded the flowers onto the counter. The clerk smiled at me over the edge of the flowers and said, “How many bunches of peonies do you have?”

Except when he said it, peonies sounded like PEE-OH-NEES.

What?

PEE-OH-NEES?

Ummm.

Nope. That’s not the way to say it. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

Everyone knows it’s PEE-A-KNEES.

Or do they?

And that got me thinking.

Is there a right way to pronounce it?

And so I did what all potentially mispronouncing people do when faced with a word dilemma.

I googled it.

And FOUND 50 MORE WAYS TO SAY IT.

Whaaaaaaat?

Can’t anyone make up their peony mind?

And then?

In even more general pronunciation confusingness, I found even MORE WORDS that I may or may not be saying wrong.

For example, how do you say caramel?

Some people say CARA-MEL.

I say CAR-MEL.

I only eat CAR-MEL if it has chocolate all over it.

Or syrup?

Some people say SEER-UP.

I say SIR-UP.

I pour SIR-UP all over my blueberry pancakes.

Or what about envelope?

Some people say ON-VEL-OPE.

I say EN-VEL-OPE.

When I mail a letter, I put it into an EN-VEL-OPE.

And pecan.

How can we all not agree on the right way to say pecan? Especially if you are from the south.

Some people say PEE-CAN.

I say PUH-KAHN.

Unless I’m eating pie. And then it’s PEE-CAN pie.

And what about potato?

Or tomato?

Or mayonnaise?

Or poem?

And don’t even get me started on Carribean.

So many words. So many pronunciations.

And it all started with these.

Peonies.

The ones I loaded up with from Trader Joe’s and put in my car and brought home and cut the ends off and put them in a vase.

They are actually peony buds right now, just waiting to bloom.

I guess in the end does it really matter?

Because no matter if you say PEE-OH-NEEs or PEE-A-KNEES there’s one thing we can all agree on.

The word to describe them?

It’s beautiful. 🙂

Comments

  1. Image for Nancy Nancy

    I always smile at the flower section at Trader Joe’s and you made me smile just now (as I wait for my car to get inspected. 😁

  2. Image for Linda B Linda B

    That "wrong" pronunciation could be a northerner. That is one of the words that had the biggest difference I noticed when I moved from northern Minnesota to the Chicago area. That and barrettes. I always said BAR-ettes and Chicago was clearly ber-ETTES. There are probably a lot more, but those really stand out. Thanks for that trip down memory lane!

  3. Image for Jolyn Jolyn

    I pour SUR-up all over my blueberry pancakes (which is a 3rd pronunciation). When I mail a letter, I put it into an BOTH and ON-vel-ope and and EN-vel-ope - so it just depends on the day, because they both sound fine to me. I say puh-KAHN - even it it's a pie! Puh-TAY-to; tuh-MAY-to; MAN-nays (yup, two syllables); PO-um (again two syllables); and Carribean depends on if you're going there (which is the Care-uh-BEE-un) or if it describes a cruise (which would be a Cuh-RIB-be-un). But PEE-a-knees are always PEE-a-nees!

  4. Image for TERESA GONZALES TERESA GONZALES

    There are so many words....since I have lived is so many parts of the US I try to pick up the local pronunciation for words. Salmon, Almond, creek, car....the list goes on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Whatever you call them peonies are beautiful and worth the short time they are in bloom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Image for Becky Becky

    Haha! I love pronunciation wars! I pester my husband about his TERRIBLE syllable accents all the time.😁 The great news is: YOU SAY EVERYTHING RIGHT!!!! And I'm from MI, for what that's worth. My kids want me to bring up our #1 disagreement: "root beer". Does "root" rhyme with "foot" or "boot"? Duh, it's foot, of course. Their silly dad has them all messed up... 😁😉

  6. Image for Sandy Sandy

    Here in Ohio, according to our last frost, I put in four pee-a-knees plants. Hopefully, I will at least see one or two flowers this spring/summer.Love the pink among the blue and white. I believe I would have my unsweetened tea with lemon in this room if ever the day was possible. May you continue using all the blessings that God has given you and your lovely family.

    1. Image for Michele M. Michele M.

      I'm from Ohio as well and one of my pee-oh-knees bloomed today. The rest will follow shortly - looks as if it will be a good outpouring of flowers to last that beautiful millisecond. ♥♥♥

  7. Image for Anne Marie Anne Marie

    Why don t you plant them (tons of them) in your garden ? They ll last lingerie. P.S. I pronounce it like the seller ....

    1. Image for Sue Sue

      Mine bloom beautifully but not so long. If you have a Trader Joe's nearby, buy 'em when you can. Plant some if you have a sunny place and enjoy them in your yard -- which some people call garden, but that's where we get our vegetables.

  8. Image for Pamela Turner Pamela Turner

    Loved this and all the regional input so far 😉! Like Theresa G., I’ve lived a few different places... (grew up in OK, moved to South TX, then CA, briefly in No VA and now NJ for 28 years) and try to go with local pronunciations. The only two words I haven’t gotten on board with here in Jersey are “scissor” instead of scissors and what sounds like “draw” instead of drawer (whuh?). Agree pee-uhknees are beautiful wherever they’re grown!

  9. Image for Linda Miller Linda Miller

    My grandma called them "piney's". We used to cut them at Memorial Day and decorate family graves. I have them in the yard at the farm, and there seems to be the "Murphy's Law of Peonies" that every time they bloom and are at their peak of beautifulness, a rain and wind storm comes through (last night) and beats the devil out of them. :-( I may go cut some of the survivors and bring them in. Have a great weekend my friend.

    1. Image for connie Keys connie Keys

      I'm from West Virginia and we always called them "pineys" too. And yes, they were cut and taken to the cemeteries for Decoration Day.

    1. Image for AnnTN AnnTN

      My southern mamaw called them PEE-OH-NEES and that's what I've always called them. I love them! I've never seen them for sale in stores around here. The closest Trader Joes is 90 miles away. Caramel= Car-mul Syrup=Sir-up Envelope=Ahn-ve-lope (southern mamaw--In=Vel-Up) Pecan= Puh-Kahn no matter what

    2. Image for AnnTn AnnTn

      I'm from southeast Tennessee and in my 57 years on earth, I've never heard them called piney roses. Interesting. Must be a regional thing. :)

  10. Image for D D

    A friend I worked with in Amarillo, Texas many, many years ago was originally from Missouri. She called them "funeral flowers" because on Memorial Day in Missouri she said that was the only flower blooming so the graveyards were covered in containers of them.

  11. Image for Karen Karen

    And to add to the discussion, I just learned that I've been pronouncing "clematis" incorrectly my whole life. 😄 it's cle-muh-tis, accent on the first syllable, not the second. Word nerds rock!

    1. Image for Michele M. Michele M.

      oops me too - cept I usually avoided that flower's name whenever possible 'cuz I didn't accidentally want to say that inappropriate word that kinda sounds like it.

  12. Image for Richella Parham Richella Parham

    I’m with you on everything but envelope (I’m an on-er). And I always say puh-KAHN, even with pie. But otherwise we speak the same language...and I’m glad, because yours is beautiful!!

  13. Image for Karen Karen

    CarA Mels are candy. Car Mel is a cooking term... as in caramelizing (pronounced carmelizing ) onions. I hope this helps.

    1. Image for Kimberly Kimberly

      Caramelization is the browning of sugar. It involves color change due to polymer groups and is a non-reversible chemical change. Caramel is candy. Caramels are individual pieces of caramel candy. Caramelizing can be pronounced correctly as CARA mel izing or CAR muh lizing, just as you can eat CAR muhl or CARA mel.

  14. Image for Terri Terri

    Oh! I love this post. We have lived in several different regions of the country. My favorite to date that I had never heard: dragon was drA-gun (long "A") I also remember a discussion about shopping "cart" vs. "buggy". Could go on.

  15. Image for Tori Tori

    It cracks me up that you brought this up! This year, for the first time ever, I’ve heard more than one person say PEE-OH-KNEES; and I was like, What?? Who says that? 😂😂 It will always be PEE-UH-KNEES in my Georgia Girl book; and they’re one of my faves too. Can’t wait to dash to Trader Joe’s! 🌸

    1. Image for Kimberly Kimberly

      I just for the first time last week heard pee OHN ees and was scratching my head about my own personal pronunciation PEE uh nees, so I had to laugh that this post came out in the wake. I love regional pronunciations also and love how some people from KY and TN say "kindly" instead of "kind of". I am from the DEEP south and never heard of a pee can until I was a teenager working in a store and a northerner came in and asked if we had any pee cans. (Say what?!) I find it pronunciation variation amusing enough that my dog's real name is "You Say Potato" (Tater), just to keep everyone guessing. Most people don't get it, though :)

  16. Image for Jill Jill

    Ok, so glad I’m not the only one who has recently been thrown by this! Grew up In Minnesota and spend 20 years of my adult life in CO and it’s pe-Ah- nies. Moved to WA state almost 3 years ago and discovered exactly what you just described pe-OH-Nies. What? And you would think the Minnesotan in me would say it that way because we love our long ohs, but no, my mother and family members say it AH, not OH. I’ve decided it’s a PNW thing? And I say pecan like you, have a grandfather who hails from the south, but I’ve never called pie “pee-can”. It’s still pecan. Maybe it’s the mix of south and Midwest? 😂

    1. Image for Mary C Mary C

      I grew up in St. Paul, MN and now live in a suburb and we've always said PEE-OH-KNEES. I guess there are different dialects even in one state.

  17. Image for Jenn Jenn

    So funny! I posed this same question on my IG the other day. I am a Midwesterner and we say Pee-oh-nees, but my Mother-in-law an Easterner says it the way you do! I love word discussion, it's funny how our loyalty to region and family really shines through in these types of debate!

  18. Image for Jennifer Jennifer

    I grew up in the Midwest and we pronounced lilacs as "lie-lack" ... moved to the Northeast and here they pronounce it "lie-lock"

  19. Image for MARY-ANN (FROM CANADA!) MARY-ANN (FROM CANADA!)

    KariAnne, whatever way you say it, "peonies" are such a gorgeous flower! I sure wish we had a Trader Joes where I live! I would be a forever customer! Have a great day, dear friend!

  20. Image for Teresa George Teresa George

    Too funny, "Car-E-Anne"! That's the way you pronounce it, right? I'm right with you on your pronunciations, and I'm a Georgia-born, Michigan raised, Florida transplant, so I've heard quite a few different ways, too!

  21. Image for Susan Walker Susan Walker

    KariAnne, you are from the south......it's pee-oh-nees. So funny, that you and I have the exact same conversations all the time with anyone we meet!

  22. Image for Candice Candice

    Oh Lord, it’s care-a-mel people! There is an a in that word. Carmel is a place in California. Can you tell you hit my pet peeve? When my husband wants to annoy me he asks if we have any car-mel corn.

  23. Image for Claudia A Claudia A

    I live in IN. Everyone pronounces everything differently. PEE-A-Nees, Pineys, PEE-O-Nees. Puh-Cons, PEE-Cans, We have a Carmel, which is not pronounced CARE-A-MEL or Car-MEL, its just like Carmul altogether. We have a Versailles, pronounced VER-SAILS, not Ver-Sigh. Yep, we are just messed up!

  24. Image for Trudi Trudi

    Ah....I love hydrangeas, peonies (Pee-OH-knees:), and tulips. Imagine my thrill when my husband brought me peony’s-tulips for Mother’s Day. A beautiful hybrid! One that gets me is in the DIY world: Ryobi. Everyone I bumped in to at Home Depot, or in woodworking conversations said REE-o-bi. I said RYE-o-bi (Long “I” in that first syllable). A few years ago, I finally contacted the company to settle it in my mind once and for all. It’s a name, after all, so there REALLY is one right way to say it! Turns out I was right with my little ole long “i”. 😜

    1. Image for Trudi Trudi

      Ugh! I got that backwards! I'm so particular about it and yet it got it backwards. Sheesh. It's REE (long e)-obi. If I could delete my post, I would. (insert eyeball emoji).

  25. Image for pam pam

    I'm a Northerner and I've never used the ''wrong'' pronunciation and I've never heard anyone I grew up with say it that way either. When we moved to the South was the first time I heard it pronounced ''wrong'' and was horrified. I believe the correct way to say barrettes is bar-ETTES because it's essentially a french word. So many crazy words to pronounce.....

    1. Image for Botanic Bleu Botanic Bleu

      Pam, Not to worry. When you moved to the South, all your new neighbors were horrified at all the words you pronounced "wrong," but just took into consideration you were a Yankee. My husband was a professional translator/linguist who always reminded me, "language is a living thing, ever-changing in a fluid state." Ever tried reading OLD English from Chaucer's time? Judith

      1. Image for Pam Pam

        Yes, I have read Old English andI can still recite Chaucer from memory. I studied linguistics in college so I understand how language evolves. A mispronounced word is still a mispronounced word and I don't think it's a northerner or southerner thing. It's just a ''people '' thing. I know I've mispronounced words many times in my life and probably will in the future. I'm happy to be corrected and laugh out loud at myself.

  26. Image for Naomi Shelton Naomi Shelton

    Pee-ah-Knees are one of my favorite flowers, too. My most favorite are daff-ah-dils! I grow them both and am always sad when their blooms cease in the early Spring. I could never have too many of either. I'm also crazy about two-lips but can't grow them as either the bulbs get eaten before they come up or after they sprout the deer enjoy them. Sad! Anyway, I enjoyed your little exploration of pronunciations. Interesting. And I loved looking at your beautiful, bright living room. Yum!

  27. Image for Sandi from the Cape Sandi from the Cape

    Well this had me in stitches! I love peonies right behind Lilacs and Lilly of the Valley for scent. Too bad these flowers don't last very long. I also love Ranunculus for their peonies like beauty, but I also just like saying it! I do so love hydrangeas also! I practically have to for my location! Have you seen the lace cap variety? Just don't get me started on seafood. It's scollups, not scallops like the cut of a trim, even though it's spelled that way!

  28. Image for Karen Karen

    As a true southern girl I was raised Saying, PEE-OH-NEES .... making that OH really long !! Had no idea people pronounced it the other way ... and the first time I heard it ... I had no idea what they were saying !🤦🏼‍♀️ Now I just “go with it” and think ... “bless your heart.” All in fun for sure ;)

    1. Image for Kimberly Kimberly

      Interesting, Karen! I am from the South and have never heard it pronounced your way until last week (by a Wisconsin-ite).

  29. Image for Karen Karen

    LOVE this post! I vote for PEE-A-KNEES! They are so beautiful. I didn't realize that they can take a few years to get started and only bloom for a short time. My neighbor just told me they can live for many decades. Maybe I should try to grow some. :D Someone else brought up Clematis. Some say KLEM-ah-tis and some say kle-MAT-is. I guess it's all regional. I often hear different pronunciations for words like A-men or Ah-men, Pecan, POIN-SETTIA & Pah-men-tah Cheese! I've always said pah-KAHN on its own. But sometimes you may hear a few people running it all together like whenever they're referring to Pee-can Pie. I don't say "Pee-can"!

  30. Image for Carrie Carrie

    I agree with you about the flowers; I prefer to say pee-a-knees. And while we're on the subject of pronouncing words, that yummy Italian dish spelled bruschetta is pronounced broo-skeh-tah and NOT broo-shetta.

  31. Image for Kris Kris

    KariAnne! Have you ever taken this quiz? https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/upshot/dialect-quiz-map.html I think the regional differences are a riot and when I took the quiz, it was spot-on. And to put your mind at ease--you and I share the same pronunciations, so we must be right. And I'm a Michigander.

  32. Image for Lynn W Lynn W

    Any way you pronounce it, they are gorgeous!! A lot of these words pronunciations must have to do with what part of the country you live in, as well as how your family speaks. That’s my take on it 🤪 Super funny post Karianne!!!

  33. Image for Michele M. Michele M.

    I saw care-a-mel too - three syllables - and I say ahn-velope ( like aunt versus ant pronunciation) - kinda like the "en suite" sound. Drives me nuts when people say bedroom suit versus suite (sweet.) We could seriously go at this all day lol. I have a weird one I get teased about often - I say thee-A-tor not the-a-ter for a movie house,. Oh - and I say root beer to rhyme with boot not foot. never "rut beer." Hoof is same - long OOs. Holy smokes, how do people learn our crazy language as a 2nd language, seriously? THIS WAS A FUN POST, KA!

  34. Image for Leslie Watkins Leslie Watkins

    I love this. I’m with you on every word except envelope. I got the on happening. AND my ranking order is the same—hydrangea and then peonies. I’m thinking my next flower purchases will be —a spirea...and a lilac...And replacing a Rose of Sharon. And who knows adding more hydrangea and peonies...but then there are zinnias that make the world happier.😊

  35. Image for Tanja Tanja

    I laughed sooo much reading your post :) The reason why is that I'm german and I thought I've some difficulties to pronounce the english words correctly that everyone can understand me right. But it seems that you among themselves have the same "pronunciation promblems" so, keeping that in mind it makes my english talking a looooot easier :))

  36. Image for Donna Marie Donna Marie

    I call them pee-o-nies, but my mother-in-law called them pine-nees!!! I put cages around mine so they don't fall down. Brought some in and put a white one in each blue quart jar (4) and a pink one in a blue pint jar in a galvanized tray (that I got from Wal-Mart.). Looks great to me!!!

  37. Image for Kris Kris

    ok ... I went to this post to see the pee-a-nees ..... but kept reading it because it was SO what I would do....start with one word and my brain goes a whole different direction and pretty soon I have a whole new conversation! ha I am from North Dakota, and teach on an Air Force Base so I get kids who have many different ways of pronouncing words as they come from all over the country! Apparently I have an accent :0)

  38. Image for Fuchsia_21 Fuchsia_21

    Omg!! You just made me chuckle and pronounce every word you described on your blog...hahaha!! Funny how if you have pronounced a certain word your whole life and then hear someone say it differently you think THEY are wrong? lol....For instance, I’ve always corrected my co-worker for saying drawer...dr-A-er!! What the!! I’m like no, it’s dr-O-er!! This has been my favorite blog of yours to date!!

  39. Image for Ann C Ann C

    KariAnne, will purchased buds open? I’m anxious to see. I’ve always been told peonies need ants to chew off the outer layer so they can open. Maybe they remove that outer layer before selling. I looked back at your photo and answered my own question. I love them too. The year my mom passed her peonies were all white except one that was the usual deep pink. The next year they went back to a variety of pinks. I tell myself that was mom letting me know she’s ok.

  40. Image for Dianne Miley Dianne Miley

    You say all your words like I do! Even pecan in 2 different ways. Wow. How cool is that? Surprising since you live in Texas but I lived in Ohio most of my life and now live in South Carolina. 🤩

  41. Image for Nancy Bailey Nancy Bailey

    Oh gosh - this is my new favorite of your posts Karianne. I have always said 'PEE-oh-knee'. But in this area of NC they say 'pay-OH-knee'. What?? I get strange looks when I say CARE-a-mel. For me, it's 'PEE-con' whether nut or pie. In parts of northern California where we used to live, ALL-monds are called AM-onds. That one was fingernails on a blackboard to me. Viva la difference! Thanks for the laughs this morning. Loved all the comments (COM-ments) too.

  42. Image for Melissa Martinez Melissa Martinez

    I live in Alabama and have now for close to 20 years. One of my neighbors went on about her dogs being runt. I said, "Well the certainly look fine now." Girrrrrl! I didn't realize she was saying they were "ruined" (rew-end) because they were spoiled. Grew up just outside of New Orleans (New Or-lens) and I was on board until you got to pecans (puh-cawns). Regardless of whether or not we are discussing pie or nuts (giggle, because I'll always be 12). Pee-cans are those tin can bathrooms set up at outdoor festivals.

  43. Image for PJ PJ

    KariAnne, if you google "ny times regional dialect quiz", you will link to a quiz that guesses what area of the country you are from based on pronunciations and terms used. I remember asking my California first graders to wear their sneakers the next day. They did not recognize "sneakers" since they always called them "tennis shoes." For those of us from New England, "tennis shoes" are special sneakers worn only for tennis.. My peonies are about to burst. Fortunately their foliage makes a beautiful background even after the blooms are gone.

  44. Image for Marjorie Marjorie

    KariAnne. I pronounce like you. Our home is in Oregon so when we moved here from Texas ( before that Tennessee 27 years) no one understood me. I always tell them I think I sound just like them!! Love this post. Enjoy a great weekend.

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