Potato, Potato

“Potato, potato” (po-tay-to, po-tah-to)

Genre: modern proverb/idiom

Context/Source: An early childhood memory signified by his (26 year old man) initial confusion with the meaning of the sentiment. 

Analysis: The simplicity of this two-word sentiment confounds it’s meaning. Hearing it for the first time as a young child, the source wondered if there were two names for the same vegetable, or two vegetables with the same name. Over the course of a few weeks he speculated that maybe it was various regional accents that caused the discrepancy in pronunciation, or maybe there was no single way to pronounce it. The more you think about it… potato potato, tomato, tomato, the more the meaning is obscured, the less distinguishable the words become. It shows there’s more than one way for individuals to arrive at the same idea. Though playful, it embodies that, despite language and culture, a potato is a potatoe. 

After further research, I found the idiom seems to be derived from the song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”, written for the film Shall We Dance, released in 1937.

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