The enigma of almond pronunciation explained

Feb 23, 2016

People in California are divided over whether the “L” in the word almond is pronounced or silent, reported Ezra David Romero on Valley Public Radio.

As a general rule, farmers in the northern part of the state say “am-end” and farmers in southern areas say “almond.” In a quest for an explanation, Romero spoke to numerous farmers and ag industry professionals who all told a version of the same joke. For his story, he quoted UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor David Doll, who he called the "go-to guy" for all things almond in California.

“Farmers will often tell you, you call it an almond on the tree and an am-end on the ground because you shake the l out of it,” Doll told him.

But in terms of the true rational, Doll couldn't provide a definitive answer.

"People who refer to it as am-end tend to be longer-term farmers, so they've been farming for multiple generations,” Doll said.

A UC Davis plant breeder was able to offer a plausible explanation.

When almonds were first introduced by Spanish missionaries, almendras (pronounced with the l) did not succeed. Later immigrants from France and Portugal, who pronounced the nut amandola and amande respectively, brought the crop to Central California. 

"Somewhere along the line the use of am-end stuck in Northern California, while the Spanish-inspired noun grew popular elsewhere," Romero reported.

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist