While perusing the beer selection at a convenience store during a recent trip to New Orleans with a few friends, a local selection, Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale, caught my eye. “Let’s try this ‘PEE-can’ beer” I offered innocently enough. Apparently, my few years in the Northeast already tangibly altered my vocabulary, as I was instantly rebuked by my Southerner buddies with the correct pronunciation of ‘pee-KAWN.' The informal survey of various passers-by and fellow watering hole patrons that followed yielded the conclusion that I was the one out of 20 people that used that particular pronunciation.
Not satisfied with accepting that I was the outlier, I set about searching for a better answer, figuring someone before me must have wondered about this burning issue. As it turns out, an organization with a far larger vested interest in this particular nut, the National Pecan Shellers Association (NPSA) had the foresight to include a question about pecan pronunciation in a 1,000 person national study it commissioned, with a stated sample reliability of +/-3%. Their survey found that 45% (1 in 2.22) of Americans subscribe to the pro ‘PEE-can’ agenda. Furthermore, had the same informal survey that spawned this quest for tree nut truth been conducted around Book of Odds headquarters in Boston, one might expect a different result. I must have picked up the pronunciation from the approximately 7 out of 10 Northeasterners who use the ‘PEE-can’ pronunciation, according to the NPSA study. Perhaps they should know, given that the word comes from the Algonquin term for “tough nut to crack,” as I learned from Senator Max Cleland’s declaration of “National Pecan Month” in the Congressional Record.
So what does all of this have to do with Book of Odds? Well quite simply, statistics are only as reliable as the underlying methods used to create them. Factors such as size, geographic representation, and selection criteria of the sample all can affect the end result of a survey as is evident in comparing my small, localized study with the larger and broader of the NPSA. One of the core missions of Book of Odds is to bring our readers the most reliable and transparent data that is available. To that end, as part of our Odds Statement creation process, our researchers analyze all of the underlying sources using some of the very criteria mentioned above, in the end producing a clear Confidence Rating which gives you, the reader, a simple measure of our faith in the data behind the Odds Statements. For more information about Confidence Ratings, read our Methodology Section.