You Say Pa-JAMM-a, I Say Pa-JAHM-a

Last night Corrie and I were reading one of her favorite books, Pajama Time by Sandra Boynton.  And it always bugs me a little, because this book was clearly written with the intended pronunciation of "pajama" as rhyming with "Alabama"–it’s part of the word play.

And yet, there is a whole segment of the population (including me) that pronounces the word the only correct alternate way, as in rhyming with "drama".  I submit to you that we have been discriminated against for far too long.

This ugly truth is only further evidenced in the kids’ computer game Pajama Sam.  The creators are clearly attempting a clever, sing-songy title but it DOESN’T WORK if you pronounce "pajama" the only correct alternate way:


In fact, I’m beginning to suspect a vast, JAMMA-pronouncing conspiracy.  Pa-JAHM-a prounouncers, will you take it anymore?  Will you?

Let’s settle this once and for all right now, because I’m completely out of blog fodder and have resorted to meaningless surveys this is important stuff.  What say you, readers?

Next up, we’ll be tackling breastfeeding vs. bottlefeeding, and then public schooling vs. homeschooling.  Stay tuned.


116 thoughts on “You Say Pa-JAMM-a, I Say Pa-JAHM-a

  1. gretchen from lifenut says:

    Okay, this is funny. I voted and when the current results popped up, it was EXACTLY 50-50. 21 votes for the correct way, 21 votes for the “are you a complete snob?” way.
    We call them “jammies” around here anyway.

  2. Terina says:

    i have to say that at my house we usually say PJs. i have heard it both ways. its like my friend who says PE can, rather than picahn. now i say jammies.

  3. Jill says:

    Yet one more reason why the South completely confuses me. I didn’t even know there was another way to pronounce it besides the Alabama way. It’s like you people just speak a whole different language πŸ™‚

  4. Jean@workingmomma247 says:

    I’m in the same conundrum as the other commenters, I usually say jammies. So I’m sitting here saying it in my head multiple ways on how I say it and somehow both ways sound perfectly normal.

  5. Julie says:

    It’s funny. I pronounce it “rhymes with drama”, but we call them “jammies”, rhymes with sam-mies, for short. Am I weird? Don’t answer that.

  6. Mrs. Pear says:

    Umm, your results may be skewed by us Canadians who say drama without the ah sound, so Alabama and drama and pajama all rhyme in my house.
    Yeah, we like to be difficult. We also like to put extra u’s in words like colour, and end words in re like centre.

  7. Elizabeth in Canada says:

    Ok…call me Canadian, but doesn’t drama also rhyme with Alabama?? Pajamas definitely rhymes with Alabama. I lived in Australia for a year, so I know the other pronunciation too, and I think both are fine, but I definitely grew up with the Alabama one.

  8. Melinda says:

    Um… I don’t see an option for both? I usually say jammies, or my 2 year old says jahmas. That’s without the “pah” sound. πŸ˜‰

  9. Dawn says:

    LOL – um, drama rhymes with Alabama as well! Must be a Canadian thing (or at least my American husband thinks so!). DRAH-ma just sounds so…dra-MAH-tic to me. πŸ˜‰

  10. alison says:

    yeah, i am such a fence sitter on this sticky grammatical dilemma. Kind of like the ‘aunt’ issue. Around here we usually just say “PJ’s”.

  11. Shannon says:

    Sorry, pajama rhymes with Alabama. Maybe I would pronounce it the other way if I lived in, oh, say England and had a proper British accent. But I live in America where the CORRECT way is to say it my way! lol

  12. Jynell says:

    I actually say it both ways- just depends on my mood I guess! Most of the time though it’s just PJ’s or Jammies (rhyming w/ Sam though…)

  13. Amy says:

    Oh heavens, don’t attack the Southerners! πŸ™‚
    Clearly, it rhymes with drama – and I can’t imagine why the results are divided 50/50.
    We have almost all the Sandra Boynton books, but not Pajama Time because I could never figure out how it was supposed to rhyme. Because, really, it doesn’t.

  14. Joyful Days says:

    I’m actually weird and say BOTH. But then I also say, both sofa and couch, soda and pop, and skillet and pan. So what do I know??
    I’m pretty sure if I’m reading Harry Potter I would use the pa-JAHM-a pronunciation. And wouldn’t that be what was important?

  15. Jesse says:

    Ok…so my husband and I both say Jammies (rhymes with Alabama), as well as our families. But our two year old daughter says Jahmmies (as in drama). Yeah, I know, I don’t know where she gets it…though I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s from Charlie and Lola (Playhouse Disney show with two British kids? We’re American).
    Of course, don’t get me started. I say “soda” and am trying to con the half-pint into that, too, rather than the “pop” that my husband says. Oh, and we say “crown” instead of “cray-on”, and Chi-cah-go instead of Chi-coh-go (for Chicago), Minne-soh-tah for Minnesota and Wisk-on-sin for Wisconsin. But we’re originally from Missouri, and yes, we say “Missoureee” not “Missourah” like my father does.

  16. witchypoo says:

    I must be the only Canadian here who says pahjahmas and drahma, but I redeem myself with jammies. Weirder still is saying aunt in general but pronouncing it ant when it refers to an actual aunt.

  17. Linds says:

    I am South African, live in England, with a daughter in New Zealand, and the rest of the world says -AHM as in drama. We also spell it differently – pyjama! PJs for short.

  18. Nic says:

    I could add a whole new pronunciation to this discussion, but considering that is the Dutch one I won’t do it, because it’s in Dutch and not English. The words are very similar, though.
    I stumbled across this on Youtube and thought you would like it.

  19. Madridmom says:

    Had to go with the Alabama way although I did have to say it aloud to check myself. I guess we’re just lazy ’cause we usually shorten it to pj’s or jammies (which would sound pretty wierd if you said jahmmies)or we’ll say it in Spanish if we happen to be speaking more spanish that day in our home. (pijamas — Pee-JAH-mahs)

  20. Elizabeth says:

    As S and I live in the same region, no, I think this is not a regional thing:-) We call them jammies, though.

  21. Julie says:

    I say pajamas like dramas. But I say jammies like, um, I don’t know… mammies? My hubby, OTOH, says jammies like mommies, which to me just sounds weird.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I am from an hour below the Mason Dixon line, lived here all of my life and the only way we pronounce pajamas it rhymes with DRAMA. Even if we say jammies it’s pronounced Jahmmies. The people who pronounce it wrong, by rhyminng it with Alabama, probably can’t pronounce get right either. So they can’t say,’Take what you git and don’t throw a fit!’ LOL

  23. Antique Mommy says:

    We say both, but the short version is “jammies” – not johmmies.
    You know, I love Sandra Boynton, but the rhyming syntax in this book is just awkward and weird. Love her Going To Bed book the most. I’ve read it so many times I can recite it by heart.

  24. DT says:

    Oh! What a padrama you’ve started!
    I had to! I’m sorry! πŸ˜‰
    I say it the correct way like you do, Shannon. Jam is a fruity concoction that goes on bread. It is not soft fabric that goes on my body!

  25. LeeAnn says:

    I grew up with pajamas, like Alabama, but now that I’m “grown up”, I prefer the more melodic “pa-jahm-as”. Grown up sounds so much better than older! My children only know the ahhh in it. I live in MO now, but I grew up on both coasts.

  26. Susanne says:

    I’m with you! I can’t believe that so many people are wrong! πŸ™‚ Don’t they know that even the people who live in Alabama don’t make it rhyme with Alabama??!!

  27. kelli in the mirror says:

    I say pajahmas, but also jammies. I knew somebody who called them jahmies and that sounded wrong to me. I guess I’m in the middle.

  28. Charity says:

    I usually say pa-JAHM-a, but I also say jammies (rhymes with Sammy’s).
    Once I hear my SIL say “get your Jahm-mies on” and I thought I would die! How stupid does that sound?

  29. seized by hope says:

    Typically the “pah” never makes it out of our mouths…jammies (not jahmmies). What can I say, that’s the way it is.
    Can’t wait for the fodder on breast feeding vs bottle feeding and public school vs. homeschool…..ha ha ha

  30. Ornery's Wife says:

    Who would have thought there was so much opinion on this?
    I am a fence straddler. I use both pronunciations interchangeably, but I voted for the Alabama sound since I usually shorten the word to jammies or PJ’s. I am afraid to read the comments on the other topics!

  31. Cyndy says:

    Gollie after that many opinions who needs another but here goes…my dad grew up in M’wakee ‘Sconsin (that would be Milwaukee, Wisconsin) and we grew up saying paJAMas, as in Alabama with the emphasis on that middle A. He also says, sORry and Rnge(orange) but thankfully does not say warshcloth.

  32. Cory says:

    Who knew this was such an exciting topic?!!? My husband and I go round and round about the word aunt – ant or aUnt (as in haunt). Being from Arkansas, I feel like I’m putting on airs if I say aUnt. My kids say aUnt and it sounds so cute and grown up coming from their little mouths!

  33. Melanie says:

    No offense to Alabama, but I am a drama pajama.
    Looking forward to that breastfeeding and schoolin’ post. (Maybe you should combine the two??) wink wink

  34. Pam says:

    Thanks, Shannon, for being willing to take on the hard issues. πŸ™‚
    Even though I’m from the West, thanks to my Eastern parents, in my house pajama definitely rhymes with DRAMA. And yet, like Bee, the nickname is “JAMMies.” Hm. (But never PJs, because those are my initials, and that would just be weird.)
    I tried to vote, but it told me my address had already voted. Which it hasn’t. So just know there’s one more out there for pa-JAH-ma.

  35. Kim says:

    I haven’t read all the comments – so may have already been mentioned but…
    you know some people pronounce drama in a way that rhymes with Alabama too…..
    So that kind of voids the poll ya know what I mean?
    You have to explain that you pronounce drama – drahma.
    Hope that made things easier LOL
    We have always just called them Jammies – it doesn’t sound as cute if you say Jahmmies unless you are Mr Howell from Gilligan’s Island πŸ™‚

  36. Courtney says:

    You know what this reminds me of, Ant vs. Awnt. I grew up with Ant, but my hubby’s family calls them Awnts, all snob-like, if you ask me. Well, I tell you what, it didn’t take me long to cross over into snobville! πŸ™‚ And when you really think about if, since when does au make a short a sound?
    As for the pjs, we call them gymmies. Thank you very much Gymboree for infiltrating my family.

  37. Jen says:

    HA HA! That’s great! I voted…now I can’t wait for the baby-feeding methods and schooling methods debates, because heaven knows we need a few of those… πŸ˜€ hee hee

  38. Andrea says:

    I live on the West Coast and we say it the Alabama way. I have tried and tried to get Alabama and drama to rhyme and can’t figure out how the Canadians do it! πŸ™‚ One thing that I do say differently than anyone up here is either. I pronounce it Ither (long I) and everyone else says Either (long E). Maybe it’s my mom’s only hold out from being born and raised in Texas!

  39. ruby says:

    hmmm…I think your next poll should be whether people pronounce syrup the right way or the wrong way. The right way: “sir-up” (rhymes with stirrup). The wrong way: “sear-up” (rhymes with pier).

  40. Ann says:

    At our house, also in the Midwest, we rhyme with drama. Thus, sometimes we play Pajama Sam (sohm). We also call them jammies that rhymes with Alabamies. Hope that’s not to PC.

  41. katherine says:

    As soon as little man wakes up, I’m totally getting that book and trying to figure out what I’ve been doing wrong. I say pajama(drama), but have never had a problem reading the book that way. Clearly, I’m missing something! (not that I can’t sit here and quote it, mind you, but if I’ve memorized it INCORRECTLY then I need to know!)

  42. mummymac says:

    I think the funniest thing about this post is the fact you got over 100 comments!!!!
    I haven’t read all the other comments but with our accent Alabama rhymes with Drama!
    Too funny

  43. Meg says:

    A HUGE pet peave. Just about up there with spelling words wrong in names of businesses.
    Ugh. This drives me crazy!! I say JAH-mmies, the drama way, my dh and his family all say it the other way. But he also says “sneakers” for tennis shoes, and says Mickey Mouse wierd, too.

  44. Tara says:

    Okay, so we have a book called “Llama Llama Red Pajama”. I have to read it saying pajama (rhymes with drama) to go with the rhyme flow. Otherwise, pajama (rhymes with Alabama, how I say it) doesn’t fit! So, now you have another PJ book that fits! (And usually I just call them jams.)

  45. jenn says:

    This is good stuff! I saw pajahmas but really just call them Jahmmies (which i guess would rhyme with drammies). Interesting insight into regional pronunciations!

  46. Ma says:

    You know what bugs me? Sandra Boynton’s Dinosaur Book. “Dinosaur’s singing a dinosaur song…”
    I am musical. I own a piano. BUT I CAN NEVER GET THAT #$^&*% TUNE RIGHT!!!!

  47. Laura says:

    Um, we “puh-jamma” rhymes with “ala-bamma” folks are winning by 58 votes right now… hmmmm, very interesting… and BTW, it is “sir-up”, not “sear-up”, and it is “puh-con” not “pee-can” (pecan, for those who don’t know that particular debate)… pecan is the one that really grates on my nerves, like nails on a chalkboard – I just shudder when I hear it pronounced the wrong way.
    We Texans take our misuse of the American language veeerrrryyy seriously, Shannon… sorry to offend you! πŸ™‚
    What a fun poll!

  48. Mari-jane says:

    It says I voted already, but I had not, so here is my vote,
    Pa-Jahma.. maybe it is a northern thing, I asked my southern friends, and they all say pajamma!

  49. Ann'Re says:

    Jammies wouldn’t be jammies if pajama didn’t sound like Alabama, right? Otherwise they would be jah-mmies…and that just wouldn’t work. lol Ann’Re

  50. Sabrina says:

    I never got to comment on this last week, but I say throw out that book that is making you pronounce it wrong and get Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney. I’m a good Southern girl too but I grew up overseas so I pronounce everything all sparkly. I drawl with good diction.

Comments are closed.