There’s A Chance You’re Saying ‘crayon’ The Wrong Way

My husband and I have an ongoing parenting disagreement, and it involves how we should teach our children to say the word “crayon.”

My husband is firmly in the two-syllable “cray-on” pronunciation camp, whereas I have always called the wax coloring implements “crans.” Other variations on saying the word include “crown” and “cray-awn.” Does this debate sound familiar to you?

To the two-syllable camp’s credit, Crayola does say on its website that “Webster’s Dictionary states the proper way to pronounce Crayon is in two syllables krA on.’” However, Crayola continues, “individual and regional dialects may have slightly different pronunciations.” So, really, one-syllable acolytes aren’t in the wrong either.

On its website, Merriam-Webster actually offers three phonetic pronunciations of the word: “krā-ˌän,” “krā-ən” and “ˈkran.” Its audio snippet favors “cray-on,” however.

crayon photo
Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

Your pronunciation may vary depending on where you were raised. Or how your parents said the word. Just take a look at some of the pronunciation maps out there showing how “crayon” is said across the country. In my case, my Minnesota-bred mother taught her Hawaii-born kids to say “cran,” thus cross-pollinating the pronunciation zones and totally annoying my husband.

Crayon is such a regional marker that it was included as a question in this popular dialect quiz by Joshua Katz, who also made a bunch of fascinating U.S. language maps.

If it helps your case to know the language of origin, the word crayon comes from the Latin word “creta” and French word “craie,” meaning chalk. (The French pronunciation of crayon is distinct in its own right, of course.)

The “cray-on” vs. “cran” debate has continued to rage online thanks to social media and local news coverage like this segment from a station in Florida:

And these guys in Kansas City, Missouri:

BuzzFeed even got in on the action a few years ago:

Now don’t get me started on how to say caramel.