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Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

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"Let's Call the Whole Thing Off"
Song by Fred Astaire
B-side"Shall We Dance"
PublishedFebruary 27, 1937 (1937-02-27) by Gershwin Publishing Corp., New York[1]
ReleasedApril 3, 1937[2]
RecordedMarch 3, 1937[3]
StudioLos Angeles, California
GenreJazz, pop vocal
LabelBrunswick 7857[4]
Composer(s)George Gershwin
Lyricist(s)Ira Gershwin
Fred Astaire singles chronology
"They All Laughed"
"Let's Call the Whole Thing Off"
"A Foggy Day"
The first four bars of "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off"

"Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" is a song written by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin for the 1937 film Shall We Dance, where it was introduced by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as part of a celebrated dance duet on roller skates.[5] The sheet music has the tempo marking of "Brightly".[6] The song was ranked No. 34 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs.[7]


The song is most famous for its "You like to-may-to /təˈmtə/ / And I like to-mah-to /təˈmɑːtə/" and other verses comparing British and American English pronunciations.

The differences in pronunciation are not simply regional, however, but serve more specifically to identify class differences. At the time, typical American pronunciations were considered less "refined" by the upper-class, and there was a specific emphasis on the "broader" a sound.[8] This class distinction with respect to pronunciation has been retained in caricatures, especially in the theater, where the longer a pronunciation is most strongly associated with the word darling.[9]


External audio
audio icon You may hear the song "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" performed by the Shep Fields Rippling Rhythm Orchestra in 1937
Here on Archive.org

Popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ Library of Congress. Copyright Office. (1937). Catalog of Copyright Entries 1937 Musical Compositions New Series Vol 32 Pt 3 For the Year 1937. United States Copyright Office. U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
  2. ^ "Cover versions of Let's Call the Whole Thing Off by Fred Astaire with Johnny Green and His Orchestra | SecondHandSongs". secondhandsongs.com. Retrieved 2021-08-04.
  3. ^ "BRUNSWICK 78rpm numerical listing discography: 7500 - 8000". 78discography.com. Retrieved 2021-08-04.
  4. ^ "Fred Astaire – Let's Call The Whole Thing Off / Shall We Dance (Shellac)". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2021-08-04.
  5. ^ Philip Furia (1997). Ira Gershwin: The Art of the Lyricist. Oxford University Press. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-19-535394-5.
  6. ^ The Joy of... George Gershwin. Yorktown Music Press. 1 January 2011. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-78323-824-8.
  7. ^ "America's Greatest Music in the Movies" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  8. ^ Flexner, Stuart Berg (1982). Listening to America: An Illustrated History of Words and Phrases from our Lively and Splendid Past. Simon and Schuster. p. 511. ISBN 9780671248956.
  9. ^ Dunkling, Leslie (1990). A Dictionary of Epithets and Terms of Address. Routledge. p. 86. ISBN 9780415007610.
  10. ^ "Biography by Eugene Chadbourne". AllMusic. Retrieved September 30, 2011.
  11. ^ "Astaire on 78". America.net. Archived from the original on 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  12. ^ Shep Fields performs "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off, Archive.org
  13. ^ "Ella Fitzgerald Discography – Part 2 – The Verve Years part 1". Ellafitzgerald.altervista.org. Archived from the original on 2011-09-29. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  14. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  15. ^ "Bing & Rosie: The Crosby-Clooney Radio Sessions". AllMusic. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  16. ^ "Obscure Videos: '70s Specials". Broadway.com. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  17. ^ Gershwin, Ira (1959). Lyrics on Several Occasions (First ed.). New York: Knopf. OCLC 538209.

Further reading[edit]