Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

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"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.[1] The song is most famous for its “You like to-may-toes /təˈmtz/ and I like to-mah-toes /təˈmɑːtz/” and other verses comparing their different regional dialects.[2]

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.[3] 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."[4]

The song was ranked No. 34 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs.[5]

Notable recordings[edit]

The song has been re-used in filmmaking and television production, most notably in When Harry Met Sally... – where it is performed by Harry Connick, Jr. – and The Simpsons. It was featured in the 2012 Broadway Musical Nice Work If You Can Get It.


  1. ^ "Shall We Dance". 7 May 1937 – via IMDb. 
  2. ^ "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off – Lyrics – Ella Fitzgerald". Bluesforpeace.com. Retrieved 2011-10-04. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ Dunkling, Leslie (1990). A dictionary of epithets and terms of address. Routledge. p. 86. 
  5. ^ "America's Greatest Music in the Movies" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2011-10-04. 
  6. ^ "Astaire on 78". America.net. Archived from the original on 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2011-10-04. 
  7. ^ "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. 
  8. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved December 8, 2017. 
  9. ^ "allmusic.com". allmusic.com. Retrieved December 8, 2017. 

External links[edit]