Potato Potahto pits a Nigerian couple in a split home, torn by divorce. In the crossover space of the kitchen, they end up sharing the same food unawares, after interventions by unsuspecting household help. He adds sugar, and she adds honey, but does that difference in preference mean they can't sip tea together?

Ghanaian director Shirley Frimpong Manso recognized the spark of onscreen chemistry between the lead actors of her 2014 Love Or Something Like It, so for this romantic comedy of errors she reunites Nigerian actor OC Ukeje (Tony) and Ghanaian actress Joselyn Dumas (Lulu).

The film takes its name from the familiar expression, "You say potato [poTAYto], I say potato [poTAHto]." Two ways to pronounce the same food. It would be a pity to get into a heated argument over it and ruin this toasty baked 'tater (for the Texas twist on pronunciation). To reply "potato potahto" is to admit that two things or ideas are not the same, but the difference isn't big enough to make a big deal about it. In other words, the oxymoron "same difference" applies. It's the grown-up version of a teenager's "whatever."

That teenager's grandparents, however, may have understood the phrase quite differently (no, not "same diff" this time). It was first penned into lyrics by the late great songwriting duo Ira and George Gershwin titled "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off". The iconic dance duet Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers sang it (and tap danced in roller skates) in the 1937 film Shall We Dance.

Fred and Ginger, along with other actors of Hollywood's Golden Era, were taught to speak in a transatlantic accent imitating upper-class British (poTAHto) that was supposedly more refined than the flat nasal vowels of American speech (poTAYto). The forced transatlantic accent fell out of favor by the late 1940s, but the potayto/potahto difference remains in regional speech variations across the U.S.

Fred: "Alright, the word is either. No use squabbling; that'll get neither [nAYther] of us any place." Ginger: [rolling her eyes] "The word is neither [nEEther]."

In Potato Potahto, Tony is like Fred, preferring to avoid arguments but finding himself pulled in by Lulu's provocations. Lulu is more like Ginger, fiery and thriving on dramatic confrontations.

The meaning has morphed over time, and here's where the two films' sets of characters took a different interpretation of the saying. Fred shrugs while singing "Let's call the whole thing off", as in "let's just forget about this petty fight." But Fred also laments:

"Our romance is falling flat" over such trivial differences as "this" or "that".

Tony, the crushed romantic, latches on to the latter lyrics and agrees to 'call the whole thing off'. The 'thing' in question being not a one-off argument, but their entire marriage. We both want the same thing (a potato, a tomato, romantic love, a peaceful marriage), but we express it in different ways. Does that really mean we should call the whole thing off?

If they had listened through to the end of the song, they would have heard:

"If we ever part, then that might break my heart! So we better call the calling off off!"

Forget the fights, call off the divorce. Instead of forgetting and moving on, divorcees Tony and Lulu move back in together into the same home and start a tally board of rights and wrongs, yours and mine, jealous jabs, and prideful displays of pretended disregard.

Tony and Lulu do not come to grips with the origins of their arguments until there is a third-party intervention, thanks to a meddling but well-meaning mother-in-law or a blundering pair of unhelpful hires. Supposed unthoughtfulness or suspected infidelity stem from misunderstandings, just as they do in real life among less-glamorous couples. They are mostly situational in this romantic comedy as the couples spy and eavesdrop on each other from different floors of the same house.

Comedy and drama from speech misunderstandings also plays a role in the couple's fights. The film is set in Nigeria and both characters are upper class, so they both use the British pronunciation of 'poTAHto'. What is not said or heard, though, weighs more heavily than how it is said. Did Lulu actually hear something from the other woman as she was leaving? Did Fred really express his preferences on fine metals in Lulu's presence? They wind themselves into a couple of sticky situations before finally confessing the truth and realizing that they may have assumed unsaid or unheard words all along. Pride comes before fall.

Fred and Ginger cling to support each other if one stumbles while skating. Marriage forms a foundation, and each partner should be each other's rock. But Lulu is unforgiving of Tony's faults and pushes him to the brink with her criticisms. Married life will reveal both endearing and annoying habits. What was once cute babbling in your sleep can turn into exasperating snoring. Whether you let irritations blow over or blow up into a full-scale fight is a question of the marital foundations of love. You can choose to overlook the irritating 'ay' pronunciation, because the larger picture of 'potato' is what really counts.

It takes two to tango, and it takes two to iron out the differences, from a petty potato to a hefty gold watch. If you can hold on to each other's elbows, instead of shoving each other away, while gliding over these minor bumps, then the marriage can be smooth sailing (or skating).


Potato Potahto runs 70 minutes and will be shown Friday, January 26 at 10 p.m. with short films Sugar and A Meditation as part of Denton Black Film Festival. To purchase tickets at the online box office, click here. NOTE: The short films that accompany this feature contain adult themes such as content, language and nudity and may not be suitable for a younger audience.