Good Words Gone Bad

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bri...@wsu.edu

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Oct 25, 2005, 3:38:53 PM10/25/05
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That's the title of a column by Candace Murphy in the October 25
"Inside Bay Area," a publication of the Oakland Tribune. Partly based
on an interview with me.
http://www.insidebayarea.com/bayarealiving/ci_3149376

Harvey Van Sickle

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Oct 25, 2005, 4:09:27 PM10/25/05
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On 25 Oct 2005, bri...@wsu.edu wrote

Good article; thanks.

--
Cheers, Harvey
Canadian (30 years) and British (23 years)
For e-mail, change harvey.news to harvey.van

Django Cat

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Oct 25, 2005, 4:43:08 PM10/25/05
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bri...@wsu.edu wrote:

"This is my 'fort'?" Geroutofit. If the OED says "forté formally
fort" that'll do for correct usage rather than 'abuse' for me, ta very
much.

DC

Ross Howard

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Oct 25, 2005, 4:50:17 PM10/25/05
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On 25 Oct 2005 12:38:53 -0700, "bri...@wsu.edu" <bri...@wsu.edu>
wrought:

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Not so much for the article, interesting enough though it was, as for
having refrained from saying it was "partly based on an interview with
myself".

--
Ross Howard

Mike Lyle

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Oct 25, 2005, 4:59:50 PM10/25/05
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Any rawd oop, I want to know how _Italian_ fencing-masters pronounce
it. If you think I'm going to argue with an Italian fencing-master at
close quarters unless I've got a .44 magnum against his rapier,
you've got another pensée coming, old thing.

And it's not even "possible" that the jerk formerly known as "Prince"
(of where, may one ask?) invented hyper-telegraphese. "I C U R YY 4
me," he thinks? W L, he int.

--
Mike.


batdorf

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Oct 25, 2005, 5:09:41 PM10/25/05
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"Django Cat" <nospam@please> escribió en el mensaje
news:TuOdnaBk8Jt...@brightview.com...

Seconded.
Both pronunciations appear to be acceptable in my "humble" Collins...

It sounds like inverted pretentiousness to me.
Worried about being declass...or is that declassé?

HumphreyB

Django Cat

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Oct 25, 2005, 5:22:42 PM10/25/05
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Mike Lyle wrote:

> Django Cat wrote:
> > bri...@wsu.edu wrote:
> >
> >> That's the title of a column by Candace Murphy in the October 25
> >> "Inside Bay Area," a publication of the Oakland Tribune. Partly
> based
> >> on an interview with me.
> >> http://www.insidebayarea.com/bayarealiving/ci_3149376
> >

> > "This is my 'fort'?" Geroutofit. If the OED says "forti formally


> > fort" that'll do for correct usage rather than 'abuse' for me, ta
> very
> > much.
> >
> > DC
>

> Any rawd oop, I want to know how Italian fencing-masters pronounce


> it. If you think I'm going to argue with an Italian fencing-master at
> close quarters unless I've got a .44 magnum against his rapier,

> you've got another pensie coming, old thing.


>
> And it's not even "possible" that the jerk formerly known as "Prince"
> (of where, may one ask?) invented hyper-telegraphese. "I C U R YY 4
> me," he thinks? W L, he int.

Dunno - though Prince is actually Prince Rogers Nelson's real name (I
know you'll enjoy this Mike...
http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/prince.html). Bit like Prince Michael
Jackson - aka the child in the Butterfly Mask, gord help him.

Well, I'm going to run through a couple of numbers on the ol'
Pianofort, before I stroll down to Fort's Italian coff shop for a large
late.

Later on I'm watching Forte Apach the Bronk.

How come my e acutes come out as i's? Fortay, I know, I know, not
Forty.

DC

Jim Lawton

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Oct 25, 2005, 5:23:15 PM10/25/05
to

Absolutely. I have before me a 1975 Collins which has both pronunciations. I
have never heard the word pronounced "fort" that I can recall.

There are far more abused words - pron[ou]nciation being one of them.
--
Jim
the polymoth

Django Cat

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Oct 25, 2005, 5:29:30 PM10/25/05
to
batdorf wrote:

I am 47 years old, a native BrE speaker, educated to higher degree
level and have spent much of the last 20 years teaching ESL.

Never in my life have I heard anybody say 'that's my fort'; in person,
on TV...

So in what way is using the universally accepted pronunciation an
'abuse'?

People can say 'fort' if they must, but they're just going to sound
like ponces.

Does Andrew Lansley MP (recently on AEU) know about this?

DC

Default User

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Oct 25, 2005, 6:06:21 PM10/25/05
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Jim Lawton wrote:

I agree, I've never really heard it any way besides "for-tay" in my
life. It seems odd that this of all things would be a bugbear for
someone, but we all have our little irritations.

Brian

--
If televison's a babysitter, the Internet is a drunk librarian who
won't shut up.
-- Dorothy Gambrell (http://catandgirl.com)

Weatherlawyer

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Oct 25, 2005, 6:17:36 PM10/25/05
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Ross Howard wrote:
>
> Thank you! for having refrained from saying it was "partly based on

> an interview with myself".
>
Was it?

Mike Lyle

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Oct 25, 2005, 6:18:46 PM10/25/05
to
Django Cat wrote:
> Mike Lyle wrote:
>
>> Django Cat wrote:
[...]

>> Any rawd oop, I want to know how Italian fencing-masters pronounce
>> it. If you think I'm going to argue with an Italian fencing-master
at
>> close quarters unless I've got a .44 magnum against his rapier,
>> you've got another pensie coming, old thing.
>>
>> And it's not even "possible" that the jerk formerly known as
"Prince"
>> (of where, may one ask?) invented hyper-telegraphese. "I C U R YY
4
>> me," he thinks? W L, he int.
>
> Dunno - though Prince is actually Prince Rogers Nelson's real name
(I
> know you'll enjoy this Mike...
> http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/prince.html).

Holy sheeuttt! I've bookmarked it, to see if it looks the same
tomorrow.

> Bit like Prince Michael
> Jackson - aka the child in the Butterfly Mask, gord help him.

Is he the one who married Princess Michael of Kent?


> Well, I'm going to run through a couple of numbers on the ol'
> Pianofort, before I stroll down to Fort's Italian coff shop for a
> large late.
>
> Later on I'm watching Forte Apach the Bronk.
>
> How come my e acutes come out as i's? Fortay, I know, I know, not
> Forty.

Dunno. I rather like "pensie", though.

--
Mike.


Mike Lyle

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Oct 25, 2005, 6:22:55 PM10/25/05
to
Django Cat wrote:
[...]

> People can say 'fort' if they must, but they're just going to sound
> like ponces.
[...]

Or like better swordsmen than you or I. If we value our ears, among
other things, then we must allow for the swordsmen. Don Phillipson
could be along in a moment to slit us from the guggle to the zatch.

--
Mike.


John Dean

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Oct 25, 2005, 6:44:53 PM10/25/05
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""You do know," she says, "that 'bird' used to be pronounced 'brid.'" "

Really? I thought "brid" used to be pronounced "brid" while "bird" used
to be pronounced "bird". Of course, "brid" was used generally in England
in days of yore for "bird" and used more recently in Northern dialect.
--
John Dean
Oxford


bri...@wsu.edu

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Oct 25, 2005, 6:47:13 PM10/25/05
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The original French expression is "pas mon fort"--meaning "not my
strong point." Note: no "e" on the end. It got mangled in the transfer
into English by cross-pollination with italian "forte." Some
hoity-toity types used to pronounce it "fourt"--but that's actually
wrong because the "t" is not pronounced in French. A certain number of
people have been arguing ever since for the one-syllable version over
the two-syllable one as truer to its roots. I consider it a lost cause.
Illogical derivation, but we're stuck with it.

batdorf

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Oct 25, 2005, 6:49:15 PM10/25/05
to

"Django Cat" <nospam@please> escribió en el mensaje
news:SuOdncbCH-wnPsPe...@brightview.com...

>
>> > "This is my 'fort'?" Geroutofit. If the OED says "forté formally
>> > fort" that'll do for correct usage rather than 'abuse' for me, ta
>> > very much.
>>
>> Seconded.
>> Both pronunciations appear to be acceptable in my "humble" Collins...
>>
>> It sounds like inverted pretentiousness to me.
>> Worried about being declass...or is that declassé?
>>
>> HumphreyB

> Never in my life have I heard anybody say 'that's my fort'; in person,


> on TV...
>
> So in what way is using the universally accepted pronunciation an
> 'abuse'?

Not universally accepted, apparently...There was a "sigh" in the quoted
article that seemed to imply that "the ay-ers" did not have it! We poor
Brits, apparently, have got it all wrong...yet again!
But then, why accept a standard pronunciation when you can change it?

> People can say 'fort' if they must, but they're just going to sound
> like ponces.

Apparently it depends who the people are...
"Fort" sounds awful to me...But...live and let live!
Fortis becomes fort, forte...Vive la diference!

I really don't understand the polemic...

(Don´t know about his cat, but I doubt that Django Reinhardt would have
been the tiniest bit concerned, when "Manoir de mes Rźves" became "The
Gypsy Mass" and got a few "forte" passages thrown in by a bemused
orchestra, whether or not the "e" was in evidence...Sorry, I'll correct
that...In the key of "A" the "e" would have been very much in
evidence...In Bb it has to be flattened...much like certain people
insist on doing to English...with a sigh!)

HumphreyB


Mike Lyle

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Oct 25, 2005, 7:36:26 PM10/25/05
to

My understanding is that it's a fencing term, and therefore French in
origin, and therefore has a reason for the feminine ending. Evidence
to the contrary accepted gracefully, of course.

--
Mike.


batdorf

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Oct 25, 2005, 7:37:57 PM10/25/05
to

<bri...@wsu.edu> escribió en el mensaje
news:1130280433.9...@f14g2000cwb.googlegroups.com...

> The original French expression is "pas mon fort"--meaning "not my
> strong point." Note: no "e" on the end.

Merci, Monsieur le Maître!
Je vous rappele que les langues changent...

> It got mangled in the transfer
> into English by cross-pollination with italian "forte."

Merde, mec. Les anglais ont leur propre langue. Quand ils prennent un
nouveau mot il peut changer, non?
La plus grande branlette de tous se produit quand ceux qui parlent la
même langue le changent sans aucune raison...

> Some
> hoity-toity types used to pronounce it "fourt"--but that's actually
> wrong because the "t" is not pronounced in French.

Te pongo otro ejemplo, señor don nadie...

"You say potato; I say potato
You say tomato; I say tomato
Potato, potato, tomato, tomato
Let's call the whole thing off"

HumphreyB

Chris Waigl

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Oct 25, 2005, 10:53:11 PM10/25/05
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On Tue, 25 Oct 2005 16:29:30 -0500, Django Cat wrote:

> I am 47 years old, a native BrE speaker, educated to higher degree level
> and have spent much of the last 20 years teaching ESL.
>
> Never in my life have I heard anybody say 'that's my fort'; in person,
> on TV...
>
> So in what way is using the universally accepted pronunciation an
> 'abuse'?

The French collocation is spelled "X est/n'est pas mon/son/... fort"
without an "e" at the end. It was imported as "mein/sein... Forte" into
German as well. As a child, when I first heard it, I assumed it must come
from the Italian performance directions you find on sheet music ("piano",
"pianissimo", "forte", "fortissimo" etc.).

In any case "this is/isn't my forte" is English, not French, so English
speakers are free to decide, via the usual unconscious collective
distillation process, how to pronounce it. In any even, usage context has
already strayed from the French original. I see it much more often from
more-than-average educated English speakers than from the French, though
it does occur, usually either somewhat tongue-in-cheek or when writing in
a markedly enthusiastic tone. It would be rare indeed to hear it in a TV
interview. "X est/n'est pas son point fort" (i.e. simply "... is not
his/her/... strong point" is much more common.

Chris Waigl

--
blog: http://serendipity.lascribe.net/
eggcorns: http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/
personal blog : just ask for the URL

Chris Waigl

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Oct 25, 2005, 11:07:35 PM10/25/05
to

Thanks for pointing to this.

I am wondering about the following:

----
But today, it's quite likely that those abuses and misuses are worming
their way into standard English usage at a quicker rate.
----

These are not your words, but the journalist Candace Murphy's, and I don't
claim you implied anything like this in the passages she quoted from you.
It just struck me as quite unlikely, unless the "quicker rate" refers to
the very last few years, when TV and the electronic media arguably
accelerated the process of language change. And even for this I'd like to
see a study before I believe it.

But for a long time -- since the 19th century or so -- the expansion of
post-primary education to 100% of the population and the standardisation
of curricula, usage manuals and dictionaries would seem to me to have
slowed down the accession of errors and reinterpretations into standard
English: there was always an expert around who could claim the authority
to dismiss a neologism, reshaping or slang term. Errors have of course
always happened, and when English borrowed a word, it was often
assimilated, anglicised, pronounced or spelled differently. The entire
idea that spelling should be fixed and that correct spelling was a mark of
the educated is not that old.

Charles Riggs

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Oct 26, 2005, 1:32:11 AM10/26/05
to
On Tue, 25 Oct 2005 20:09:27 GMT, Harvey Van Sickle
<harve...@ntlworld.com> wrote:

>On 25 Oct 2005, bri...@wsu.edu wrote
>
>> That's the title of a column by Candace Murphy in the October 25
>> "Inside Bay Area," a publication of the Oakland Tribune. Partly based
>> on an interview with me.
>> http://www.insidebayarea.com/bayarealiving/ci_3149376
>
>Good article; thanks.

I should read this when there were over 400 other posts to read this
morning? The reader can decide for himself whether the article is good
or not.

"Thank you"s without further comment belong in AOL or in the chat
rooms teenagers frequent.

An allowable exception, as I and probably Miss Manners see it, is when
a poster has done something nice for the person expressing gratitude.
--
Charles Riggs

Charles Riggs

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Oct 26, 2005, 1:32:12 AM10/26/05
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On Tue, 25 Oct 2005 21:23:15 GMT, Jim Lawton
<use...@jimlawton.TAKEOUTinfo> wrote:

>On Tue, 25 Oct 2005 15:43:08 -0500, "Django Cat" <nospam@please> wrote:
>
>>bri...@wsu.edu wrote:
>>
>>> That's the title of a column by Candace Murphy in the October 25
>>> "Inside Bay Area," a publication of the Oakland Tribune. Partly based
>>> on an interview with me.
>>> http://www.insidebayarea.com/bayarealiving/ci_3149376
>>
>>"This is my 'fort'?" Geroutofit. If the OED says "forté formally
>>fort" that'll do for correct usage rather than 'abuse' for me, ta very
>>much.
>
>Absolutely. I have before me a 1975 Collins which has both pronunciations. I
>have never heard the word pronounced "fort" that I can recall.

Then you've never talked to me, as we know, or to other lovers, as I
see it, of the language. The word is correctly pronounced fort. So
many people mispronounce it, I've given up on trying to convince them
of their error. Your pronunciation is from the Italian and refers, of
course, to music dynamics: a different word entirely, derived from the
French language, and pronounced as I and many other purists pronounce
it.

>There are far more abused words - pron[ou]nciation being one of them.

That is unimportant by comparison, since we wouldn't confuse it for
another word.
--
Charles Riggs

R H Draney

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Oct 26, 2005, 1:21:09 AM10/26/05
to
batdorf filted:

>
>(Don´t know about his cat, but I doubt that Django Reinhardt would have
>been the tiniest bit concerned, when "Manoir de mes Rêves" became "The
>Gypsy Mass" and got a few "forte" passages thrown in by a bemused
>orchestra, whether or not the "e" was in evidence...Sorry, I'll correct
>that...In the key of "A" the "e" would have been very much in
>evidence...In Bb it has to be flattened...much like certain people
>insist on doing to English...with a sigh!)

"*Has* to be flattened"?...I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the
eighteenth century ended quite some time back....r

Raymond S. Wise

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Oct 26, 2005, 2:19:11 AM10/26/05
to


What's surprising about your observation on the pronunciation of
"forte" is that the usage note in the 11th edition of
*Merriam-Webster's Collegiate," discussing the "one's strong point"
sense, gives "FOR-tay" and "FORT" (both pronounced non-rhotically) as
the predominate pronunciations in British English, while "FOR-tay" and
"for-TAY" (pronounced rhotically) are given as the most frequent
American pronunciations.


--
Raymond S. Wise
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA

E-mail: mplsray @ yahoo . com

Harvey Van Sickle

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Oct 26, 2005, 3:14:31 AM10/26/05
to
On 26 Oct 2005, Charles Riggs wrote

> On Tue, 25 Oct 2005 20:09:27 GMT, Harvey Van Sickle
><harve...@ntlworld.com> wrote:
>
>> On 25 Oct 2005, bri...@wsu.edu wrote
>>
>>> That's the title of a column by Candace Murphy in the October 25
>>> "Inside Bay Area," a publication of the Oakland Tribune. Partly
>>> based on an interview with me.
>>> http://www.insidebayarea.com/bayarealiving/ci_3149376
>>
>> Good article; thanks.
>
> I should read this when there were over 400 other posts to read
> this morning?

And you should bother responding?

Get a life, Charles.

Jim Lawton

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Oct 26, 2005, 3:35:49 AM10/26/05
to
On Wed, 26 Oct 2005 06:32:12 +0100, Charles Riggs <chriggs@éircom.net> wrote:

>On Tue, 25 Oct 2005 21:23:15 GMT, Jim Lawton
><use...@jimlawton.TAKEOUTinfo> wrote:
>
>>On Tue, 25 Oct 2005 15:43:08 -0500, "Django Cat" <nospam@please> wrote:
>>
>>>bri...@wsu.edu wrote:
>>>
>>>> That's the title of a column by Candace Murphy in the October 25
>>>> "Inside Bay Area," a publication of the Oakland Tribune. Partly based
>>>> on an interview with me.
>>>> http://www.insidebayarea.com/bayarealiving/ci_3149376
>>>
>>>"This is my 'fort'?" Geroutofit. If the OED says "forté formally
>>>fort" that'll do for correct usage rather than 'abuse' for me, ta very
>>>much.
>>
>>Absolutely. I have before me a 1975 Collins which has both pronunciations. I
>>have never heard the word pronounced "fort" that I can recall.
>
>Then you've never talked to me, as we know, or to other lovers, as I

This worried me a little, until I realised you weren't claiming have been a
lover of mine.

>see it, of the language. The word is correctly pronounced fort. So
>many people mispronounce it, I've given up on trying to convince them
>of their error. Your pronunciation is from the Italian and refers, of
>course, to music dynamics: a different word entirely, derived from the
>French language, and pronounced as I and many other purists pronounce
>it.
>
>>There are far more abused words - pron[ou]nciation being one of them.
>
>That is unimportant by comparison, since we wouldn't confuse it for
>another word.

Ah, but since the pronunciation you dislike (of forte) is so commonplace as to
be accepted in reputable dictionaries, it is those who use the "old"
pronunciation who are likely to cause confusion.

"That is my forte" - "Where? I see no fort".

If you didn't like "pronunciation" as an example, how about "trait"
(trate,tray)?


--
Jim
the polymoth

batdorf

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Oct 26, 2005, 4:00:34 AM10/26/05
to

"R H Draney" <dado...@spamcop.net> escribió en el mensaje
news:djn3o...@drn.newsguy.com...

> "*Has* to be flattened"?...I hate to be the one to break it to you,
> but the
> eighteenth century ended quite some time back....r

But major scales are still with us.
For example : Bflat, C, D, Eflat, F, G, A, Bflat.
Tone, tone, semi-tone, tone, tone, tone, semi-tone.
Remember that one, do we?

(A modernist muso called "r"
Thought that "out" should always follow "far".
He based all his themes
Upon dissonant screams
As he strummed on his one-string guitar.)

HumphreyB

batdorf

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Oct 26, 2005, 4:56:18 AM10/26/05
to

"Charles Riggs" <chriggs@éircom.net> escribió en el mensaje
news:m15ul11lg0lddt272...@4ax.com...

> The word is correctly pronounced fort.

Not necessarily...

> So
> many people mispronounce it,

No they don't. They pronounce it differently from you and brians of the
sigh, which is not the same.

> I've given up on trying to convince them
> of their error.

There is no error.

> Your pronunciation is from the Italian and refers, of
> course, to music dynamics: a different word entirely, derived from the
> French language, and pronounced as I and many other purists pronounce
> it.

"Forte" is also French if you happen to be feminine. It is quite common
for the pronunciation and/or spelling of a word to change when it is
adopted by another language. It also appears that adjectives are used as
nouns and phrases truncated...if we use "(le) point fort" as an example.

Will you be having "patatas" with your lunch, or should that be
"batatas"...? Okay then, "papas" if you want to be purist about it.

HumphreyB

Bertel Lund Hansen

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Oct 26, 2005, 5:36:59 AM10/26/05
to
Mike Lyle skrev:

> And it's not even "possible" that the jerk formerly known as "Prince"
> (of where, may one ask?) invented hyper-telegraphese.

I don't think he did. I remember a computer (I have forgotten
which) from the early 80's that asked "R U SURE" when one wanted
to delete something. Prince was 22 by that time and not very well
known.

--
Bertel
http://bertel.lundhansen.dk/ http://fiduso.dk/

Ross Howard

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Oct 26, 2005, 5:51:11 AM10/26/05
to
On Wed, 26 Oct 2005 11:36:59 +0200, Bertel Lund Hansen
<nospam...@lundhansen.dk> wrought:

>Mike Lyle skrev:
>
>> And it's not even "possible" that the jerk formerly known as "Prince"
>> (of where, may one ask?) invented hyper-telegraphese.
>
>I don't think he did. I remember a computer (I have forgotten
>which) from the early 80's that asked "R U SURE" when one wanted
>to delete something. Prince was 22 by that time and not very well
>known.

Prince's use of Prinspeak goes back to his 1981 album *Controversy*,
with "Jack U Off,* but it stayed limited to "U" for "you" on his next
album, *1999* (1982) and its spinoff singles ( "All the Critics Love U
in New York" and "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore". However, he
expanded his Prinspeak vocabulary by one word with his following
effort, *Purple Rain* (1984), where the song "I Would Die 4 U"
appeared. He then stuck with "U" and "4" for a couple more albums,
not launching a third one, "R" for "are", until 1988's *Lovesexy*
("When 2 R in Love").

The fourth and so far final word in the Prinspeak lexicon, 2 for "to",
got its first outing in 1991, with "Love Don't Matter 2night".

As for who invented it if not Prince, surely it's been around as long
as vanity plates.


--
Ross Howard

Django Cat

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Oct 26, 2005, 7:14:40 AM10/26/05
to
bri...@wsu.edu wrote:

But that's just Language Change. It's also an argument applicable to
any imported word in English. I could just as easily make an argument
about the English word 'actual' being an abuse when it's used to mean
'existing in act or fact' (OED) when the French root means 'current',
or lamenting the replacement of 'wireless' with the vulgar 'radio'.

There's lots of ugly and stupid language use that is sad to see - do
people really say 'chaise lounge'? Bleagh - and sometimes it may even
be worth mounting a rearguard action to attempt to preserve threatened
usages. I really enjoyed the article and agreed with what you had to
say; I just don't think that particular example serves your arguement
best.

Cheers
DC

Django Cat

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Oct 26, 2005, 7:16:59 AM10/26/05
to
Mike Lyle wrote:

> bri...@wsu.edu wrote:
> > The original French expression is "pas mon fort"--meaning "not my
> > strong point." Note: no "e" on the end. It got mangled in the
> transfer
> > into English by cross-pollination with italian "forte." Some
> > hoity-toity types used to pronounce it "fourt"--but that's actually
> > wrong because the "t" is not pronounced in French. A certain number
> of
> > people have been arguing ever since for the one-syllable version
> over
> > the two-syllable one as truer to its roots. I consider it a lost
> > cause. Illogical derivation, but we're stuck with it.
>
> My understanding is that it's a fencing term,

We got some of that Swedish lap-link done last year, hardwearing and
keeps next door's dogs out. The guy never used the word 'forte'
though...

DC

Donna Richoux

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Oct 26, 2005, 7:35:12 AM10/26/05
to
Mike Lyle <mike_l...@REMOVETHISyahoo.co.uk> wrote:

A frequently discussed topic, and I've saved some notes from earlier
discussions.

The 1694 "Dictionnaire de L'Académie française" has "fort" as a
masculine noun, meaning both "the strong point, the strong part" of
anything, and "the strong part of a blade" in particular.

Fort, subst. masc. L'endroit le plus fort d'une
chose. Mettre une poutre sur son fort. le fort de la
voute, le fort de la balance. gagner le fort de
l'espée. le fort de la boule.

The Oxford English dictionary shows the term being used in fencing in
1648, and the general sense in 1682, both spelled without an "e":

1648 [...] A Foyle hath two Parts, one of which he
calleth the Fort or strong, and the other the Foyble
or weak

1682 Shadwell _Medal_ Epil. A b, His Fort is, that
he is an indifferent good versificator."

Then it shows it being spelled with an "e" in the next century:

1768 Goldsm. _Good-n._ Man Epil., Those things are not our forte at
Covent Garden.

In French, "forte" is of course the feminine form of the adjective
"strong," and it's the musical term borrowed from Italian between 1798
and 1832. That's it. The English spelling of the noun with an "e" did
not come directly from French.

(So if people wanted to be really snooty and obscure, they should say
"That's not my fort," and drop the T, too.)

--
Best -- Donna Richoux

Donna Richoux

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 7:35:13 AM10/26/05
to
batdorf <b...@nospam.com> wrote:


> "Forte" is also French if you happen to be feminine.

You mean, it's feminine if you happen to be French? Anyway, that's the
adjective form, and what we're discussing is the noun. The noun is
masculine. See my post to Mike L.


>It is quite common
> for the pronunciation and/or spelling of a word to change when it is
> adopted by another language.

Cela va sans dire.

--
Best wishes -- Donna Richoux

Ross Howard

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 7:45:34 AM10/26/05
to
On Wed, 26 Oct 2005 06:14:40 -0500, "Django Cat" <nospam@please>
wrought:

Agreed. Why complain about "FOR-tay" -- which is at least how it's
pronounced in Italian and Spanish, even if the etymology is dubious --
but accept "guerilla" as a homophone of "gorilla" (and a misspelled
one at that)? Why turn a blind eye to "foyer" as "FOY-uh" or "FOY-eh"
instead of the more correct "fwa-YEH"? Why endorse "Dali", "Miro" and
"Gaudi" with the wrong stress or "Ballesteros" with the wrong "ll"
sound? Why put up with "chuh-FOW-guh" instead of insisting on
"traf-al-GARR"? Why....

--
Ross Howard

Donna Richoux

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 7:58:15 AM10/26/05
to
Ross Howard <ggu...@yahoo.com> wrote:

Where is this "mounting a rearguard action"? Where is this
"complaining"? You two are stirring up trouble where none exists. Paul
Brians has said several times, including in the original article, that
he has given up trying to change anyone's mind about "fortay".

Talking about a thing, and looking into its history, and maybe even
giving a sigh, is not "mounting a rearguard action."

--
Never trouble trouble -- Donna Richoux

batdorf

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 8:25:08 AM10/26/05
to

"Ross Howard" <ggu...@yahoo.com> escribió en el mensaje
news:lgqul1ta6b4h9vrc4...@4ax.com...

>
> Agreed. Why complain about "FOR-tay" -- which is at least how it's
> pronounced in Italian and Spanish,

I'm sure it would be pronounced that way in Spanish if it wasn't
"fuerte" (and "fuerza" for the noun)

HumphreyB

batdorf

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 9:20:12 AM10/26/05
to

"Donna Richoux" <tr...@euronet.nl> escribió en el mensaje
news:1h51jl5.njtxy1o1mydcN%tr...@euronet.nl...
> batdorf <b...@nospam.com> wrote:

> You mean, it's feminine if you happen to be French?

Swings and roundabouts.

>Anyway, that's the
> adjective form, and what we're discussing is the noun. The noun is
> masculine. See my post to Mike L.

Point taken...almost as far as the forte! :)
But I still agree with the Gypsy guitarist's cat (or should that be the
"Roma" guitarist?)...
For-tay is perfectly valid...and far more common, in the UK at least,
than "fort" (with or without the "t")...which sounds a bit like someone
saying "DerVawrak" for Dvorak, and is, if anything, likely to raise the
sort of snigger reserved for the pretentious..."Geroutofit" was about
right!


>
>
>>It is quite common
>> for the pronunciation and/or spelling of a word to change when it is
>> adopted by another language.
>
> Cela va sans dire.

Bien sûr que non. À moi c'est évident qu'il y a certains mecs qui
peut-être ne l'ont pas compris et qui, malgré tout, pétent plus haut que
leur cul...

Cheers
HumphreyB

Ross Howard

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 9:25:42 AM10/26/05
to
On Wed, 26 Oct 2005 14:25:08 +0200, "batdorf" <b...@nospam.com>
wrought:

*Fuerte* is a different word; I was referring to *¡forte!* the Spanish
sailor's cry.

--
Ross Howard

John Dean

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 9:41:58 AM10/26/05
to

But he still says "It's an error".
--
John Dean
Oxford

batdorf

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 9:43:49 AM10/26/05
to

"Ross Howard" <ggu...@yahoo.com> escribió en el mensaje
news:rg0vl115iba527jn6...@4ax.com...

>>I'm sure it would be pronounced that way in Spanish if it wasn't
>>"fuerte" (and "fuerza" for the noun)
>
> *Fuerte* is a different word; I was referring to *¡forte!* the Spanish
> sailor's cry.

Ah...¿Para mandar hacer alto en las faenas marineras?
Muy bien. Te pido disculpas.
(Como en la batalla de Trafalgar...-¡Prepares pour largar le velaché! ;)

Sí. La misma pronunciación, como dijiste.

HumphreyB

Donna Richoux

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 11:18:19 AM10/26/05
to
John Dean <john...@frag.lineone.net> wrote:

> Donna Richoux wrote:

> > Where is this "mounting a rearguard action"? Where is this
> > "complaining"? You two are stirring up trouble where none exists. Paul
> > Brians has said several times, including in the original article, that
> > he has given up trying to change anyone's mind about "fortay".
> >
>
> But he still says "It's an error".

In the original article, he was quoted as saying:

"Oh, yes. 'Forte,'" says Paul Brians with a
perceptible sigh, pronouncing the word meaning a
person's strength as it should be, monosyllabically
without a flourishing finish on the word's final
vowel. "I've given up on that one. It's a dead
issue. If you went around saying 'FORT,' people
wouldn't know what you're talking about. It's an
error that has become a non-error."

"An error that has become a non-error." Not a run-of-the-mill error.

His website, "Common Errors in English," with hundreds and hundreds of
entries, does *not* list "forte."

No crusade is going on here.

Meanwhile, I just don't say "fort" or "fortay," either one. It's a word
without a pronunciation, as far as I'm concerned. "Strength" and "strong
point" seem to do just fine.

Salvatore Volatile

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 10:28:00 AM10/26/05
to
batdorf wrote:
>
> "R H Draney" <dado...@spamcop.net> escribi en el mensaje
> news:djn3o...@drn.newsguy.com...
>
>> "*Has* to be flattened"?...I hate to be the one to break it to you,
>> but the
>> eighteenth century ended quite some time back....r
>
> But major scales are still with us.
> For example : Bflat, C, D, Eflat, F, G, A, Bflat.
> Tone, tone, semi-tone, tone, tone, tone, semi-tone.
> Remember that one, do we?

Heck, if anything you have to unflat the E-flat when playing it on top of
a B flat major chord. It's an "avoid note", as they say.


Salvatore Volatile

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 10:29:57 AM10/26/05
to
Bertel Lund Hansen wrote:
> Mike Lyle skrev:
>
>> And it's not even "possible" that the jerk formerly known as "Prince"
>> (of where, may one ask?) invented hyper-telegraphese.
>
> I don't think he did. I remember a computer (I have forgotten
> which) from the early 80's that asked "R U SURE" when one wanted
> to delete something. Prince was 22 by that time and not very well
> known.

Graffiti saying things like "Tony 'n' Kathy 4 ever" was pretty common in
ancient times (going back at least to the mid-1970s).

bri...@wsu.edu

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 11:35:20 AM10/26/05
to
"Forte" may have separately crossed over as a fencing term, but that's
not how this expression came into English. It's a straight translation
of "pas mon fort" by people who knew the French original.

Bertel Lund Hansen

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 11:43:21 AM10/26/05
to
Salvatore Volatile skrev:

> ancient times (going back at least to the mid-1970s).

Now I feel old.

bri...@wsu.edu

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 11:42:30 AM10/26/05
to
So now we're reading between the lines of second-hand-reported sighs?

(sigh)

I was surprised when some years ago people began to write me lobbying
for the one- vs. two-syllable pronunciation of "forte" and someone
hesitantly wrote it up and put it on my site. But the more I researched
it, the more groundless it seemed, and I took the entry down. I love
the way the Web lets you act on your second--and--third thoughts.
Anyway, when the interviewer brought this one up I sighed because it's
not one of those issues I think can be easily resolved. It's true that
the pronunciation "for-tay" resulted from a mangling of the original
French, confusing it with Italian; but it's also true that this seems
to be the standard pronunciation in English, so I called it a lost
cause--and one I've decided not to back.

Ross Howard

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 11:41:23 AM10/26/05
to
On 26 Oct 2005 08:35:20 -0700, "bri...@wsu.edu" <bri...@wsu.edu>
wrought:

>"Forte" may have separately crossed over as a fencing term, but that's
>not how this expression came into English. It's a straight translation
>of "pas mon fort" by people who knew the French original.

They might have done us all a favour by not giving up two thirds of
the way through the translation. What does "not my forte" say that
"not one of my strengths/strong points" doesn't?

--
Ross Howard

Message has been deleted

Mike Lyle

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 12:40:21 PM10/26/05
to

I think it was Bertel who snipped the relevant bit from my message. I
quoted an example of the genre which dates to Victorian times or
earlier. I think I said "I C U R YY 4 me": it's part of a rather
longer original.

--
Mike.


Chris Waigl

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 1:03:45 PM10/26/05
to
On Wed, 26 Oct 2005 08:51:33 -0700, bri...@wsu.edu wrote:

> If you can sort out what I say and what Candace says in the article you
> may be able to detect that she approached me with a highly alarmist
> attitude, convinced that English is going to hell in a handbasket, and
> that I tried to persuade her that on average there is probably no more
> mangling of the language going on than ever. I did say that I think in
> the age of the Internet and electronic media, the nature of the errors
> being made has changed strongly in the directiion of more aurally based
> confusions. I should also have said that such reading as people do is
> now often not professionally edited, which is a marked change from the
> past.

This sounds persuasive. New variants crop up at the same rate as ever, but
via the electronic media they are disseminated unedited to a larger
audience. This is particularly true for fan communities, for example.
Their neologisms are less confidential than they used to be, and might
have a greater chance to be picked up by the general public.

> Folk etymologies and other peculiarities have a much better
> chance of surviving and circulating on the Web than they did in the old
> print-based environment.
>
> In an interview of over an hour, she was pulling in the direction of
> denouncing modern prose as the worst ever and I was pulling in the
> direction of trying to charactertize the sorts of errors people tend to
> make these days. You can see some of the tension in her resulting
> article.
>
> She's said she's gotten a huge response, with lots of people writing
> her yesterday about their own pet peeves--which I'm sure wil surprise
> no one here.

I should have made it clearer that I didn't read the article as saying
this alarmist attitude was yours. The question of how fast what
could be called error-driven language change takes place at a given point
in history is interesting, I think.

Chris Waigl


--
blog: http://serendipity.lascribe.net/
eggcorns: http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/
personal blog : just ask for the URL

jerry_f...@yahoo.com

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 1:17:40 PM10/26/05
to

Is that like when a sailor on the Costa Brava, feeling a bit peckish,
cries, "What's for te then?"

--
Jerry Friedman

jerry_f...@yahoo.com

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 1:28:23 PM10/26/05
to
batdorf wrote:
> "Django Cat" <nospam@please> escribió en el mensaje
> news:SuOdncbCH-wnPsPe...@brightview.com...
...

> (Don´t know about his cat, but I doubt that Django Reinhardt would have
> been the tiniest bit concerned, when "Manoir de mes Rêves" became "The
> Gypsy Mass" and got a few "forte" passages thrown in by a bemused
> orchestra, whether or not the "e" was in evidence...Sorry, I'll correct
> that...In the key of "A" the "e" would have been very much in
> evidence...In Bb it has to be flattened...much like certain people
> insist on doing to English...with a sigh!)

>From something I think I read once, I suspect the real Django was
exactly the sort of person who would have played in A with few e's,
preferring e-flats.

--
Jerry Friedman

Jeffrey Turner

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 1:32:42 PM10/26/05
to
Weatherlawyer wrote:

> Ross Howard wrote:
>
>>Thank you! for having refrained from saying it was "partly based on
>>an interview with myself".
>>
>
> Was it?

Nah, she jawed with him but not hisself.

--Jeff

--
But I venture the challenging statement
that if American democracy ceases to
move forward as a living force, seeking
day and night by peaceful means to
better the lot of our citizens, then
Fascism and Communism, aided, unconsciously
perhaps, by old-line Tory Republicanism,
will grow in strength in our land.
--Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Message has been deleted

bri...@wsu.edu

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 1:46:52 PM10/26/05
to
A quick search in Google shows that "pas mon fort" occurs on the Web
more than twice as frequently as "pas son fort." Perhaps ordinary
Francophone Web folks are more self-denigrating than French TV
interviewers.

Compare, in English:
"not my forte" 85,000 hits
"not his forte" 23,500 hits
"not her forte" 485 hits

So perhaps French speakers are a bit more arrogant than than
English-speakers in this regard, but not overwhelmingly so.

By the way, there are 1,440 instances of "not my fort."

bri...@wsu.edu

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 1:51:20 PM10/26/05
to
If you can sort out what I say and what Candace says in the article you
may be able to detect that she approached me with a highly alarmist
attitude, convinced that English is going to hell in a handbasket, and
that I tried to persuade her that on average there is probably no more
mangling of the language going on than ever. I did say that I think in
the age of the Internet and electronic media, the nature of the errors
being made has changed strongly in the directiion of more aurally based
confusions. I should also have said that such reading as people do is
now often not professionally edited, which is a marked change from the
past. Folk etymologies and other peculiarities have a much better

chance of surviving and circulating on the Web than they did in the old
print-based environment.

In an interview of over an hour, she was pulling in the direction of
denouncing modern prose as the worst ever and I was pulling in the
direction of trying to charactertize the sorts of errors people tend to
make these days. You can see some of the tension in her resulting
article.

She's said she's gotten a huge response, with lots of people writing

her yesterday about their own pet peeves--which I'm sure will surprise
no one here.

Donna Richoux

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 1:54:13 PM10/26/05
to
bri...@wsu.edu <bri...@wsu.edu> wrote:

> After being quoted in print on "not my forte" I decided I'd better
> write up my views on my site. Here's the entry I've added to the site's
> "Non-Errors" page at
> http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/nonerrors.html#forte:
>
> Some people insist that it's an error to pronounce the word "forte" in
> the expression "not my forte" as if French-derived "forte" were the
> same as the Italian musical term for "loud": "for-tay." But the
> original French expression is "pas mon fort," which not only has no "e"
> on the end to pronounce--it has a silent "t" as well. It's too bad that
> when we imported this phrase we mangled it so badly, but it's too late
> to do anything about it now. If you go around saying what sounds like
> "that's not my fort," people won't understand what you mean.
>
> However, those who use the phrase to mean "not to my taste"
> ("Wagnerian opera is not my forte") are definitely mistaken. Your
> forte is what you're good at, not just stuff you dislike.

Paul, I believe you got a negative too many in that last sentence. "Not
just stuff you like."

You might also change "when we imported" to "since we imported." We
don't have any reason at the moment to think the mangling happened in
the 1600s. I see that Webster's 1828 dictionary has "fort" for this
sense (and his "forte" has only the musical sense), so it wasn't mangled
badly by then, either.

If we had some way of measuring, I'd bet the "fortay" pronunciation
happened mostly in the last twenty to fifty years, but the history of
pronunciations is so hard to determine... I see the 1946 Merriam-Webter
spelled this meaning as "forte" and gave it only one pronunciation,
"fort".

Skitt

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 2:22:12 PM10/26/05
to
bri...@wsu.edu wrote:

> her yesterday about their own pet peeves--which I'm sure wil surprise
> no one here.

I was very surprised to see the article also in our local paper, The Daily
Review, published in Hayward, California.
--
Skitt (in Hayward, California)
www.geocities.com/opus731/

batdorf

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 2:27:57 PM10/26/05
to

<bri...@wsu.edu> escribió en el mensaje
news:1130341350....@g43g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...

> (sigh)

Soupires-tu fort?
Je vais pour mon cache-oreilles!

HumphreyB

bri...@wsu.edu

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 2:33:40 PM10/26/05
to
Right. I fixed this on the Web site, but pasted the incorrect old
version here. I've deleted it. Here's the emended version:

After being quoted in print on "not my forte" I decided I'd better
write up my views on my site. Here's the entry I've added to the site's
"Non-Errors" page at
http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/nonerrors.html#forte:

Some people insist that it's an error to pronounce the word "forte" in
the expression "not my forte" as if French-derived "forte" were the
same as the Italian musical term for "loud": "for-tay." But the
original French expression is "pas mon fort," which not only has no "e"
on the end to pronounce--it has a silent "t" as well. It's too bad that
when we imported this phrase we mangled it so badly, but it's too late
to do anything about it now. If you go around saying what sounds like
"that's not my fort," people won't understand what you mean.

However, those who use the phrase to mean "not to my taste"
("Wagnerian opera is not my forte") are definitely mistaken. Your

forte is what you're good at, not just stuff you like.

bri...@wsu.edu

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 2:36:25 PM10/26/05
to
The history is interesting. Before tinkering any more with this entry,
I think I'll see if anything else turns up indicating that "fort" used
to be the standard pronunciation.

R H Draney

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 2:20:12 PM10/26/05
to
Salvatore Volatile filted:

Major scales may be with us, but some of us still do modes...I'd have no problem
with an E flat in A, or an E natural in B flat, and I've probably written both
at one time or another....

(batdorf's message hasn't yet shown up on my server, so I'm replying to him and
Salvo all at once here)....r

batdorf

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 2:54:37 PM10/26/05
to

"Salvatore Volatile" <m...@privacy.net> escribió en el mensaje
news:djo3pg$d14$2...@news.wss.yale.edu...

> batdorf wrote:
>> But major scales are still with us.
>> For example : Bflat, C, D, Eflat, F, G, A, Bflat.
>> Tone, tone, semi-tone, tone, tone, tone, semi-tone.
>> Remember that one, do we?
>
> Heck, if anything you have to unflat the E-flat when playing it on top
> of
> a B flat major chord. It's an "avoid note", as they say.

A major eleventh?
I think not...
And anyway, who mentioned a B flat major chord?
I certainly didn't...It was the scale I referred to...
And I'm not altogether sure what "unflat" might mean...
Does it become a tenth (by being flattened)... or an augmented eleventh
(by being sharpened)?
I like the latter...a trick of the trade for instant flamenco!

HumphreyB

batdorf

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 3:12:35 PM10/26/05