"traître", not "trâitre"

Skip to first unread message

John Cowan

Sep 4, 2013, 11:34:31 AM9/4/13
to hat...@googlegroups.com
I think that in making this typo I was vaguely influenced by the
notion that the circumflex indicates a missing consonant that follows
(most often "s"), and in the reduction of _traditor_ to _traitre_
obviously it's the /d/ that is lost, hence the hat must go on the
"a". But it doesn't. It turns out that the circumflex, when it
indicates a loss, indicates one made during the history of French,
whereas intervocalic /d/ was lenited away before the Old French period.
See <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Use_of_the_circumflex_in_French>.

Barry thirteen gules and argent on a canton azure John Cowan
fifty mullets of five points of the second, co...@ccil.org
six, five, six, five, six, five, six, five, and six.
--blazoning the U.S. flag http://www.ccil.org/~cowan


Sep 4, 2013, 1:13:07 PM9/4/13
to hat...@googlegroups.com, co...@mercury.ccil.org
Have you looked up "traître" itself?  in the TLFI the oldest attestations have "traïtre" (tra-i-tre) and similarly for the feminine), with a and i pronounced separately as in "naïf, naïve", and also as in the verb "trahir" 'to betray' where the h only indicates a separation between the vowels.  "Traistre(sse)" is attested much later (1700's), I guess under the influence of "maistre(sse)" where the -s- is etymological (and was probably not pronounced at the time).  So the path from "traditor" to "traître" has not been a direct one. 

Although most of the "hatted" letters indicate a consonantal loss, the lost consonant is not always s (at least etymologically):  one example is "âme" 'soul' from lat "anima", with three OF variants "anme, arme, asme".  From "anme" to 'arme" is not a problem from the point of view of historical sound change, but "arme" already existed with the meaning 'weapon'.  A change trom this "arme" to "asme" (most likely pronounced azme) (also according to an independently attested sound change) avoided the potential confusion between 'soul' and 'weapon'.  

John Cowan

Sep 4, 2013, 1:35:52 PM9/4/13
to marie-lucie, hat...@googlegroups.com
marie-lucie scripsit:

> Have you looked up "tra�tre" itself?

I hadn't, and thanks for doing so.

> "Traistre(sse)" is attested much later (1700's), I guess under the
> influence of "maistre(sse)" where the -s- is etymological (and was probably
> not pronounced at the time).

This reminds me of a joke about an English student in France many years
ago, whose hostess complimented him on the sharpness of his trouser-crease
(presumably knowing that students could not afford to have their clothes
ironed by professionals). He replied that he kept his trousers "sous
ma ma�tresse", by which he merely meant "under my mattress"!

Which leads in turn to the purely anglophone jest "A mistress is something
between a mister and a mattress."

John Cowan http://ccil.org/~cowan co...@ccil.org
We want more school houses and less jails; more books and less arsenals;
more learning and less vice; more constant work and less crime; more
leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of
the opportunities to cultivate our better natures. --Samuel Gompers
Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages