Covert Charge/Cats/Chops

Jan Ivarsson janivars at BAHNHOF.SE
Sun Jan 28 18:34:43 UTC 2001

I've always believed that "cover charge" was derived from the French "couvert". RHUD says "1920-25, Amer.", and this date corresponds well with the return of many Americans from France.
Petit Robert Dict gives the sense of "all you use to cover the table (...) tablecloth, china, glasses..." for this word (since 1570), and it very often figures at the top of your bill, even in rather cheap restaurants, as an additional charge over what you eat and drink.
Maybe the "-t" comes from there. Restaurant or club owners travel, and adding a French touch is popular.

Jan Ivarsson, TransEdit
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----- Original Message -----
From: "Laurence Horn" <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
Sent: Saturday, January 27, 2001 3:34 PM
Subject: Re: Covert Charge/Cats/Chops

> At 8:31 PM -0600 1/27/01, Mark Odegard wrote:
> >Gareth Branwyn :
> >>
> >>My wife (the jazz singer) came home from a gig the other night with a
> >>question she wanted me to address to the list: A patron told her that in
> >>one of the episodes of Ken Burn's Jazz, there is a sign that's visible on
> >>the door of a club that says: "No Minimum or Covert Charges." This person
> >>asked my wife if, despite the obvious, "cover charge" might come
> >>from "covert charge." Seems unlikely, but I told her I'd ask.
> >
> >I have no knowledge on this, but the association of 'covert charge' and
> >'cover charge' is the sort of thing rather educated native English speakers
> >do.
> >
> >'Cover' and 'covert' are differently stressed. I don't see how 'k at -v@r' and
> >'ko-VURT' could possibly be confused -- except in the minds of us'uns, those
> >of us here on this list who search out ancient Scandic cognates for 'boxer
> >shorts'.
> >
> My understanding is that "covert" had traditionally been pronounced
> like "cover" except with a final -[t] until fairly recently when
> influence by its (etymologically unrelated but) frequent syntagmatic
> partner and paradigmatic counterpart "overt" led to the 'ko-vert'
> pronunciation you mention.  If this is right, phonology alone
> wouldn't rule out the derivation you're seeking to dismiss, although
> I hold no brief for it (or against it) myself.
> larry

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