Coup de grace

Damien Hall halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Tue May 25 17:50:01 UTC 2004

I'm responding to these comments.  See below for the response.


In a message dated 5/24/04 10:54:05 AM, juengling_fritz at SALKEIZ.K12.OR.US

> How about the name of the German car Porsche being pronounced 'Porsh'?
> BTW, I have never heard *coup de grâce* pronounced as anything other than
> [ku duh gra].
> Fritz

Not exactly the same phenomenon, but the other day I heard Louis Armstrong's
recording of "On the Sunny Side of the Street." He quite distinctly renders a
line, "If you never had a cent, you'd be rich as Rocker-fellow."

Steve Boatti
sjb72 at


The [porsh] pronunciation of 'Porsche' isn't the same phenomenon as the [ku duh
gra] pronunciation of 'coup de grâce', in my opinion (sorry if this was what
you meant too, Steve).  I think that:

- [ku duh gra] is a hypercorrection arising from the feeling that no
identifiably French word should have a consonant pronounced at the end of it
(and thanks to others for the other examples, like *verdigris*)/`.

- [porsh] is due to a nativisation strategy.  In British English, [porsh] is
standard native pronunciation of 'Porsche', with [porshuh] restricted to
specialists, I think (I am British, but not an engineer).  It's not the same as
[ku duh gra] because, pronounced according to the rules of English, I think
it's arguable that 'Porsche' does indeed yield [porsh]:  English doesn't
usually pronounce final <-e> as the nucleus of a distinct syllable (its effect
is on the quality of the preceding vowel instead).

Perhaps there's also an interesting point in the difference between British and
American English with regard to a) whether nativisation strategies are used and
b) if they are, what strategies are used.  From some work I've recently done on
the nativisation of stress-patterns in loanwords from French (which had as its
starting-point in the literature Zwicky (1978) 'Across the Channel and across
the Atlantic', in *Linguistic Inquiry* - thanks Arnold!), I'd tentatively
argue that Americans often tend not to nativise as much as Brits anyway.  I
draw this conclusion from the fact that <café> becomes AmEng [kae'fej]
(preserving at least the French stress) but BrEng ['kafej] or even ['kaefi]
(Northern dialects).  If it's true that Americans do nativise less than Brits,
that might explain why the 'native' American pronunciation of <Porsche> is in
fact [porshuh], so the same as the German original.  I don't speak German, so I
don't know whether there are any residual factors that would allow you to
distinguish between the German and the American pronunciations of <Porsche>,
given that the number of syllables is the same.

Damien Hall
University of Pennsylvania

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