Coup de grace

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri May 28 19:12:31 UTC 2004

At 2:34 PM -0400 5/28/04, Steve Boatti wrote:
>In a message dated 5/28/04 10:17:54 AM, halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU writes:
>>  So, the consensus seems to be that in the vast majority of uses these days
>>  (assuming they're something to do with loudness and therefore come from
>>  Italian), the final vowel in *forte* is legitimately pronounced and not an
>>  instance of the 'coup de grace phenomenon'.
>This is a puzzling statement. I would venture that "the vast majority of
>uses" of forte are not for the musical term derived from the
>Italian, but rather
>the term meaning "strong point" derived from the French. For this use, there
>does not seem to be a consensus, based on the sources cited.
FWIW, here's the American Heritage Dictionary usage note on this,
supporting Steve's point:

The word forte, coming from French fort, should properly be
pronounced with one syllable, like the English word fort. Common
usage, however, prefers the two-syllable pronunciation, (fôrt), which
has been influenced possibly by the music term forte borrowed from
Italian. In a recent survey a strong majority of the Usage Panel, 74
percent, preferred the two-syllable pronunciation. The result is a
delicate situation; speakers who are aware of the origin of the word
may wish to continue to pronounce it as one syllable but at an
increasing risk of puzzling their listeners.


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