forte (was: Re: Accents in Am. English)

Lynne Murphy lynnem at COGS.SUSX.AC.UK
Tue Jun 13 20:09:46 UTC 2000

Peter R says:

> Andrea's minor rant could have included _forte_, which we're now
> society-bound to pronounce for-tay, but which (gee--I hope I'm right about
> this!) comes from something more like _fort_. Not only do we have an
> implied accent on the final vowel, but the final vowel shouldn't even be
> there in the first place.

I was first corrected on 'forte' (i.e., told to pronounce the 'e') when I lived in
South Africa.  I was told that you must pronounce the 'e' because it's from
Italian, not French--but they were wrong.  It's only the musical term that's from
Italian.  New Oxford has the pronuncation 'fort-ay' first, and AHD has it last, so
perhaps the American shift toward 'forte' is built on the assumption that the
British know best.  I have to say that my least favorite (what an odd expression)
English pronunciation is 'furore' (US furor)--pronounced something like few-rorry.

Incidentally, the American pronunciation that seems to annoy the English the most
is 'herb' without the 'h'.  At least two people here have (separately) expressed
their annoyance with this.  Probably because 'h'-less dialects are so downmarket


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