Favorite

Words, Feb. 19 

Life begins at forte:

A reader inquired about the pronunciation of forte, and the question has proved trickier than I expected. Most questions do, come to think of it.

A forte is “a strong point, a skill,” as in “Fee-splitting is his forte.” Most of us who are over 50 and think we're smart learned years ago to ignore the e on the end and say the word as one syllable, like the Fort in Fort Smith. Saying fort was our forte, so to speak. We believed that only the unlearned and affected said FOR-tay, feigning Frenchiness.

But as we've seen before, looking things up can be dangerous to your self-esteem. My old reliable Random House was not entirely supportive of my position. Yes, fort is the older pronunciation, it said, but “A two-syllable pronunciation is increasingly heard, especially from younger educated speakers, perhaps owing to confusion with the musical term forte … ”

The bottom fell out of my assurance when I looked into the Merriam-Webster online: “In forte we have a word derived from French that in its ‘strong point' sense has no entirely satisfactory pronunciation.” In other words, you can't get there from here. Fort, FOR-tay, for-TAY and even FOR-tee are all in use, according to MW, and all are considered standard. Furthermore, FOR-tay and for-TAY are “probably the most frequent pronunciations in American English.”

Save yourselves. I'll hold the forte.

 

Transformative:

My favorite name of the current basketball season is Epiphany Smith. I'll bet you experience one when you watch her play.

 

Bowled over:

On Feb. 5, we wrote “In bowling, the kingpin is the headpin, the one in front, nearest the bowler.” That came from a dictionary. My own bowling days were brief and long ago, and today I wouldn't know a kingpin from a rolling pin. Gary DiGiuseppi, who would, writes:

“I understand it may vary regionally, but growing up in Detroit we called the 5 pin the ‘kingpin.' An Internet search shows some sites, but not all, agree.”

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Doug Smith

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Pork and more

    Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Latest in Words

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »

January

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • Good one, Al. Hell hath no fury, and all that happy horse-shit. I hope Gene…

    • on January 20, 2017
  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • Make that "old hack."

    • on January 20, 2017
  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • Oh dear - It is me, E.E.W - I'll confess - but not so much…

    • on January 20, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation