The Corner

“Forte,” Again

On the subject of words, someone wrote me the other day to say, “I’ve always pronounced the English word ‘forte’ — meaning strength or expertise — ‘fort.’ But people deride me for it.” That’s because they’re ignorant (and if they deride, mean, too). I have addressed this topic before, and it’s an evergreen one. “Forte” meaning strength or expertise is pronounced “fort.” “Forte” meaning loud in music is pronounced “fortay.” (The one word we borrow from French, the other from Italian.)

 

Remember the Groucho Marx line? Tallulah Bankhead or someone says, “Singing isn’t really your forte,” and Groucho responds, “I wish Knox were my forte.”

 

Would make no sense with the unknowing pronunciation.

 

(By the way, you know what one of the most mispronounced words in the English language is? “Mispronunciation” — which we tend to want to say “mispronounce-iation” (which would make sense).)

 

(Oh, so you don’t use parentheses within parentheses? (Really?))

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