December 31, 2005

Lisa: forte

The other day someone whose intelligence I respect insisted that the preferred pronunciation of the non-musical forte is "fort." I had never heard this before, and frankly thought it sounded wack, but I figured I should do her the courtesy of at least looking it up. It turns out we were both sort of right.

From Merriam-Webster online:


2 : one's strong point
usage In forte we have a word derived from French that in its "strong point" sense has no entirely satisfactory pronunciation. Usage writers have denigrated \'for-"tA\ and \'for-tE\ because they reflect the influence of the Italian-derived forte. Their recommended pronunciation \'fort\, however, does not exactly reflect French either: the French would write the word le fort and would rhyme it with English for. So you can take your choice, knowing that someone somewhere will dislike whichever variant you choose. All are standard, however. In British English \'fo-"tA\ and \'fot\ predominate; \'for-"tA\ and \for-'tA\ are probably the most frequent pronunciations in American English.

Far be it from me to suggest that because something is common it is correct, but I think I will be sticking with the majority of my American compatriots and pronouncing the E. Anyway, "fort" just SOUNDS wrong.

Posted by lisa at December 31, 2005 12:24 AM

Can't you compromise and pronounce the -e halfway?

Posted by: Gemini6Ice on January 6, 2006 02:40 PM
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