Sunday, February 17, 2013

Words of the Day: the Orthoëpy of "Quine" and “Quinean”

Tragically (according to blogstats), someone just found this site by searching on the following string:

            queen “to be is to be the value of a variable”

The person in question has obviously a tidy mind:   he seeks ontological enlightenment, and he knows to put a multiword string inside quotes, in cases where the words themselves are individually common.   Yet he evidently labors under a misimpression that the surname Quine rhymes with machine, whereas in fact it rhymes with divine (with which, additionally, it is approximately synonymous).   This seeker surely inhabits one of the less heavily trafficked provinces of Australia, or a tiny Pacific atoll:   and our hearts go out to him.   He is like Ramanujan, wasting his substance in the chaos of India, with only an obsolete and highly unpedagogical old math-text for companion.   He knows this word Quine only from reading (a crate full of back issues of the Journal of Philosophy  having washed up on shore  from some shipwreck), and has never heard the name spoken aloud, by anyone who knows what he is talking about.
And yet, like that subcontinental autodidact, who finally found his Hardy, so too has this paladin of the ontological quest  found … “The World of Doctor Justice”, where all shall become clear!

So much for the pronunciation of the basic name:  “O Quine, be mine, so fair and fine!”   Now for the advanced class, about its problematic derived adjective.

~ ~  [Original post] ~  ~

We have had frequent occasion, on this blog, to make use of a fine and seasoned adjective, to wit:  Quinean;  meaning, ‘of, like, relating to, scented with the essence of, or singing hymns of eulogy to, Quine.    Now:  Quine rhymes with spline, or sine, or affine;  but Quinean -- ahh, that is another case entirely.  The vowel is -- let us not be curt, and say “short”, but rather:   trim, and crisp, with the stressed vowel of those splendid very syllables.  To form the word,  you pout the lips just slightly, as though sampling and evaluating a particularly fine dry sherry at a soirée of the Harvard philosophy department;  you do not open your mouth wi-i-i-de the way they do over at Sociology or Athletic Medicine, when attempting to swallow a corn-dog.   It rhymes, thus, with Augustinian, and with very little else;  it is itself, in fact, an eminently Augustinian vocable, and ill-inclined to participate in any vulgar limericks or advertising jingles.


Certain English suffixes shorten the quantity of the immediately preceding vowel.  Thus:  finite (long i) - infinity (short).  bibliophile (long i) - bibliophilic (short).
Whether -ean be numbered among these, I have not bothered to investigate;  but simply decree, ex cathedra,  en tant que Editor of Pronunciation emeritus (thus with awe-inspiring authority), that it shall be thus:  KWINN-ee-an.

So there.

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