Friday, September 26, 2014

Footnote to the Francophonic footnote to "What to call the ISIL"

(Getting rather meta-meta here… Anyhow, the original footnote is here, and the original essay which that annotates is here.  The version below has been snarked-up.)

Bonjour les gars.   I do pay attention to the searchstrings which the Blogspot stats kindly provide, indicating how people find this site, and what are their particular interests.  This just in:

how do the french pronounce isil

Alas, our googler must have been disappointed, since the French don’t use the term ISIL (nor ISIS) at all.   The only acronym they use is EI, which stands for état islamique, ‘Islamic state’.

Now, you will notice a little wedgie-thingie atop that “é”.  It is called an acute accent, or accent aigu,  and it causes the bare letter “e” -- which, in French, by itself is often no more than a low groan, or even (as e muet) quite silent --  to sharpen boldly, to something like the English long-a as in able or acatalectic or acategorematic or … or… well, no doubt you can come up with other examples yourselves.  So by rights, the French should pronounce EI as something close to English “ay-ee”.  But instead, what they say -- callously ignoring that acute accent -- is a sort of barely articulated “euh ee”, as though the term referred, not to a berserker band of heads-choppers-offers, but to some senior-citizen auxiliary to the Icelandic Stamp-Collector’s Pacifist Society -- a sort of squashy squooshy sound, as though the speaker were mooshing a mouthful of brie.  Worse yet, when preceded by the definite article, the initial sound (such as it is) can get swallowed up (as though the cheese-wad had gone down the wrong way), leaving what sounds like a single letter, “le I”.


Frenchman, sucking on a piece of cheese
(depicted in yellow)
and accordingly incapable of properly enunciating
the vowels
The other acronym used at present is what is etymologically acronymic in Arabic, but which is not perceived as such in French, and which is transcribed Daech -- which, if these cheese-eaters had any sense at all of the language whose European study was so nobly pioneered by the great Silvestre De Sacy in the late 18th century, 

The great man himself

would be pronounced disyllabically as   da-èche,  but which, in the mealy-mouth of President François Hollande (who is no scholar, let alone a gentleman), comes out bleating as a mere monosyllable,  dache (Les présentateurs de Medi1, plus compétents, arrivent bien à marquer le hiatus.)

O tempora, O ... well you know the rest.

Pour d’autres friandises
de la confiserie 
du docteur Justice,

For additional, ultra-scientific guidance to orthoëpic etiquette, click here:

            How to pronounce “Boehner”
            Orthoëpy of ‘Monostich’

~ The World of Dr Justice ~
~~ Science U Can Trust ™  ~~

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