Sunday, May 27, 2007

Another hyperforeignism

Watching the Indy 500 after a long rain delay. (Danica Patrick made a big pass into second just a while back.) Talking about an earlier brush between two drivers today, a close call, the announcer said that they'd already had a tête-à-tête, pronounced without the last consonant: tate-uh-tay, basically.

The pronunciation is surely a hyperforeignism (see here) — based on the assumption that in French, you don't pronounce final consonants — one I don't remember hearing before. (It surprised the Missus too.)

The meaning is also odd: I think of that as meaning 'private' and that's confirmed by several sources, dictionaries and online. This happened in front of 300,000 people and millions of TV viewers. This seemed to be used more like they went head to head or something.


Nancy said...

I've heard this faux-Frenchy pronunication of tete-a-tete quite often. Besides the reason you cite, I think Americans may be uncomfortable with the resemblance of "tete" to "tit." Here's another hyper-Gallicism I recently came across: a client--in Louisiana, no less, where you'd think they'd know a little about things French--whose company name is A La Carté. With an acute accent. He pronounces it "a la carte." When I asked about the, um, unorthodox spelling, he said a graphic designer told him to add the accent "to make it more French."

Mr. Verb said...

Oh, I hadn't even thought about taboo avoidance!

On carté, I guess this means that 'foreign branding' (what I call the Häagen Dazs and Frusen Glädjé naming pattern) lives on?

But is it faux-Frenchy or trop-Frenchy? (Either way, neither of those particular final consonants would get pronounced here anyway.)