A reader sent me an email about one of her pet peeves, and it involves pronunciation of one of the following words: crêpes, forte, niche.
Are you the one who’s getting on her nerves?
You might be surprised about how many choices — and meanings — there are to a couple of them.
But first, let’s get into the food.
According to the website Eva in the Kitchen, the French have a tradition of breaking up their afternoon — usually about four o’clock — with a sweet snack. Crêpes are a favorite at that time of day.
A crêpe is an almost paper-thin pancake that is spread with jam or something tasty, folded or loosely rolled closed, and then sprinkled with sugar, often the powdered variety.
Many people pronounce crêpe as if it were spelled crape and rhymed with grape. But said correctly, it should rhyme with yep.
Forte, a word of French and Italian derivation, has three meanings:
- Forte, pronounced as you would say Fort Knox, means your strong point or something at which you excel. However, many people say FOR-tay, which is more acceptable among the British.
- Forte pronounced as fort (no ‘ay’) means the strongest part of the blade of a sword.
- Forte from the Italian derivation is a musical term meaning to be performed loudly. The pronunciation for this usage appears as FOR-tay in some places and for-TAY in others.
There are multiple definitions — and pronunciations — for niche:
1. a shallow recess, sometimes in a wall to display a statue or other ornament
He eased the miniature angel into the small niche in the hallway.
2. a comfortable or suitable position in life or employment
After years in biotech, she found her niche as a trainer and coach in a new field: positivity.
3. denoting or relating to products, services or interests that appeal to a small, specialized section of a population or market
A new vegetarian restaurant opened downtown, carving out a niche eatery among the steakhouses that line Main Street.
Along with these three definitions, I found three acceptable pronunciations:
neesh (like sheesh), nitch (like ditch) or nish (like fish)
The differences in derivation and meaning of crêpe, forte and niche result in differences in interpretation and pronunciation. Make your choice, but be prepared for the possibility that you’ll be corrected or questioned — or perhaps simply regarded with a raised eyebrow of disapproval.
I’d love to hear, either in the comment section below or by email, what YOU consider the correct pronunciation to be for crêpe, forte and niche.
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