Moi, DouteAugust 3, 2007 at 3:20 pm | Posted in backstory, vie quotidienne | 12 Comments
I have to bring your attention today to Aralena’s fascinating post on the pronunciation of the word août, meaning the month of August. Apparently, and totally unbeknownst to me, there has been centuries’ worth of debate on the pronunciation of this little word, even dragging such big names as Victor Hugo and Voltaire into the fray.
In fact, there are not merely two competing pronunciations for août, but actually four:
[ou] (the apparently “correct” version)
As for me, I’ve been saying [out], with an audible T, ever since I was a kid. I’m not sure why, I guess that’s how I must have heard it the first few times. But to think, all these years I have been straining my ears to hear how real French people really say things, so I can copy them and not look like an ass — only to find out that they’re just as clueless as I am!
And it’s not like this is a really rare word, that you might see in print from time to time, but rarely hear in conversation. It’s the freaking month of August! People say it all the time, and only just now are they reaching a consensus on the word?
As a foreigner in this country, every day I devote myself to listening and noticing how things are properly done. I suppose my hope was continually to improve, until one day I could speak the perfect, impeccable French of a native. How humbling, then, is it to find that French is a slippery, imperfect beast — perhaps not quite as untamed as English, but still negotiated and insecure.
Which brings us to another question — will I, after all these years of listening and copying, change my pronunciation because the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel says so? Eh bien… I think not. Maybe I’m set in my ways, or maybe I have issues with authority. Or maybe it makes me a little proud to think that, if I’m wrong, at least I’m only as wrong as real French people.
*Obviously, these pronunciation guides were written with French people in mind, not Anglos, so in this case “out” means “oot”, not the way we usually pronounce the word out. Rhymes with toot.
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