Wednesday, July 05, 2006

furor(e)

Better Half and I made it past the protesters to see Jerry Springer: The Opera tonight. While it's about an American institution, the opera was written and first performed in London. So, I have to admit looking out for places where their American English fell through, but it was prettyf-ckinggood. (One must use the 'f' word in describing anything to do with this show. Not to do so would be disrespectful.) The two things I noticed were reference to a Skoda car --which is very unlikely to be the car of an American hillbilly, though it is a famously cheap car here-- and the British spelling of programme in some text that scrolled by on the set. (Note that BrE does use the spelling program to refer to computer programs, though.)

As we left, BH (who had seen it before WITHOUT ME) said, "Now you see what all the furore was about when it was on television." Furore/furor are often treated in lists of British/American spelling differences, but this hides the fact that the two words are pronounced differently, the BrE version with an 'ay' sound at the end. (Wikipedia says that the e-spelling is also found in the US, but I think Wikipedia is just weird on this point.)

The OED and some purists claim that furor and furore have different meanings--with the former meaning 'mania' and the latter 'a craze' or 'an uproar'. But the 'mania' meaning is not in active use, so there's not much point in making the distinction. Furor came into the language from Latin, and furore much later from Italian, but the first recorded instance of furor with the 'craze' meaning comes 86 years before the first citation of furore. The various meanings are so relatable that it's little surprise that in some parts the word has been both Anglici{s/z}ed in pronunciation and merged in spelling.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

in my family we have often used 'furore' to rhyme with my brother's name - rory - in order to make frequent jokes about him making a fuss. childish but effective!

outerhoard said...

Program(me) is one word where the Australian custom has been gradually shifting from the British to the American spelling during my lifetime.

There is a lot of personal variation, but I use "program" for most senses of the word including television, an exception being the pamphlet you get when you go to the theatre to tell you what to expect - that's still a programme.

NFAH said...

Isn't there an accent missing or something if there is really going to be a third syllable?

lynneguist said...

No, because it's Italian. French would need an accent to make the 3rd syllable, but Italian doesn't have silent vowels.

Harry Campbell said...

But in BrE furore ends "-ee", not "-ay". So it's not just a standard Briticisation of an Italian word, it has a certain life of its own. Intriguingly, Prof Wells in his Longman Pronouncing Dict, says "This word sounds different from furor in BrE, but not in AmE" -- ie, furore exists in AmE as well but is a homophone of furor. Wd you agree?

Harry Campbell said...

But in BrE furore ends "-ee", not "-ay". So it's not just a standard Briticisation of an Italian word, it has a certain life of its own. Intriguingly, Prof Wells in his Pronouncing Dict, says "This word sounds different from furor in BrE, but not in AmE" -- ie, furore exists in AmE as well but is a homophone of furor. Wd you agree?

lynneguist said...

I've heard it as -ee and -ay now. But I don't recall ever seeing it spelt/spelled that way in AmE.