Date: Sat, 7 Jan 1995 13:52:58 CST


Subject: Variation on Gallicisms

For reasons that are not all clear to me, there has always been a

greater tendency in American English to preserve French (and Spanish)

phonological traits of borrowed words when compared with the

processing these same words get in British English. The example of

_lieutentant_ was given by Dan Alford. There are many others: _buffet_

(culinary) has the final /-t/ only in Britain. _Garage_ has syllable

final stress in America, but stress has shifted forward in Britain,

resulting in changes in vowel quality for both syllables such that

the word is incomprehensible to American ears in the oral code (I

remember a sketch on American TV before a live audience: the British

humorist used a punchline with _garage_ in it and the audience didn't

have a clue). There has been a similar divergeance in the treatment of

many Spanish proper names: Don Juan, Don Quixote, etc., have been

assimilated in Britain, much less so in America.

The Gallicized pronunciation of _Target_ is a new one on me. It is an

instance of hypercorrection since the French origin of the word,

_targette_ (formerly _targuete_) has always retained the final /-t/.

It is a medieval term referring to a small shield, hence `target'.

On the subject of `hyper', and in repsonse to Dennis Baron, there has

indeed been an attempt to use _hypermarket_ (from French _hypermarche'_)

in American retailing, as the following attestation describing events

in Cincinnati makes clear:

French-run Hypermarket a U.S. Hit.

With its 40 checkout lanes and 75 aisles, the new Bigg's "hypermarket"

here could well be called the Mount Everest of U.S. Supermarkets. ...

`We're neither a supermarket nor a department store. We're both.' said

Jacques LeFoll, executive vice president of Hyper Shoppes Inc., the

90-percent-French-owned, U.S.-based company that runs Bigg's.

Euromarche', a leading French retailer and the principal owner of Hyper

Shoppes, sees the experimental store as a springboard for many more such

combination supermarket-department stores on U.S. soil. `We hope to

open five hypermarche's each year,' said Mr. LeFoll, a 38-year-old

Parisian who runes Bigg's ... If the Bigg's in Cincinnati succeeds, some

supermarket analysts say, it could encourage other supermarket chains

to build such huge hypermarkets." International Herald Tribune, Feb. 11,

1985, p. 7.

I think _hypermarket_ is still in circulation, but I don't know how

productive it has proven to be on U.S. soil where _hyper_ is not the most

felicitous choice as an intensifier in the realm of popular vocabulary.

Mike Picone

University of Alabama