Date: Fri, 3 Mar 1995 16:00:42 -0800
From: Peter McGraw pmcgraw[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]CALVIN.LINFIELD.EDU
Subject: Re: Looking for some useful arguments
Since this discussion seems to have revived, maybe it's not too late after
all for a question I was wanting to ask Donald Lance (or any Romanists
The etymology of "Ozarks" is indeed fascinating.
In modern French, of course, there would be no final [s] in the
pronunciation of "aux arcs." I don't know enough about the history of
French to know whether the [-s] was still there in the late 1600s. The
borrowing into English as "Ozarks" would itself be evidence of the final
[s] in the source language if the possibility could be ruled out that the
[-s] was added later as an English plural suffix. If final [s]
was already lost in late 1600s French, then the word would have been
borrowed as "Ozark" rather than "Ozarks". So - could somebody tell me
whether there is other evidence showing whether or not final [s] persisted
in French into the late 1600s?
On Tue, 28 Feb 1995, Donald M. Lance wrote:
The issue of "Ozarks" is more complex than Peter McGraw's response implies.
As well as we can determine, the word came from French explorers in
the late 1600s who wrote "aux arcs" on maps to indicate where the Arcansa
Indians lived and hunted. Liaison in French phonology would yield a
pronunciation of this abbreviation that would sound very much like "Ozarks,"*
which was the early English spelling. So "Ozark" is more like a folk
back-formation used in attributive positions where the "plural" ending
is not common in American English -- i.e., Ozark Mountains. All the toponyms
on official maps have "Ozark" in attributive position, as do business names
in the area. However, in recent decades, the -s form has come into use in
attributive position (Ozarks Conservation District, etc.). (*The final -s
in French is a further complication in the story.) Further, McGraw's
question about "Applachains Mountains" etc. points out that the anti-Ozark
copy-editors aren't so smart after all, though they may be following a local
trend. Every now and then I try to steer my mind toward this question but
haven't done systematic study. In British nomenclature we get "trades unions"
but "trade unions" in American English. I think the attributive -s form in
similar compounds is on the rise in American English, and the anti-Ozark
editors may be reflecting that trend. It's this latter trend that I haven't
done anything systematic on. How widespread/sporadic is the trend?