Date: Thu, 13 Nov 1997 02:16:40 -0500

From: Gregory {Greg} Downing downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]IS2.NYU.EDU

Subject: Re: Stupid question dept.

If a flute player is a floutist, why isn't a lute player a loutist?

Just wondering.

Peggy Smith

I imagine some are louts; many are certainly highly strung, too tightly

wound, and gutless.

Flautist (not attested in English before 1860) is from Ital. flauto, flutist

(attested in English by early 17th cent.) is from French. I imagine

classical music folks prefer flautist since it's more recherche (not related

by simple English morphology to "flute" -- i.e., through addition of -ist)

and thus has "elitist" appeal. From my music days, I recall people saying

they preferred flutist, and thought flautist a bit affected.

Lutenist (OED prefers lutanist actually, for reasons apparent after this

parenthesis closes) is from medieval Latin lutanista (lute in med. Lat. is

"lutana"). Lutist is from lute, which is from French lut(e).

Language as usual reflects the complicated contingencies of cultural history

in toto, and thus isn't neat.

But where's the US issue here?

Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]