A SEDARIS QUIZ.

We here chez Hat are big David Sedaris fans, so we were delighted to see a new piece by him in last week’s New Yorker. It’s a sober one, but sober or funny he’s always a fine read. This piece had two bits that set off my Hat alarm and made me decide to post and ask the Varied Reader for an opinion.
1) “The kitchen table sat twelve, and there was not one but two dishwashers.” This sounded wrong to me; the alternative, “there were not one but two,” doesn’t sound great either—this is one of those places where the joints of a language don’t quite fit snugly—but it’s what I’d say, since to me the basic structure is “there were … two.” What say you?
2) “Now there was organic coffee, and artisanal goat cheese.” This is obviously not specific to Sedaris, artisanal being a major buzzword of today, but I’ll take the occasion to mention that I never use the word myself, not because I hate it but because I can’t pronounce it. Both “ar-TIZ-ə-nəl” and “ar-ti-ZAN-əl” sound awful to me. What say you?

Comments

  1. google provides countless hits for both “there was not one but two” and “there were not one but two”, most from contemporary live speech, so I gotta conclude that both are valid.

  2. I’d say “were” and stress “artisanal” on the second syllable (but never use the word except for humorous effect).

  3. 1) Awkward either way, but I lean toward “were”.
    2) I’m with you. I have learned to say “ar-TIZ-an-al”, but I don’t like to.

  4. I agree on #1.
    The trouble with the stress of artisanal is that -al does not normally shift the stress, which would give us AR-tɪz-ən-əl. But a Latinate word with the stress before the antepenult sounds extremely weird. Both the OED and the AHD5 specify ar-TɪZ-ən-əl, for what it’s worth, but that sounds weird to me too.

  5. Earthtopus says:

    No opinion on #1, but I use the former of John Cowan’s pronunications, and have spent a lot of time around cheesemongers. The word comes up quite a bit in the natural foods industry. Perhaps to gain a bit of market share from those fancy grocery stores with their antepenultimate stress…

  6. Earthtopus says:

    (I’m curious what an artisan’ll say.)

  7. #1. I am OK with “there was not one but two”. “There’s [plural NP]” is also acceptable in my idiolect, e.g. “There’s two guys here to see you”; perhaps that is a contributing factor.
    #2. “a:-TI-sə-nəl” I also leave the sibilant unvoiced in “artisan”. No wonder the sous-chefs won’t talk to me.

  8. The antepenultimate stress in ‘artisanal’ makes it sound a bit British, and therefore affected, to my AmE ears.

  9. I’m hardly a mainstream speaker any more, but my instinct is to say ARTisnal.

  10. John Cowan, what about “original”, “polygonal”, “pyramidal”?

  11. Incidentally, this illustrates the difficulties posed by words that enter the language through writing rather than speech. Speech may take theoretical priority over writing (‘In the Beginning was the Spoken Word, and then it was Written Down’), but in this case it could be argued that the written word preceded the spoken, with resulting confusion.
    (I once knew a woman who got confused about the pronunciation of ‘colour/color’, which I found very strange for a native speaker. I think the problem arose due to spelling interference with the normal identification of phonemes. The ‘o’ in the spelling caused her great confusion about the correct pronunciation. But this is definitely a minority case. Words picked up in childhood before writing is learnt don’t tend to be subject to the kind of confusion that surrounds words like ‘artisanal’.)

  12. I also lean toward “were” for #1 and have settled on ar-TIZ-ə-nəl for #2.

  13. The task set appears to be: cling to the “there were” and “not one but” parts of the sentence, and modify other parts to reduce weirdness. There is another task that I myself find more sensible: rephrase to convey the information without clinging or weirdness. This yields, for example: “The kitchen had a table seating twelve, and not one but two dishwashers”.

  14. I’d say “there were not one, but two” – but I’m not sure this is because the basic structure is “there were … two.” What if it was “There ____ not two, but one dishwasher?” Wouldn’t you say were in that case as well?

  15. marie-lucie says:

    There was not one but two …
    As a non-native speaker I don’t think I was ever taught what to do in this sort of situation. I feel that was must have come automatically to the writer because in the description of a kitchen one expects There was a dishwasher or There was no dishwasher, both in the singular because most people are content with a single dishwasher. There were no dishwashers would imply that two or more dishwashers were expected. Compare with dishcloth: There were no dishcloths or There was not one dishcloth both assume the normal equipment of a kitchen to include multiple dishcloths.
    With the sentence under discussion, was is fine until the reader comes to two and starts wondering about the appropriateness of the verb form, but the writer having already written was was not going to backtrack and change it to were. Perhaps he did think about were, but decided to let was stand because both verb forms seemed problematic. For a way out of the problem, I would probably write There was not one dishwasher, there were two!

  16. Keith Ivey: Original and polygonal I grant, but I have always (ignorantly) given pyramidal initial stress, contrary to the dictionaries.
    TR: I have much more difficulty with “There ___ not two but one”; neither was nor were has any winnitude. (I first write “have any winnitude” and then changed it!)

  17. marie-lucie says:

    Stu: I see that meanwhile you have elegantly solved the problem by doing away with there was/were, but it seems to me that your solution downplays the importance of the two dishwashers in the description of this extraordinarily hospitable kitchen. The original has a complete sentence on the hugeness of the kitchen/dining table, then another complete sentence suggesting additional extravagance in the form of two dishwashers. It seems to me that putting those two topics in a single sentence diminishes the sense of superabundant hospitality provided in this kitchen.
    artisanal
    In English I would say ar-TIZ-an-al, but I have mostly seen it written.
    In French this adjective is derived from the noun artisan ‘craftsman’ (the feminine form is artisane). I am surprised to see it used mostly about food in English. In French it could apply to any non-industrial trade, especially the making of individual items, mostly by hand. On a label on a type of food, cloth, furniture, pottery or whatever, you could see fabrication artisanale to indicate that the item was not made in a factory using extensive, automatized machinery.

  18. I would also give ‘pyramidal’ initial stress. pyRAMidal sounds strange, although I could get used to it.

  19. 1) The verb in the position of “was” is required to be both singular and plural agreeing, which English morphology makes impossible, so there’s no way to fix the sentence by changing “was”. One could try “and there was not one but a pair of dishwashers.”
    2) My first impulse is AR-tiz-an-al, but ar-TIZ-an-al also sounds okay. The latter would be licensed by the Sound Pattern of English rules.

  20. marie-lucie: it seems to me that your solution downplays the importance of the two dishwashers in the description of this extraordinarily hospitable kitchen. The original has a complete sentence on the hugeness of the kitchen/dining table, then another complete sentence suggesting additional extravagance in the form of two dishwashers.
    In my browser, Hat’s conundrum specimen appears as one sentence: “The kitchen table sat twelve, and there was not one but two dishwashers.”

  21. There wasn’t one but (there were) two.
    In speech I would probably add ‘just’ in font of ‘one’ to help the rhythm and probably (and unconsciously) to put a bit of extra distance between the ‘one’ and the ‘two’, greasing the un-snug fit.
    If, at the point of a gun, I had to say it, “ar-TIZ-ə-nəl” would be the choice.

  22. I’m with Matt on both ‘there was not one but two’ and ‘there’s two people here’!
    How about “The kitchen table sat twelve, and there was not one dishwasher, but *two*.”?

  23. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    What marie-lucie says is (as always — and in any case I wouldn’t dare to query her French) perfectly correct, but one thing she doesn’t say is that artisanal is very much an everyday word in French, and I hear it and see it often. But I agree that in English it is nasty and pretentious. If forced to say it in English I’d probably stress the penultimate syllable, but I’d be quite likely also to stress the last syllable (weakly).

  24. This non-native speaker is glad that his AR-ti-sa-nal pronunciation is shared by some of the Anglophone members of the LH readership.

  25. I have learned to say “ar-TIZ-an-al”, but I don’t like to. … makes it sound a bit British, and therefore affected, to my AmE ears. … If, at the point of a gun, I had to say it … I agree that in English it is nasty and pretentious
    My feelings exactly. Isn’t it strange how the wrong sort of people succeed, by the way they use and pronounce otherwise harmless words, in making these unclubable (n.b. JC) ? There are whole packs of words and phrases mewling and moping at my gates, but I won’t let’em in: “impact” as a verb, “poised to”, “I’m comfortable with that”, “reach closure” …
    How much easier life becomes with class distinctions !

  26. Fwiw, I identify a kitchen with two dishwashers as a kosher household– one dishwasher for the meat dishware and the second one for the milk dishware.

  27. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    In French this adjective is derived from the noun artisan ‘craftsman’ (the feminine form is artisane). I am surprised to see it used mostly about food in English.
    I’m not particularly surprised at that, because when we adopt foreign words we often give them very specific meanings that they don’t have in their orginal language. Tale sombrero, for example: in Engish it means the sort of hats Mexican peasants wear in Hollywood films, but in Spanish it just means “hat”. The hats our host wears would doubtless be called sombreros by a Spanish speaker, but I don’t suppose he looks much like a Mexican peasant.
    So far as artisanal is concerned, I expect the people who adopted it into English had mostly seen it outside bakeries that claim that their bread is pain artisanal and would be much less likely to have noticed it in other contexts. I don’t suppose many English-speakers have their chairs repaired by men on the street in France or Quebec, for example, or even notice the people who offer that sort of service.

  28. “Artisanal” is also used in non-food contexts in English.

  29. @Bathrobe: If your friend tended to pronounce “color” as a homophone of “collar,” this might have been dialect interference. I’ve heard it from some Midwesterners.
    For what it’s worth, I’d say ART-i-zan-al (secondary stress on zan) if I ever used it.
    “Using the power of the weak, I built the pyRAMids.”

  30. I avoid “there ____ not one but two,” as I’ve always found it awkward. Were I forced at gunpoint, it’d be “was” because I think of it as “There was not [only] one ____, but [in fact there were] two.” I’m always uncomfortable with so much omitted/square-bracketed.
    As for artisanal, I have a funny observation for you: I lived in Korea when things like home curing meat, home-making cheese, and home-brewing were catching on in a particular set (like, the last few years) and so this word came up a fair bit in conversations. Most of the anglophone expats–British, American, Canadian, Aussie, and Kiwi–all seemed to use “ar-TIZ-ə-nəl”… or, no, that’s not quite right. They used “”ar-TI-zə-nəl”, with the stress on a “TI”, not a “TIZ.” (Or that’s how it sounded to me.) I don’t know if there were regional differences, but that became the norm among us.
    (It was interesting because in the craft beer scene, then-nascent and now sort of exploding there, a lot of “foreign” words pop up. But the agreed-upon pronunciations solidified so quickly that on occasion, people actually commented on alternate pronunciations when others used them, even when they may have not been “wrong.” An example being “Saison”… an Anglo version of the French pronunciation dominated. One guy seemed to like using some (accurate or not, I have no idea) Flemish-sounding pronunciation, “Zaizoon” and people occasionally corrected him.)
    I imagine there’s been plenty of work on how diverse little expat communities might develop those kinds of agreed-upon conventions, but seeing it happen was really interesting.
    (Yeast brand names, extinct beer styles: actually, that’s fun to watch across craft beer podcasts. How many different ways can people pronounce “gueuze”? A lot!)

  31. marie-lucie says:

    Stu: In my browser, Hat’s conundrum specimen appears as one sentence: “The kitchen table sat twelve, and there was not one but two dishwashers.”
    You are right: I should have said two clauses (only the word “and” makes the result a single, complex sentence), but my comment otherwise stands. Your rewriting has only one clause: the only verb is “had”, and everything after this verb is its Object: the kitchen had (1) a table …, and (2) … two dishwashers. In my opinion the original description is better at conveying the surprise of the guest introduced into this kitchen, noticing first the huge table, then the two dishwashers.
    MattF: I identify a kitchen with two dishwashers as a kosher household
    Is that common? if there is no dishwasher, must the kitchen have two separate sinks? (I mean entirely separate, not just a double sink).

  32. marie-lucie says:

    Athel: artisanal is very much an everyday word in French
    Absolutely! I thought it was obvious from the number of examples of fabrication artisanale I quoted.
    Artisan is also significantly more common than English artesan: craftsman/woman or tradesman/etc is the common English equivalent. One of my sisters worked for years in the local Chambre des Métiers ‘Chamber of Trades/Crafts’, which is concerned with local artisans’ interests just like the Chambre de Commerce is concerned with commercial businesses.

  33. Lucy Kemnitzer says:

    There was.
    And accent on the first syllable of artisanal. People around here say it rather more than you might expect, probably because we have more little bitty bakeries and breweries and goat dairies and ice creameries and I can’t even think what else — oh, sausage makers, right — and everybody here says it that way that I can recall.
    And the kosher kitchen with two dishwashers or what all is not common but it happens when people have a lot of money. My aunt told me about an in-law of hers who has two completely separate kitchens, with a complete replication of everything.
    Most people who keep kosher don’t go any farther than duplicating a few things like cutting boards, if that.

  34. marie-lucie: On the one hand, there are no fixed rules for just how much trouble you have to take to separate meat and milk, on the other hand, there’s a natural ‘more kosher than thou’ tendency. Different households will find different equilibria. I’ve seen both multiple sinks and multiple dishwashers.

  35. The correct American pronunciation is “Artie’s anal”.

  36. English being English, I have no problem using the noun “artisan” attributively. “Artisan cheese” is better than “artisanal cheese”.* Maybe if I had occasion to ask ‘Is this cheese artisanal?’ I would find that word less superfluous. “Hand-made” works for furniture, and “home-made” for baked goods, but neither for cheese. Such alternatives contribute to the word’s limited range in English.
    I would pronounce ‘arti,sanal and ‘pyra,midal. For me, they are temporary compounds with no independent place in my mental lexicon. Adding -al does not shift stress, though -ical does.
    *”Artisan cheesemaker” is way better than “cheese artisan”.

  37. Why don’t they just call it “craft cheese”? Oh, I see.

  38. I’d probably say “There was not one…” but change it to “There were not one..” in print, and I’d definitely say ART-i-ZAN-al. The other way’s not wrong, but…

  39. Ø: Why don’t they just call it “craft cheese”?
    Applause. Ø is in an especially good mood because Boston have won.
    Molly: I would pronounce ‘arti,sanal and ‘pyra,midal. For me, they are temporary compounds with no independent place in my mental lexicon. Adding -al does not shift stress, though -ical does.
    I agree. I’d only say Artie’s annal. And since you ask, I’ve REALLY got a thing about the word kilometer. It’s not a bloody ki-lommitter! It’s a killo meter, just like a killo gram. Keelo meter, if you must.
    I don’t know anything about ‘artesan’, but there’s nothing odd or unusual about the English word artisan. I use it all the time, as would anyone with an art or architecture background. To me a stonemason for instance is an artisan, not a craftsperson.

  40. I’d pronounce both artisanal and pyramidal with the stress on the first syllable. (The first is theoretical, but I talk about pyramidal orchids fairly often.) There’s possibly a secondary stress on the third syllable – at least, there would be if I was speaking verse – , but it’s extremely subdued. It strikes me this is also pretty much the same stress-pattern I’d use for “secondary” in reading the above sentence.

  41. Mr. Head: I assume that ki’lometer is influenced by mi’crometer, ther’mometer, sphygmoma’nometer, etc. etc. I agree it’s illogical. In any case, North Americans who have to talk about kilometers a lot call them klicks, since kilo has another (and international) use.

  42. Does nobody else use elision and pronounce the three syllables “ar-TIZ-nal”?

  43. Trond Engen says:

    Mi’crometer is even weirder han ki’lometer.

  44. Here’s a thought: Perhaps the was / were dilemma is partially caused by the conflict many folks have when they hear “was” used instead of “were” in subjunctive moods. Even though this is an issue of how to correctly conjugate “be” in the past tense, I feel that some of the awkwardness has to do with hearing the same pairing of sounds used interchangeably in this other function. That said, no idea what is “correct,” and I think you said it best re: joints of a language not fitting snugly.

  45. John: North Americans who have to talk about kilometers a lot call them klicks, since kilo has another (and international) use.
    I’ve probably mentioned it before but anyway this reminds me of the US structural-engineer’s unit, the kip. They talk about kips all the time, 1 kip being 1,000 lbs. It’s the only way to do decimal calculations for heavy loads using Imperial measures. Otherwise you’d have factors of 14, or whatever it is, to deal with constantly. I’ve always thought it was jolly clever of them.

  46. North Americans who have to talk about kilometers a lot call them klicks
    I think I first heard this in the early 70s in Germany, from GIs there. One of them told me that was the word they used in the military. The German Wipe article on Klick (Militär) says “the word was widely used during the Vietnam war in the 1960s”.

  47. “Mi’crometer is even weirder than ki’lometer.”
    A mi’crometer is different from a ‘micro,meter. In BrE there is also a spelling difference.

  48. There have been artisans in British English for a fair time. In my history lessons I confused them with artesian [wells] which put an odd gloss on studying the Artisans’ and Labourers’ Dwellings Improvement Act of 1875

  49. Mollymooly: Indeed, scientific Yanks used micron (µ) instead of micrometer (µm) for a long time, and sometimes still do, precisely because of the collision with the name of the instrument in written form, though there was no confusion in the spoken form.
    Crown: I assume that’s kp, as in kilopound, though klb (clib? club?) would have been better metrology.

  50. Possibly, but we like ‘kips’.

  51. Lucy Kemnitzer: Indeed, why not two completely separate houses with otherwise identical contents?

  52. speedwell says:

    I agree with mollymooly in every particular on the use and pronunciation of “artisan”, “artisanal”, and “pyramidal”.

  53. I first heard Americans use the word ‘clicks’ for kilometres back in 1970 in Spain. I immediately remembered that SF writers in the fifties were calling them ‘kloms’, and I thought that was the better word. A military origin for ‘clicks’ sounds quite plausible.

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