Das Empire.

I’m only on the first chapter of Dominic Lieven’s The End of Tsarist Russia: The March to World War I and Revolution, but I can already tell it’s going to be one of those books I’ll recommend to people for years to come — I have to pause after just about every paragraph to think about what he just said and integrate it with what I already (thought I) knew. At any rate, one of his footnotes said “On the background to all the issues discussed in this paragraph, see A. Rose, Zwischen Empire und Kontinent: Britische Aussenpolitik vor dem Ersten Weltkrieg (Munich, 2011), esp. pp. 279–99 on Anglo-American relations,” and I was waylaid by the word Empire, which I didn’t recall seeing in a German context (the normal word for ’empire’ being Reich). The burning question was, how is it pronounced? It wasn’t in my pocket Bantam dictionary, so I went to the big gun, the Harper-Collins Unabridged (900 pages, weighs enough to stun a small bear with), and found it. I found it twice, in fact:

Empire 1 [ãˈpiːɐ] nt -(s), no pl (Hist) Empire; (~stil) Empire style.

Empire 2 [ˈɛmpaɪə] nt -(s), no pl (British) Empire.

So I guess since the referenced title appears to be about the British Empire, it would take the second pronunciation, which is essentially the English one (as opposed to the first, which is French). But this is an odd situation; can my German-speaking readers confirm for me that there are two (rare) words Empire with different pronunciations depending on whether the empire in question is British or not?

Comments

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89ueM4Z9Vvk

    This lady pronounces Empire waist (which I thought would use the French pronunciation) as British (around 38 seconds in), so now I’m very confused. Maybe elegant Germans in the 1800s had a French pronunciation for “Empire-stil” but it’s dying out?

  2. At least in my experience, the dictionary is right.
    I learned the French pronunciation for the (clothing) style as a girl when Empire waist dresses were a thing again.
    (I don’t have time to watch the youtube video linked above. It’s possible the French pronunciation is dying out, but it is definitely still around.)

    When it’s the British context it is always “das (britische) Empire” – also “das britische Weltreich”.

  3. David Marjanović says:

    can my German-speaking readers confirm for me that there are two (rare) words Empire with different pronunciations depending on whether the empire in question is British or not?

    Yes, and the one in French pronunciation is specifically Napoleon’s.

    Likewise, Service has two pronunciations: French for a set of coffee or tea cups & accessories, English for the modern English meaning.

    This lady pronounces Empire waist (which I thought would use the French pronunciation) as British (around 38 seconds in), so now I’m very confused. Maybe elegant Germans in the 1800s had a French pronunciation for “Empire-stil” but it’s dying out?

    Easy: she doesn’t know the one word and so reads the other, mistakenly.

    Learning French is no longer as widespread as it once was either. Ressource is even spelled the French way, but now there are people pronouncing it the English way, and some even put a /d/ in the Journal(-) words.

  4. Fascinating, thanks for the detailed explanation (and the Napoleon thing makes perfect sense).

  5. J.W. Brewer says:

    Is it fair to say that this is no weirder than English sometimes using “Reich” and “Kaiser” in certain contexts rather than just “empire” and “emperor”?

  6. Sure, it’s pretty much equivalent; I just hadn’t run into it before.

  7. Well, except for the two-different-pronunciations part. So yes, it’s weirder.

  8. These are the kinds of things that regularly result in hour-long arguments with my children.

    I know ‘the grammer rules’ but they are ‘native speakers’ since forever. Yet, they have no evidence to back it up besides “that is just how you say it”.

  9. And that’s all the evidence anyone needs.

  10. J.W. Brewer says:

    In AmEng we generally pronounce “kaiser” and “caesar” differently, but I guess it would be a fair point that the fact that those are more or less the same word is probably less obvious to the average speaker than it is to me. But should the fact that Eng. “empire” and Fr. “empire” happen to be spelled the same mean Germans are obligated to think of them as “the same word” (for pronunciation purposes) in a way that doesn’t include differently-spelled words that are transparently cognates with the same meaning (imperi, impero, imperio, etc.) from other Romance and Romance-influenced languages?

  11. “The one in French pronunciation is specifically Napoleon’s” — could you elaborate?

  12. David Marjanović says:

    Oh, the two words spelled Service even have different genders: the one with the English pronunciation is masculine, calqued from the closest native equivalent, Dienst; the one with the French pronunciation is neuter for, presumably, some reason.

    It gets weirder. Tunnel is a 19th-century loanword that came in together with railroads. And yet it, too, has two pronunciations that come with two genders! The one that has won out is a spelling-pronunciation with stressed /ʊ/ in the first syllable and no vowel in the second syllable, and is masculine. The obsolescent one has stressed [ɛ] in the second syllable, imitating French, and is neuter.

    Next step in weirdness! Both pronunciations + genders of Tunnel are found in my dialect, the second one etymologically nativized – with |ɛl| rendered as /œ/.

    There’s another case of a 19th-century English loanword pronounced à la française: a probably obsolete piece of women’s underwear pronounced as if spelled *combinège. It’s a combination of undershirt and petticoat.

    “The one in French pronunciation is specifically Napoleon’s” — could you elaborate?

    I’ve only encountered the word in Empire-Stil, a style of furniture and (as mentioned above) fashion that evidently dates to Napoleon’s time. (Not sure if I or III, but probably I.)

  13. David, speaking of twin words with different genders: how did German come to have “der See” (lake) and “die See” (ocean)?

  14. David Marjanović says:

    That’s got to be dialect mixture. No idea what happened with the genders, but the area where die See is native rather than just literary/poetic – the area next to the sea, as it happens – also has a lot of lakes called Meer, which is the word for “sea” otherwise.

  15. Just a couple days ago, I happened to be looking at a German-language map of central and eastern Europe in 1914 (although the map was recent). Every state, including some of the internal German states, was labeled as “Keiserreich” or “Königsreich” before the German name.

  16. 1800-1815, so yes, the First Empire. Apparently it’s a shibboleth of the anglophone fashion industry to say [amˈpiə(r)], of course referring to the dress style with the high waists popularized by the Empress Josephine (in whose cultivated court Art stopped short, according to Reginald Bunthorne aka Not Quite Oscar Wilde).

  17. David Marjanović says:

    “Keiserreich” or “Königsreich”

    Kaiserreich, Königreich.

    You’re probably exaggerating. Only the whole thing had an emperor, and while several states ended up as kingdoms, most never did. There were heaps of principalities and counties and duchies and whatnots…

  18. @David Marjanović: I worded that poorly (sloppy editing). All the sovereign states (that were large enough for me to notice) had one of those labels (sometimes abbreviated), and both Preußen and Bayern were identified as kingdoms. The other smaller states presumably were not, but they were also too small for me to notice how they were designated.

    Regarding obviously cognate words with words with identical spellings but different pronunciations from their different languages of origin: How do you pronounce “charge d’affairs”? If you spell it with a diacritic, I think you have to use the French pronunciation. However, without the accent, I would accept either pronunciation of “charge.” (I suspect that many others would not though.)

    This example has been on my mind, since I’ve been rereading Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.* I have been switching back and forth between a physical copy and the digital version on my phone. The OCR on the electronic version is not that great, and it is missing all the diacritics. Besides the usual occasional errors of character identification, it also misspells the name of Franz Halder as “Haider,” every single time. (And Halder’s name comes up a lot, since the general’s diary was one of Shirer’s primary sources.)

    * A colleague saw that I was carrying that book around and sarcastically commented, “I wonder why you’ve chosen to reread that now.” He knew I had read it before, because it happened to be the book that I brought with me, ten years ago last month, when I interviewed for my present position. During my job talk, I left the book sitting on the table at the front of the room, with the thick spine toward to the audience, displaying the title in small letters, right next to a giant swastika.”

  19. How do you pronounce “charge d’affairs”? If you spell it with a diacritic, I think you have to use the French pronunciation.

    You have to use it either way; at least, I’ve never heard it pronounced any other way. You presumably wouldn’t pronounce émigré “emiger” if the accents were left off.

  20. How do you pronounce “charge d’affairs”? If you spell it with a diacritic, I think you have to use the French pronunciation.

    You have to use it either way; at least, I’ve never heard it pronounced any other way. You presumably wouldn’t pronounce émigré “emiger” if the accents were left off.

    …and the degree of voicing in the G correlates with one’s familiarity with French.

  21. David: Ah, I see. I’m a bit disappointed. I thought you were going to say something about 19th century Corsican accents.

  22. But “emigre” does not have another pronunciation in English. The word “charge” does.

  23. [amˈpiə(r)]
    This is (more or less) how I pronounce Ampère. A quick google search shows that the best tentative etymology is from [holy roman] empire through Occitan.

  24. It is certainly the usual English pronunciation of ampere ‘unit of current’, modulo /ɑ/ vs. /æ/. But no anglophone feels a connection between ampere and empire.

  25. Further to the German words (1) der Service and (2) das Service: (1) means Eng. “service” (an action performed for the benefit of someone). It’s pronounced more or less as in English, with stress on the first syllable.

    (1) means “service” only as it occurs in the expression “coffee/tea service” (set of matching cups/plates etc). The stress is on the second syllable, as in French. In Cologne, however, (2) is pronounced “ServEE”, without a final “s”. I’ve always thought this a rather precious pronunciation, intended to sound even more French and elegant I guess. Just checked with Duden, though – it knows nothing about a missing “s” on the end.

    The elegant pronunciation in Cologne of “entrecôte” is “entrecoh”.

  26. The word “charge” does.

    Not in that phrase, as far as I know. In other words, yes, I can see how someone unfamiliar with the phrase might pronounce the word “charge” in the way familiar to them, but no one familiar with it would be tempted to do so.

  27. Rodger C says:

    Ampère

    Then of course there’s “Lemprière,” from the old nominative.

    servEE, entrecoh: I’m oddly comforted to know that not only English-speakers hypercorrect French words in this way.

    My print copy of Shirer’s book uses no diacritics; it’s all ae/oe/ue. One has to remember that Shirer covered Germany originally as a newspaper reporter.

  28. Danes are precious enough to say [ɑŋtʰʁɛˈkʰo], on the other hand it’s [sɛʁ’viːsə] (for the tableware sense). Make of that what you will. (The words were borrowed 200 years apart, of course).

    (Swedish pronounces [ɑŋtrɛ’kʰoːt] and [sɛr’viːs], for slightly better consistency with French).

  29. Rodger C, would you say it delivered the coup de gras to your belief that such hypercorrection was an anglophone thing?

  30. For me it’s /ʃɑrʒedəˈfeɪr/, pretty much what AHD says, with a normal plural in /-z/, not two separate /z/ sounds. I’ve been trying to get my wife not to say /ˈprifi/ for years; I’m not sure how she is on the final consonant of /kudəˈgrɑ(s)/.

  31. Rodger C says:

    @Keith Ivey: Let’s arrange a thé-à-thé over that.

  32. CuConnacht says:

    Somewhat like Stu Clayton’s more-French-than-the-French Cologne pronunciations, I have heard English speakers talk about a coup de grah, perhaps influenced by foie gras along with a notion that no final consonants are pronounced in French.

  33. Another one is lingerie, which most people have decided to say as if it were langeré. As TV Tropes might put it, Francophony Is Unrealistic.

  34. Trond Engen says:

    Norwegian: [aŋtre’kå:] with [pom’fri:] and [bɛr’ne:], but served on our best [sɛr’vi:se] — but the hyper-French forms have fallen from pseudo-elegant to boorish. Pseuds now correct the waiter and say [aŋtre’kotʰ].

    It’s horrible. I had to stop.

  35. Let this all be a warning to any remaining proponents of the exceptionless rule: When the best citizens of Oslo have their [pom’fri:] with [bɛr’ne:] and those in Copenhagen [pɔm(ə)’fʁits] with [bæʁ’nɛ:s(ə)], you can explain a lot by phoneme inventories and phonotactics, but the rest just is.

    Me, I like to say [ˈpʰɔmˌβʁɪd̥ɐ mɛ be.ɐ͜ʁˈnɛz] just to help make somebody’s day more surreal. (Pomfritter is what you get at burger stands, pommes frites in restaurants. The burger bars often have the better fries and the worst sauce).

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