Taix.

I was reading Dana Goodyear’s New Yorker profile of the novelist Rachel Kushner (I wish it focused more on her writing and less on her life, but that’s the kind of profile it is) when I was stopped by a reference to “the Taix, a venerable French restaurant where she eats several times a week.” Regular readers will not be surprised to learn that I was desperate to know how “Taix” was pronounced. I happened to have Wikipedia open in a tab, so I entered it and got an article on Taïx, “a commune in the Tarn department in southern France.” Tah-EEKS? I thought, but the Russian page had Таи́с [ta’is], and the French page said it was from Occitan Tais, so tah-EES? Then I tried googling, and hit pay dirt, an LA Weekly piece called “No One Knows How to Pronounce the Name of Taix Restaurant,” by Catie Disabato:

In 1927, Marius Taix Jr. — son of French immigrant and hotel magnate Marius Taix Sr. — opened the first iteration of Taix Restaurant in his father’s downtown L.A. hotel. […]

But not once in these nearly 90 years of history has there been consensus on how to pronounce this restaurant’s name.

“We have heard everything, from taxi to tays,” says Michael Taix, current owner and fourth generation of the Taix family in L.A. “Tays is probably the most common, with tay-ks and tex.”

I pronounce it tay-ks — because if I use any other pronunciation, no one understands what restaurant I’m referring to. Most patrons, however, heatedly debate the two other common pronunciations, tex and tays. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people approach us at the desk and tell me that the loser was going to pay for dinner,” Taix says. “I have either ruined their night or saved their night by pronouncing it tex.”

Tex is the pronunciation the Taix family has stood by since Marius Sr. According to Michael Taix, it’s the correct pronunciation when referring to the restaurant and the name of the family that has owned it for decades. Tay-ks, Taix kindly informs me, is not real French. […]

Early menus provided a pronunciation guide; nearly very review of the restaurant does so as well, from Rachel Kushner’s mention of Taix in the Los Angeles issue of Lucky Peach, back to L.A. Weekly’s 1999 restaurant review.

(You can hear the owner himself say the name a minute into this YouTube video.) In conclusion, don’t ever let anyone tell you French is easy to pronounce.

Comments

  1. P. Winsky says:
  2. don’t ever let anyone tell you French is easy to pronounce.

    No-one did. But that’s rich coming from a language with place names and pronunciations like Leicester or Happisburgh “Haisborough”, Featherstonhaugh, Chalmondley, etc.

    Are we sure Taix comes from Taïx in the Tarn? It’s not bona fide French if it’s Occitan — or more likely some predecessor.

  3. Trond Engen says:

    Not many know that the Taix-Maixe kitchen is a blend of Mediterranean cooking from Taix and Northern European cooking from Maixe

  4. The online Dictionnaire des noms de famille de France et d’ailleurs suggests Catalan Teix (from Latin Taxus, “yew”) or a Celtic personal name Tascius as a possible origin for Taix.

    I think most French speakers from the northern half of France at any rate would first guess [tɛ] to be the pronunciation, rhyming with paix, and if not, [tɛks] to rhyme with Aix.

  5. J.W. Brewer says:

    If the family name is based on the toponym it probably means the family is not (within recent centuries) actually from there. In England e.g. I’ve been told a surname like “Derbyshire” is rare in Derbyshire – it pops up elsewhere where in such-and-such village five or six centuries ago “that guy who came from Derbyshire” was a distinguishing feature, which it wouldn’t be back in Derbyshire itself. (If for some historical reason everyone in such and such village works as a blacksmith, “Smith” will not be a plausible surname for anyone to end up with when the society is at the surname-adopting stage because it won’t serve a disambiguation function.) So if some remote ancestor ended up elsewhere in France and acquired a surname meaning “that one guy in our village who came from Taix,” the family might come over the centuries to pronounce the name in a way that made sense in a different regional language variety than the variety prevalent in the region where the namesake town was located.

  6. Are we sure Taix comes from Taïx in the Tarn?

    I seriously doubt it did; that’s just the first thing I hit along the way. I’m sorry if I left the impression I was proposing it as an etymology.

  7. marie-lucie says:

    My maternal grandparents came from a village in the Tarn department, but I have never heard of Taix or seen it in writing until now. It does not look Occitan to me, more Catalan (in which final ix is like English sh. But really your guess is as good as mine.

  8. marie-lucie says:

    Wikipedia says it is from Occitan tais ‘badger’, itself from Gaulish taxo. If so, perhaps the final x is a pseudo-learned spelling recalling the Gaulish word (if indeed there was such a word).

  9. Are there other animal words used as village names?

  10. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I’ve been told a surname like “Derbyshire” is rare in Derbyshire – it pops up elsewhere where in such-and-such village five or six centuries ago “that guy who came from Derbyshire” was a distinguishing feature, which it wouldn’t be back in Derbyshire itself.

    I don’t know how common “Derbyshire” is in Derbyshire, but what you say agrees with other similar cases. “Cornish” is much more common in Devon than in Cornwall, and many of those with that name in Cornwall are from families that moved from Devon within the past century or so. Likewise, although “Devenish” is rare everywhere, it is much rarer in Devon than in Somerset.

  11. Kate Bunting says:

    Well, I’ve lived in Derbyshire all my life and I don’t remember ever coming across anyone of that name.

  12. David Marjanović says:

    the Gaulish word (if indeed there was such a word)

    The North American badger is Taxidea taxus.

  13. Stu Clayton says:

    The “taxis” in Turn und Taxis is said to derive from the Italian word “tasso” for the European badger. The German is “Dachs”.

    # Tasso ist das italienische Wort für Dachs, das Wappentier der Familie, eingedeutscht Dax, Daxen,[3] woraus sich der Name Taxis entwickelte. Im französischsprachigen Postvertrag von 1505 zwischen Philipp dem Schönen und Franz von Taxis wurde die Familie de Tassis genannt, wie es bis heute im Französischen üblich ist. #

    # Das Wort Dachs kommt vom mittelhochdeutschen/althochdeutschen dahs, wohl von germanisch θahsu (verwandt mit spätlateinisch taxus/taxo und mittellateinisch daxus) aus dem indogermanischen Wortstamm taks (bauen) bzw. teks (zimmern)#

  14. Trond Engen says:

    Taxonomy is the art of naming badgers.

  15. And payments to the government were originally made in badger hides.

  16. Trond Engen says:

    Hiding your taxes outside of the taxman’s view was a serious offence.

  17. I think most French speakers from the northern half of France at any rate would first guess [tɛ] to be the pronunciation, rhyming with paix, and if not, [tɛks] to rhyme with Aix.

    Yeah, that’s why I left out this bit, in which Disabato knoweth not whereof she speaks:

    When a proper name ends in “x,” a French speaker enunciates that final consonant. Taix’s French cousins pronounce their name with the “x,” and when French tourists find their way to Taix Restaurant they know to call it tex.

  18. I’m not certain about that, though. The French from the northern half of the country are also known to supply phantom [ks] in names like Chamonix, so that could be their default guess for a final x in an unfamiliar name. They would know that the x in -eux is likely to be silent, but for -aix? I’m not sure.

  19. marie-lucie says:

    JP: The problem with many French place names is that a) they are often from regional dialects or languages and b) their spelling became fixed at a certain date and has not changed even though their pronunciation may have. Chamonix, Oyonnax are from the Savoie (Northern Alps) and whatever x sounded like in the local spelling at a time, it no longer does (it may derive from a consonant followed by plural s, both now silent)). On the other hand, Dax in the Pyrénées is [daks].

    Toponyms ending in eux (like Bayeux) or aux (like Meaux are likely to be pronounced like the ordinary words (nouns and adjectives) with these endings, where the letter x results from a misunderstanding of a medieval symbol, but indeed aix is much rarer. The city of Roubaix in the North of the country does not say [ks], and the inhabitants are les Roubaisiens (with s, unlike as in les Aixois inhabitants of Aix-en-Provence or – I suppose – Aix-les-Bains) which do use [ks] in derivatives as well as toponyms.

    There are cases where the average speaker, when in doubt, will go for [ks]. On a French TV show similar to Jeopardy, one contestant was announced as coming from “Mieukse”. In fact she was from the Normand village of Mieuxcé, where the x is as silent as in mieux ‘better/best’ (which is probably not part of the etymological source of the name).

  20. The x and z at the end of Francoprovençal names come from mediaeval conventions for marking final and penultimate stress respectively and don’t correspond to consonant sounds. So they are silent in most place names like Chamonix and Oyonnax, but in some cases like Gex the spelling pronunciation prevails even locally. Such conventions wouldn’t be familiar to French speakers outside the region, which is why you find the z pronounced in the surname Berlioz, for example.

  21. David Marjanović says:

    mediaeval conventions for marking final and penultimate stress respectively

    Mind blown.

  22. Yeah, this is the first I’ve heard about that!

  23. marie-lucie says:

    JP, Thank you! I had figured out Berlioz because my mother had been to La Clusaz, where the z is silent, but I did not know about the medieval spelling conventions.

    Can you give a reference?

  24. Stu Clayton says:

    I bet the “z” signified final stress because it’s the last letter in the alphabet.

  25. Stu Clayton says:

    Stupid guess, JP had already identified which is which.

  26. Wikipedia mentions it s.v. Franco-Provençal, but does not cite a source. There is a huge list of toponyms of Arpitan origin given, however, most ending in -x or -z.

  27. Trond Engen says:

    Would the origin be that word-final s had allophones dependent on word stress? When the -s ([ʃ] ~ [ʒ]?) was lost, orthographic sibillants indicated word stress only,

  28. Stu Clayton says:

    # Le but des scribes au Moyen Âge n’est pas de faire des effets, mais de transcrire ce qui était dit, de restituer une prononciation ; aux XIIème – XIIIème siècles encore, l’écriture est une sorte d’aide-mémoire, plus ou moins instable, à usage individuel ou restreint, dans une civilisation essentiellement orale. C’est à l’époque une orthographe pure, mais pauvre. [dixit Nina Catach, Langue Française n° 20] Une orthographe que l’on peut considérer comme phonologique, mais avec des insuffisances et des contradictions.

    La langue a évolué depuis le latin (le latin classique était phonétique), et l’alphabet latin ne suffisait plus. Quelques exemples ; les mots cités ci-après viennent des Serments de Strasbourg :

    plusieurs lettres pour un même son : c / k / qu = [k], comme aujourd’hui : commun, cosa / Karlo / quant [kwãt] (devant a, o, u)

    une lettre, plusieurs sons : c + e, i (= ts, puis s au XIIIème) / c + a, o, u : cosa / cist [tsist]

    . même résultat à propos des sons nouveaux qui sont apparus, une même lettre transcrit une voyelle ou une consonne ou semi-consonne, selon sa position : u = u / v / w, i = i / j / [j]

    le u peut même noter plusieurs voyelles [o / u / y]
    à l’inverse, plusieurs voyelles pour le même son : Karlo / Karle, fradra / fradre

    On prononce différemment selon les régions, et chaque scribe transcrit le même texte selon sa prononciation, ex : lieu / liu

    les graphies ne sont pas partout les mêmes pour les sons complexes ; ex : pour le n ” mouillé “, gn (comme aujourd’hui), ou ign (montaneam > montaigne [prononcé montagne], oignon, poigne, moignon), voire ing en fin de mot (ling = ligne), mais nh dans le midi ; en Auvergne, gh transcrivait dj (comme ch transcrivait tch), mais en Picardie, gh correspondait à gu devant e : Gherard (= Guérard, et non Gérard).

    pour le l ” mouillé ” qui est devenu yod [j], on trouve, encore aujourd’hui, ill / il / ll / illi ; mais on avait lh dans le midi

    Les scribes utilisent des abréviations, comme & (@?) ; + nous l’avons dit, x = us, z = ts ; des traits au-dessus ou en-dessous des lettres qui sont des codes pour abréger ; ils collent des mots : sisaluaraieo = si saluarai eo (Serments de Strasbourg)… #

  29. Stu Clayton says:

    I didn’t post the URL in the comment because this-here LH site then eats the whole comment.

  30. marie-lucie says:

    Grand merci, Stu!

  31. Stu Clayton says:

    The site won’t let me post the URL.

    http://bbouillon.free.fr/univ/hl/Fichiers/Cours/orthog.htm

  32. Stu Clayton says:

    I see that I have to add a few words, then my comment is accepted.

  33. I’m now totally confused. As if French orthography wasn’t already impenetrable.

    If a word/place-name ends in x or z, and isn’t from Franco-Provençal, what are the rules?

    Bayeux? Meaux mustard? (What does Norman French use -x for?) And actually Taïx is west of that area.

    Pierre Boulez? (Berlioz already mentioned.)

  34. marie-lucie says:

    AntC: Standard French words ending in eux or aux are pronounced as if the x did not exist. So Bayeux and Meaux are pronounced like heureux and beaux, but unlike those adjectives, they do not end in the sound [z] when “liaising” with a following vowel-initial word (mostly a hypothetical case). The few words ending in ix, like six and dix, may be pronounced with final [s] in isolation, with [z] before a vowel (as in six enfants ‘6 children’), or without a consonant before another consonant (as in six filles ‘6 girls’ [si fij]). Taïx is peculiar because it does not fit any of these patterns.

    As for the words in z, there are only a very few in Standard French, and all or most are monosyllables, like nez ‘nose’ and riz ‘rice’, which are in such daily use that nobody needs to worry about how to pronounce them (without [z]). The morphemes rez in rez-de-chaussée ‘ground floor’ and raz in raz-de-marée ‘tidal wave, tsunami’ are never said except in those compounds, and again their z is not pronounced. (Now that hyphens have practically disappeared from French spelling, it is possible that some people are saying it at least in raz-de-marée). Otherwise the only common words written with ez are the forms for the 2nd person plural of the majority of verbs, where [z] only occurs in liaison (and in formal speech at that). (I was going to forget gaz [gaz], a relatively new, imported word).

    The Franco-Provençal names of people and places ending in z or x after a vowel do not fit any of these patterns, so when in doubt, the non-natives of the area pronounce the final letters, hence BouleZ, BerlioZ and OyonnaX.

    (“Meaux mustard”? Meaux is known for its Brie, but for mustard you want Dijon).

  35. Pommery mustard, or moutard de Meaux, is a whole-grain mustard.

  36. marie-lucie says:

    JC: Merci, I didn’t know that!

    But be careful: la moutarde is not the same as le moutard (one of several words for a child about pre-school age, slightly derogatory). Not to be confused with le motard ‘motorcyclist’ (including ‘motorized policeman’).

  37. Thank you @marie-lucie

    Pommery mustard, comes (or used to 30 years ago) in stoneware pots with genuine cork stoppers with genuine wax seals, and was available (in Britain) only in specialist delicatessens. (Or in any hypermarché outside a Channel port, for loading up before catching the ferry.) Nowadays it has faux-stoneware pots with plastic lid and is available everywhere.

    moutard de Meaux is the downmarket generic form, in plain glass jars with tin lid, on your supermarket shelf.

  38. Rodger C says:

    In English, “motard” suggests someone riding a motorcycle in an idiotic way.

  39. marie-lucie says:

    RC, French “motard” is also derogatory (like many words ending in “ard”).

  40. Oops. Thanks. Le Mort Darthur syndrome strikes again.

  41. Goodness – for supposedly logical language, the French have a horrendously illogical way of writing it.

    And what happens to the X in Asterix and Obelix – I know it’s meant to be pronounced, but does it ever happen that it is left silent eg. in fast conversation?

  42. marie-lucie says:

    zyxt: French as a logical language is a myth invented or at least perpetuated by someone who did not know any others well. I don’t think it is more or less logical than any other (at least that I know of).

    Astérix et Obélix : ALWAYS pronounce the IX ! As in Vercingétorix, our ancestral hero.

  43. David Marjanović says:

    RC, French “motard” is also derogatory (like many words ending in “ard”).

    In English, it’s the productive -tard suffix, from the former medical term retard for a person with “retarded development”.

    Le Mort Darthur

    Morte even!

    Goodness – for supposedly logical language, the French have a horrendously illogical way of writing it.

    Now imagine this on both ends of each word, and you get Tibetan, pretty much.

  44. the productive -tard suffix

    Which is what caused people to pronounce dotard as if it were do- + -tard rather than dote- + -ard when this unfamiliar word appeared in the news.

  45. Indeed, I don’t think I heard a single person in media use the traditional pronunciation for it during the recent hubbub.

    That said, some other derogatives using the old -ard suffix are bastard, braggart [sic], coward, dastard, drunkard, dullard, sluggard and (forgive me) niggard; this may have been the class that marie-lucie was referring to.

  46. “‘Gibbets and crows!’ [Saruman] hissed, and they shuddered at the hideous change. ‘Dotard! What is the house of Eorl but a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek, and their brats roll on the floor among the dogs?'”

  47. marie-lucie says:

    Lazar: the class that marie-lucie was referring to.

    Not exactly a class, but a group large enough to be noticed, and still productive. Among them (I quote from memory): bâtard; couard; charognard ‘vulture or bird of similar habits’ (la charogne ‘decomposing corpse’); gaillard ‘strapping, “hale and hearty”‘; grognard (“growler”, adopted as a nickname by Napoleon’s battle-hardened soldiers); paillard ‘debauched’; pétard ‘firecracker’; pinard ‘cheap wine’; plumard ‘bed’ (originally ‘featherbed’); richard; ringard ‘ridiculously old-fashioned’ and others. Some of them are not derogatory at all, or perhaps have lost this connotation, like montagnard ‘mountain-dweller’, or vieillard ‘old man’. Most of these words are basically masculine, but they can also take the feminine form in -arde.

  48. marie-lucie says:

    JC: Do you know the moutarde with this motto:

    Manger moutarde
    moult me tarde

    Meaning something like ‘I can’t wait to eat mustard’

    And the Maille brand has:

    Que Maille
    qui m’aille

    ‘Only Maille suits me’

    I wonder if these medieval mottoes are actually centuries old or were created at a more recent date to suggest how long the brands had been engaged in mustard-making.

  49. David Marjanović says:

    Charognard is applied to scavengers that aren’t birds, too.

    An example of recent productivity, though it’s probably extinct itself, is blédard, “Foreign Legionary who did most of his service in the bled“, from back when bled still had its original sense of “wasteland in Algeria” rather than “boring little village”.

  50. Manger moutarde
    moult me tarde

    This one is attributed to Philippe le Hardi; the coat of arms on the mustard is that of Burgundy. It is a typical “canting motto”. The line “Et un pot à moustarde, que c’est mon cœur à qui moult tarde” appears in Gargantua.

    Que Maille
    qui m’aille

    This on the other hand dates only to 1931. Dijon-mustard-as-we-know-it was itself only devised in 1856, when verjuice (the juice of unripe grapes) replaced the traditional vinegar. But mustard of one kind or another has been made in Dijon at least since the 13C, when King Philip VI patronized it.

    (I am not myself a mustard-eater.)

  51. marie-lucie says:

    Merci David. I have seen that word written.

    Another one, now on its way out even if not quite gone, is/was tubard ‘TB patient’, from la tuberculose. These patients used to have to spend months and even years in specialized hospitals in sunny climates, but now the disease is successfully treated with antibiotics.

  52. marie-lucie says:

    JC: French mustard is a far cry from North American mustard, which barely deserves the name. You can’t just slather spoonfuls of French mustard on a sandwich – your mouth would be on fire!

  53. You can’t just slather spoonfuls of French mustard on a sandwich

    For Dijon mustard that’s true. And traditional English mustard the same (a sharp yellow colour, originally grown around Norwich). Grain mustard (such as Pommery/Meaux or Maille) is milder.

    Britain also has ‘German mustard’ (milder/sweeter and darker colour); and ‘American mustard’ for hot dogs: insipid, gloopy, more corn syrup than mustard, I’d guess.

    Gargantua: and when he sneezed, it was buckets of mustard.

  54. Trond Engen says:

    I was well into adulthood before I discovered that I actually like other types of mustard in spite of not liking hot dog mustard. But then, I was in my teens when I discovered that tomato sauce is good in spite of ketchup.

  55. French mustard (not necessarily of the finest quality, but certainly of the correct strength) has been available in virtually every American grocery store since the 1970s. The market pioneer was Grey Poupon, which was much stronger than existing American mustards when it became widespread. I use it for cooking (beef/mushroom stroganoff for example). There are also much stronger concoctions readily available. The Trader Joe’s house brand French mustard is remarkably sinus-clearing. At any given time, in order to satisfy all our needs, we have dijon mustard, yellow mustard, and honey mustard in our refridgerator (as well as prepared horseradish, which can be combined with any variety of mustard to give it extra kick).

  56. marie-lucie says:

    Best, I know that real French mustard is available in North America (and I buy it there), but it is not the most common one in households or sandwich shops.

  57. A caveat for furriners in Denmark wanting to try out the hotdogs stands: sennep is the stronger stuff, though not blindingly strong, fransk sennep is the insipid sugary version with added curry powder. French type mustard is called dijonsennep regardless of provenance. My guess is that the default sennep is modeled on British brands, though why American style hotdog mustard was thought to be French I don’t know.

    You can’t just slather spoonfuls of French mustard on a sandwich — depends on the size of the spoon, innit? And how much meat you put on top. About a teaspoon on a proper slice of black rye bread and then a quarter inch of roast pork, that’s suitable. Remember to lick the spoon for extra goodness.

  58. marie-lucie says:

    Lars, you are describing a really big sandwich! This is not the average sandwich in a North American fast food place (where I only go if in a desperate situation).

  59. Boulez is not a Franco-Provençal name in origin, as far as I can tell. It seems to be a variant of Boulay [bulɛ], and indeed Léon Warnant’s Dictionnaire de la prononciation française gives the pronunciation of Boulez as [bule] with a silent z.

    However, it seems to be clear that plenty of French speakers, perhaps a majority, pronounce the z in Boulez, saying [bulɛːz]. I haven’t seen footage of the late composer pronouncing his own surname, but in a documentary on him everyone including French, English, and German speakers seems to be pronouncing the z.

    In a couple of other surnames with -ez, Warnant favours the pronunciation with [ɛs] or [ɛːz] (I follow Warnant in indicating the phonetic lengthening of the vowel before a final [z], but this shouldn’t be confused with an underlying /ɛː/ phoneme as in fête):

    Barthez [baʁtɛs], sometimes [baʁtɛːz]
    Thorez [tɔʁɛs] and [tɔʁɛːz]

    This becomes clearer with surnames of obvious Spanish origin:

    Fernandez [fɛʁnandɛs] and [fɛʁnɑ̃dɛːz]
    Gonzalez (designates a French person) [ɡɔnzalɛːz], sometimes [ɡɔ̃zalɛːz]
    Lopez [lɔpɛs], sometimes [lɔpɛːz]
    Perez [peʁɛs], sometimes [peʁɛːz]
    Rodriguez [ʁɔdʁiɡɛs], sometimes [ʁɔdʁiɡɛːz]
    Sanchez (designates a French person) [sɑ̃ʃɛːz]

    So even if the z in Boulez was originally silent, I can see why French speakers would pronounce it. In my experience, French speakers usually pronounce the z in surnames ending in -ez as [z], though I’ve heard Barthez pronounced with [s] at least once.

    Guez as in Guez de Balzac is [ɡe] according to Warnant. But Guez can have several possible origins, and my intuition is to pronounce the z there as well for an unfamiliar Guez unless indicated otherwise.

  60. David Marjanović says: “Now imagine this on both ends of each word, and you get Tibetan, pretty much.”

    Irish often gets like that too.

  61. David Marjanović says:

    *facepalm* Thésard “doctoral student”. Possibly limited to Canada.

    German-speaking mustard comes in “sweet” and “spicy”. Neither smells good, so I’ve never tried either.

  62. Rodger C says:

    The hill tribes of Vietnam were still called “Montagnards” in English during the war period. American GIs inevitably and invariably turned this into “Mountain Yards” and hence “them Yards.”

  63. @David, if apes had never tried eating things with offensive smells we’d all be living off boiled turnips now.

  64. Boiled turnips don’t have an offensive smell?

  65. marie-lucie says:

    JP, Thank you for your research!

    I am surprised that the names in ez are listed with a long vowel. I say them with a short vowel, thus /ɛz/ not /ɛːz/ which to me suggests a spelling aise as in chaise or française (but I think I say fraise with a short vowel). I would never rhyme Gonzalez with à l’aise.

    I know that the way I speak is perhaps no longer considered “standard” (because of my advanced age !! and long-term residence outside of France). I remember hearing on French radio (a few years ago) a pronunciation of kilomètre which to me sounded like “kilomaïtre”, with a long, very open /ɛː/.

  66. Boiled turnips don’t smell of anything much, as far as I can tell. But if you add enough butter and salt you can get them to taste of salt and butter. YMMV.

  67. David Marjanović says:

    @David, if apes had never tried eating things with offensive smells we’d all be living off boiled turnips now.

    The trick is individual variation in tastes.

    Concerning French vowel length, I’m basically only used to 21st-century Parisian, which literally doesn’t leave a speaker any time for such things. However, I now have an officemate from a part of Burgundy where vowel length is apparently phonemic in the local… regiolect or whatever: the nearest city, Beaune, is explicitly not /bon/ but /boːn/ there.

    (Not to be confused with the other colleague from Burgundy, who’s from farther to the southeast and can speak a Franco-Provençal dialect complete with alveolar [r] and with [jo] corresponding to -eau.)

  68. The closest wild relatives of domestic turnips are foul-smelling at best. Other closely related plants include rape,* mustard, and radishes. The latter two probably resemble the wild progenitors of modern turnips, with their high levels of spicy sulfur compounds. While there is little direct archaeological or documentary evidence of turnip cultivation before Roman times (when Pliny the Elder mentioned them as a key staple for humans and animals), they likely have over three thousand years of human husbandry and selection bringing down the levels of noxious sulfur compounds. They may have been used primarily as animal feed before the levels were brought down to the point that they were palatable to humans.

    * Canola oil is essentially a euphemism for product that, but for an unfortunate homophone, would probably be called rape oil.

  69. marie-lucie says:

    Brett: rape oil. : No, rapeseed oil was the term used before canola oil. Perhaps it was used for other purposes than other edible oils (such as animal feed?) before it was renamed so people would be willing to eat it.

    David M: a part of Burgundy where vowel length is apparently phonemic in the local… regiolect or whatever: the nearest city, Beaune, is explicitly not /bon/ but /boːn/ there.

    I was actually born in Burgundy (before my family moved to Normandy) but was too young to remember any local bourguignon pronunciations. However, I only know /boːn/ as the pronunciation of the city, /bon/ with a short vowel does not sound right at all. Or do you mean like bonne? But the vowel would be different.

    can speak a Franco-Provençal dialect complete with alveolar [r] and with [jo] corresponding to -eau.

    I don’t know F-P but both alveolar [r] and [jo] corresponding to –eau are (or used to be) common in Northern Normandy (e.g. de l’jo = de l’eau). (I can do both upon request).

  70. A motard is a kind of a dirt motorbike. Also, per the Urban Dictionary, a US Marine Corps slang for an obnoxiously over-enthusiastic marine.

  71. Warnant systematically transcribes French final non-schwa vowels as long if they are followed by /z/, /v/, /ʒ/, /ʁ/, or /vʁ/ (well, he actually uses /ʀ/); or if they are /o/, /ø/, /ɑ/, or a nasalized vowel followed by a single consonant.

  72. David Marjanović says:

    Or do you mean like bonne?

    No, I mean a pure length difference of downright Czech proportions that exists even before consonant clusters: a local word /poːtʁ/ is not understood in nearby Switzerland.

    common in Northern Normandy

    Interesting; makes sense.

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