Autant pour moi.

Victor Mair has a Log post about the French idiom autant pour moi ‘my mistake’; it begins with a quote from Elizabeth Dreyer:

Ah! Autant pour moi, as the French say for “I stand corrected”: As much for me. So much for me? … I’ve just looked up the origin of this expression and in fact it’s rather fascinating. People write “autant pour moi” but that is a corruption, a miswriting of “au temps pour moi”. “Au temps!” is the order given in the military when one has to repeat a movement from the beginning because of an error. I have absolutely never seen “au temps pour moi” in print and have seen “autant pour moi” many times.

There is much discussion of the complicated nature of French apologies, but none of the prima facie absurdity of the idea that the idiom is a “corruption” of “au temps pour moi,” which is ipso facto the “correct” form. This idiocy (supported, of course, by the Académie: “Toutefois, pour l’Académie française, rien ne justifie l’usage de « autant »”) arises from the need to find logical explanations for illogical idioms; the supposed “au temps pour moi” may, in fact, exist only as a “logical” rewriting of the idiom (I am unable to find examples of its actual use in its supposed original sense), but it’s “logical,” and the French (if you will forgive the generalization, which I learned from actual Frenchpersons) are especially fond of that virtue. Once again, even the most basic elementary education in the science of language would save people from twisting themselves into these pretzels and trying to impose them on others.

Also, for those who might be interested, an online course on East Caucasian languages is coming up:

In the fall of 2020, the Linguistic Convergence Laboratory (HSE University, Moscow) organizes a course dedicated to East Caucasian (alias Nakh-Daghestanian) languages. The course will consist of 13 lectures by some of the leading researchers of this language family. […]

The course will be open to anyone interested in East Caucasian. Its target audience are students of linguistics at any level and researchers who would like to learn more about these languages and the area where they are spoken. The course does not have a rigid structure, you can choose to follow the whole course or attend a particular lecture you are interested in.

Lectures will be held on Wednesdays 19:00-20:30 Moscow time (UTC+3), starting from October 14. Johanna Nichols’s lecture will take place on Friday, October 16.

Registration form at the link.


  1. J.W. Brewer says

    You have inspired me to leave a comment at the log thread connecting the dots of your post to suggest that the “au temps” variant is an eggcorn (and also raising the question of whether there’s a French word for eggcorn).

  2. Yes, I suppose it is an eggcorn, isn’t it? “Autemps” would be a good French equivalent.

  3. Stu Clayton says

    even the most basic elementary education in the science of language would save people from twisting themselves into these pretzels and trying to impose them on others.

    Imposing pretzels on people is one of the meanest things you can do. Here is an imposing pretzel.

  4. The pretzel that ate Munich!

  5. absurdity of the idea

    Indeed. Mair quotes at length from “Aussie in France” who seems to have gotten hold of a fistful of absurd ideas. Like J.W.B., I couldn’t hold back from commenting.

  6. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    An eggcorn: for years I thought “rien à voir” was “rien avoir”, and was quite surprised when I learned how it’s really written. I still think “rien avoir” conveys the meaning better — less badly, anyway.

  7. PlasticPaddy says

    The corresponding phrase in Italian “altrettanto per me” is used in a longer phrase to politely accept a thank-you; the longer phrase is literally “you would have done THE SAME FOR ME”

  8. Registration form at the link.

    I filled in the fields, and all that happened was “* Please answer all the mandatory questions in the required format”

    What gives?

  9. Beats me — I haven’t tried registering myself.

  10. I couldn’t hold back from commenting.

    To which I have replied.

  11. I was unable to attend the first lecture of the HSE series, so cannot attest to the quality (audio or otherwise), but they are posting the videos on the schedule page once finished.

  12. Excellent, thanks!

  13. Also, for those who might be interested, an online course on East Caucasian languages is coming up

    These have been excellent. Thank you for alerting us to these, Hat!

  14. My pleasure! It’s also a great pleasure to have someone around who’s actually studied Abkhaz.

  15. And one in Chechen (swallow = чIе:гIардиг):

  16. David Marjanović says

    Halfway through the Chechen one it dawned on me that the long e is diphthongized: [ɪːɛ̯].

  17. the long e is diphthongized

    As it is in бе:зам, also occurring a few times.

  18. Макка Сагаипова ЧIегIардиг. Чеченский и русский текст.
    Видео создано для изучения чеченского языка.

  19. баркалла!

  20. ə de vivre says

    Been watching the lectures from the East Caucasian course and really enjoying them! Thanks for the info, Hat et al.

    It got me thinking, though: A lot of the areal features from the Caucasus and Greater Armenian Highlands are present in Sumerian (e.g., prefixing morphology, noun gender, ergativity). However, Sumerian lacks a 3-way distinction in manner of articulation, its vowel inventory was probably larger than any non-Nakh Caucasian language, and noun gender was almost certainly a fairly recent innovation relative to the language’s first written attestation—in fact, the situation reminds me of how I’ve heard Proto-Indo-European described here chez Hat: a typologically dissimilar language that’s started to acquire some of the regionally characteristic traits. Though, unlike PIE, there aren’t any loan words to verify any actual contact between Sumerian and any Caucasiany language besides Hurrian. But it made me wonder how long these language areas can last. Ergativity turns up in Hurro-Urartian and Elamite, but AFAIK that’s about it for the areal features we see today. By themselves, these typological similarities aren’t much to go on, but I like the idea that there may still be discoveries to be made about the linguistic landscape of the late-Neolithic Middle East.

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