She’s ’avin’ a lah-tay

By Richard Coates

One of the reasons I prefer an americano to a latte is that it does less violence to the Italian language. The Italian word for ‘milk’ is pronounced with a short stressed vowel and a long medial voiceless consonant. So if we can pronounce pâté (though many would prefer not to mention it at all) as “pat-ay”, why can’t we take our coffee as a “lat-ay”? That would keep the vowel more or less Italian, and ruin the consonant only in the way we already ruin the long consonants in espressocappuccino and macchiato.

Cardinal vowels labelled on an IPA vowel chart with numbers form 1 to 8 next to the corresponding vowel
Cardinal vowels on an IPA chart
Numbers added to Primary cardinal vowels on a vowel chart.svg by Mr KEBAB.[CC BY-SA 4.0])

It looks as though we have America to blame, which is ironic in view of where we started this. Americans generally voice the medial consonant, resulting in some tensing and lengthening of the preceding vowel. This lengthened vowel then gets identified with the British English long low vowel, which is noticeably back (cardinal 5). Hey presto – the worst of all worlds: we don’t voice the consonant, but we’re lumbered with the consequences of someone else doing it.

You can always cop out with a café au lait – it takes a barista to know the difference. But the confusion is enhanced by adverts for café latte – half anglicized French and half americanized Italian. Enjoy your caffè autentico.


The English word of the year in German – nominations open

by Jeanette Sakel

In line with other posts here on the blog recently: my contribution about the word of the year – but this time in German, and, more specifically, a word ‘borrowed’ from English.

The anglicism of the year nominations are now open, and have received a range of entries (see the preliminary list here):

Last time, the word shitstorm made anglicism of the year – used by politician and serious journalists alike…. Let’s see what makes the final round this year!

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