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Re: THEORY: counterpick (was: Re: THEORY: picking nits)

From:Raymond A. Brown <raybrown@...>
Date:Tuesday, July 13, 1999, 5:16
At 5:52 pm -0400 12/7/99, John Cowan wrote:
>Raymond A. Brown wrote: > >> Indeed, the same Old French words gives English triplets: >> 1. foible (noun) - a weakness, a penchant, a failing. >> 2. faible (noun) - the part of a foil blade between the middle & the point >> (i.e. the weak part). >> 3. feeble (adj.) - weak, vacillating, lacking force. > >My (U.S.) dictionary spells sense 2 "foible" also, with the same pronunciation >as sense 1.
I'm not au fai with the jargon of fencing & sword-play etc. There may be a transatlantic difference. Chambers English Dictionary does indeed give 'foible' as an alternative noun for 'faible' /fEbl/, i.e. 'foible' is given with meanings 1 & 2, while 'faible' is given with meaning 2 only. I must confess I hadn't noted the pronunciation Chambers gives for 'faible' until this morning! It's too close to the modern French to be anything but a much later borrowing. The earlier 'faible' taken into middle English developed as one would expect /fE:bl/ --> /fe:bl/ --> /fi:bl/, hence our modern 'feeble' (tho one might expect it to have retained the Middle English spelling 'feable', cf. reason <-- raison, season <-- saison, etc; but the vagaries of our spelling never surprise me). I guess this is another instance where America has held onto an earlier tradition while some in this country have adopted a Frenchified form because it was 'more fashionable' - like the replacing of 'program' by the French 'programme' :)
>A quick Alta Vista search shows one use of "foible a >foible", and no uses of "faible a faible" in English documents.
Probably because North Americans produce more web documents than the rest of the anglophone world :-)
>In French documents, "faible a faible" is found 4 times.
Because 'foible' dropt out of French use many centuries ago, I guess :) Ray. ======================================== A mind which thinks at its own expense will always interfere with language. [J.G.Hamann - 1760] ========================================