archaic superlatives with "issime", e.g. nobilissime

john_riemann_soong

Senior Member
English, Singlish, Chinese; Singapore
I was viewing the French Wikipedia article on the Order of the Garter and I noticed it used "nobilissime" as a superlative, ie. le nobilissime ordre de la Jarretière. I am piqued. I know Latin uses "issimus" as a superlative, or related forms thereof (e.g. maximus is Latin for "the biggest") but I did not know it existed in French (converting the -us to -e), even as archaic forms.

I did note the superlative was put in front of the noun, as opposed to after the noun, as "l'ordre le plus noble" would do instead. Is this just a re-Latinisation? Is this a literary thing, perhaps of Old French/Middle French custom that died out? It makes me highly curious.

It's funny how I can't seem to find "honir" or "honnir" in WR either, for the "honi" in the Garter's motto, "honi soit qui mal y pense".
 
  • Qcumber

    Senior Member
    UK English
    This type of superlative is rare, but not unknown.
    I suppose the most frequent is généralissime, perhaps a calque from Spanish.
    Most native speakers use them tongue-in-cheek, e.g. Cet excellentissime rapport qui ne nous a rien appris, mais nous a coûté fort cher.
     

    Qcumber

    Senior Member
    UK English
    "honi" means "honni", and reflects a long period when French spelling was not standardized.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    I was viewing the French Wikipedia article on the Order of the Garter and I noticed it used "nobilissime" as a superlative, ie. le nobilissime ordre de la Jarretière. I am piqued. I know Latin uses "issimus" as a superlative, or related forms thereof (e.g. maximus is Latin for "the biggest") but I did not know it existed in French (converting the -us to -e), even as archaic forms.
    The Trésor de la langue française informatisé has an entry for the suffix -issime, which says (my translation) "Suffix taken from Latin -issimus or from Italian -issimo, used to form adjectives in the superlative, generally with an ironic or humorous nuance."
     

    john_riemann_soong

    Senior Member
    English, Singlish, Chinese; Singapore
    Hmm, so is it actually native to French then? I'm suddenly reminded in English, where we add Latin morphemes too for an effect, (e.g. reductio ad Hitlerem to describe a fallacy of association), but they aren't actually native components of English (as opposed to the ones that are: -tion, -ic, -al, etc.)
     

    Lezert

    Senior Member
    french, France
    there are some cases where we use "issime" now
    il est urgentissime
    j'ai vu ce spectacle, c'était grandissime
    probablement d'autres qui ne me viennent pas à l'esprit maintenant.
    En tout cas, pour donner un effet emphatique, on peut créer, et on sera compris :)
    ce forum est intéressantissime
     

    judkinsc

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Do these forms follow standard French pronunciation: such as "grandissime" ending with an "eem" sound. Or do they follow the Latin or Italian model and end with a "iss-im-é?"
     

    Dorigan

    Member
    French, France
    Hmm, so is it actually native to French then? I'm suddenly reminded in English, where we add Latin morphemes too for an effect, (e.g. reductio ad Hitlerem to describe a fallacy of association), but they aren't actually native components of English (as opposed to the ones that are: -tion, -ic, -al, etc.)
    Je ne comprends pas l'opposition que vous semblez faire entre "native French" et latin. Le Français, l'Italien et l'Espagnol sont des langues très proches du Latin dont elles tirent leur origine. Donc le "native French" est fait aussi bien de patois locaux que de latinismes.
    (précision : on prononce "issime" à la française : "eem")
     

    Dorigan

    Member
    French, France
    Désolée d'écrire en français, mais en anglais je ne serais pas claire... J'ajoute juste que le suffixe "issime" est toujours utilisé, et ce sans sa connotation ironique, pour les titres royaux : Son Altesse Sérénissime, etc
     

    john_riemann_soong

    Senior Member
    English, Singlish, Chinese; Singapore
    Je ne comprends pas l'opposition que vous semblez faire entre "native French" et latin. Le Français, l'Italien et l'Espagnol sont des langues très proches du Latin dont elles tirent leur origine. Donc le "native French" est fait aussi bien de patois locaux que de latinismes.
    (précision : on prononce "issime" à la française : "eem")
    I know the relation and ancestry of French in regard to Latin, but Latin has a lot of things that I wouldn't say is "native" to French, such as the ability to pro-drop pronouns. French has a lot of things that Latin doesn't have, and vice versa.

    For English, the letter "þ" (the /th/ sound, ie. "the") is no longer native to modern English, though it was frequently used in Old English. Now, it survives in things like "ye olde country" (often tongue in cheek too), where the "y" represents þ: "ye" really means "the" in this regard. Another one is the use of "thou" and "thee", and other archaisms.

    I was wondering if this was analogous to the use of "-issime" - an archaism that is no longer productive, and hence, arguably not native.
     

    RuK

    Senior Member
    English/lives France
    My two cents: I think the use of "-issime" (cette robe est sublimissime) is recent, and deliberately quotes Italian for increased tralala effect. It's almost impossible to use these words without causing a tiny smile to break out, because they're deliberately girly and silly.

    It's a bit like the current vogue for the word improbable - elle portait une robe improbable. It's deliberately arch, and therefore fun.
     

    Dorigan

    Member
    French, France
    My two cents: I think the use of "-issime" (cette robe est sublimissime) is recent, and deliberately quotes Italian for increased tralala effect. It's almost impossible to use these words without causing a tiny smile to break out, because they're deliberately girly and silly.

    It's a bit like the current vogue for the word improbable - elle portait une robe improbable. It's deliberately arch, and therefore fun.
    If you mean that the ironic use is recent, I agree... but if you mean the use of "issime" is recent I don't, because you can find it in Ronsard's poetry (but it's true the Pleiade poets took it from italian) and that went with all the hyperbolic terms that XVI century was found of.
    About "improbable", it is not archaïque (C'est une éventualité improbable ; Il viendra ? C'est improbable / peu probable). It is fun because it is a misuse (does this word exist ? I mean un emploi déplacé) of the word
     

    Qcumber

    Senior Member
    UK English
    For English, the letter "þ" (the /th/ sound, ie. "the") is no longer native to modern English, though it was frequently used in Old English. Now, it survives in things like "ye olde country" (often tongue in cheek too), where the "y" represents þ: "ye" really means "the" in this regard. Another one is the use of "thou" and "thee", and other archaisms.
    I was wondering if this was analogous to the use of "-issime" - an archaism that is no longer productive, and hence, arguably not native.
    You probably know that the rune thorn <Þ> was replaced by the letter <y> when printers didn't have it; so reading it [j] instead of [ð] is just a modern misreading that doesn't reflect any evolution in pronunciation. Expressions such as YE OLDE SHOPPE for "the old shop" are mock archaisms.
    French -issime is definitely not an archaism.
     

    scotty1418

    Senior Member
    American English
    Can anyone explain to me the significance of this suffix?

    I see "soldissimes" and "generalissime" = generalissimo

    but what is the difference between "soldes" and "soldissimes"?

    Just the "imo"?
     

    lilouxrs

    Senior Member
    France, French
    I think it's part of Galeries Lafayette marketing strategy. It's not a real word, but they just want to emphasize the fact that you can find good prices (supposedly :)
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top