Chantoose - Use of the word

Discussion in 'English Only' started by James Brandon, Feb 4, 2006.

  1. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    "Chantoose" does not strike me as a common word in English but I have seen it used in phrases such as "a French cabaret chantoose". It took me a while to realize that, in fact, it of course means "chanteuse" (French, feminine, for "singer", the masculine being "chanteur" - "chanter" is "to sing", hence the English "a chant"). As I understand, "chantoose" is a semi-phonetic transcription into English of the French term.

    Would you say it is commonly used? Would you say it is pretentious, and/or for/by arty types, and/or used ironically (cf "thespian" for "actor", for instance).

    Comments will be welcome.
  2. Cracker Jack Senior Member

    I have never come across this word. Chanteuse yes. Probably the word chantoose is just a malapropism for chanteuse. It could also be a limerick that an author has chosen for whatever purpose it may serve him.

    But let us wait and hear from what others opine.
  3. DAH

    DAH Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    Chanteuse comes to English directly from French. I do not believe it has ever been anglicized.

    It would not be pretensious to use this term among those who have an ear for such distinctions. Otherwise, you might say "torch singer" as a style for say, Edith Piaf or Billy Holliday.
  4. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Chanteuse is the standard spelling in AE, and the word isn't uppity or pretentious-- but it's one of those words that convey the American sense of irony or mild facetiousness. Just as we call TV talking heads "pundits" with mock deference, or corporate muckety-mucks "moguls" or actors "thespians," as mentioned-- we might refer to a female singer as a "songbird" or a "chanteuse."

    The word isn't always mildly ironic, but when used straight it conveys a more specific meaning-- DAH's "torch singer" is it exactly, and his example of Edith Piaf is apt. You have to be careful applying chanteuse to a singer you admire, though, unless she's French-- it so often carries that ironic tone that it can also be faintly derogatory, like "lounge singer."
  5. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    I've heard the words "chatoose" and "chantoozie" applied to the sort of female singer who works in a smokey bar, where the audience is more interested in double Ds than high Cs.
  6. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    With apologies to Brioche, I can readily believe this is an OzE version of chanteuse. They don't like pretentious poncy spelling down there.
    It's not a word that I hear often.
  7. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    "Chanteuse" is defined in the Oxford Concise Dictionary as "a female singer of popular songs". "Chantoose" is obviously a variation on that, with an Anglicized spelling that will or may appeal to some native speakers. Clearly, the link to French-style popular music (cf E Piaf) would still be there, up to a point.

    The Australian contributor confirms that a close version of the word is used Down Under, if I understood correctly. Finally, I have read this word - I came across it in a British broadsheet a few years ago.

    I am not saying it is common. I am not saying it is correct and that I would use it. I just wanted to know what other contributors thought.

    You confirm it is rare and probably incorrect. But, as often in this forum, to jump to the conclusion that it does not exist is, I am sorry to say, arrogant. The fact it is not common; the fact it may not be correct; the fact you have never come across it - none of those facts means that it does not exist.

    If you do a quick search on Google, you will see that it does exist (about 500 references). It appears to be used in Canada too. See web links below, one for the Google search and one for the Canadian site, with the relevant extract. Such Google results do not mean that the term is common and/or correct, but they do illustrate the fact that, rightly or wrongly, it exists. I hope other contributors will admit it.

    Whether the term is worth retaining or using is another matter, of course, and only the future will tell.

    Thank you


    More than a few critics cite this as Marilyn Monroe's very best performance. A rowdy, raucous sex comedy/drama in CinemaScope, directed by Broadway musical master Joshua Logan, and featuring a famed MM rendition of "(That Old) Black Magic," Bus Stop stars Monroe as "chantoose" Cherie, a Phoenix saloon singer and would-be actress roped into marriage (quite literally!) by dimwitted rodeo cowboy Bo Decker (newcomer Don Murray, in an Oscar-nominated performance).
  8. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Ah-- now you raise a point that explains much to me.

    The character Cherie in "The Misfits" is from the Ozarks, and the play is set in the west, among rodeo people who are also involved in rounding up mustangs-- feral domestic horses that have been around since Spanish colonial times.

    All this is stuff that was very exotic to Arthur Miller, a NYC playwright. I don't know what it is about the culturati in that part of the country, but they seem compelled to set their parlor-piece "relationship" dramas outdoors and people them with robust non-sophisticates-- whose accents, mannerisms and mindsets they then portray according to a set of Northeast-urban literary conventions that have proliferated in popular entertainment like hothouse flowers.

    They appeal to city people who for some reason need to consume entertainment products about people unlike themselves-- it matters little to them that authenticity has never been a priority with these clowns like Arthur Miller. People in "flyover country" who see plays/movies like "The Misfits" and, to pick a couple of recent examples, "Fargo" and "My Cousin Vinny"-- are more likely to find more annoyance than entertainment in most of these products. Except of course for the younger generations, growing up in a TV-driven environment where "reality" is a homogenized coporate product with little relevance to the unique character of rural life. Young people who don't live in cities might as well-- they are wired to them, or increasingly, in wireless umbilical touch to "mainstream" culture.

    Henry Miller didn't want to trot out a Frenchy-fried term like "chanteuse" without gooberizing the damn word. That's where "chantoose" has its dubious roots, mark my words. My only consolation is that in nearly 50 years it's only registering 700-some-odd hits with Google.

    Of course you have to be literate to gooberize the spelling of a French-derived term, and not that many people read anymore. Otherwise I'm sure "chantoose" would be standard by now.
  9. Tabac Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest (USA)
    U. S. - English
    The "old west" , as portrayed in Hollywood film. Chantoozie is the pronunciation by an uneducated saloon denizen who is reacting to the "fancy" billing of one of those women whom Brioche has brilliantly described here. ;)
  10. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    So, now we have established that the word does exist, in some quarters at any rate, even if it does not deserve to, and even though there is the word "chanteuse" as a better substitute - or merely "singer". In point of fact, I have only come across the word "chantoose" a couple of times. Still, I was curious to know more about it. Since we have experts on the Wild West in this forum, it's all been cleared up.:)

  11. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    Following brioche's example of "double Ds," I have to wonder if chantoosie is not a take off of "floozy" (alt. spellings: floosy, floozie, floosie, faloosie.)

    A female singer (chanteuse) who appears to be - or at least dresses like - a woman of questionable repute (floosie) = chantoosie?

    I'm just theorizing here, based upon the rhyming quality of both words. "Chantoosie" sounds like a cheapened variant of "chanteuse," in the same way that a common "street walker" would be compared to a "female escort."
  12. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I invite you to take a second look at what Tabac said--

    And also-- if the word comes from a Hollywood film, how can you come to any conclusions about how it's spelled?

    Not to nitpick to the point of fanaticism, but here is a point to be made here. When Mark Twain wrote "dialect," he made up his own "misspelling conventions" to convey spoken Antebellum AE, and did so in an impressionistic sort of way. He followed the example of writers like Artemus Ward and Joel Chandler Harris, and a tradition of spelling improvisation was-- well, I want to say created, but I'm sure it's been around since literacy itself.

    You seem to want to see "chantoose," with that spelling, established as a variant word in English, whereas it exists in a couple of specific literary pieces, a movie or two-- and follows a convention of wacky "dialect" that is meant to convey atypical "English." This convention is followed in dialogue, and doesn't carry over into narrative, rhetoric or any other forms of written discourse.

    And, unlike Mark Twain, this sort of thing is done increasingly by people with no real-life contact with the dialects they are trying to portray. That's the bit of gravel that sticks in my craw, by cracky.
  13. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    It's not an OzE word.
    I've only every come across it in US or Canadian sources.
  14. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK

    I was being facetious when referring to "the Wild West" (as I am sure you realized), and I did understand that it was the West as depicted in Hollywood movies (hence re-interpreted in a way that tells more about perceptions of the West in other parts of the USA than about the West itself...). The explanation given on all this, quoting literary sources too, was actually well-documented and very interesting.

    As for the word, I am prepared to accept the point that it is not common, that it is not correct, and that it is used verbally and not in writing as a rule - in other words, that it has little merit. The aim of my post was to establish this precise point.

    Having said all that, the word does exist in writing too. If you go back to what I have said earlier on, a Google search reveals about 500 entries (and they belong to writing, up to a point at any rate). Also, I did not come across the word in conversation or in a film dialogue, but in an article in a British newspaper.

    This was a few years ago and I suspect the article may, precisely, have been a film review or some sort of "high-brow" commentary, which would point towards a use of the word that would be "intellectual" and tongue-in-cheek, in the arty-farty style of reporting that one finds in newspapers such as The Guardian in the UK.

    Thanks for all useful comments and explanations

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