fasces [pronunciation]

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Kirusha

Senior Member
Dear All,

In "The French Revolution Tearing Up History" (a BBC documentary) the presenter pronounces "fasces" the Latinate way, as [ˈfas.keːs]. How common is this? Would you consider it a mispronunciation or would you take him to be showing off?

Wishing everyone a peaceful, prosperous and hugely satisfactory 2016. :)

Kirusha
 
  • anthox

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    To me, the word is sufficiently obscure that I'd have to look it up, regardless of how it were pronounced. I think pronouncing it the Latinate way is preferable, lest the word be confused with "faces" or "feces."
     

    Kirusha

    Senior Member
    Thank you. Since he mispronounces some other, more obscure words (I remember "Herculean"), I suppose it's the same phenomenon we have in my language when people pick up words from books, don't bother to check their pronunciation and rarely, if ever, hear them spoken. Curiously, there are quite a few words which are habitually mispronounced by educated speakers. That's the first I've ever wondered about this with regard to English. Interesting.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    The OED gives /'fæsi:z/, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear /'fæskeɪz/ from a history scholar. I'd just assume he was speaking Latin at that moment.

    (Of course, that raises the question, why was he speaking Latin in a programme on French history?)
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Oddly, the image is extremely well known but the word is not, I'd say. I couldn't have told you what the word meant if my life depended on it. However, I have two questions. One, how does the average, educated Briton pronounce it? Two, does the BBC have some sort of style and pronunciation guide?
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Dear All,

    In "The French Revolution Tearing Up History" (a BBC documentary) the presenter pronounces "fasces" the Latinate way, as [ˈfas.keːs]. How common is this? Would you consider it a mispronunciation or would you take him to be showing off?

    Wishing everyone a peaceful, prosperous and hugely satisfactory 2016. :)

    Kirusha
    Hello Kirusha,

    I needed to use the word professionally for many years and always pronounced it like that, so I would not regard it as a mispronunciation nor would I take him to be showing off. I find I disagree with Natkretep, which doesn't often happen.

    I see also that there is an American dictionary site (click) which recommends we say [fas-eez], which is, I think, their version of /ˈfæsiːz/ . They have a helpful button which causes someone to pronounce the word. I'd never heard it said like that. For me the word isn't often used outside a classical reference and that seems to justify the Latinate pronunciation.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I agree with anthox (post#2). The average educated British person never has reason to say this word out loud of course. I think it's legitimate not to want to confuse the general public with an unfamiliar word that sounds very like "faeces".

    (crossposted)
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Thanks, all. I can understand the motivation for a more Latinate pronunciation, I suppose.

    I've been looking around, and see that howjsay and forvo (two speakers) also provide /ˈfæsiːz/ only. (That sounds sufficiently different from /ˈfiːsiːz/ to me.)

    (How did the presenter pronounce 'Herculean'?)
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Thank you for the correction, Natkretep. I'm disgracefully unfamiliar with the phonetic alphabet.

    I agree entirely with you about the difference, and I think I have heard the UK version of the forvo pronunciation you link. Those two make the dictionary.com pronunciation sound unlikely.

    I suspect the latinate pronunciation persists in some academic circles because so many academics have a classical training, though this may be becoming less common.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    ... How did the presenter pronounce 'Herculean'?)
    I watched the programme last night. The presenter (Dr Richard Clay of Birmingham University) pronounced Herculean as 'Hercu-lay-an' and fasces as 'fash-keys', with - as I heard it - a /ʃ/ in the middle.

    I have the feeling the first was a slip, as he was speaking in a French context; the second does look like an idiosyncratic pronunciation.
     
    Last edited:

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Loob to the rescue! Thank you. :)

    I think he might be influenced by the change in our pronunciation of words like Judean and Galilean (traditionally -ee-uhn, now often -ay-uhn) and generalised it to Herculean.

    Dr Clay's fash-keys sounds like a mix of different influences or possibly a guessed-at pronunciation.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I've heard Hercu-lay-an often enough. Forvo has an American who puts the accent on the first syllable, as in Hercules.

    In herculean I feel the <third> syllable should be pronounced lee rather than lay, but I put the accent on the <third> syllable.

    Loob's 'fash-keys' surprised me. I'd assumed the 'Latinate' pronunciation to be fas (to rhyme with mass) -kays (to rhyme with praise). The accent on the first syllable, the second one quite light. The two syllables running into each other but no hint of a sh sound. I think that's what I've always said; I hadn't noticed eyebrows flicker, and my colleagues were great eyebrow-flickerers.



    < Edited at poster's request. Cagey >
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    Kirusha

    Senior Member
    Thank you very much, everyone (sorry I was away from my computer). It's very interesting, but very confusing, too. I listened again, and Loob is right, he does seem to have a /ʃ/ sound there. I remembered it as /faskiz/ but maybe I gave him the benefit of the doubt, as his "s"s are not very crisp. The relevant piece starts at 50.53, if anyone wants to listen to it.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Alas, no longer. In the past there was a pronunciation advisory section for BBC radio which presenters would refer to before (for example) reading a news item with foreign place-names in it. I believe this service was axed in a bout of cost-cutting.
    Are you sure, Keith? It still appears on the BBC website....
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Fashkeys is definitely a mistake. SC is pronounced /sk/ if it precedes an a, o or u ; if it precedes an a i, e, ae or oe it is pronounced /ʃ/. The word Fascist comes from the Italian (fascista), which in turn comes from the Latin word fascis.

    A fascis , plural fasces (from Wikipedia):

     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'm rather confused and maybe forgetful, but fas-kays wouldn't be a mistake in classical Latin, not as I learnt it for seven years. The texts were read aloud.

    Fash- keys seems an odd mix of the two.

    The idea of the soft C after E and I came in with church Latin and the changes that took place as Latin morphed into Italian, didn't it?
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Having checked it out you're right HG. My pronunciation derives from church Latin (and from Italian, I suppose). Apparently though there is some debate in some quarters as to how classical Latin was really pronounced.
     
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