fiance and fiancee

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sus4

Senior Member
Japan - Japanese
Hi,

I have a question about the usage of fiance and fiancee. As far as I know, fiance is a man engaged to be married while fiancee is a woman engaged to be married. But I ran into this article at yahoo.com yesterday:

"...Tom Cruise says he bought a sonogram machine for his pregnant fiance Katie Holmes..."

Is the word fiance correct in the sentence above? I feel like it should be fiancee. I'm a little confused. Could anyone explain this to me please?
 
  • alahay

    Senior Member
    US
    Phoenicia
    sus4 said:
    Hi,

    I have a question about the usage of fiance and fiancee. As far as I know, fiance is a man engaged to be married while fiancee is a woman engaged to be married. But I ran into this article at yahoo.com yesterday:

    "...Tom Cruise says he bought a sonogram machine for his pregnant fiance Katie Holmes..."

    Is the word fiance correct in the sentence above? I feel like it should be fiancee. I'm a little confused. Could anyone explain this to me please?
    As far as my ultralingua dictionary can tell, both fiance and fiancee are unisex in english unlike in french where fiance is used for m. and fiancee for f.
     

    jimreilly

    Senior Member
    American English
    It's not correct, and it also seems to be too much to expect that they would bother to write "fiancé" or "fiancée". But while it's easy to excuse many people for not knowing how to make "é" on their computers, it's awfully easy to add that extra "e".
    (One has to assume Katie Holmes is really a woman if she's pregnant.)
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I would expect the fiancé fiancée difference to be followed in English, and would consider the English in your example to be a mistake:)

    The quality newspapers here in England certainly follow it anyway.
     

    el alabamiano

    Senior Member
    English (US)
    I have a question about the usage of fiance and fiancee. As far as I know, fiance is a man engaged to be married while fiancee is a woman engaged to be married.
    Right, just as blond/blonde (hair color) is grammatically correct.
     

    bpipoly

    Senior Member
    English, United States
    Dear sus4,

    You are correct about the distinction. However, even in relatively formal uses of American English, such distinctions, as fiance vs. fiance and divorcé vs. divorcée, are often forgotten since any assummed that most, if all of the English language, is gender-neutral.

    Although I love American literature, in some ways, Americans were the worst thing to happen to the English language.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I agree that fiancé for a bride-to-be is wrong in AE, period.

    Tom Cruise and Katie are Hollywoodoids, so who knows what they, or those who report about them, might be thinking. You do hear "actor" as a unisex term for thespians of either sex-- maybe this was an attempt at analogous usage, for reasons of gender-political "reform."
    .
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    There are one of two ways to look at this:

    a) the use of "fiance" was incorrectly used;
    b) the use of "fiance" was correctly used;
    b) Katie is really a man.... ;)

    I The dictionaries I consulted (WR Forums, dictionary.com, my 30-year-old Random House) each cited both fiancé and fiancée, and were sex-specific. None of them offered a "unisex" option.

    This was probably a typo, or else a mistake on the part of the writer.
    Fiancée is the correct form to describe a female who is engaged to be married.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    foxfirebrand said:
    I agree that fiancé for a bride-to-be is wrong in AE, period.

    Tom Cruise and Katie are Hollywoodoids, so who knows what they, or those who report about them, might be thinking. You do hear "actor" as a unisex term for thespians of either sex-- maybe this was an attempt at analogous usage, for reasons of gender-political "reform."
    .
    Or maybe Katie is hiding an extra surprise under her wedding dress for Tom.
     

    alahay

    Senior Member
    US
    Phoenicia
    alahay said:
    As far as my ultralingua dictionary can tell, both fiance and fiancee are unisex in english unlike in french where fiance is used for m. and fiancee for f.
    I disagree :D

    I was using the ultralingua software with the french-english dictionary and it said:
    fiance, fiancee [n.]
    fiancé, -e [n.m.,f.]
    which made me jump to the fast conclusion about the sex indifference in english.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    alahay said:
    fiancé, -e [n.m.,f.]
    which made me jump to the fast conclusion about the sex indifference in english.
    Why? The first form is indicated as masculine, the second feminine. The commas suggest a sort of equation-- é is to ée as m is to f. I don't think you're being given two interchangeable groups of two, with four permutations resulting-- there is a correspondence.
    .
     

    sus4

    Senior Member
    Japan - Japanese
    Thank you all for helping me.

    "This was probably a typo, or else a mistake on the part of the writer.
    Fiancée is the correct form to describe a female who is engaged to be married."
    This is exactly what I thought when I first read the article. I'll follow this rule from now on.

    Again, I appreciate your help.
    Thank you very much!
    sus4
     

    Tabac

    Senior Member
    U. S. - English
    The same thing is happening when a man's previous identity is mentioned. My choice, as a long-time student of the French language, would be to make the distinctions that come with the words we borrow.

    All of this reminds me of a pet peeve I have about the pronunciation of "coup de grâce", which I don't think I've heard pronounced correctly by Americans in years.I think it comes from the misunderstanding of the French "rule" of pronunciation that says we don't pronounce the final consonant. Yes, that is true, but it holds true ONLY if the final consonant is the last letter of the word [and of course there are exceptions to this rule]. Without the pronunciation of the 's' sound at the end, it is like coup de gras (the 's' not pronounced) and we end up with what sounds like a fat-fight.

    Snobby people also like to say "vichysssswaaaa", showing their ignorance rather than impressing people who know better.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Yes it makes me smile to myself when I hear people pronounce "coup de grâce" like "coup de gras" - it gives me a mental image of someone slapping someone else in the face with a block of lard!!:D
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    timpeac said:
    Yes it makes me smile to myself when I hear people pronounce "coup de grâce" like "coup de gras" - it gives me a mental image of someone slapping someone else in the face with a block of lard!!:D
    With me it's a dollop of deviled goose-liver spread. Also what's bothered me, or more like puzzled really, is why would anybody who knows enough cultural trivia to say cherchez la femme-- pronounce it "fem?"
    .
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    foxfirebrand said:
    With me it's a dollop of deviled goose-liver spread. Also what's bothered me, or more like puzzled really, is why would anybody who knows enough cultural trivia to say cherchez la femme-- pronounce it "fem?"
    .
    I always thought that was an American thing having heard the Velvet Underground sing what I thought for a long time was "she's a put-me-down" until I saw the name of the song written down and realised they were saying "she's a femme fatale" (pronounced fem faytal).

    My old headmaster used to think (and tell anyone interested) that his students were the "cream de la cream".
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    To be fair, fiancé and fiancée must be incredibly awkward spellings, for English speakers. You should adapt the word. ;)
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Outsider said:
    To be fair, fiancé and fiancée must be incredibly awkward spellings, for English speakers. You should adapt the word. ;)
    That's already happening, I think. You see "fiance(e)" without the accent aigu, just as you do in "cliche" or "protege(e)."
    .
     

    Tabac

    Senior Member
    U. S. - English
    Outsider said:
    To be fair, fiancé and fiancée must be incredibly awkward spellings, for English speakers. You should adapt the word. ;)
    Different, yes; awkward, perhaps. Incredibly? I think that's quite an overstatement. With just a little education, most Americans could handle it, I think. Key word: education.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    Tabac said:
    The same thing is happening when a man's previous identity is mentioned. My choice, as a long-time student of the French language, would be to make the distinctions that come with the words we borrow.
    I agree. I think "borrowed" words only serve to enhance a language and should remain in tact. Others may disagree.

    Yes, for my next candle-lit supper, I think I'll serve a hot "vishy-swa", complimented by a chilled "claray".
    Yes, and a a lovey mur-lott would also fit the bill quite nicely.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    timpeac said:
    I always thought that was an American thing having heard the Velvet Underground sing what I thought for a long time was "she's a put-me-down" until I saw the name of the song written down and realised they were saying "she's a femme fatale" (pronounced fem faytal).

    My old headmaster used to think (and tell anyone interested) that his students were the "cream de la cream".
    I had a look at the on-line Merriam-Webster.
    http://www.m-w.com/
    They give /fem/ as the first, then /fam/, as the pronuciation of 'femme fatale'.

    But for cherchez la femme, they give /fam/

    Compact Oxford http://www.askoxford.com/?view=uk
    gives /fam/ for femme fatale.
    No entry for cherchez la femme.

    Just to confuse things, femme = lesbian is /fem/
     

    bpipoly

    Senior Member
    English, United States
    Brioche said:
    Just to confuse things, femme = lesbian is /fem/
    I think that one is pronounced /fem/ since most English speackers think it it related more to the word feminine than to the French femme. Also, I think the adjective femmy sounds better /fem/ than /fam/.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Tabac said:
    Different, yes; awkward, perhaps. Incredibly? I think that's quite an overstatement.
    O.K., so I was being a little hyperbolic.

    Brioche said:
    I think "borrowed" words only serve to enhance a language and should remain in tact. Others may disagree.
    Indeed, I have a different opinion. In some cases, I think it's preferable to adapt loan words to the phonology of the new language. It's easier for the speakers, and it avoids inconsistencies such as calling a woman "fiance" [fiancé].
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    timpeac said:
    I prefer Spanish champagne...<<go on, bite, you know you want to>>
    Well, there's a winery named Pessagno, but I forbear from punning on that one, out of common decency-- my maxim being "Pinot evil."
    .
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The original question was answered in the first ten posts, or so.
    I would ask those wishing to continue the multilingual puns to do so in the Jokes thread in Culture. This one is closed.

    Panjandrum
    Moderator.
     
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