The Cap’n and I have enjoyed a long and beautiful friendship with X and Y. And while I have always been a stickler for correct language (You noticed? Really?), I have rarely met anyone else for whom misuse of English can feel like Chinese water torture. But Y, it turns out, is every bit my match for proper English usage.
We hadn’t known each other long when, sitting around the Shabbat table, I made the comment that something at which I do not excel was “not my forte.” I pronounced forte with a silent e, French style. Y smiled, his eyes twinkled, and he said, “Thank you for pronouncing that word correctly.”
It seems I’m not the only person to note the frequent substitution of the Italian word forte (pronounced FOR-tay) for the French word forte (pronounced FORT). What is the difference? one may ask.
Forte in the French sense is a noun defined as “one’s strong point; that in which one excels.” This is the meaning most people are after when they mistakenly pronounce the word as an Italian would. But the Italian pronunciation of forte is an adjective, a musical term meaning “loud; powerful.” They are clearly related, but not interchangeable. One cannot excuse oneself from an impossible or undesirable task by pleading that “It’s not my loud.” That sentence makes no grammatical sense.
So if you have been doing this, STOP IT. Right now. Forever. And correct anyone else you come across who is making this error. To paraphrase an old British environmental slogan, Let’s keep English tidy. Even when it’s not English.