Pete Kirby: ‘I was glad to hear that someone else knows the rules of the fort vs. fortay controversy! Two other often mistaken uses of words and phrases are:

‘1. People that say ‘I could CARE less!’ what they mean is that they ‘could not’ care less. They care about the subject so little, that they could not possibly care less. So if they could care less, they care to some degree, correct? People can be so careless!

‘2. Nauseous vs. nauseated. People say that something makes them ‘Nauseous’ when what should be said is that it makes them ‘Nauseated.’ If you are Nauseous, you create nausea in others!

‘Small matters, true! Thanks for letting me sound off. I actually heard someone say once: ‘I could care less, it makes me nauseous.'”

Joe M. Barron: ‘I’m afraid if I heard someone pronounce forte as ‘fort,’ my genetically transmitted pronunciation checker would cringe in the same way it does when I hear someone pronounce the ‘l’ in Salmon. Merriam-Webster’s discussion discloses the pronunciation is open to more choice and interpretation than you may have indicated:

Main Entry: 1forte

Pronunciation: ‘fOrt, ‘fort; 2 is often ‘for-“tA or for-‘tA or ‘for-tE

Function: noun

Etymology: French fort, from fort, adjective, strong

Date: circa 1648

1 : the part of a sword or foil blade that is between the middle and the hilt and that is the strongest part of the blade

2 : one’s strong point

Usage: In forte we have a word derived from French that in its “strong point” sense has no entirely satisfactory pronunciation. Usage writers have denigrated ‘for-“tA and ‘for-tE because they reflect the influence of the Italian-derived 2forte. Their recommended pronunciation ‘fort, however, does not exactly reflect French either: the French would write the word le fort and would rhyme it with English for. So you can take your choice, knowing that someone somewhere will dislike whichever variant you choose. All are standard, however. In British English ‘fo-“tA and ‘fot predominate; ‘for-“tA and for-‘tA are probably the most frequent pronunciations in American English.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary, Tenth Edition, is copyrighted 1994 by Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.

☞ Yeah, yeah – well, I don’t buy it. I think Merriam was a corrupting influence on Webster.

Barbara McElroy: “I went to Princeton from Alabama with a deep, deep Southern accent that made my classmates assume I was stupid. I remember using the word ‘forte’ in casual conversation (of course, pronouncing it correctly) and having an upperclassman stare at me in amazement that I got it right.

“Fight the good fight … and don’t forget grimace and err while you’re at it. At least 50% of Episcopalian priests can’t pronounce ‘err’ correctly, which is especially distressing in a Rite One service.”

And speaking of liquefaction . . .

Rulison Evans: “I must comment on your ‘thanking heavens for bottled water.’ If you own stock in a bottled water company that has the nerve to charge $1.00 or more for a pint of H2O, then I suppose you could count your blessings. However, if you are implying that bottled water somehow provides for the health and safety of more than just a handful of Americans, you are mistaken. The vast majority of Americans should ‘thank heavens’ for the safety, abundance and affordability of the public water supply. As a democrat, Gore supporter and all-around intelligent person, you should realize that the federal Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act (among others) provide for this uniquely American LUXURY that is unfortunately thought of as a RIGHT by most people. Full Disclosure: I am a Civil Engineer, who deals primarily in the design and construction of water treatment, distribution and storage facilities.”

☞ You are quite right. I was joking, but I can see why that would not have been apparent.

And now, on top of all this other valuable info, you actually want me to demystify finance? OK, here goes: Neither a borrower nor a lender be. For decades this seemed to me to be charmingly homespun — but dubious. What harm is there in a mortgage? What folly in buying a bond (which is, in effect, lending)? And, while we’re at it, what did the song mean when it said, “sing praises to His name, he forgets not his own?” Why would He forget His own name? I wondered, aged 7, and too embarrassed to ask – if He could make the heavens and the earth, for crying out loud, and porcupines, surely he could remember His name. But it turns out that “his own” means, loosely, “his own children” – you and me. And it turns out, or at least my guess is, that when Ben Franklin said neither a borrower or a lender be, his point must have been, “If you want to keep a friendship, neither a borrower or a lender be.” Show me a friendship that’s survived a personal loan, and I’ll show you an unusual friendship.


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