Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Coups d'etat

. . . heavens! Have just this minute emerged, gasping with incredulity, from an innocent foray into some English Language websites. I lifted my head from a journal article on Enforced Consociationalism and Deeply Divided Societies [sic] in order reassure myself that I was (obviously) correct in altering the author's 'coup d'etats' to 'coups d'etat' - after a mere nanosecond of Googling, I found myself clinging desperately to the corroding rim of a seething vat of venom and vitriol, wherein pseudonymous combatants slugged it out to the bitter death in an excess of abusiveness. The Wikepedia archive on this thorny question is a good illustration: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Categories_for_deletion/Category:Coup_d .

And there was little old me with my quaint, outmoded reliance on etymology, thinking, 'well, it's a French expression and in French it would surely be coups d'etat, so let's go for that'. But nothing is so simple in the the world of Correct English Usage. Because we have Correct American English Usage to consider, and of course Correct International English Usage (and that term itself will, if you're not very careful, prise open another catering-sized can of turbulent worms - because nobody agrees on how, if at all, International English is to be defined: cue more anger and abuse).

Real people spend real time in their real lives working themselves into what seems to be the most genuinely stressed and hypertensive states about such issues. And I had always thought I cared about the English language rather more than a lot people. Clearly not as much as some. Thank goodness. It's almost enough to make one shout 'Oi! Get a Life!'.

Actually, it's more than enough, so I will. 'Oi! Get a Life!'

For a restrained, calmly elegant and authoritative reference on the derivation of words in common English use, it would be hard to find anything to better http://www.etymonline.com/index. (Not that it sheds any light on coup d'etats, however, but, luckily that doesn't matter, because I know I'm right. It should be coups d'etat.)

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