A financier ain't nothing but a banker with pretensions


Today, on the way to work, I stopped off at my favorite French-inspired bakery, Les Madeleines. And by "stopped off", I mean "went entirely out of my way specifically to buy pastries". I've been yenning for a kouing-aman for quite some time now and figured I might as well go blow some dough on over-priced dough. Trust me, I was not disappointed.

However, I also picked up some other things: an adorable single-serving of tiramisu, the titular madeleine, a cupcake, and a pastry known as a financier. However, the shop girl had some trouble when I ordered that last one. Unsure of what it was, I asked, "what's the financier?" I pronounced this word like we do in English. She looked at me blankly for a moment, then to where I was pointing and said, "Oh, you mean the [finãsie]" before telling me what it is (for the non-IPA literate, that's fee-nah-see-eh, with the second syllable being nasalized. For the IPA purists, it was actually the back vowel, but I prefer alt codes to unicode IPA representations).

Two main things here: Is it possible that she really didn't understand me? That no one has ever come in and asked for fee-nan-seers ever? This seems highly unlikely given the fact that a)it's an English word, b)we are in Utah, and c) they are known for making a big deal about how you'll never be able to pronounce their pastry names.

The second question is this: My French isn't precisely what it should be, but I'm pretty certain that you'd say that final r. I mean, it's not a verb, right, and therefore, according to the frolic rule, it's a pronounced final consonant. So, even if she did feel the need to correct me, can she at least do it right, telling me it's actually [finãnsieR]? (Please correct me if I'm wrong)

In other randomness, if you want to be amused, slightly disturbed and have your belief that Nipponitude* is way beyond our ken, do a google search for kokigami. Just make sure you're someplace where you won't be embarassed by the ideal of genital puppets.

*a shiny new quarter to the man who can provide me with the actual Japanese abstract form of Japanese-ness


Kasie said...

I really know very little about linguistics, but I used to be fairly decent with french. You would not pronounce the R. The way you wrote it out- fee-nah-see-eh looks fairly accurate to me. It would sound the same if it had no R, but an E with an "accent aigu".

My experience with customer service does, however, suggest to me that she knew exactly what you meant, but likely having a lousy day, she figured she hang you out to dry on that one.

Sean said...

She gave you the correct pronunciation of "financier," but for the life of me I can't remember what phonetics rule governs the "-ier" noun/adjective ending, or if there is a general rule at all.

alea said...

Mea culpa, mea culpa. But, man, those French and their silent final consonants!

Katya said...

"r est muet aujourd'hui dans les infinitfs in -er et dans les adjectifs ou noms en -ier ou -er."

[Tr.: r is silent today in infinitives in -er and in adjectives and nouns in -ier or -er.]

Bon Usage, section 82

About the only exception I can think of is fier, but maybe that has to do with the fact that it's only one syllable.

alea said...

merci beaucoup, Katya.

Sean said...

amer isn't one syllable, and its final r is pronounced, so I don't know how I feel about that rule. What I can say is that the pronunciation of final "-er" in nouns and adjectives is often irregular, and should probably be learned in case-by-case basis.

Katya said...

Hmm. So maybe it's an issue of [stem]+ -ier / -er = silent "r". (Because the root of "financier" is "financ[e]", but the roots of "amer" and "fier" aren't *"am" or *"f".)

I'm still inclined to put my faith in Bon Usage, generally, but its emphasis is more on grammar than on phonetics. (I wonder if Le Petit Robert has anything to say on the subject . . .)

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