Battle of the Dictionaries
In commenting on the article Forte or Fortë, Cache or Cachet?, Geoff Foster points out that the Oxford American Dictionary on his Mac supports the /fortay/ pronunciation of forte (in the sense of “strong point). He also implies that the same dictionary gives a pronunciation for another French borrowing, cadre, that ignores the /r/ sound.
NOTE: I’m a bit puzzled about this one. The dictionary on my new Mac laptop gives the pronunciation /kad ree/ for cadre.
Pierre B. asks why Americans want to put a /t/ in the French borrowing niche.
Alas, when it comes to pronunciation, English speakers face constant decisions. For those who wish to support their decisions with the authority of a dictionary, the first decision to be made is that of which dictionary to cite!
As Geoff points out, the Oxford American on the Mac gives the /fortay/ pronunciation as the first choice for forte with the sense of “strong point.” Its first pronunciation for cadre in his dictionary drops the /r/ sound.
The Webster Unabridged, on the other hand, gives /fort/ as the first choice for this use of forte, and offers a pronunciation with the /r/ sound in its first choice for cadre. An alternate pronunciation for cadre, without the /r/ sound, is flagged as “chiefly British.”
Both dictionaries show a short i pronunciation and a /ch/ sound for the che in niche. The /ch/ phonogram (ch as in church) sounds as if it has a /t/ in it. Webster gives a second pronunciation of /nish/ which avoids the /t/ sound, but still gives the word a short i sound for the vowel.
As Geoff advises in his comment, take your pick.
My pick for forte is /fort/. My pick for niche is /neesh/. As for cadre, I might use the word in writing, but I can’t imagine having occasion to use it in conversation. In such an event I’d probably include an /r/ sound.
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