A reader asks about the most appropriate word to use when referring to a person who plays the flute.
I write on musical matters, so would appreciate advice on how to write flutist…Many presenters of classical music programmes pronounce the word as “floortist”. Is flutist correct & is is there another written form?
I can’t comment on the pronunciation “floortist” other than to say that I’ve never heard flutist or flautist pronounced in that way.
The three most common terms I’m familiar with are:
flautist [flô’tĭst, flou’-]
I’ve read that flautist is the preferred British usage. To American ears it sounds pretentious, but ironically, the earliest use of flautist given in the OED is from the work of an American writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne.
The Italian word for flute is flauto and the 1860 novel in which the word appears, The Marble Faun, is set in Italy. The choice flautist over flutist may have been prompted by Hawthorne’s desire to add local color.
My Middle English dictionary gives floute and floutour for “flute” and “flute player.” My edition of Chaucer gives flowte and floyte for “flute,” flowtour for “flute player,” and floytynge for “playing on the flute.”
I’ve played in a flute choir. We called ourselves flutists and flute players.
According to a factoid at NationMaster.com, world-renowned flute virtuoso Sir James Galway has this to say on the matter:
I am a flute player, not a flautist. I don’t have a flaut, and I’ve never flauted.”
Thanks to Richard Shackleton for post idea.