What's in a Word | All Blogs


Strengthening a blade

By Debra Dobbins

Forte” comes to us from French. Nowadays it means someone's strong suit, skill or talent. (Mine is procrastination — difficult to maintain, but I manage.)

The word is often pronounced FOR tay. The more correct pronunciation, though, is simply as one syllable: fort. (Using the first pronunciation more precisely refers to the musical term that comes to us from Italian. It means loud. )

I learned today that this abstract idea of strength derives from a concrete term. The forte in the blade of a sword is the section running from the hilt to the middle; it's considered the blade's strongest part.

Both the French and the Italians took the word from the Latin word fortis. That meant brave, strong, powerful and courageous, according to the Latin Dictionary at wikidot.com.

It's tempting to discuss the various forms of fortis, depending on gender, number and case, but doing so would be far too pedantic on such a bright, sunshiny day. I'll somehow force myself to procrastinate, leave that explanation for another time and refuse to be offended upon hearing any sighs of relief.

Illustration special to the Sentinel

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