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Northern Piper
01-06-2005, 10:32 AM
so why is it that the "lieutenant" is pronounced "lef-tenant" in Commonwealth countries?

Colophon
01-06-2005, 10:45 AM
By coincidence I was pondering this a couple of weeks back, and I gleaned this snippet from the Oxford English Dictionary third-hand off alt.usage.english:
The hypothesis of a mere misinterpretation of the graphic form (u read as v), at first sight plausible, does not accord with the facts. In view of the rare OF. form luef for lieu (with which cf. esp. the 15th c. Sc. forms luf-, lufftenand above) it seems likely that the labial glide at the end of OF. lieu as the first element of a compound was sometimes apprehended by Englishmen as a v or f. Possibly some of the forms may be due to association with leave n.1 or lief a. In 1793 Walker gives the actual pronunciations as (lEv-, lIv"t...@nt), but expresses the hope that 'the regular sound, lewtenant' will in time become current. In England this pronunciation (lju;"t...@nt) is almost unknown. A newspaper quot. of 1893 in Funk's Standard Dictionary says that (lEf"t...@nt) is in the U.S. 'almost confined to the retired list of the navy'.]


From this thread (http://groups-beta.google.com/group/alt.usage.english/browse_frm/thread/61ca373083b05774/1b525ad35e76c08d?q=leftenant+lieutenant+group:alt.usage.english&_done=%2Fgroups%3Fhl%3Den%26q%3Dleftenant+lieutenant+group:alt.usage.english%26&_doneTitle=Back+to+Search&&d#1b525ad35e76c08d)

astro
01-06-2005, 10:47 AM
so why is it that the "lieutenant" is pronounced "lef-tenant" in Commonwealth countries?


From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lieutenant)

Pronunciation
The word is pronounced loo-tenant in American English and usually lef-tenant in British English. The Royal Navy, however, traditionally pronounce the word as l'tenant which is a closer anglicised approximation of the original French.

In Canada, lef-tenant is standard for all branches of the Armed Forces and for other usages such as lieutenant governor or Quebec lieutenant.

The British pronunciation is prevalent during 14th and 15th centuries with the word being variously spelled as lieftenant, lyeftenant or luftenant. It may have originated from a mistaken reading of the 'u' as a 'v', lev-tenant eventually becoming lef-tenant. Some sources state that the original French word lieu had an alternative form spelt and pronounced lieuf, and that the modern British English form retains the former spelling and the latter pronunciation.

It has also been speculated that it may have come from a fanciful etymology which associated it with the verb 'to leave', as the lieutenant only took up his duties once his superior officer had 'left'.

Another theory comes from the fact that in typical propriety the person or persons standing to the rear-left of a gentleman held power and were typically those directly second to him. The person or persons standing to the rear-right were considered to have no or less standing than those to the rear-left, such as aides, bodyguards, wives, etc., often holding this position for simple facility rather than societal importance. This tradition remains in military parades, with lieutenants standing to the rear-left of the commanding officer (when facing the advance.)

Polycarp
01-06-2005, 11:13 AM
The term "lieutenant" is in origin an adjective -- the man who holds (tenant) a command or position in lieu of (and as assistant to, by implication) a superior officer. The existing Army rank is short for "lieutenant captain" -- i.e., the officer ranking below the captain who serves as officer in lieu of him for a part of his troops. Lieutenant general and lieutenant commander (Naval) are related forms.

Compare the high public office in many states and provinces of Lieutenant Governor -- i.e., the man or woman who serves as Governor in case of the death, incapacity, travel outside the area, of the Governor (and in Canada, as the Queen's lieutenant for her Governor-General, as the "head of state" of a political subdivision).

Northern Piper
01-06-2005, 10:41 PM
From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lieutenant)
It has also been speculated that it may have come from a fanciful etymology which associated it with the verb 'to leave', as the lieutenant only took up his duties once his superior officer had 'left'.

Another theory comes from the fact that in typical propriety the person or persons standing to the rear-left of a gentleman held power and were typically those directly second to him. The person or persons standing to the rear-right were considered to have no or less standing than those to the rear-left, such as aides, bodyguards, wives, etc., often holding this position for simple facility rather than societal importance. This tradition remains in military parades, with lieutenants standing to the rear-left of the commanding officer (when facing the advance.)The reason I asked was that I'm reviewing a piece of writing by someone else, who used exactly these two examples.

They just reek of folk etymology to me, but I wonder if anyone can de-bunk them?

Mathochist
01-07-2005, 01:34 PM
The reason I asked was that I'm reviewing a piece of writing by someone else, who used exactly these two examples.

They just reek of folk etymology to me, but I wonder if anyone can de-bunk them?

The O.E.D. reference was given, more or less in full, earlier. I'll stand by the O.E.D. every time.