Homage- a word question...

Okay- I’m not very proud of this, but this weekend I had a booze-addled conversation during which I described an artist’s performance as “an homage” to another artist. I pronounced it in that hopelessly pretentious French way- like this:


I was given no end of grief by my companions. While I admit that I deserved a certain amount of abuse for being a dweeb, I also believe that there is a precedent for this pronunciation and I didn’t just make it up in my head. However a web search has been fruitless so far.

So what is it: am I hopelessly pretentious or simply ignorant?

My American Heritage Dictionary says you may or may not pronounce the initial “h”.

If you spell it homage you should probably pronounce it like an English word (something like HAW-midge). If you are going to pronounce it in the French manner, you should also spell it in the manner of modern French (and italicize it since it’s foreign): hommage. The English word has been part of this language for hundreds of years (borrowed from Old French homage), and I can see where some people would find pronouncing as if it were still French a silly affectation. Personally, I avoid using the word at all, but neither pronunciation bothers me. If you can’t avoid pronouncing it, follow the advice of William Strunk: “If you don’t know how to pronounce a word, say it LOUD!”

I think that aside from the initial ‘h’ or not, there’s also the variations in pronouncing it the French way (as stoli did) or another no-h way, which would be something more like /ah’-midge/.

The difference I’ve usually heard is that when one is speaking of the work itself, the French way is used; i.e “Her Glass Monkey No. 43 was an hommage /oh-majj’/ to Carter’s brilliant early 90’s work”. The other way is used almost exclusively in the phrase “pay homage to”, as in “The upcoming show will pay homage to Siegel’s oeuvre.”

So I would think you were correct, stolichnaya, even if thought pretentious.

I’m wondering if dictionaries will ever include markings similar to colloq. for these words like :

oeuvre /oo-vre/ (pret.) …

The English meaning is almost always used in the phrase, “pay homage to,” and can be used interchangably with the phrase, “pay tribute to.” For example: “The Secretary of Defense paid homage to the American soldier in his Memorial Day speech.”

The French phrase is only used in the context of art and art criticism. (I’d wager it came into English via film criticism in the '60s.) If you use it in other contexts, it comes off as cute or sarcastic reference to art terminology. For example, “De Palma’s films are an extended hommage to Hitchcock” is fine, but “Bush’s tax plan is an hommage to Reagan’s tax cut of twenty years ago” sounds like you’re being less than serious.