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Bob Ross

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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Bob Ross » Mon Sep 25, 2006 9:55 pm

Thanks, Alex. No accent, then? Or that slight accent on the second syllable that 'Mericans can't hear?

What's odd to me is that you sometimes see "Pétrus"; there's an example on the otherwise excellent blog http://www.wine-journal.com/ [direct link doesn't work, but the article and photo can be seen by using the search engine.

There is certainly no é on the Chateau name or on the labels.

Thanks again. Bob
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by TimMc » Mon Sep 25, 2006 11:51 pm

You can call it anything you'd like....long as you're pouring :D
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Bob Ross » Tue Sep 26, 2006 12:23 am

Murr-LOW

I must admit I thought it was MERE-low before kicking off this thread.

Isn't it amazing that there are so many different views about how to pronounce the name of one of the most popular wines in the world?
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by AlexR » Tue Sep 26, 2006 4:11 am

Bob,

There is an accute accent over the "e" in Pétrus.

The reason you don't see it on the label is this: according to the rules of French typography, capital letters *should* take an accent.
However, most French people do *not* do this, even if computers enable them to.
So, on road signs, book titles, wine labels, etc., the accents are often left out.
As someone who runs a translation agency, details like this count. We tend to follow usage rather than the rules - even if we can perfectly well understand the logic behind them.
It's not "Saint Emilion" - it's "Saint E(with an accent)milion" (even though you rarely see this on labels).
French people realize this instantly and shift their pronunciation accordingly.


The Québécois, on the other hand, always use accents on capital letters!
This is hardly surprising when you consider that the Canadians protect the French language against the onslaught of English better than the French do!

Best regards,
Alex R.
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Eric Ifune » Tue Sep 26, 2006 10:35 pm

(I heard a Slovenian wine maker say it "Mehr-lot" once, but I think he just didn't know how to speak French.)


Most likely because Slovenia is next to and very influenced by Italian wine making. The Italians pronounce the T. There are no silent letters in Italian.
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Gary Barlettano » Tue Sep 26, 2006 11:00 pm

Eric Ifune wrote:There are no silent letters in Italian.


E che cos'è l'acca? Fegato spezzettato? :lol:
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by James Roscoe » Tue Sep 26, 2006 11:41 pm

Gary Barlettano wrote:
Eric Ifune wrote:There are no silent letters in Italian.


E che cos'è l'acca? Fegato spezzettato? :lol:


Are you gonna fill us in?
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Dave Erickson » Wed Sep 27, 2006 1:48 pm

Hey, I know how to pronounce merlot! Say: "Pomerol" :mrgreen:
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by AlexR » Wed Sep 27, 2006 2:31 pm

... which is not pronounced "pomm-er-all" but "pumm-air-ole" - in French, that is....

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Peter May

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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Peter May » Fri Sep 29, 2006 1:20 pm

What's correct?

30 years ago no-one in France would have understood a request for a glass (or bottle) of Merlot no matter how it was pronounced. No one outside vinegrowers, winemakers and a few winelovers knew the name, so I don't see that we should be bound by the way the French pronounce the name.

It was the Americans that made Merlot a by word for a easy drinking red wine, they popularized the name, they made the name Merlot known worldwide and brought it into the English language. Thus I think the way that the Americans pronounce the word - tho' not the same as I say it - has good grounds for claiming the right to the pronounciation.

I pronounce grass as grahhhs, and scone as skown whereas my partner says gr ass and skon, I'm from the south of England and she's from the north. Don't try telling either of us that these pronunciations are incorrect. And what is a tom ahh tow to me is a tomayyo to my American friends. All different.

So why this fuss about grape and wine names? To me it smacks a lot of the snobbery that unfortunately still surrounds wine down.

Is it because the common people drink merr LOW, but us connoisseurs drink Merlot?
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Hoke » Fri Sep 29, 2006 1:48 pm

Good riff, Peter. But what's a tomayyo? What Murricans have you been listening to anyway? :D
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by DebA » Fri Sep 29, 2006 2:01 pm

Peter May wrote:What's correct? It was the Americans that made Merlot a by word for a easy drinking red wine, they popularized the name, they made the name Merlot known worldwide and brought it into the English language. Thus I think the way that the Americans pronounce the word - tho' not the same as I say it - has good grounds for claiming the right to the pronounciation.

So why this fuss about grape and wine names? To me it smacks a lot of the snobbery that unfortunately still surrounds wine down.

Is it because the common people drink merr LOW, but us connoisseurs drink Merlot?

__________________________________

You, sir, are every bit the gentleman in my pronunciation book ;) I couldn't agree more with your thoughts on the subject. While none of us here, I'm sure, want to commit the major social faux pas of pronouncing the likes of Pouilly-Fuisse as "pulley fuse" the very minor pronunciation differences are often regional in their origins and should not, IMHO, be corrected. It does smack of arrogance to put someone else in the often uncomfortable position of being "corrected," especially in front of others and without their consent. IMO, that is exactly one of the reasons, as you stated, that wine circles can often appear "unapproachable" to the masses. Education usually accompanies experience and I say, let it go for the sake of the wonderful experience and conviviality of the vine! Grapes would probably think us all incredibly silly! :cool:
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Hoke » Fri Sep 29, 2006 2:20 pm

Deborah, I couldn't agree with you more.

A real professional would never outright correct someone's pronunciation, and escpecially so in front of other people.

To my mind, the better way to handle it would be this:

Customer: "I'd like a bottle of the Poolly Fuse, please."

Wine Steward: "Certainly, sir. I'll have it right out."

Wine Steward returns with bottle a few minutes later.

Wine Steward: "Sir, here's the bottle of Poo-yee Fwee-say you requested, vintage 2005. Shall I open and pour now?"

That way the appropriate pronunciation has been given, but not in such a way to insult or offend the customer. If the customer doesn't pick up on it, the steward should just let it go at that point. It's his/her obligation to deliver excellent wine service, not to police the customer's language skills.
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by DebA » Fri Sep 29, 2006 7:24 pm

Hoke wrote:Deborah, I couldn't agree with you more.

A real professional would never outright correct someone's pronunciation, and escpecially so in front of other people.

To my mind, the better way to handle it would be this:

Customer: "I'd like a bottle of the Poolly Fuse, please."

Wine Steward: "Certainly, sir. I'll have it right out."

Wine Steward returns with bottle a few minutes later.

Wine Steward: "Sir, here's the bottle of Poo-yee Fwee-say you requested, vintage 2005. Shall I open and pour now?"

That way the appropriate pronunciation has been given, but not in such a way to insult or offend the customer. If the customer doesn't pick up on it, the steward should just let it go at that point. It's his/her obligation to deliver excellent wine service, not to police the customer's language skills.

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My, my, another gentleman, how wonderful! Hoke, your considerate method of handling delicate situations such as these is spot on IMO and garners an A+ from me! It is my considered opinion that the gracious wine steward might also be on the receiving end of a more generous gratuity in light of his courteous manner ;) I believe that men and women alike are grateful recipients of a chivalrous "rescue" when they feel uneasy; I know I have been on occasion. Grace and courtesy are lovely gifts to extend to others anytime. :cool:
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Michael Pronay » Sat Sep 30, 2006 12:53 pm

Peter May wrote:It was the Americans that made Merlot a by word for a easy drinking red wine, they popularized the name, they made the name Merlot known worldwide and brought it into the English language.

I simply love this americanocentric view of the world ... :roll:

Just to put things into perspective: There was Merlot from Italy — and well-known too! — in Europe as early as the 1950s and 60s — when you guys were still recovering from prohibition. Hungarian Merlot started its European career in the 1960s/70s.

Merlot an American invention?! — Pffffhhh ... :roll:
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Robin Garr » Sat Sep 30, 2006 1:00 pm

Michael Pronay wrote:I simply love this americanocentric view of the world ... :roll:


Michael, Peter is British.
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Hoke » Sat Sep 30, 2006 1:05 pm

Michael Pronay wrote:
Peter May wrote:It was the Americans that made Merlot a by word for a easy drinking red wine, they popularized the name, they made the name Merlot known worldwide and brought it into the English language.

I simply love this americanocentric view of the world ... :roll:

Just to put things into perspective: There was Merlot from Italy — and well-known too! — in Europe as early as the 1950s and 60s — when you guys were still recovering from prohibition. Hungarian Merlot started its European career in the 1960s/70s.

Merlot an American invention?! — Pffffhhh ... :roll:


Um, excuse me, Michel...but that was Peter who made the statement. And while he's always welcome here in Murrica, Peter is an Englishman.

I also can't help but comment that the Euro winemakers only get un-American when we ship our wines over there---but they tend to be very pro-American when they export their wines over here. You know, the place that's rapidly becoming the number one market in the world?

You Old World guys had your turn. Now it's ours. (I don't think it will be for long, but hey, that's how it goes.)
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Michael Pronay » Sat Sep 30, 2006 1:43 pm

"Um, excuse me, Michel

Mich_a_el. No need to gallicize my first name, it's the same in English. :wink:

... but that was Peter who made the statement. And while he's always welcome here in Murrica, Peter is an Englishman. "

OK, thank you for hint, but that doesn't change very much. Focussing on the cousins from the former colonies while having no idea about what happens on the continent — does the term "splendid isolation" still exist? ... :lol:
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Otto » Sat Sep 30, 2006 2:26 pm

This thread has been interesting reading. I think what most participants to the thread see is the dichotomy between prescriptive and descriptive grammars. Prescriptive is what most school grammar books are about: it prescribes how one pronounces words and how one uses grammar. Descriptive grammars show how the language is used by (usually) native speakers.

Perhaps due to my interests in Assyriology (Akkadian as a language is attested for a c.2500 year period, so there are lots of changes to be seen) and comparative Semitic linguistics in general, I tend to take a descriptive rather than a prescriptive view on language in general. I see through my daily studies that language inevitably changes by both time and distance. Therefore I see it as totally useless to try to force what is natural in one language into what is natural in another. To put it in other words: if a certain pronounciation of Merlot is what is used in Californian American, then I see no reason that a French pronounciation of the word should be forced upon the Cali Am speakers. If "Merlot" is lexicalised into Cali American, then the pronounciation of native speakers of Cali Am is the "correct" one (for the time being of course....) and the French pronounciation of the word is incorrect in that usage. And of course vice versa.

Three cheers for descriptive linguistics! Huzzah, huzzah, huzzah! (Or hurrah, hurrah, hurrah if not speaking Jeeves&Woosterian English. ;) )

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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Peter May » Sat Sep 30, 2006 3:01 pm

Michael Pronay wrote:OK, thank you for hint, but that doesn't change very much. Focussing on the cousins from the former colonies while having no idea about what happens on the continent — does the term "splendid isolation" still exist? ... :lol:


I think I have a good idea of what happens on the continent. As my post clearly stated, I am English. And the continent is rarely isolated, as it once was by bad weather, now we have the chunnel.

Of course some countries have been making a Merlot wine for ages. But it is the Califonia demand for Merlot that brought the name into the common English language, not French or indeed Italian.
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Bob Ross » Sat Sep 30, 2006 3:35 pm

Just so the linguist record is clear, the first uses of Merlot were in Great Britain. According to the OED:

1825 J. BUSBY Treat. Culture Vine ii. 71 The murleau. This variety announces much vigour, by the strength of its wood.

1833 C. REDDING Hist. Mod. Wines v. 141 The vine plants most cultivated in the canton of Bourg are the merlot, the carminet, the mancin, the teinturier, the petit chalosse noire, and..the prolongeau.


The Busby spelling seems to my eye to favor the MURR low variant.

The OED has three different pronunciations for the word -- one British, two US. I haven't been able to copy the markings.

I'm very surprised to read your position, Peter, that folks in the US made this a popular word, given the importance of Merlot on the Right Bank in Bordeaux.

Regards, Bob
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Bob Ross » Sat Sep 30, 2006 3:39 pm

"I think what most participants to the thread see is the dichotomy between prescriptive and descriptive grammars."

I agree with everything you write here, Otto. There is, however, a practical issue.

There are two very distinctive US pronunciations of "Merlot". Both appear to be acceptable, but in some restaurants, waitstaff and sommeliers have been known to correct the way people pronounce the word.

Sad ... it discourages people from ordering wine, I think. Especially when this is such a popular grape.

The power of words ....

Regards, Bob
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Gary Barlettano » Sat Sep 30, 2006 4:54 pm

Otto Nieminen wrote:Three cheers for descriptive linguistics!


Hmmm, Otto, I see you take a very "Grimm" view of things. :roll:
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Re: How do you pronounce "Merlot"?

by Michael Pronay » Sat Sep 30, 2006 5:28 pm

Peter, sorry if my posts seemed condescending, it was not my purpose. I tried to transport a little humor.

Of course you are right about merlot being brought to Englisdh speaking countries via the Americas.

But this does not rule out that "Merlot" wines have been well-known for at least half a century in countries where the German, Italian or Eastern languages prevail.
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