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Diacriticals and non-English letters in anglicized loan words: keep 'em, dump 'em, italicize the words, or what?

I have no idea what I’m doing. Catch as catch can. “Saute” seems correct to me, but I was clobbered by someone who insisted I was “just ignorant”. (I won’t argue that.)

I assume purists will insist the accent pretty much always be used for foreign loan words. But... I’m writing in English. It just seems like it should be okay to incorporate “saute”, and the other words, as native English words pretty much as soon as you start using them and people know what you’re talking about. This seems to me less of an offense than, say, willfully “misspelling” tire vs. tyre.

I prefer Strunk’s application of the serial comma for logical reasons, yet this goes against common accepted practice. So I don’t see all such things as black and white. I’m just curious if a case can be made for saute? [And I can stuff this thread up my friend’s rather beautiful upturned snoot!]

Sure, at first glance it’s just “ignorant” (we are so petrified of that), but on the far side is it not better to accept simplicity if still clearly understood?

I guess I will qualify this as an American usage question – specifically about the word saute. (I’d like to thank and excuse all jurors originating from the British Isles and France.)

What does the Chicago Manual of Style say? What do you say?

marked as duplicate by Robusto, Mitch, FumbleFingers, b.roth, Kristina Lopez Jan 28 '13 at 23:04

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  • The link is not a duplicate: saute/sauté is not mentioned once; nor is it asked what Strunk would do; nor is it qualified as American use vs. worldwide English; nor is the request for a ruling from the Chicago Manual of Style – you ugly posthuman “thing” of 5. :P – ipso Jan 29 '13 at 2:13

He would say:

The spelling of English words is not fixed and invariable, nor does it depend on any other authority than general agreement. At the present day there is practically unanimous agreement as to the spelling of most words. In the list below, for example, rime for rhyme is the only allowable variation; all the other forms are co-extensive with the English language. At any given moment, however, a relatively small number of words may be spelled in more than one way. Gradually, as a rule, one of these forms comes to be generally preferred, and the less customary form comes to look obsolete and is discarded. From time to time new forms, mostly simplifications, are introduced by innovators, and either win their place or die of neglect.

And as much as I have very little respect for Strunk's dreadful book (I'm lying, I have a considerable amount of scorn for it), the above is reasonable enough.

  • That is truly dreadful, for it seems to be saying not very much at all, other than "things change from age to age". What do you deduce he's actually saying in respect of saute vs sauté? – Andrew Leach Jan 28 '13 at 23:23
  • @AndrewLeach I like what Strunk says best, when he says nothing at all. I would conclude though that he would use sauté until everyone starts using saute, and then switch. – Jon Hanna Jan 29 '13 at 0:00
  • Ah. A Vicar of Bray. Why is Strunk & White lauded so? – Andrew Leach Jan 29 '13 at 0:20
  • @AndrewLeach I think the Vicar of Bray approach is reasonable enough here; though I personally will favour rather old-fashioned orthography, that's the legacy of an adolescent affectation and I normally edit out its extremes on redraft. As to the question of Strunk & White's laurels, I think Strunk is popular because the later Strunk & White volumes read well which gives them credence. However, analyse them and you find that reading well comes from breaking their own rules (White had damn good writing instincts he failed to subdue, and Charlotte's Web is a true children's classic). – Jon Hanna Jan 29 '13 at 0:35

It's not Chicago Manual of Style, it's Wikipedia, but I like what's said there:

Words that retain their accents often do so to help indicate pronunciation (e.g. frappé, naïve, soufflé), or to help distinguish them from an unaccented English word (e.g. exposé, résumé, rosé). Technical terms or those associated with specific fields (especially cooking or musical terms) are less likely to lose their accents (such as the French soupçon, façade and entrée).

Personally, I can read saute just fine, with either e or é at the end. If I was writing something professionally, I'd probably write it as sauté - that is, I would use the "more correct" form. However, anyone who would rant about using the easier-to-type saute is overreacting in my cookbook.

  • +1 for the most useful answer (..but the acceptance has to go to the Strunk quote.) – ipso Jan 29 '13 at 2:12

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