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Question

Is et viola [sic](spelled like this intentionally) just a misspelling of et voila or is it an actual word, or perhaps an inside joke (not just a one-off thing)?

Background

Based on this answer by Bread, there has been some discussion about the idiom et viola [sic]. The discussion stems from this phrase on vocabulary.com's entry for pate:

Your pate is the top of your head, but say it with a French accent et viola!

One side argues that this is a misspelling of et voila, which is listed by Merriam Webster's Dictionary.

The other side insists it's an inside joke, referring to the following article by BBC Radio 4:

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It is my observation that this article is about the viola, an instrument in the violin family, which might explain the word play (a viola is a type of violin).

Research

I have searched for more examples of its use on the internet, but most of the results are eating establishments with this name. I have not been able to find another occurrence of et viola as a joke, or used in another way.

I have also looked at Google Ngrams and found that et viola was used in English in the 1800s. The peak isn't very high (in comparison to more prevalent terms), but it does seem to be something.

In my view, the research is inconclusive in stating definitively if et viola has been used repeatedly over the years or if it's just a misspelling, hence this question.

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    voilà is spelled with the accent over the "a" (a-grave) because it is a French loanword. Without it, there would be no distinctive rising tone. Vocabulary.com just made a banal typo. There is no joke "et viola" unless you deliberately want to make a pun but then you would need context. Not my downvote. – Mari-Lou A May 20 '18 at 23:51
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    Doesn't it seem a bit unlikely that all of the examples of "et viola" are inside jokes? I don't really understand why you've found the research inconclusive, rather than finding that it points to the conclusion that "et viola" has been used as a joke and has also occurred as a misspelling of "et voila". – herisson May 20 '18 at 23:51
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    Always, always check the Ngram results (the actual instances reported) at the bottom of the page. I'm not going to do that for you :) – Mari-Lou A May 20 '18 at 23:58
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    The BBC article is not 'about violins', it is about the viola, a different member of the string section which other orchestral players traditionally make rude jokes about. The title is itself a pun on the common mis-spelling of the French phrase 'Et voilà'. – Kate Bunting May 21 '18 at 7:32
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    related: Interjection “et voilà” And only 23 results for viola in EL&U's search engine, as far as I can tell they all refer to the musical instrument or the flower. – Mari-Lou A May 21 '18 at 7:41
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Based on Mari-Lou A's helpful comment about checking the ngram references, I think it safe to conclude that the peaks (for me, the main reason to think it wasn't a misspelling on vocabulary.com) are caused by the following (unlikely) reasons:

An author with et viola in the name: (Alberti et Viola).

Books in the English corpus which are (partially) written in Latin. Most of the other results, mostly compilations of prose.

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    But this doesn't answer the question whether et viola is a misspelling or a (corny) pun by the editors of vocabulary.com. – Mari-Lou A May 21 '18 at 0:12
  • @Mari-LouA fair enough, consider it a partial answer for now. Tell me if you want to add something, then I'll turn it into a community wiki answer (or you could post a separate answer if you'd like). – JJ for Transparency and Monica May 21 '18 at 0:16
  • I'll pass. For me, it's a non-issue. – Mari-Lou A May 21 '18 at 0:17

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