Pet Peeves – Forté

Jt forteA phrase that I often hear uttered goes something like

that is not my forté

where forté is pronounced for-tay.

This is wrong on so many different levels, well, at least two, or possibly three, depending on how one counts.

First of all, the Italian forte doesn’t require the diacritical marking over the e, it should simply be spelled forte.

But more importantly, I don’t think that’s the word that the speaker wants, as that would translate to “that is not my loud”.

The Italian forte has come over into many other languages as a musical term meaning “loud” along with its comparative fortissimo meaning “very loud” and superlative fortississimo meaning “really frigging loud, baby!”.

Nope, that’s not the word that is being referenced in this usage. What the speaker wants is the French fort meaning “strength or talent”.

Now the translation makes more sense: “that is not my strength”.


I fear that it’s far too late to stamp out this mis-usage, however, but for loyal readers of this fine blog, both of you can now sally forth into the world and when the occasion demands, utter with great sincerity: “That is not my fort.” 

Or if you fear that you may not be understood, simply jettison the French and stick to English: “That is not my strength.” 

No fear of misunderstanding there. Nor will language scolds such as I descend upon you, so you’re doubly safe.

Reference: forté at Wiktionary.

Leave a Reply