Joseph Stiglitz is one massively impressive fellow. He got his PhD in economics from MIT at the tender age of 24 and was a full professor at Yale by the time he was 27. He was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton administration and later chief economist and senior vice-president of the World Bank. He won the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics for his analyses of markets with asymmetric information. (And no, I have no idea what that means. I'm just the typist here.)
Now Stiglitz, with co-author Linda Bilmes (no laggard herself), has published The Three Trillion Dollar War, about the true costs of the Iraq conflict. It's a relatively short book--just 192 pages--and from what I've heard and read about it, an important one. I hope to read it soon.
Meanwhile, though, I've been listening to Stiglitz and Bilmes being interviewed on various NPR programs. And on one of those programs--I think it was Forum, on KQED-FM--I heard Stiglitz commit a common verbal gaffe that I hadn't expected from a PhD/Nobelist/CEA chairman. He was talking about armaments, as I recall, and what I distinctly heard him say was "cashays of weapons."
What he meant of course, was caches, which rhymes with "mashes." A cache--from the French cacher, to hide--is a hidden supply. Cacher has a second meaning, "to press," which gave rise to cachet, a seal or impression--and by extension any distinguishing characteristic. Cachet is pronounced the way Stiglitz said it, rhyming with sachet. However, weapons are not hidden in cachets, only in caches.¹
Now, I'm willing to bet Stiglitz uses cache and cachet correctly in writing. And, as I said, he's a total whiz at asymmetric information and numbers containing many, many zeros. Still, like a lot of Americans, he fell prey at least on this occasion to the temptations of hyperforeignism in speech.
Hyper-what-what? Here's how Headsup: The Blog explains it:
Hyperforeignization is the tendency to make sure that a foreign-looking word sounds foreign, even if the result is farther from an "accurate" pronunciation than you'd get by just sounding the thing out in your own language. Usually, it borrows rules from an unrelated language that makes recognizably "foreign" noises[.]
And most commonly on these shores, that unrelated language is by default French, or something resembling French.
Headsup gives the example of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose name is often pronounced "ohl-MEHR" on U.S. radio and television, as if the final T were silent. "That'd be fine if the parliament at issue had been the French one," notes Headsup, "but it isn't. It's the Israeli one, and Olmert is a native." And his name is pronounced ohl-MEHRT.
Other common mis-Frenchifications include:
Beizhing for Beijing. As Language Hat points out, "There is no /zh/ sound in Mandarin Chinese."
Tazh Mahal for Taj Mahal. No /zh/ sound there, either.
Onchilada and On-ree-kay for the Spanish word enchilada and proper name Enrique. In French, "en-" sorta-kinda sounds like "on," but not in Spanish, where there's no funny business allowed with vowels.
Coo day grah for coup de grâce. The correct version, meaning "finishing stroke," ends with a word whose finishing stroke more or less rhymes with moss. As Mr. Verb points out, the preferred American pronunciation would translate to "a blow of fat."
Pree fee for prix fixe (pronounced pree feeks). Mr. Verb again: "Famously, people think French drops final consonants."
Hyperforeignism also shows up in spelling errors, such as avante-garde instead of the correct avant-garde. Famously once again, people think French adds superfluous final vowels.
By the way, if you're hyperinterested in hyperforeignism, you'll definitely want to read "Systematic Hyperforeignisms as Maximally External Evidence for Linguistic Rules," which Mr. Verb calls "one of the coolest linguistic papers around," although he doesn't provide a link. Guess he wants it to maintain its cachet.
¹A weapon can have cachet, though (note: no article before "cachet" in that construction). For instance: "Oooh, can I touch your Glock?"