or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, October 20, 2006

Strung Up

I was reading Entertainment Weekly (I subscribe, and what's it to you?) and came across, in a review of Sting's new album of John Dowland covers, the unexpected word "lutenist".

My very first thought was, "Well, that can't be right!" My very second thought, hot on its heels, was, "Well, it probably can. But it still sounds weird." Because "lutenist" sounds too much like "lutein" ("a yellow pigment found in fats"), and "lutist" seemed like the more obvious choice of word for "lute player", analogous to "pianist", "oboist", and numerous others.

Turns out they're both correct: "lutenist" is the older word, by about a quarter-century, and was John Dowland's choice. (The OED says that another spelling is "lutanist": this spelling is the more logical, based as it is on Mediaeval Latin "lutana", "lute".) I think I still prefer "lutist", but it's nice to know I have a choice.


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