Re: Another take on the English apostrophe in Unicode

From: Eric Muller <>
Date: Fri, 12 Jun 2015 20:11:49 -0700
On 6/10/2015 9:37 PM, Philippe Verdy wrote:
The French "pomme de terre" ("potato" in English, French vulgar synonym : "patate") is a single lemma in dictionaries, but is still 3 separate words (only the first one takes the plural mark), it is not considered a "nom composé" (so there's no hyphens).

Grevisse, Le bon usage, 11th edition, 1980, page 118, part 1 Elements of the language, chapter 7 The words, section 3 Formation of new words, article 2, Composition, very first paragraph (179 overall):

By composition, language creates new words, either by combining simple words with existing words, or by preceding these simple words  with syllables that have no independent existence: Chou-fleur, gendarme, pomme de terre, contredire, désunir, paratonnerre.

A word, despite being formed of graphically independent elements, is composed as soon at it brings to mind, not the distinct images of each of the words from which it is composed, but a single image. Thus the composites hôtel de ville, pomme de terre, arc de triomphe each remind of a unique image, and not of the distinct images of hôtel and of ville, of pomme and of terre, of arc and of triomphe.

(hôtel de ville = city hall; pomme = apple, de = of, terre = earth)

Paragraph 181, 3rd remark:

Sometimes the elements composing [the word] are welded in a simple word: Bonheur, contredire, entracte; sometimes they are connected by an hyphen: chou-fleur, coffre-fort; sometimes they stay independent graphically: Moyen âge, pomme de terre.


(“Le Grévisse” as we affectionately call it, or Le bon usage / French Grammar with remarks on today’s french language, is a must-have for the student of French. It is encyclopedic in its depth, and has tons of examples and counter-examples. Interestingly, the French wikipedia page says “a descriptive grammar of French”, while the English wikipedia page says “a prescriptive grammar”; it’s both!)

I agree that we don’t need a new space coded character. I was just pointing out that some of the arguments for a new coded character for the apostrophe in don’t apply equally well to the spaces in the word pomme de terre.


Received on Fri Jun 12 2015 - 22:13:03 CDT

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