Correct use of final "e"
Frank Pierce
This has more to do with proper American usage than with origin. Three words come to mind, gaffe, cache, and Porche. No question about the last one but the first two are frequently pronounced in two distinct way: GAFF and Ga-FAY, and CASH and Cash-AY.

What's an acceptable way so that, in good usage, you won't make a gaffe?

I say "GAFF" and "CASH" but remain mute on "Porche." After all, what is a disk drive doing -- caching or cachéing?
I'm under the impression that "Porsche" is a one-syllable word when referring to the automobile line but a two-syllable word when referring to the family the car is named after.

I don't remember where I read this, however, or how reliable the source.

OK, I'll chime in. "Porsche" is a two-syllable name. Lazy (ignorant?) Americans have, however, customized a one-syllable pronunciation for the car which is now widely tolerated.
Frank Pierce
I'd certainly use two syllables on Porsche, strictly because it's a German word and proper name and they aren't casual about the final "e". It means something.

Which brings up the other mispronunciation of Mercedes. By the German account, it's Mehrt-SAY-dus. A long way from our way of saying it. Certainly not MUR-suh-deeez.

I guess it would be best to stay with the original language if possible: therefore the French words gaffe and cache should be pronounced without the 'e' at the end and with an 'a' like the 'o' in 'love'. As for Mercedes, the pronounciation of the 'c' as 'ts' is so typically German, I don't think they do that anywhere else. In Holland we say 'Mercedes' just with an 's'.
Just FYI, just because there's an E on the end of a word in French doesn't mean it's pronounced like a long AY. It needs to have an accent mark over it to make it long. So there's no reason to prounounce the English word "cache" (meaining "hiding place", and prounounced "cash") as "cashAY." It wouldn't be pronounced that way in French. (For example, the French definite article "le", meaning "the," is pronounced as a schwa. It's not pronounced "LAY," although lots of people make that mistake. The plural form, "les," is pronounced "LAY." That pronunciation difference is generally how you distinguish between singular and plural in spoken French.)

There is an English word "cachet" which is pronounced "cashAY." It doesn't mean the same thing as "cache." And there are a couple of similar French words (forms of the verb "cacher," "to hide,") that are pronounced "cashAY." But they're spelled differently. Maybe that's why people are getting confused.

As for Porsche, final E's in German are pronounced as schwa vowels. So there wouldn't be any reason whatsoever to pronounce that one as "PorshAY." That would be really odd!

It's an accent-agui over and "E," é, that's pronounced as the English long "A." The accent-grave actually shortens it.
Yes, the point being that an "E" at the end of a multi-syllable word is going to be a schwa (or elided) unless it's got the accent aigu. I don't believe a final "E" would ever take an accent grave or accent circonflexe anyway. The main thing is - unless you know how the word's really spelled in French, you can't assume you know how to pronounce it. The accents matter.
Return to the archive