Saturday, October 27, 2007

Flutist or Flautist

Whenever I tell a non-musician that I play the flute, I am immediately asked the million dollar question, “Is it flutist or flautist?” I found an interesting article on Wikipedia to help me answer this question. Thank you, Nancy Toff!!

By the way, I consider myself a FLUTIST!

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Naming controversy: 'flautist' vs. 'flutist'

The choice of "flautist" (from the Italian flautista, from flauto, and adopted due to 18th century Italian influence) versus "flutist" is the source of minor dispute among players of the instrument. "Flutist" is the earlier term in the English language, dating from at least 1603 (the earliest quote cited by the Oxford English Dictionary), while "flautist" is not recorded before 1860, when it was used by Nathaniel Hawthorne in The Marble Faun. While the print version of the OED does not indicate any regional preference for either form, the online Compact OED characterizes "flutist" as an American usage.[1]
Richard Rockstro in his three volume treatise The Flute[2] written in England in 1890 uses "flute-player". The US player and writer Nancy Toff, in her The Flute Book, devotes more than a page to the subject, commenting that she is asked "Are you a flutist or a flautist?" on a weekly basis. She says, "Ascribe my insistence either to a modest lack of pretension or to etymological evidence; the result is the same." She describes in some detail the etymology of words for "flute". (She is an editor for Oxford University Press.[1]) She compares OED, Fowler's Dictionary of Modern Usage, Evans' Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage, and Copperud's American Usage and Style: The Consensus. Fowler says "flautist" has displaced "flutist" in usage, though "flautist" is not so popular in the USA. She prefers "flutist" personally and etymologically.[3]

The first edition of the OED lists fluter as dating from circa 1400 and Fowler's Modern English Usage[4] states that "there seems no good reason" why flautist should have prevailed over fluter or flutist. However, according to Webster's Dictionary of English Usage,[5] flautist is the preferred term in British English, and while both terms are used in American English flutist is "by far the more common choice".
James Galway summed up the way many players of the flute feel about "flautist", saying, "I am a flute player, not a flautist. I don't have a flaut, and I've never flauted."

Click here for Fenwick Smith’s take on the subject.

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