False Cognates = Outstanding!

Several problems from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Tangled problems, even.

Musician’s pleasing pluck has a hint of pique

The title is confusing. Pique?

No concert is more intimate than a classical guitar concert.

Always good to start with a bold, sweeping generalization!

The softness of the guitar focuses all attention on the player and the instrument.

The focus is on the player and instrument, not the music?

The short duration of each note crystallizes each moment of music.

The focus is on the music? Confused, again. But go on.

Sound envelops listeners like delicate perfume.

Um. Piquant perfume? Surely you’re not describing “spiciness” because the guitarist is Latin or South…

As [Chilean] guitarist Carlos Perez played Thursday evening, he elicited all those pleasant feelings.

…American. Crap.

The friendly warmth filled the auditorium of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

Friendly. Warm. Piquant?

That is lazy enough, but there’s still a problem.

“Pique” is not the root of “piquant”. [From Merriam-Webster Online:]

Piquant (n): agreeably stimulating to the palate, especially: spicy

Okay. But what you did in your title was not that.

“Musician’s pleasing pluck has a hint of pique”

Pique (n): a transient feeling of wounded vanity : resentment

Probably not what was intended, given the pleasant feelings and warmth and perfume.

Pique (transitive verb): 1: to arouse anger or resentment in : irritate

2 a: to excite or arouse especially by a provocation, challenge, or rebuff

b: pride

Clearly you weren’t trying to modify “pleasing pluck” with a transitive verb, right? Right? Right. Last option coming.

Pique (n): 1 : a durable ribbed clothing fabric of cotton, rayon, or silk

2 : decoration of a tortoiseshell or ivory object with inlaid fragments of gold or silver

Unless…unless the guitar was tortoiseshell and gold? No? Wood? I thought as much.

Summary: In the course of trying to invoke lazy Latin stereotypes of spiciness, you misunderstood the root of “piquant”, thus describing the warm pleasant perfume-y playing as a durable ribbed cloth of cotton, rayon, or silk.

Well done. At least I get to use the coveted "food metaphors" tag! Or should it be...failed food metaphors? Crap.


Empiricus said...

I whole-heartedly endorse the "failed food metaphors" label. Doesn't sound, I don't know, ripped off.

Good catch--pique/piquant.

I, however, have a big beef with "friendly warmth." If the context wasn't supplied for us, I wouldn't (you know, warmth as in heat). Unfortunately, given the context, i.e. "pleasant feelings," "intimate," "softness," etc., it's f-ing redundant (warmth as in friendly). An extra, unnecessary modifier to wax poetic, to sound paint, if you will, to fill the blank space.

And if you want to play the opposite game, it's "hostile warmth."

Aaron said...

I can think of many, many things more intimate than a classical guitar concert.

Just sayin'.

Gustav said...

maybe by intimate, he meant sure be full of boring Scarlatti transcriptions.

And SA, I think you're not giving our critic enough credit, I think perhaps this is one of the greatest backhanded columns..."Musicanians pleasing pluck also arouses resentment". That's awesome. I wish I could write something that would elicit resentment.

Murderface said...

True, this was yet another lazy, lazy, racist Latin=spicy metaphor gone wrong(er). Who still writes this shit, Eric Cartman? 'Ethnic'-themed porn producers? Ugh.

However, ahem. While 'pique' and 'piquant' may have divergent meanings and are not often thought of in the same context, they do, in fact, share the same root, making them true cognates. From the OED (etymology only):

'piquant....[a. F. piquant..., pr. pple. of piquer, to prick, sting: see PICK v.1, PIQUE v.2....'

You know I love your snark, SA, and that article totally sucks for a plethora of reasons, but I gotta speak up for the facts, as represented by my trusty old OED.

Sorry, man.

Sator Arepo said...

Well done, Mr Murderface. You have bested me.