Monday, January 11, 2010

Carmenère? Carménère? Or Carmenere? Most of the sources in print that I’ve checked use the first spelling. Wikipedia has the second. Then again today’s Winebusiness.com story Carmenere about the rising popularity of the grape leaves out all accent marks. Which is correct? I posted the question on my Facebook page – the ultimate arbiter of all disputes. Here’s what came back:

Jaime S: You don't spell it, son, you drink it!

David H: My keyboard won't type either Paul, so I agree with Jaime... just drink it!

PG: Yeah-but... I'm a writer, see. Writer's gotta write. To write you gotta spell. There's the rub.

David H: How do you get the fancy marks on the correct accent spot?

Cynthia N: I lean to the first as well. And I never read anything on Wikipedia without a grain of salt.....

Jarod M: "You say po-tay-toe and I say po-tah-toe... Let's call the whole thing off." As a writer, you could avoid any bias and simply include both spellings, and even write about the issue/confusion itself :-)

Stevie J: Most would use the first. But I got curious and looked in Wine Lover's Companion circa 95, Parker Bordeaux circa 85 and MacNeil 01 and could not find it. What a come back!

Brandon R: Well how exactly do you pronounce the second if it's not the first?

Kevin S: I've always used the latter, but that doesn't make it right.

Andy P: When in doubt, assume that Wikipedia is wrong, as a rule of thumb.

Patrick C: I avoid the controversy by not writing about it. Much.

Nicolas Q: Would use the Wikipedia spelling if you want it in French. Probably no accent in Spanish/Chilean.

Jared M: @Patrick: Maybe that's what the song meant by "Let's call the whole thing off." Writers can avoid the spelling question by simply not writing about it. Paul, choose a different wine. LOL

Howard G: Paul, go with carmenère. For obvious reasons, I recommend that in such quandries you always check The New York Times's archive. You are likely to find bottom-to-top stylistic consistency: sooner or later, every last potentially troublesome noun has been vetted by sharp copy desks. Times style governs all my writing everywhere; it is displaced, of course, when other publications have their own style preferences, thought through or not.

Ted J: Two answers: Spanish is with two. French uses a single. If you are writing about a wine from the southern hemisphere and recognize the grape as from there use both. If writing about a wine from Europe, and accept France as point of origin, just the one. However, if describing a beautiful wine such as Colvin, grown and crafted in Washington, and your keyboard is not equipped with diacritical marks, it does not really matter.

Paula N: I'm with Howard - both in spelling and the source to trust. Or, you could just go with no accent at all as most labels do!

Steve S: We had editorial meetings at Wine Report magazine about similar issues. If the chief standard is clarity – and I think for writers and editors, it should be – then consider the audience. Yours is U.S. English in the main, and accents such as the ones found in various spellings of carmenere don’t aid U.S. readers with clarity. Given that, and in the absence of a common standard, you’re free to use whichever derivation you like until a standard emerges. So, to me, it makes the most sense to use no accents since they are not common U.S. English symbols. If the word is contained within the proprietary name of the wine, however, then I would defer to the producer's choice of spelling.

PG: Great comments, but there is still no agreement whatsoever. It strikes me as confusing (and a lot of trouble) to try to pinpoint the accent to the specific region from which the wine is sourced. What if I’m writing a general purpose story on the grape with wines from all over? Do I spell it three different ways in the same story? I’d love to try to push that past any of my editors! I guess we just can’t find any “carmen” ground on this one!

1 comment:

Alder Yarrow said...

Interesting question. Sounds to me like the right answer depends on whether you consider it a word in the english language or not. If not, then you need to decide which language you think it is from (French or Spanish) and then use the appropriate accent. Or, if you think it's a word that's been appropriated into the English language, then it would get none.

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