An Etymological Dictionary of the French Language: Crowned by the French Academy

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Clarendon Press, 1882 - French language - 407 pages

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I read David DeBus' review and, being familiar with Skeat and Partridge, I would like to add my own comments. This is an excellent etymological dictionary, one of the best. In detail it is intermediary between the larger American Heritage Dictionary (very detailed) and the Oxford Dictionary of the English language (comprehensive but not so detailed). Authoritative it is. The speculations present in older dictionaries do not seem to be present. As far as I am concerned, the 19th century was a peak of scholarly culture. From it came all the early greats of the 20th century. Today we have the silver, not the gold, the Hellenistic, not the classical. English is so close to French that the English speaker is sure to find something of value in Brachet.
The raves being over, well, the scholarship makes it a scholar's dictionary. If you know enough to want to use it, it seems to me you appreciate or can come to appreciate the scholarship, which also makes it authoritative. If you aren't much of a scholar, this work is a little higher, but not incomprehensibly so. I do disagree with Dave about Partridge. Eric makes connections to ancient languages, but much of the time they are speculative, and he knows it, but he likes the better speculations. There is more substantiation, more detail, in Brachet. Skeat of course is very good, but he is also somewhat brief. Much of his work has been superseded, and more English has been considered in detail. He does not use modern etymological conventions.
If you are using etymologies in your creative work, I would think you should have access as a minimum to all the works mentioned above. I note you can download Brachet. Sometimes the age of a work improves its value to us. If Thucydides were here today he would be a very wealthy man. Van Gogh also called it quits just a tad too soon.
David Butterfield

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I have reviewed this etymological dictionary of the French language in a cursory manner. Since no one had reviewed it at all, I decided to make a small try at describing this orphan. I was looking for amplification of the etymology of "Academy" when this text was listed in a Google search. My French is passable, and Latin passable, some Greek. The entry for "Académie" did not mention the Athenian hero of the Trojan War, Academus, or the citations in Milton, Shakespeare and Burton that the Etymology Dictionary cited. It looked like the "A" section was selective rather than inclusive or encyclopedic. I found the Introduction long and tedious, but probably of interest to scholars interested in phonemes, vowel shifts, prefixes, and so on. That the word "academy" had not passed from Greek to French but from Greek through Latin to French was a point important for Walter W. Skeat, 1893: An Etymology Dictionary of the English Language, a text from a few years after Brachet's.
I am unfamiliar with the French Academy's level of etymological scholarship in the era of Brachet's text. It was way above the equivalent of Samuel Johnson, and below the work of Eric Partridge.
David DeBus

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