Épatéing
Posted: 18 December 2013 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]
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In a book I’m reading I encountered this word: “ He was still actively, if unconsciously, épatéing that world.”

I was not familiar with the word and I could only find it entered in the OED.
Note that the author did not drop the final e vowel when adding the suffix ing. The OED did not enter the present participle of the word so I don’t know whether the spelling is correct, or a common usage. 

The OED’s definition:  épater; to flabbergast; to startle or shock the man in the street

The word’s derivation seems to be French, for this reason, I assume, the diacritical marks. I don’t understand the diacritical mark on the last é, unless it’s a typo, or should have been omitted, because it would seem to be an awkward pronunciation.

Is anyone familiar with this word? Is it obsolete or just rarely used?

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Posted: 18 December 2013 01:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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All the citations in the OED entry are for the phrase épater le(s) bourgeois. It would seem that the verb has no independent existence in English.

Without knowing the book and the context in which the word is used, I can’t comment on that particular usage.

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Posted: 18 December 2013 01:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I’m assuming it’s from The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

That the boy had brains he knew, but brains wouldn’t take him far in Milford. Milford expected a man to stop being undergraduate when he reached graduate age. But there was no sign of Nevil’s acceptance of the world outside his coterie.  He was still actively, if unconsciously, épatéing [no italics in edition at Google Books] that world.  As his clothes [previously described as an “outrageous tweed, a pinkish shirt, and a purple tie"] bore witness.

It appears that the verb is starting to develop an independent existence in English outside the stock French phrase, and this is one example.

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Posted: 18 December 2013 01:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Dave Wilton - 18 December 2013 01:21 PM

All the citations in the OED entry are for the phrase épater le(s) bourgeois. It would seem that the verb has no independent existence in English.

Without knowing the book and the context in which the word is used, I can’t comment on that particular usage.

Interesting; that’s what I thought.

The book is called The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey, copyright 1949. She was describing a personality trait for one of her characters. Below I’ll reveal more; perhaps it will help with the context of its usage.

While he was still engaged with the exchange , Nevil Bennet strolled in clad in his usual outrageous tweed , a pinkish shirt, and a purple tie. Robert eying him over the receiver, wondered for the hundredth time what was going to become of Blair, Hayward, and Bennet when it last slipped from his good Blair grasp into the hands of this young sprig Bennet.  That the boy had brains he knew, but brains wouldn’t take him far in Milford. Milford expected a man to stop being undergraduate when he reached graduate age. But there was no sign of Nevil’s acceptance of the world outside his coterie. He was still actively, if unconsciously, épatéing that world. As his clothes bore witness.

[ Edited: 18 December 2013 07:35 PM by Logophile ]
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Posted: 18 December 2013 02:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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It appears that the verb is starting to develop an independent existence in English outside the stock French phrase, and this is one example.

As well as I can remember I’ve never encountered this word before. Have you? It seems very uncommon, especially in the present participle usage.

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Posted: 18 December 2013 02:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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It appears that the verb is starting to develop an independent existence in English outside the stock French phrase, and this is one example.

Yes, a search of Google Books turns up a handful of uses, but most places where it is used drop a French phrase into English or using a calque of the French, as in “epater the old guys.” I’d still classify the verb as a foreign word, not assimilated into English (at least yet).

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Posted: 18 December 2013 02:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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He was still actively, if unconsciously, épatéting that world.

This is an even weirder spelling than the one first quoted by Logophile and Dr. Techie. Until now I have been an admirer of Ms. Tey. Her defense of Richard III in The Daughter of Time was a tour de force. But this...I must confess I am épatéted. Or should I say épatéed?  Or simply épated? (I feel as though I am having an attack of hiccoughs. Will somebody please épat me on the back.....)

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Posted: 18 December 2013 07:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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lionello - 18 December 2013 02:47 PM

He was still actively, if unconsciously, épatéting that world.

This is an even weirder spelling than the one first quoted by Logophile and Dr. Techie. Until now I have been an admirer of Ms. Tey. Her defense of Richard III in The Daughter of Time was a tour de force. But this...I must confess I am épatéted. Or should I say épatéed?  Or simply épated? (I feel as though I am having an attack of hiccoughs. Will somebody please épat me on the back.....)

I apologize, in my second posting I made a typo on épatéing, which I’ve just corrected.

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Posted: 19 December 2013 04:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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You’ve pretty much got to retain that second é.  It represents an independent phoneme and is not merely the representation of the length of the previous vowel as it would be in English without the accent ague.

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Posted: 19 December 2013 11:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Oddly, in French the final é is used on the past participle of the verb epater, or in the adjectival form for “astonished” (can also mean flattened or broad based).

Without the second accent, épate means to have a provocative attitude.  In any case, this use in English seems to be a bit affected and the final é may not be correct, assuming I understand the intended meaning…

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Posted: 20 December 2013 05:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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In any case, this use in English seems to be a bit affected and the final é may not be correct

It’s a joke!

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Posted: 20 December 2013 12:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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It’s a joke!

Oh, well you’re the expert.  How many yards in a shirt? ;-)

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Posted: 21 December 2013 01:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I had always assumed that ‘épateing’ in The Franchise Affair was a pure nonce-use, and that the author never supposed it was an ‘actual’ word, but took it for granted that her readership would know what she meant.

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Posted: 21 December 2013 07:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Yes, exactly.

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