Another take on the English apostrophe in Unicode

Philippe Verdy verdy_p at
Sat Jun 13 01:24:11 CDT 2015

I don't agree with this Grévisse definition (and I'm not alone, other
grammarians and dictionaries don't follow Grévisse, and even the French
Academy disagrees).

May be this is a form of composition but the correct term is nothz that it
create a new word, it just means that words take new semantics in specific
contexts (here, idiomatic expressions where the term "pomme" is a minor
shift of meaning, that also occurs in "pomme de pin" = "pineapple", or
"chou pomme" and as well in the alternate semantic of "pomme" related only
to its rouch shape to designate a human head and by extension a person,
also used in idiomatic expressions like "c'est pour ma pomme"). But the
word itself is not different and in fact the etymology is the same, this
was only a progressive extension of semantic that created finally an
idiomatic expression, but not a new word.

A compound word (mot composé") needs a clear gluing, by an hyphen, or
apostrophe, or absence of space and punctuation. Grévisse still records
many good advices that are too frequently forgotten today, but here it got
too far in details that was not needed to preserve the semantics of the

Another proof is the cuisne expression "pomme frite" which does not mean a
fried aple fruit, but a fried potato: "pomme de terre" has been abreviated
to only "pomme", and this term even disappears now when the participle verb
"frite" used as an epithetic adjective is then substantivated. The
idiomatic expression "pomme de terre" is not so much idiomatic, this is
just a extension lemma added to the term "pomme" (apple). The composition
has in fact never be clearly attested, but if it was, hyphens would have
been used since long (many hyphens are now starting to disappear in
compiund words, replaced by direct gluing which is admitted in most cases).

2015-06-13 5:11 GMT+02:00 Eric Muller <eric.muller at>:

>  On 6/10/2015 9:37 PM, Philippe Verdy wrote:
> The French "pomme de terre" ("potato" in English, French vulgar synonym :
> "patate") is a single lemma in dictionaries, but is still 3 separate words
> (only the first one takes the plural mark), it is not considered a "nom
> composé" (so there's no hyphens).
> Grevisse, Le bon usage, 11th edition, 1980, page 118, part 1 Elements of
> the language, chapter 7 The words, section 3 Formation of new words,
> article 2, Composition, very first paragraph (179 overall):
> ---
> By *composition*, language creates new words, either by combining simple
> words with existing words, or by preceding these simple words  with
> syllables that have no independent existence:
> *Chou-fleur, gendarme, pomme de terre, contredire, désunir, paratonnerre. *
> A word, despite being formed of graphically independent elements, is
> *composed* as soon at it brings to mind, not the distinct images of each
> of the words from which it is composed, but a single image. Thus the
> composites *hôtel de ville, pomme de terre, arc de triomphe* each remind
> of a unique image, and not of the distinct images of *hôtel* and of
> *ville*, of *pomme* and of *terre*, of *arc* and of
> *triomphe. *
> *---*
> *(hôtel de ville* = city hall; *pomme* = apple, *de* = of, *terre* =
> earth)
> Paragraph 181, 3rd remark:
> ---
> Sometimes the elements composing [the word] are welded in a simple word:
> *Bonheur**, contredire, entracte; *sometimes they are connected by an
> hyphen: *chou-fleur, coffre-fort;* sometimes they stay independent
> graphically:
> *Moyen âge, pomme de terre. --- *(“Le Grévisse” as we affectionately call
> it, or *Le bon usage / French Grammar with remarks on today’s french
> language*, is a must-have for the student of French. It is encyclopedic
> in its depth, and has tons of examples and counter-examples. Interestingly,
> the French wikipedia page says “a descriptive grammar of French”, while the
> English wikipedia page says “a prescriptive grammar”; it’s both!)
> I agree that we don’t need a new space coded character. I was just
> pointing out that some of the arguments for a new coded character for the
> apostrophe in *don’t* apply equally well to the spaces in the word *pomme
> de terre*.
> Eric.
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