Monday, September 14

New Word: Restaurateur

In today's entry, I'm pleased to relate that I've learned a new word: restaurateur.

I went to Corner Table this weekend and lapsed into "amateur critic" mode, looking at everything, questioning everything, keeping my senses open. I found a plaque commemorating the owner as "2007 Restaurateur of the Year," and giggled to myself over the apparent spelling error, for I knew it was missing an N. You know, restauranteur, someone who owns a restaurant?

Yet it was I who was in error: Oxford English Dictionary describes restauranteur (with the N) as an "erroneous form" and cites the mistake originating as early as 1949. The word restaurateur comes from restaurant, of course, which the OED indicates is the French substantive present participle of restaurer, "to restore" (e.g., health, vitality). So a restaurant is a place which restores, and a restaurateur is a restorer rather than, by strictest definition, the office of restoring-place-owner. You can see where one would get confused, but studying the etymology clears everything up.

However, they did screw up "Wisconsin," even though it appears correctly on the previous line. That' s just a small oversight any copyeditor would catch, but now it appears on all the drink menus for small people to feel superior over. Maybe that's another service this establishment supplies: bolstering your self-esteem.


Vanessa said...

You know, in college, I once had a creative writing teacher correct my usage of "metamorphosed." He thought the correct word was "metamorphosized," and I don't think that's even a word, although I see it all the time. Another mistake I see often is using "myriad" with "of." Myriad means many, so you would say "myriad ways" instead of "a myriad of ways." It just bugs me that people don't look up things, so I'm glad you took the initiative to investigate.

K. Signal Eingang said...

Actually "myriad" originally meant a specific large number (10,000, according to Wikipedia) but was also used in antiquity with some poetic license to designate any uncountably large quantity - the latter sense being the one that survives. In any case, the choice of whether or not to use a preposition seems open to choice... In english we say "a dozen eggs" or "a gross of sandwiches", even though both refer to specific numbers.

By a weird coincidence I found all this out this morning after reading an interesting passage in Dawkins' "The Ancestor's Tale" where he talks about a scuttling horde of insects saying something along the lines of "a myriad bodies and six myriad legs". The sort of phrasing only an Oxford professor can get away with.