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Posts Tagged ‘Semantics’

My friend emphasized the word “Forte” as he described the good properties of the product. The product was Garlic Forte to be exact. Now to you or me that may seem obvious, but it must not have been to him, because when I said, “That must be loud”, by which I meant intense, he didn’t catch my drift. I explained that forte means “loud” in music, like the opposite of piano. He replied, “I never knew that.” No big deal, because it is a trivia fact if you have not been trained in music. But it set me to thinking about the real meaning of the word, its origin in music and elsewhere.

The Fortepiano was invented by an Italian chap named Cristofori in 1698. (1) I knew from my own piano training as a boy that the pianoforte, or piano as it became to be known, was so named because it struck the keys with a hammer so that it could be played loud (forte) or soft (piano) whereas its precursor, the harpsichord, plucks the strings at a more or less constant volume.

But why would an herbal product be called “Forte”? The word more generally means “strong”. And to say, for example, that “Talking is his forte”, is frequently said as “Talking is his strong suit.” So, Garlic Forte is strong or concentrated or effective or odiferous garlic. Well, I guess you could soften things down a bit and use Garlic Piano, but someone might note that you are playing a Musical Joke. (2)

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortepiano
  2. K.522 by Mozart

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