2014 Kia Forte EX Long-Term Road Test

2014 Kia Forte: What English Majors Fight Over

July 19, 2013

2014 Kia Forte

The word forte has two useful meanings: 1) something you're good at and 2) a musical instruction to play strong and loud. And I thought I knew how to pronounce it, too. For-tay, right?

But a couple of years ago I did something I'd never done before: I watched a season of Celebrity Apprentice. Penn Jillette was making his first appearance on one of the teams. His opponents named their team Forte to reflect their presumed skill and confidence, and they went around pronouncing it like I always had.

"It's pronounced fort," grumbled Penn more than once. He may have thrown a "morons" in there, too. I forget.

I thought this was just competitive grumbling, but then I went to the dictionary, another move I rarely make. He was right if the usage of forte referred to skill, competence and generally operating in one's wheelhouse. The dictionary crowd does begrudgingly concede that a secondary for-tay pronunciation exists, but they generally stand by fort as the more correct one.

American Heritage Dictionary: "The word forte, coming from the French fort, should properly be pronounced like the English word fort. Common usage, however, prefers the two-syllable pronunciation for-tay, which has been influenced by the music term forte borrowed from Italian. In a recent survey, a strong majority of the Usage Panel, 74 percent, preferred the two-syllable pronunciation. The result is a delicate situation; speakers who are aware of the origin of the word may wish to continue to pronounce it as one syllable but at increasing risk of puzzling their listeners."

Merriam-Webster: "In forte we have a word derived from French that in its "strong point" sense has no entirely satisfactory pronunciation. Usage writers have denigrated for-tay because it reflects the influence of the Italian-derived forte. Their recommended pronunciation fort, however, does not exactly reflect French either: the French would write the word le fort and would rhyme it with the English for. So you can take your choice, knowing that someone somewhere will dislike whatever variant you choose."

The music one, on the other hand, is pronounced for-tay all the time.

I've never seen or heard a 2014 Kia Forte TV commercial, and I haven't heard a Kia staffer say the name out loud. If I had they'd probably go for the haughtier for-tay because its sounds Frenchier, even though it isn't.

I'm assuming of course, that they're using the "we really know what we're doing over here at Kia" version of the word. I'm pretty sure they don't want us to think the 2014 Kia Forte is an especially loud car. Besides, intra-squad rival Hyundai has laid claim to music-themed names with their Sonata.

Whatever the case, I feel empowered to cease and desist with the pseudo-French pronunciation. I'm going with fort from this day forward. Forts are cool. Larry Storch and Forrest Tucker deserve a little respect.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 2,308 miles


  • tornado542_ tornado542_ Posts:

    Mr. Edmunds, Im trying really hard to not be nit picky...but this is the 3rd blog entry on the Kia Forte that talks NOTHING about the car at all. (The first 2 were Vegas trip entry 2 and 3.) Is it just a slow news day? I find it hard how you can not even mention something tiny about the car...(Automatic shifter action, sun visors, glove box, etc). I think these posts are kinda meaningless considering this is a car blog.

  • bc1960 bc1960 Posts:

    Mazda is a serial offender. Before going to a numeric and alphanumeric lineup they spelled 'Millenia' with one n instead of two, and 'Protegé' with an aigu accent over the second e but not the first--it should be neither for common English, or both to preserve the French spelling.

  • I don't mind the tangent, this stuff is fascinating to me. For the record, Kia has always used the "for-tay" pronunciation in their marketing. But why denigrate that pronunciation as "phony French"? Wouldn't it be more accurate to describe it as "Italian"? The definition is a separate issue. @bc1960 - "Millenia" confused the hell out of me too at first, until I realized that Mazda was trying to make a cute & clever reference to the Miller-cycle engine in that car. I think they should've just stuck to proper spelling. :P

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    Rather appropriate, coming from the sister company to the brand that had an entire commercial devoted to explaining the pronunciation of the brand's name.

  • prndlol prndlol Posts:

    When the original Forte arrived for 2010 there were a series of comical commercials here in Canada with the theme "so and so...not my Forte...but THAT is!" showing the car, and the actor in each ad said FortAY. I don't think it gets more official than that.

  • greenpony greenpony Posts:

    "Millenia" could easily have been "Milleria" to pay homage to the Miller-cycle motor. Which do YOU prefer?

  • Maybe they are all using the music term. -- Or do these all fall into the category of "names" rather than just words. I couldn't find anything official on it but it has always appeared that with names they don't tend to follow the general rules for pronunciation. You know, the way people like to make up new names and then explain to you how they are pronounced. --- and then there's the bing dictionary version "for·te [ fawrt ]" -- Who Fawrted? I'm gonna go ship my pants.

  • eclogite eclogite Posts:

    Thanks for teaching me something on Friday afternoon.

  • tempesting_ tempesting_ Posts:

    Here is my tip; ask a Korean. Native Koreans would pronounce it "PO R TE" like 3 syllables.

  • wheelmccoy_ wheelmccoy_ Posts:

    And what about the Smart Fortwo? Isn't it pronounced Fort-woe? :)

  • darthbimmer darthbimmer Posts:

    @tornado542: I'll provide some actual car content for you. I rented a Kia Forte last week. I only had it a short time but I spent exactly zero seconds of that time worrying about the pronunciation of the name. Instead I found myself pleasantly surprised a

  • dg0472 dg0472 Posts:

    Kia made it quite clear in the press releases for the original car that the name comes from the Italian musical term. Rondo and Cadenza are also musical terms, so NO, Hyundai hasn't laid claim to musical terms.

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