Three posts in a row are enough for a short fence, and the last three posts in this column should have been enough to have fenced off and put an end to the subject of words related to hora/hour. That said, today’s post will continue with the theme, but it will also be the last one on the subject por or para ahora ‘for now’ (Spanish speakers say both). Call this an encore if you like.
In fact the Vulgar Latin phrase *hinc ad horam ‘from that [time] to [the current] time’ is the probable source of French encore, which means ‘still, again.’ It’s with that second sense that English has borrowed encore. Here is the definition that Noah Webster wrote in his 1828 An American Dictionary of the English Language: ‘French word, pronounced nearly ongkore, and signifying, again, once more; used by the auditors and spectators of plays and other sports, when they call for a repetition of a particular part.’ Today, despite the far greater popularity of sports than drama or serious music, no English speaker who values his life is likely to shout “Encore!” after a touchdown in a football game.
In 1898, E. Cobham Brewer said of encore in his Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: “Our use of this word is unknown to the French, who use the word bis (twice) if they wish a thing to be repeated. The French, however, say encore une tasse (another cup), encore une fois (still once more). It is strange how we have perverted almost every French word that we have naturalised.”
As a noun, an encore is ‘the playing again of a work or a portion of a work,’ but what gets played in the United States after the performance of a piece of classical music is usually a short and different work. In recent years some television networks have taken to using encore with its ‘again’ sense in the disingenuous and unnecessarily long phrase encore performance as a way of reluctantly admitting that a show is a repeat; it’s akin to calling a used car a pre-owned vehicle.
© 2011 Steven Schwartzman