Sunday, December 18, 2022

the proper pronunciation of coup de grâce

A coup de grâce is a killing blow delivered as a way to end a fight or as a simple gesture of mercy to someone or something who/that is suffering, beyond help, or deserving of a dignified death. The grâce is French for "grace" or "mercy" in this context. The "mercy" aspect is easy enough to understand: the deliverer of the final blow is ending suffering. The "grace" aspect is a bit more religious in nature: the deliverer of the blow is sending someone to his/her/its reward or Maker. This could be seen as a species of mercy.

The problem comes when Americans with a tiny understanding of French think the correct pronunciation of grâce is \ grɑ \ or "grah." Many Americans are vaguely aware that, in French, there are many instances in which the final consonant sound of a word isn't pronounced. These same people don't know the further rule that, if the final letter of a French word is an "e," then the consonant right before it is pronounced. So the proper pronunciation of grâce is \ grɑs \ or "grahss." Say the "s."

If you don't say the "s" sound at the end of grâce, you're saying coup de gras. A coup is a blow; gras means "fat." So a coup de gras is "a blow of fat." Think of a fat guy delivering a death blow by swinging his gut like a weapon—Santa gone mad.

Please, for the love of God (looking at you, Styx), stop mispronouncing coup de grâce. You succeed only in making yourself look stupid.

I hope you read IPA: \ kudə ˈgrɑs \


  1. Mowing the lawn is like a coup de grace. That's how I'll remember the pronunciation. By the way, I've heard people say coup de grACE. I'm not guilty of that faux pas, thankfully. Shit, is is faux PA or PAWS?

  2. Oh, and just remember, if you're going to use that mnemonic, that "grâce" is not pronounced like "grass." The "a" is an "ah" sound.

  3. About "koo duh GREYSS":

    That sounds a lot like "coup de graisse," which again is "blow of fat." (Graisse is a relative of the English word grease.)

    Graisse is often used to describe human body fat.



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