You say Tomato..

The pronunciation of the word “braque” as in Braque Français, Braque du Bourbonnais and "bracco" as in Bracco Italiano etc, is fairly straightforward, or at least so I thought.

Lisa and I speak French at home, and the majority of our research into the various Braque breeds for Pointing Dogs Volume One was done in France, Québec and Italy, mainly in French, but also in Italian. So we had never heard anyone pronounce “braque” or "bracco" to rhyme with anything other than “rack” or "racko' Here is a native French speaker saying "braque" and here is a native Italian speaker saying "bracco".  So it came as a bit of a surprise when I began to interview breeders and owners of braques in the US and heard them call their dogs “brocks” and "brockos" (rhymes with “rock” or "rocko"). 

So in my book, when it came to describing the various braque breeds, I thought it would be easy to clarify. I would just write that “braque” rhymes with “rack” and bracco rhymes with “jacko” since, to my Canadian ear, the words “rack”, “jack” and “braque” all rhyme. However, when I asked an American friend about it, he told me that, to his ear, the correct pronunciation of “braque” does not quite rhyme with “rack”. To him, it has a slightly longer “a” sound, something like “brahk”. He speculated that the reason it rhymed with “rack” to me was because I speak English with a Canadian accent. 

In any case, we both agreed that “braque” should not really be pronounced “brock”. It rhymes, more or less, with “track” with maybe a slightly longer “a” sound for American ears. But then again, as the song goes:

You say eether and I say eyether,
You say neether and I say nyther;
Eether, eyether, neether, nyther,
Let's call the whole thing off!

You like potato and I like potahto,
You like tomato and I like tomahto;
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto!
Let's call the whole thing off!

When it comes to the origin and meaning of the word braque, as they say on Facebook: “It’s complicated.” The short version is that it means “pointing dog”. The long version can be found in Les Chiens d’Arrêt, where Jean Castaing devotes six entire pages to tracing the word back almost to the time of the pyramids. I’ll choose the middle ground and offer the following explanation: 

Braque is an old word whose origin cannot be determined beyond the shadow of a doubt. It may come from the Old High German word brakko meaning “dog”, or from the French verb braquer meaning “to bend” or “turn in the direction of”—suggesting aiming or pointing at something. Whatever its origin, the word has been associated with hunting dogs for centuries. The French use braque and the Italians bracco for any breed of short-haired pointing dog. When the Pointer was first brought from England to the continent, it was listed in show catalogues in France as the 'Braque Anglais'. 

In Spanish, the word is braco and is used for pointing dogs as well, but the terms perro de punta (pointing dog) and perro de muestra (literally “a dog that indicates or shows”) are more commonly used. In Germany the word is bracke, but it is not used for pointing dogs. Rather, it is used for scenthounds such as the Deutsche Bracke, Tiroler Bracke and Westfälische Dachsbracke. “Pointing dogs” in German is vorstehhunde.

In my next post I will try to tackle the word "épagneul". Wish me luck!!

Enjoy my blog posts? Check out my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals