• barrage •
bahr-ij, bê-rahzh • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. (Engineering) A dam, barrier, or other obstruction built in a stream to create an area of deeper water or to divert the stream's flow. 2. A heavy, overwhelming outpouring that prevents response, such as a barrage of artillery fire or barrage of words.
Notes: Today we have two words for the price of one (and a reasonable price that is). The first is barrage in the sense of "a dam" is pronounced [bahr-ij] in the US. The second one, in the sense of "an overwhelming outpouring", is pronounced [bê-rahzh]. This second word is in the process of being Anglicized, so don't be surprised to hear it pronounced [bê-rahj].
In Play: The first of today's words is closer to the sense of the verb "to bar" and for that reason is pronounced as though it was based on bar: "The kids loved to build barrages in the stream behind the house and catch the minnows that collected behind it." The other word is by far the more common: "Congressman Mander received a barrage of questions from reporters about the fur coat he had recently given to his secretary."
Word History: Both of today's English words come from the same French word. Both come from noun barrage derived from the verb barrer "to bar, to stop", from the noun barre "a bar, barrier". This is the same word that became bar when borrowed by English, a word which ultimately influenced its pronunciation. French is Latin as it is spoken today in France. (Spanish is Latin as spoken today in Spain and Italian is Latin as it is spoken today in Italy.) The language spoken in France before the arrival of the Romans was a Celtic language called "Gaulish". Barre came from that language. The sense of a barrage of artillery fire came from the French phrase tir de barrage "curtain of fire", first used in World War I, a method of firing intended to bar all incoming fire. (OK, time for a barrage of thanks to Thel Casper for suggesting today's very interesting Good Word.)
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