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Pie as a verb? English fails us again.

Today in London, a protestor threw a pie at Rupert Murdoch. Language fans can delight in knowing there’s actually a word for this: Entarteur or entarter, one who throws pies.

It’s an odd word, neglected and seldom used. The word, as far as I can tell, comes from French. Google Translate helpfully tells us that entarte in French means pied in English. Entarter is in Wiktionary as well. (Can any French speakers shed some light on how frequently this word is really used?)

The last time the word was in the news, as far as I can tell, was after the pie attack Bill Gates in 1998.

Belgian writer Noël Godin, the man who attacked Gates, is an advocate for the word; he has the nickame L’entarteur, according to a few websites about him. Elswhere, a group of pie-throwing Canadian comedian activists call themselves Les Entartistes.

Pie throwing is generally associated with humor and far-left political theater. It seems like a silly way to promote social change, though in Murdoch’s case, it succeeded in embarrassing a powerful businessman at a vulnerable moment.

In English, we lack a common verb that means “to throw a pie.” Nobody really says, “He pied that guy.” Entarte and its variations are to obscure to get a citation in the Merriam-Webster, Dictionary.com or even Urban Dictionary. Pie-throwing seems like something we ought to have a word for. If defenestrate gets to be a word, why not entart?

Video grab via Sky News.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Language, News & Journalism

2 comments

  1. Brian C. says:

    Neither is it in the OED. The word doesn’t “come” from French, it IS French. It’s simply not an English word (but we should of course appropriate it)

  2. John Hames says:

    I’ve usually seen it translated as “flanning” someone! (Usually the ultra-pompous and humourless philosopher soi-disant Bernard-Henri Levy, the kind of guy who gets intellectuals a bad name. BHL has been flanned a number of times by Noel Godin, otherwise known as Georges Le Gloupier, which I don’t think requires translation!) You can see some of the attacks on BHL on Youtube. He is not amused :-)

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