de Medici or de' Medici? Apostrophe or no?
October 5, 2007 8:43 AM   Subscribe

Anyone know the reason why in some sources de Medici (as in Catherine, Marie, Lorenzo) takes an apostrophe like so: de' Medici. Wikipedia uses this form, for example. Newspapers don't seem to bother with the apostrophe.
posted by otio to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's the Italian spelling. Newspapers typically use English spellings of names or places. If you are taking a direct quote from a source you should use that spelling.
posted by JJ86 at 8:54 AM on October 5, 2007

"dei" means "of the", in this case, say, Lorenzo of the Medici.
"dei" loses its "i" and it is replaced by the apostrophe, the same way "lo italiano" becomes "l'italiano", the apostrophe means the final vowel has been elided
posted by matteo at 8:56 AM on October 5, 2007

So is "de'" pronounced identically with "de," which I assume sounds like English "day?"
posted by grouse at 9:01 AM on October 5, 2007

It's an abbreviation of dei Medici, which means "of the Medici". De = of, i Medici = the Medicis. In Italian, you normally combine the partitive (de) and the definite article (i) to come up with Dei. Similarly, Della Femmina = De (of) La Femmina (the woman). However, for convenience of speech -- and possibly dialectical reasons, though I don't know for sure -- the "i" is elided out, leaving just "De Medici". It reduces things by a syllable, and it just easier to get your mouth around. In Italian, they frequently leave the apostrophe as a nod to the fact that the "i" used to be there. In English, it's just confusing unless you know this whole background. As JJ86 says, "de Medici" can be considered the English (at least the American English) spelling of the name.

On preview, matteo said it more succinctly, but I'm posting anyway for the sake of completeness.
posted by katemonster at 9:02 AM on October 5, 2007

Honestly, when I'm speaking English I usually say "duh Medici". If I'm speaking Italian I'll say it more like "day" but a bot shorter, but if I'm thinking about it being " de' " I may hang on the y a little longer. That is, I would say "dei" as "day-ee"; "de' " is a little shorter, but kind of in between that and just plain "day".
posted by katemonster at 9:04 AM on October 5, 2007

a) a bit shorter, not a bot shorter.
and b) sorry about the weird line break on " de' "
posted by katemonster at 9:05 AM on October 5, 2007

Never rely on newspapers as an example of proper English usage. They'll drop a lot of things in the tradition of saving space. For example, the serial comma (yes, I know, hot button topic) is usually eschewed by newspapers.
posted by marionnette en chaussette at 9:14 AM on October 5, 2007

Many thanks to all.
posted by otio at 9:19 AM on October 5, 2007

De = of, i Medici = the Medicis

A for an extra blast of pedantry, the actual equation is dei = di + i. Where those Italians get their nutty e's, I'll never know.
posted by kittyprecious at 9:23 AM on October 5, 2007

No, Italian di is from Latin de, and forms like dello, degli, and so on are from Latin de illo, de illis, etc. They get their nutty e's from Latin.
posted by languagehat at 11:40 AM on October 5, 2007

Then I'll claim that my sense of "actual" is from the Spanish cognate (meaning "right now"), and everybody wins.
posted by kittyprecious at 1:58 PM on October 5, 2007

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