RARA-AVIS: Re:The word "noir"

From: ejmd (ejmd__@ntlworld.com)
Date: 29 Aug 2009

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    I'm not a great one for dictionary definitions; more specialist texts are better sources of information than the postage-stamp sized spaces typically available in a general compendium. That said, the closest dictionary to hand (Collins English Dictionary, updated third edition
    (1994)) offers "_adj_ (of a film) showing characteristics of film noir, in plot or style". The cross reference gives "_n_ a gangster thriller, made esp. in the 1940s in Hollywood characterised by contrasty lighting and often somewhat impenetrable plots [C20: French, literally: black film]". Meanwhile, Frank Krutnik's _In A Lonely Street: _Film Noir_, Genre, Maculinity_ (London: 1991) devotes chapter three to "hard boiled" crime fiction and _film noir_.

    While Krutnik italicises both "noir" and "film noir", I would suggest that they are in common usage and do not need italicisation; house style may of course prevail. I'm not so sure about the plural though, as
    _films noirs_ does not appear to be so common (the incorrect "film noirs" is, however, another matter). Interestingly, Krutnik seems to avoid the plural, although the term _femmes fatales_ does make an appearance in his text

    As far as hypens go, I'm with the clarifiers: punctuation functions as a way of helping the reader; if it's faulty, the reader's experience is disrupted. Omitting hyphens for the sake of "cleanliness" is simply misguided: if in doubt, consider the three year old dogs.


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