If you've seen or heard the flute being played, you've come across both terms to describe a flute player.
I, for one, spent a lot of time asking my music teachers which one I should use when referring to the beloved instrument I was excitedly learning in elementary school. My teachers also seemed to be lost when trying to give me a satisfying answer.
Which term is correct and which is incorrect? Do they both have slightly different meanings? Why does one term sound so stuffy?
The truth is, both terms are technically correct and can be used no matter your location. Some think that the word flutist is correct and flutist is the wrong way to say it, but both are equally correct.
Suprisingingly, even though the term "flautist" sounds more traditional, the term "flutist" actually came first. Flutist was seen in the Oxford English Dictionary as early as 1603.
This term was likely influenced by the French term "flûtiste" which was also floating around in that day and age.
The term "flautist" wasn't seen used until the 19th century by Nathanial Hawthorne, an American novelist. This term was likely influenced by the Italian term "flauto" or the flute as they say it.
Nathan Hawthorne was said to enjoy using European influences in his writing, which could explain why he chose this term to describe a flute player.
It is said that mainly North Americans use this term way more often than the term flautist. This is not necessarily true in my case as an American!
My friends and I were extra happy to use the term flautist since it seemed more professional, like we were working our way up to getting paid to perform somewhere.
As I got older, I started to feel like the term seemed to feel a little cocky, so I preferred to use flutist instead. Both terms will work and be familiar to those around you, so I wouldn't worry too much about it.
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The British are said to use the term flautist way more often than the term flutist. Some students in the UK have been said to be scolded for using the term flutist since they were taught that it's flat-out wrong.
This really comes down to the preferences of flute players and flute teachers. Again, you can use either term, and they will know what you mean, but you may get more looks for using the term flutist in the UK area.
Either way, they will probably know what you're talking about from context clues, so don't stress to much about it if you're worried.
Flutist is rather easy to pronounce since it's very close to the way you would pronounce the word flute. Just remember to use an "ooo" vowel, and you're good to go. Flautist, on the other hand, can be a bit more tricky.
Think of it as similar to the way you would pronounce the word loudest. You don't want it to sound similar to awe or wrought like I mistakenly thought when I first started playing the flute.
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Don't want to add to the confusion? You could always just refer to yourself or someone else as a flute player or someone who plays the flute.
Some people like to get cheeky and call themselves a fluter, but that term actually describes someone who makes flutes.
If it's a written introduction, you could always push the boundaries and go with an unofficial but straight-to-the-point term "fluteist".
Don't like those names? Why not get creative and come up with terms that aren't really but are still fun, like flutomater? Why not go full rule-breaker and call yourself a flutromatist?
At the end of the day, the term you use or don't like to use doesn't matter that much. What matters is the music that is being made and enjoyed!
Many flute players develop their own preferences based on their individual experiences, musical background, and artistic identity.
Some musicians may feel a stronger connection to the term "flutist" as it aligns more closely with the English language and is widely used in North America.
They may appreciate its simplicity and directness. Choosing "flutist" may also reflect a desire to embrace a contemporary and inclusive approach to language.
On the other hand, some flute players may lean towards "flautist" because it sounds more classical or traditional.
They may feel that the term carries a certain elegance or sophistication that resonates with their musical style or aspirations. Adopting "flautist" may also reflect a desire to honor the historical roots of the instrument and its terminology.
It's worth noting that while personal preference is important, musicians should also consider the context and preferences of their audience and colleagues.
Adapting to the terminology commonly used within specific musical communities or geographical regions can contribute to effective communication and mutual understanding.
Remember, in the end, it is the love for the flute and the joy of playing that unites musicians, regardless of the specific term they choose to describe.
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