CŮPÈ / cupful, cuppa, cup (of)

photo source: wikimedia

cůpè“, s.f., pronounced [kʊpɛ:] 🔊, is the Sarkese word for “cupful”, “cuppa” or simply “cup of (something)”, used in Sarkese either when referring to the content of a cup in general, but also in situations when a cup is indeed full of something (be it tea, coffee, milk, flour, sugar etc.) – in such cases, unlike in English, we strictly refer to the content given by the cup, and not the actual cup, known as “cůpe” in Sarkese, from which the word “cůpè” is derived. It belongs to a group of nouns which stand for contents of things, such as “tůbè“, tubful, “câsè“, boxful, “tiné“, tinful, etc.

The Sarkese “cůpè” is not to be confused with the Anglo-French name for la Copè, the iconic isthmus connecting Sark and Little Sark, known in Anglo-French as “the Coupée”, which sounds misleadingly like “cůpè”, cupful, in Sarkese.

origin: Gallo-Romance / first recorded for Sarkese: 1966 (PA) / current status in the 21st century: fully preserved, in use

“cůpè” is a feminine invariable countable noun (a she-word that does not change in plural), meaning we say “une cůpè”, “a/one cup(ful)”, “deù cůpè”, “two cup(ful)s” etc. with no difference in how we write the word in singular and in plural. The pronunciation is regular and fixed, with one short vowel [ʊ]-ů and one long vowel [ɛ:]-è, as indicated by the diacritics.

On the origin – ‘cůpè’ vs ‘cůpe’

The Sarkese “cůpè” is derived from the Sarkese noun “cůpe“, meaning “cup”, originating in the Latin “cupa”, also meaning “cup”. It is directly related to the Guernsey Norman “coupaïe”, and based on the same idea as the Jersey Norman “tâssée”, as well as the English “cupful”. Since the word “cůpè” is one of the very first words a student of Sarkese learns, as every meeting in Sark usually starts with a “cupful” of tea or coffee, we have to look at the difference between “cůpe”, cup, and “cůpè”, cupful, more closely.

photo source: wikimedia

When there is a substance, mass or liquid within an object, in some languages, we may have two options how to refer to such a situation. Either, if the language permits it, we can refer simply to the object, on the basis that everybody understands we actually mean its content, adding “of something”, e.g. “a cup of tea”, “a spoon of sugar” etc., or – and there can be several reasons why – we refer to the actual content, though as a unit given by the physicality of the object it is contained by (cup – cupful, spoon – spoonful, pitchfork – pitchforkful etc.).

In modern English, when we say “a cup of tea”, we automatically understand that we mean that there is tea in a cup, not that the cup is made of tea, or that “a spoon of sugar” is not actually a spoon made of sugar, but that there is an amount of sugar that fits on a spoon. We therefore simply refer to the object which gives an idea of how much there may be tea or sugar and the system allows it.

photo source: wikimedia

If we wanted to specify that an object is indeed made of some unusual material, we would explicitly add “made of”, as in “a spoon made of sugar” or “a cup made of tea”. Nevertheless, in the past, in many languages, including English, people preferred the other way, as indicated above, saying “a spoonful of sugar”, “a cupful of tea”, rather than “spoon of sugar” or “a cup of tea”, making it clear they were referring to the content, given by the nature and size of the object.

This approach has mostly disappeared in modern languages and is usually conserved only in a few common phrases or specific contexts. In some languages, however, it is still functional, especially if inner systems do not allow simplification. For example, if we were to translate “box of chocolates” from English into Sarkese literally, so “câse d’čhócólȧ“, it would, with no other context, actually imply that the box is made of chocolate – unlike “câsè” d’čhócólȧ” which is the only way of saying correctly “box of chocolates” in Sarkese, in the meaning of “boxful of chocolate”.

For this reason, we can only say “cůpè d’tê”, meaning “cupful of tea”, and practically never “cůpe d’tê”, since that would mean “cup made of tea”. On the other hand, we cannot use the word “cůpè” for an actual cup, since it does not mean “cup”, but only “cupful”. Only “cůpe” can be used in the meaning of “cup”, as in “La cůpe ê dpichŷ.“, meaning “The cup is broken.”, and not “La *cůpè ê dpichŷ“, since that would mean “The *cupful is broken.“, or “J’avon un potátê é chîn cůpe.“, “We have one kettle and five cups.” (never “J’avon un potátê é chîn *cůpè“, meaning “We have one kettle and five *cupfuls.“).

‘cůpè’ vs ‘copè’

When we first learn the word “cůpè”, cupful, we may naturally immediately wonder, whether the name of the famous isthmus, connecting Sark and Little Sark, the Coupée, is somehow related, since the two words sound almost the same – well, they actually don’t sound the same at all – at least not if we pronounce the name of the Coupée, whose correct name actually is la Copè in Sarkese, properly.

photo source: wikimedia

Many Anglo-French names of places around the island are often a result of either unsuccessful transcription of a proper Sarkese name, or its total bastardization due to misinterpretation (take for example the famous ‘Moinerie’, which is, in proper Sarkese, called la Mónnî, meaning “the Mill Place”, or the ‘Pomme de Chien”, which is actually l’Půmẏ á Čhǎn, poss. “wild apple tree” in Old Norman, or the unintelligible “Balmée”, which is l’Balnẏ, meaning “the Whaler” in Sarkese).

In the case of the “Coupée”, a simple translation of the Norman la Copè, “the (Land)-Cut-(in-Half)“, into French was applied for written purposes, and quite early on, so the meaning is still correct. Nevertheless, since the French verb “to cut”, ‘couper’ with a [ʊ]-sound, differs from the Sarkese “á copě” with an ‘o’, pronounced [ɔʊ̯], which sounds almost like the English ‘o’, non-speakers naturally started to follow the French orthography and call la Copè “Coupée”, which however, confusingly sounds like “cůpè”, “cupful”, as if the name were *”la Cůpè”, which it isn’t.

To hear the difference between “cůpè” and “copè”, listen to their comparison here 🔊 – and remember, it’s “la Copè”, not “la Cůpè” or “Coupée” 😉


Citation: NEUDÖRFL, Martin. cůpè/cupful. In: Sark Norman Dictionary Online [on-line]. Published: 07. 02. 2024. https://www.bonjhur.net/sndo-vocab-cupe-02/

Relevant SNDO Entries: