Bona fide

If you read our post on ‘bona fides‘ you might think we were card-carrying members of the Latin Preservation Society. Well, bona fide will throw water on that hot theory.

The term bona fide has become thoroughly Americanized. It means ‘genuine’ or ‘authentic’ or ‘qualified’, and it is almost always pronounced this way:

bah-na f-eye-d

Sometimes the ‘o’ is long:

boh-na f-eye-d

Almost never is it pronounced as originally intended:

boh-na fee-day

Why not the latter? It has been trampled underfoot, a fate that might await many of the words in this blog.

These benefits result in worldwide tax savings for a U.S. citizen only if the individual is a bona fide permanent resident of the island under U.S. tax rules. An individual must satisfy stringent requirements, which require sustained physical presence on the island, to qualify as a bona fide resident of either the USVI or Puerto Rico. – JD Supra

What if you said “boh-na fee-day permanent resident”? It sounds like a legal reference, and perhaps it is intended as one. It no longer sounds natural; we have been worn down.

Try using the thoroughly Latin pronunciation here:

The band’s first album, 1985’s We Care a Lot, was issued on the indie label Mordam and generated a bona fide hit with the anti-anthem title track. – Cleveland Scene

It just doesn’t work. You would sound like an Italian journalist new to the staff (nothing wrong with that), even though you had lived in Cleveland all your life. No, it simply has to be bah-na f-eye-d. Otherwise the Charlatans would stumble over the phrase below:

Oh, the old man gathers up his suitcase,
And heads for the sun,
Me, I’m looking for some bona fide treasure
And its dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb – The Charlatans

And that would be dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb.