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I know this is not strictly a mathematical question, and I considered putting it on Linguistics SE, but I decided that seeing as this is most probably a mathematical history question, it would be better placed here on math SE.

My question is:

Why is "L'Hôpital's rule" often referred to as "L'Hospital's Rule" in english mathematical literature?

I am aware that the translation from French to English of "L'Hôpital" is "The Hospital", but I haven't seen any cases of other french names which correspond to proper nouns being translated into english, so why the special case here?

Again, sorry if this is completely the wrong place to put this question, and moderators feel free to migrate this question to a more appropriate SE board if one exists, but as I said, I believe this to be the most appropriate board.

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In French, the circumflex accent usually denotes a vestigial s which is no longer written. This is explained, among other places, in the Wikipedia page for the circumflex accent. –  Mariano Suárez-Alvarez Aug 6 '12 at 22:15
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@MarianoSuárez-Alvarez Would you like to add that as an answer so I can accept it then? Thanks! –  Shaktal Aug 6 '12 at 22:19
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British English, perhaps? Here in the US, I've never heard "L'Hospital" before - all the books I've seen here, at the very least, write "L'Hopital" without the accent (usually with), and all my teachers corrected us to not say an 's' if someone slipped up... –  Izkata Aug 7 '12 at 2:15
    
The the name of the marquis changed after he was dead. Unlike Lagrancia, who did it while he was alive. –  André Nicolas Aug 7 '12 at 2:29
    
@Izkata: Note that that s would have been silent in 17th-18th century French, though I suppose at some point farther back in history it must have been sounded. So even if you read "l'Hospital" you should probably say "l'Hôpital". –  Robert Israel Aug 7 '12 at 5:49

2 Answers 2

up vote 27 down vote accepted

There was a change in French orthography in the mid 18th century, where some mute s's were dropped and replaced by the circumflex accent. In the Marquis's own time (1661-1704), his name was spelled "l'Hospital".

EDIT: Apparently in at least one letter the Marquis spelled his name "Lhospital". The 1716 edition of "Analyse des infiniment petits" at http://archive.org/texts/flipbook/flippy.php?id=infinimentpetits1716lhos00uoft has "l'Hospital". The 1768 edition of the book at http://archive.org/stream/analysedesinfini00lhos#page/n13/mode/2up has "l'Hôpital".

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9  
Other examples: forêt/forest, hôtel/hostel, rôtir/rostir (roast), côte/coste (coast), etc... –  Clive Newstead Aug 6 '12 at 22:29
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It is an excellent day when one learns such a simple, yet explanatory thing. I'd speculated this about L'H's rule, but had never remembered to investigate. Excellent info, with specifics, with links! :) –  paul garrett Aug 6 '12 at 23:17
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I think it quite improper to change the spelling of poor Mr. l’Hospital’s name after his death. After all, if your name is Taylor, we don’t change it to Tailor just because the ordinary word is thus spelled. –  Lubin Nov 25 '12 at 20:22
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Any reason the 1716 book spells "Leibniz" as "Leibnis"? And the 1768 one spells it "Leibnitz"! –  Mechanical snail Nov 27 '12 at 4:59
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Not to mention "Hugens" on p. x, or "Neuwton" on p. xiv, of the 1716 book while p. ii of the 1768 book has "Huyghens", "Nevvton" and "Bernoully". –  Robert Israel Nov 27 '12 at 19:06

The thermometer scale, which is called now the Delisle scale, is from a french name "de l'Isle" (von Isulen). It's just that english mangles the assorted addons.

Even in street names, the road in brisbane, called Swann road, was formerly swann's road.

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The question was about mangling words absorbed into english, especially when not used for names. The examples are perfectly correct examples of it. –  wendy.krieger May 16 '13 at 9:20

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