Flutist or Flautist?

Flutist or Flautist? This has to be the question I am asked most when I meet someone and they find out I play flute. It’s funny how much of a controversy this simple issue of what someone who plays flute should be called.

One of my teachers insisted on flutist. She reasoning was, “I speak English and I live in the 20th century.” (Guess I’m dating myself here!) But she made perfect sense. I like Nancy Toff’s discussion in her book, “The Flute,” of this all-important issue. It turns out that the term “flutist” predates “flautist” in the English language by over 200 years! Flautist is the word for flute player in Italian and Spanish.

Granted, flautist sounds more sophisticated, and maybe that’s what people are going for when they say it. I’ve noticed that the people who say “flautist” are usually non-musicians, have some knowledge and enjoyment of classical music, and maybe even go to a concert once in awhile.

When I was in high school, I thought being called a flautist was cool. At a summer camp I went to, the flute section had Tshirts made up that said “If you’ve got it, flaut it.” We were also trying to be cool. Now, I prefer “flutist”. It just seems logical to me. How about you?