Monday, 30 May 2011

varlets and valets

Last night I watched the first episode of the period drama 'Downton Abbey'. Well, actually I watched until the first advertisement irritated me into leaving the room, but I've recorded it and I'll watch the rest tomorrow.

I was surprised to find that the pronunciation of the word valet includes the final T. In the modern usage of the word, valet parking, we say the word as if it were a French ending.

Hearing the way they said it in the show, I wondered if the original word might be related to the word varlet, so I looked it up. And found the Online Etymology Dictionary does say the words are related.
"personal man-servant," 1560s, from Fr. valet, from O.Fr. valet, variant of vaslet "man's servant," originally "squire, young man," from Gallo-Romance *vassellittus "young nobleman, squire, page," dim. of M.L. vassallus, from vassus "servant" (see vassal). Modern sense is usually short for valet de chambre; the general sense of "male household servant of the meaner sort" going with the variant form varlet. First recorded use of valet parking is from 1960.
Podictionary has an interesting post about the word, also.

The Macquarie Dictionary gives both pronunciations, and defines the word as:
noun 1. a male servant who is his employer's personal attendant, caring for the employer's clothing, etc.; manservant.
2. someone who performs similar services for patrons of a hotel, etc.
3. any of various contrivances, as a rack or stand, for holding coats, hats, etc.
–verb (valeted, valeting)
–verb (t) 4. to work as a valet for (someone).
–verb (i) 5. to work as a valet. [French, variant of Middle French vaslet. See VARLET, VASSAL]
–valetless, adjective
It refers to the related word, varlet:
noun Archaic 1. an attendant.
2. a page attached to a knight.
3. a rascal. [Middle English, from Old French, variant of va(s)let VALET. See VASSAL]


Papillon Bleu said...

I have found several phonetical transcriptions in my Cambridge pronoucing dictionary .
(I don't have phonetical symbols here so pardon what I am transcibing)
['valit] , [va'ley],[ve'ley] and ['valey]

But you are right, in French we don't pronounce the final T (apart from some regions where people tend to pronounce all the final Ts but this is an exception).

And, I love Downton Abbey! It is brilliant!

parlance said...

Papillon Bleu, I'm looking forward to the second episode!

Papillon Bleu said...

My dear Catherine,
I am pleased that your book has arrived. I hope the French part will help you. As you can see, I have really tried to do my best for both texts to be edited in the same way so it can make sense if the reader want to compare. It wasn't an easy task. The recording was very long too. I hope you like the audio version too.

parlance said...

Papillon Bleu, I haven't listened to the audio yet. I'm looking forward to doing so.

Papillon Bleu said...

Dear Catherine,
I have now sent you 2 e-mails and only just realised that I didn' "manoeuvre" properly. Sorry about this.

This is the last message I sent regarding your question about the doll's house:


This is such a funny comment Catherine!
The dolls' houses I build are actually 1/6th scale. My dolls being taller that 1/12th, I design everything in a bigger scale. I have seen some very old dolls' houses at the same scale and fell utterly in love with them. Since then, it has been an obsession. Probably because of the challenge it represents. Hence the constant mix and match with 1/12scale and other objects.
Do you feel reassured now? It was such fun to put Lotte in the house and she didn't want to get out of it. She even asked me to put water in the little cup so she could really drink.

Kindest regards,

I hope I haven't spoilt the magic.

parlance said...

Papillon Bleu. One-sixth scale! They must be so beautiful!!