Silent 't'

Silent 't'

Is the ’t’ silent in Valet magazine? 

@chrismodoo furnished us with this question recently, while waiting for his copy of issue 1 to arrive. Being a true gentleman, in his preparation for greeting his postman with the exclamation, ‘Ah! This must be my copy of Valet!’, he very kindly asked us how we ourselves pronounce our title’s—well, title.

‘Valet’ has been in English usage since the Norman conquest, hence the ’t’ is pronounced: VAL-it. In the 16th century, the noun was even sometimes spelt ‘vallett’ or ‘valett’, indicating that the the French pronunciation had been anglicised.

While there are examples from the 18th and 19th centuries of multiple British pronunciations, the sounded ’t’ continued to dominate well into the 20th century until, as best we know, American usage of the word, usually in adjectival form, to denote ‘valet service’ or ‘valet parking’ preferred the gallicised VAL-ay, probably in order to imbue the word, and the service, with a certain je ne sais quoi, if you’ll pardon the expression.

This Americanised pronunciation seems to have crept back into British English probably by way of Hollywood, like so much else besides—no doubt precipitated by the relative dearth of gentlemen’s personal gentlemen.

We prefer to pronounce it with the ’t’ sounded, as did that most exemplary of valets, Jeeves. I like to think that a stout fellow of his quiet, gentlemanly manner would prefer the decisiveness of the British pronunciation—’t’ sounded—and would as a matter of course resist any unnecessary frenchfication.



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