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Prickly pronunciation

Interesting questions of pronunciation arise at times, not least when foreign words become part of the English lexicon, like valet. David Mitchell has waxed lyrical about this here, and it’s a good point. Since the French pronunciation /ˈvæleɪ/ (‘valay’) is generally considered correct for the person, the learner needs to be specifically told that, in English, when the word becomes a verb, it’s more usually (though not exclusively) /ˈvælɪt/ (‘vallett’). The Macmillan Dictionary, of course, lists both as correct – which they are – but it’s fair to say that the French pronunciation is much less common for the act of valeting than for the butler-type person. Getting them the wrong way round can make the learner sound rather un-fluent.

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Sharon Creese

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