La Menudiére (menudière)


Senior Member
American English
Reading 17th century trial transcripts (for my sins) I encounter this question:

N'avez-vous pas connu la nomée Bouchette, «autrement ditte la Menudiére de la ville de Marseille?»

The trial took place in Aix-en-Provence in 1611, and some parts are in the regional dialect. This word is defined (in ATILF) as «Petit, de peu d'importance, insignifiant» in Provençal usage, but to call a person the "insignificant lady of Marseilles" seems paradoxical. It seems to demonstrate the opposite of what it says; she's famous for being unknown? Any other suggestions, SVP?
  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Is it perhaps to be read: "Bouchette (autrement ditte 'la Menudiére') de la ville de Marseille"?

    So her name is Bouchette, her nickname is "Titch" or "The Kid" and she comes from Marseille. The presence or absence of commas is notorious in documents of that time.


    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Graycard, as she and the word are feminine, with the additional -e ending, the accent should be grave -ière, rather than acute -iére, which is just about pronounceable, but doesn't exist in French. It was common for people to be known by such a soubriquet, always prefaced by the definite article. I know a great many travellers and some country people who still use such terms rather than a given or shortened first name. Some cases they're called after their trade, some after the place they live or their place of origin, in others after their character or appearance or a particular amusing incident.
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    Senior Member
    Hello everyone,
    I'm grateful for your help, and apologize for my sloppy accenture. (Accenture débraillé, hein?)

    I've been wondering whether there was a written accent above the letter in the original text. And, if there was, if it really was a grave accent ‹è› (as expected in standard French) or, indeed, an accute accent ‹é›. It would be great if you could check it. If not, then, anyway, I'll elaborate a bit on why I'm asking.

    Given that that "[t]he trial took place in Aix-en-Provence in 1611, and some parts are in the regional dialect," using no written accent whatsoever would be faithful to the Eastern Occitan pronunciation and spelling of the suffix «–ier», [je] (CLO (2007: 139, 140). So would using ‹é›, especially in a text written in French, in order to "double mark" the intended [e] of the cited non-French word. The final ‹e› (of the feminine form ‹-iere›), in turn, can be seen as a faithful transcription of the regular Marseillaise Provençal realization of final -a as a schwa [ə] (CLO 2007: 8).

    The trial took place in Aix-en-Provence in 1611 and was held in French, as had been decreed 72 years earlier in the Ordonnance de Villers-Cotterêts (August 10, 1539). At that point, Occitan/Provençal was the only language used spontaneously by average people.

    I consulted a couple of modern French dictionaries, as well as those featured by this site (French dictionaries from the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries), and neither ménudier nor its spelling variants were anywhere to be found. On the other hand, it could be found in Occitan and Occitan-French dictionaries, to wit:

    menudièr, -ièira : mercant, -anda que vend al detalh (Combas 2006: 640).

    Combas, Loís (Joan de Cantalausa). [2002] 2006. Diccionari general occitan a partir dels parlars lengadocians. Cunac (Tarn): Cultura d'òc. ISBN : 2-912293-04-9.

    menudar, v. tr. Couper menu; diviser en morceaux. Dér. menudalhas, menudilhas, Cév., menuailles; fretin; béatilles; fressure de jeunes animaux. menudet, adj., très menu; s., serpolet; enfant. menudièr, marchand détaillant. menuda, fourniture de salade, de fines herbes; petite fille. menut, menu, jeune garçon (Alibèrt 1976: 446).

    Alibèrt, Loís. [1966] 1976. Dictionnaire occitan-français d'après les parlers languedociens. Tolosa: Institut d'Estudis Occitans.

    While Alibèrt writes menudièr with an ‹è› because that is the Languedocien norm (the Languedocien pronunciation of the suffix being [jɛ], whence the spellings ‹menudièr› and ‹menudièra›) (CLO 2007: 138-140), ‹-ièira› is the feminine variant of the suffix regularly used by Cantalausa, probably seen by him as suitable to act as an umbrella graph for all the dialectal variants, cf. CLO (2007: 120):

    -ièr -ièra (sufixe) = -ier -iera (lem. pro. nic. va.) = -èir -èira (auv.) = -èr -èra (gas.)

    Conselh de la Lenga Occitana. 2007. «Preconizacions del Conselh de la Lenga Occitana», Lingüistica occitana (Montpelhièr) 6.
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