1. barrylium New Member

    I could not find an English translation of this word using a WordReference.com search. It appears in the title of a harpsichord work by François Couperin: "Le Tic-Toc-Choc ou Les Maillotins". The word maille in modern French has "stitch" as one of its possible meanings. It is my supposition that maillotins was in Couperin's time a diminutive form of maille meaning "little stitches" because the untranslatable (by me, at least) Tic-Tic-Choc might be an onomatopoeic reference to the sound of knitting needles. I have seen the word interpreted as "little hammers", but that makes no sense to me when compared to any modern French word for hammer of which I am aware.

    Can anyone with some philological background corroborate my supposition or offer an alternative interpretation?
  2. Jano94 Senior Member

    France (Paris area)
    French - France
  3. Petite-Belette

    Petite-Belette Senior Member

    Den Haag (The Netherlands)
    French - France
    I found this english definition:

    "The Maillotins was a name given to certain citizens of Paris who, in March 1382, violently opposed the collection of new taxes imposed by the Duke of Anjou, the regent. They armed themselves with small iron mallets - taken from the arsenal - and killed the collectors; for which they were severely punished."

    Hope it can help you...
  4. JiPiJou Senior Member

    The reference to the Révolte des Maillotins is rather appealing, were it only because it is the only known use of that word in the French language !

    However I doubt that is correct.

    1) When listening to that short piece by Couperin, one has to stretch one's imagination to believe it has anything to do with a popular revolt or with the blood-bath which ensued.

    2) Couperin mentioned the way in which the piece was to be played : "légèrement". Hardly fitting for a revolt in which tax-collectors were beaten to death with mallets.

    3) Alexandre Tharaud, who recorded that piece recently, said it was "une pièce joyeuse d'une virtuosité ludique et primesautière"...

    4) The pieces of the "18th order" (the 18th book) are called : "La Verneuil", "La Verneuillette", "Soeur Monique", "Le Turbulant", "L'Attendrissante", "Le Tic-toc-choc ou Les Maillotins", "Le Gaillard Boîteux". All these titles refer much more to a variety of rhythms which Couperin wanted to experiment than to historical events.

    5) Why refer to a 14th century revolt when there were so many recent battles of Louis XIV's reign which could be used (which were used) as a basis for war-like atmospheres ?

    If the reference is not to the 14th century revolt, then what ? Several suggestions have been made, but two seem fairly plausible :

    a) "Maillotins" was the name of a children's toy composed of two parallel sticks on which two wooden puppets were attached. When the sticks were moved back and forth, the two puppets' loose arms bumped against each other and made a rattling noise.

    b) "Maillotins" was the name given in certain regions to those figures seen at the top of belfries, carrying mallets which automatically strike a bell every hour, often accompanied by a volley of smaller bells for those belfries which had them.

    This second suggestion is particularly convincing when listening to Couperin's piece.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2009
  5. barrylium New Member

    Thank you all very much. Your elucidations are most useful. In The mirror of human life: Reflections on François Couperin’s Pièces de Clavecin, the authors reveal that the Maillot were a famous family of rope-dancers. Furthermore, Furetière’s Dictionaire universel defines tic toc as an indeclinable and artificial term, which expresses a beating, a reiterated movement, a pulse that beats, a horse that walks, the pendulum of a clock, a hammer that knocks.

    I suppose the little hammers interpretation has more merit than I thought. I've always imagined that Couperin’s piece sounded like the whirring pulsation of a clock-work mechanism, which gives credence to JiPiPou's explanation b). Perhaps it portrays a clock-work toy.
  6. JiPiJou Senior Member

    I have not read Jane Clark & Derek Connon's book. The reference to the Maillots is intriguing, but the rhythm of the Tic-Toc-Choc does not seem to fit rope-dancing.

    Still rather mysterious...

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