Daily Archives: June 11, 2012

marquetry, parquetry

These words put me in mind of a ma-and-pa store, let’s say Ma and Pa Arquette. Both of them work with pieces of wood to make flat designs, but whereas Pa makes geometric designs, usually repeating, and typically (but not exclusively) for flooring, Ma makes intricate pictures with pieces of all shapes and a few other materials too, for box lids, table tops, and many other purposes.

The interesting thing is that although the techniques are very similar, to an extent variations on the same theme, the words for them – parquetry and marquetry – although varying only in one letter (and, phonologically, only in voice and quality of one phoneme, not even in place), are not variations on the same origin.

They do both come from French. Marquetry comes from marqueter “variegate”, from marque “mark”. Parquetry comes from parquet, which in this case meant “collection of blocks forming a floor” but which has had a variety of different senses relating to floors and enclosures, especially in courts and theatres, and which ultimately comes from parc “park”.

So… if you park a tree, do you need a lot? If you mark a tree, is it because you have designs on it? How about your marketing? I imagine most of us are most familiar with parquet, as in parquet flooring, which I have long thought of as Parkay flooring – a sort of oleo, I mean olio, of wood. (If that’s opaque, I’ll explain: Parkay is a brand of margarine; oleo is another word for margarine; olio is a crossword-puzzle-favourite word for a mixture of heterogeneous elements.) Actually, that’s not quite fair; marquetry uses more heterogeneous elements. The parquet floors one sees in apartments of a certain age (especially in Toronto, where there are squillions of them) are made of identical short pieces of identical wood, set down in squares (three, four, or five to a square) of alternating orientation.

The two words trace, as I have already mentioned, the same pattern in the mouth: from the lips, they bounce back (with a retroflex liquid on the way) to the velum, which cracks forward to the tongue tip, which breaks off with another liquid and then it all fades with a high front vowel. This could be seen as a design from one or the other, though not quite par for the course; it could be seen as like one of the little grooves one of my chairs has made in my “hardwood” veneer floor, marring it without easy replacement (as parquet flooring might allow); or it could be seen as a bit of lingual coquetry.

Oh, yes, coquetry. Another quetry word: par, mar, co. Of course it has a different origin again, though again French. That makes a neat trio! Any others? Oh, blast, yes – musquetry. Which is rather antithetic to coquetry. And then there’s raquetry.

But, though there is raquetry, there are only two words that share arquetry (which is an anagram of quartery, which, however, is just quarter with a y or quarterly misspelled), or, for that matter, rquetry. Wooden you know it.