PTIT MÊTRE* / feverfew

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ptit mêtre“, s.m., pronounced [ptɪ(t) mwɛ:tr̥] 🔊, or simply “mêtre“, is the Old Sarkese name for “feverfew” (Tanacetum parthenium), a wild flower of Sark, belonging to daisies, “ménleu“, which used to be a very popular herb in folk medicine. Its name was recorded and confirmed in the 20th century in Sark by J. P. Collas and P. Brasseur, however, it is one of the names of flowers that have not been recalled at all in the 21st century by our last native speakers, and as such is treated as reintroduced. It is a homonym to the word “mêtre“, teacher, master.

origin: Gallo-Romance (obscure) / first recorded for Sarkese: 1930s (JPC) / current status in the 21st century: not recalled, reintroduced

“ptit mêtre” is a compound name, with the noun “mêtre”, in the meaning of “feverfew”, being a masculine uncountable invariable noun (a he-word that does not change) and the adjective “ptit“, meaning small. When speaking of “feverfew”, we are therefore obliged to use the so-called partitive, so “du ptit mêtre”, lit. some feverfew, never “dê mêtre”, feverfews. The pronunciation is regular.

On the origin

Although the name “ptit mêtre”, was first recorded in Sark for Sarkese already by J. P. Collas, and then again confirmed and recorded in the 70s by P. Brasseur (ALEN), though only as “mêtre”, it hasn’t been surprisingly recalled by any of our last native speakers. Since vowel length is not usually indicated in any transcriptions from the 20th century, it is unclear whether the word, in Sarkese, originally contained a short vowel, “mětre”, or a long one, “mêtre”. Moreover, since the ethymology of the name is rather unclear, the determination wouldn’t be possible.

Fortunatelly, a similar form “maître”, which is clearly related to the documented Sarkese name, is still known and used for feverfew in Jersey. Since a long vowel is indicated in the given case in Jersey Norman, it was decided we would trust our dear “Toads” on this and the main noun of the name is written and pronounced “mêtre”-[mwɛ:tr̥] with a long vowel 😉 Nevertheless, the name “ptit mêtre” should still be treated as forgotten and reintroduced.

As for the precursor word, it may be simply a) the word “mêtre”, teacher, mister, master, which was used for educated physitians in the olden days and thus may have been adopted as the name for feverfew in relation to its many health benefits, or simply b) the Romance word “matrice”, which due to some unsual process saw its core vowel lengthen (either because of the ‘tr’ cluster or a simple analogy to “mêtre”-mastre, or both).

Folk medicine

For centuries, “fevefew” has been a popular herb used in folk medicine all over Europe and beyond. It has antipyretic and anti-rheumatic effects, reduces pain, dilates blood vessels, promotes digestion and is also used for menstrual pains. It is also said to be a remedy for migraine. /p>


Citation: NEUDÖRFL, Martin. ptit mêtre/feverfew. In: Sark Norman Dictionary Online [on-line].

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