VIÓLÉTE D’VYÒ / red campion

photo source: wikimedia

vióléte d’vyò“, s.f., pronounced [vɪjɔlɛt də vjɔ:] 🔊, lit. “calf violet”, is the Sarkese name for “red campion” (Silene dioica), a common and popular wild flower of Sark, which, unlike in English, falls under the term “vióléte“, meaning “wallflower” and “violet”, in Sarkese, as in some other Norman languages.

origin: Gallo-Romance / first recorded for Sarkese: 1930s (JPC) / current status in the 21st century: preserved, in use

“vióléte d’vyò” is a compound name. “vióléte” is a feminine invariable noun (a she-word that does not change in plural), which may be counted. The attribute “d’vyò, which lit. means “of calf”, made of the preposition “d'” and the noun vyò, calf, is also invariable. We therefore say “une vióléte d’vyò”, one red campion, “dê vióléte d’vyò”, (some) red campions etc. with no change in writting.

The pronunciation is regular, although it should be remembered that the “ió” in “vióléte” is pronounced as three sounds [ɪjɔ], as if written “-iyó-“, with a simple short “ó”, as indicated by the diacritic. In “vyò” on the other hand, we strictly pronounce only three sounds [vjɔ:], not “viyò”, and with a simple long “ò”. Moreover, since the word “violéte” ends in a silent ‘e’, it has to manifest through the regular “jump” after the ‘d’, so [vɪjɔlɛt də vjɔ:].

The Sarkese “violéte d’vyò” is related to the Old Guernsey Norman name for the same plant “violette de vée” (not to be confused with “violette au vear”, a Guernsey name for ragged-robin), which seems to have been replaced with different names, such as “violette d’châté” etc.

On the origin

photo source: Sark Dairy Trust

Interestingly, Sark Norman “vióléte d’vyò” has no similar counterpart in form or meaning in Modern Jèrriais, nor in Norman generally spoken in Guernsey today. Thanks to E. Marquand, who published a list of Guernsey Norman names of flowers in 1905, we know, nonetheless, that at least in his time, some Normanophone speakers in Guernsey used to call red campion “violette de vée”, with the unusual “vée” meaning “calf”.

In today’s Sarkese, the only term for calf/veal, is the invariable word “vyò“. In Guernsey Norman, similarly, only one term of the exact same origin and same form exists today, “viau”. In Jersey, however, two words have been preserved into modern times: the general “vieau”, corresponding to the Sarkese “vyò” and the Guernsey Norman “viau”, along with the less common “vée”, preserved only in some specific phrases and context. This rare Jèrriais “vée” originates in the Old Norman word “veel”, meaning both “calf” and “veal”, which (surprise!) also gave the Modern English “veal”, and it is the same “vée” as in the Old Guernsey Norman “violette de vée”.

Interestingly, despite Sarkese being in some ways more archaic than many other varieties of Norman, the Old Norman “veel”, was conserved neither in the language in general, nor in the name for red campion, in which it got replaced by the other form of the word for calf, “vyò”. Nonetheless, given that the Guernsey Norman language most probably replaced “violette de vée” with different names by the 21st century, Sarkese with its “violéte d’vyò” may be the last Norman languague to relate red campions to calves 😉


Citation: NEUDÖRFL, Martin. violéte d’vyò/red campion. In: Sark Norman Dictionary Online [on-line].

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