Origins – The French Drillmaster

Jean Martinet was the Inspector-General of Infantry during the reign of King Louis XIV and a stricter, more fanatic drillmaster France had never seen. It was from this time that the French Army’s reputation for discipline dated, and it is from the name of this Frenchman that we derive our English word martinet. The word is always used in a derogatory sense and generally shows resentment and anger on the part of the user. The secretary who calls his boss a martinet, the wife who applies the epithet to her husband, the worker who thus refers to the foreman these speakers all show their contempt for the excessive, inhuman discipline to which they are asked to submit.
Since martinet comes from a man’s name (in the Brief Intermission which follows we shall discover that a number of picturesque English words are similarly derived), there are no related forms built on the same root. There is an adjective martinetish (mah-ti-NET-ish) and another noun form, martinetism, but these are used only rarely.
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