From Academic Kids

Missing image
A simple, small martinet.

A martinet (French) is a short whip made of a wooden handle of about 25 cm (10 inches) in length and about 10 lashes of equal length. The lashes are usually made of leather, but sometimes soap-stiffened cords are used in place of leather. It is a traditional instrument of corporal punishment in France and other European countries.

The martinet was often applied on the calves, for children did not have to disrobe that way. Otherwise it was often applied on the bare buttocks.

It is generally considered abusive to use it on children nowadays. Still, martinets are still sold in the pet section of French supermarkets; it is generally believed that a large share of those sold are meant for use on children, not pets, or at least to threaten them.

The martinet is also used as an implement in erotic spanking scenes.

Martinet in English terms

In English, the term martinet is usually used not in reference to the whip itself, but rather him who would use it, a person who demands strict adherence to set rules, especially such a person in the military.

In an extended sense, a martinet is a person for whom rules and etiquette are paramount: martinets often use etiquette and other rules as an excuse to trump ethics, to the point that etiquette loses its ethical ground. (In this context, one is reminded of a scene from the dystopic film Brazil, in which a secretary busily transcribes a torture session by headphones.) Pettiness and small points of order are permitted to justify duckspeaking and mask deep groupthink.

This sense of the word comes from the name of Jean Martinet, Inspector General of the army of Louis XIV and one of the first great drill masters of modern times, and is entymologically unrelated to the earlier sense, which is derived from the French term for a swift, whose split tail is resembled by the bifurcation of the whip. It was the drill master who revolutionized the early modern army by instituting a standardized system capable of turning raw recruits into a disciplined fighting force, thereby eliminating the mercenaries and soldiers-of-fortune who had been the mainstays of earlier armies.

History records that Martinet was eventually killed by friendly fire while leading an infantry assault at the siege of Duisberg. Whether or not this was entirely accidental is, of course, a matter of conjecture.


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