Learning New Words

Published: 31st October 2014 06:10 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st October 2014 06:10 AM   |  A+A-

I am challenged quite often by my 12-year-old son who is a bibliophile and enjoys adding new words to his vocabulary. 

WORDS.JPGTwo weeks ago when we went to dinner at a well-known multi-cuisine restaurant in the heart of Chennai, he asked me whether valet service was offered by the restaurant. “Valet service? What do you mean?” I asked. “Valet parking service,” he replied. Though I could guess the meaning of the expression from the context I pretended the expression was incomprehensible to me. “Valet parking service? It sounds strange to me,” I said. “Dad, it is quite surprising that you don’t know the meaning of this expression,” he started his lecturette. He told me that he had come across the term while playing a computer game. 

Valet parking is a service offered by hotels, restaurants and other establishments. Customers alight at the front door  and their vehicles are parked by a person called a valet. This service is offered free of cost to customers. It saves customers the trouble of searching for a place to park their vehicles.

The term ‘valet’ is a French word that is used in English and in many other languages. How is the word pronounced? It is pronounced in two different ways:

i) The first syllable /va/ is pronounced like the ‘va’ in ‘van’. The second syllable /let/ is pronounced like the word ‘lay’. The first syllable is stressed. /VAlei/.

ii) The first syllable /va/ is pronounced like the ‘va’ in ‘van’ and the second syllable /let/ is pronounced like the word ‘lit’. The first syllable is stressed.  /VAlit/.

It has the following meanings:

1. A man’s personal male attendant, who is responsible for his clothes and appearance.

2. A driver employed to park cars.

As a verb the word has these two meanings:

1. To act as a personal attendant to someone

2. To clean/ park a car

The collocations of ‘valet’ are: valet driving, valet driver, valet driving service, valet service, valet attendant.

Here are examples of the word’s use in sentences:

 A valet at a five-star hotel caused Rs 2 crore worth of damage to a Lamborghini Gallardo after crashing it into a concrete wall.

 What salary does a valet driver earn in your area?

 Valet parking at Kansas City International Airport seems like a good idea for folks who are running late or don’t have time to search the often crowded parking lots for an available space.

 A young man confronted a valet attendant outside the 5-star hotel.

Here is a query from a reader: 

I came across the term ‘hoi polloi’ in an article. What is the meaning of the term? How is it pronounced?

‘Hoi polloi’ is a Greek term which means ‘the many’ or ‘the majority’.  In English it means ‘commoners’ or ‘the masses’ or ‘the lower class’ in a derogatory sense. Look at the examples of how the term is used in sentences:

 Politicians and policy makers always ignore the opinions of the hoi polloi.

 Most politicians do not mix with the hoi polloi.

How is the word pronounced? The word ‘hoi’ rhymes with ‘joy. The first syllable /po/ of the second word ‘polloi’ is pronounced like the ‘pa’ in parade and the second syllable ‘loi’ again rhymes with ‘joy’. The syllable /loi/ is stressed. 

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