Last night I discovered the French word tuyau when looking for drain pipe (tuyau d’écoulement). I hadn’t come across the word before and wasn’t at all sure how to pronounce it. According to my French dictionary it’s pronounced /tɥijo/ – the second symbol represents a voiced labial-palatal approximant, a semi-vowel made with the tongue close to the hard palate and rounded at the lips. Apart from French, it is only used in Mandarin Chinese and Abkhaz, at least according to Wikipedia. Do you know if it is used in any other languages?

tuyau means pipe; a length of piping; a length of rubber tubing; stem (of pipe); flute; (insider) tip. It appears in such expressions as:

– tuyau d’alimentation – feeder pipe
– tuyau d’arrosage – hosepipe; garden hose
– tuyau de cheminée – chimney pipe
– tuyau de descente – downpipe; fall pipe
– tuyau d’échappement – exhaust (pipe)
– tuyau d’orgue – organ pipe
– (chapeau) tuyau de poêle – stovepipe (hat)
– tuyautage – fluting (grooves or furrows, as in cloth); goffering (an ornamental frill made by pressing pleats); giving of a tip; putting in the know
– tuyauter – to flute; to goffer*; to give sb a tip
– tuyauterie – piping; (organ) pipes
– un tuyauteur – informant
– J’ai quelques tuyaux pour toi – I have a few tips for you
– un tuyau crevé – a bad tip
– avoir des tuyaux – to be in the know
– c’est un tuyau increvable – straight from the horse’s mout

Tuyau comes from the Old French tuel (tube, pipe), from Proto-Romance *þûta, from Old High German tûda.

* goffer means to press pleats into (a frill) ; to decorate (the gilt edges of a book) with a repeating pattern; an ornamental frill made by pressing pleats; the decoration formed by goffering books; the iron or tool used in making goffers, and isn’t a word I’ve come across before. It comes from the French gaufrer (to impress a pattern), from gaufre, from the Middle Low German wafel, the root of waffle and wafer.

Sources: About.com, Wiktionary, French Word-A-Day, Reverso, Dicocitations

This entry was posted in English, Etymology, French, Language.

9 Responses to Tuyau

  1. bronz says:

    When I first saw the word I thought it would have been pronounced more like /tyɥo/, but it looks like the actual syllable break is between and .

    From experience, the “Occurence” section in Wikipedia pages on specific phones/phonemes doesn’t actually list all languages in the world that have it. As a matter of articulatory mechanics, we should be able to find this sound in at least languages that have high front rounded vowels and glides as well. In Turkish, for example, the phoneme /j/ will manifest as [ɥ] when between two [y]: /byjyk/ [byɥyk]. Cantonese also has it, e.g. 月 [ɥyt].

    This other page on Wikipedia gives a couple more language examples: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labio-palatalization

    I think on the allophonic level it may not be quite as rare as the limited number of examples seem to suggest.

  2. Yenlit says:

    The online etymology dictionary suggests that ‘gopher’ as in the North American burrowing rodent, could be an Anglicization of this French word ‘gaufre’ from Louisiana French in reference to the ‘honeycomb, waffle’ structure of gopher burrows?
    Don’t know how valid this suggestion is?

  3. bronz says:

    Those gnarly angled brackets ate my words:

    * … actual syllable break is between “tuy” and “au”
    * büyük “big” — /byjyk/ — [byɥyk]

  4. Christopher Miller says:

    Occitan has it (except for Gascon, where the equivalent is /w/). It tends to occur before /e/, /ɛ/, /o/ or /ɔ/ though, and not /i/ as in French. In many dialects it has already historically shifted to /j/ or zero in various contexts.

    Some examples:

    nuèch /nɥɛʧ~nɥœ/, nuèit /nɥɛjt~nwɛjt~nɛjt/, nuòch /nɥɔʧ~ɲɔʧ/ ‘night’
    uèlh /ɥɛl~ɥɛj~wɛj~ɛl~ɥœj/, uòlh /jɔl/ ‘eye’:
    uèch /ɥɛʧ~vɥœ/, uèit /ɥɛjt~wɛjt~bɛjt/, uòch /ɥɔʧ~jɔʧ/ ‘eight’
    buòu /bjɔw/ ‘bull’
    fuòc /fjɔk/, huèc /hwɛk/ ‘fire’
    luènh /lɥɛn~lɛn/ ‘far’

  5. Christopher Miller says:

    Actually, a couple of examples (much rarer) with other vowels come to mind:

    suau /sɥaw/, suava /sɥaβɔ~sɥavɔ/ ‘soft’
    cuol /kjul/, cuou /kyw/ ‘rear end’ (though here, as elsewhere, the glide has definitively changed to /j/).

    In Laurentian French (Canadian French outside the Maritimes), tuyau is /ʦɥijo/ with the dental stop affricated as usual before a high front vowel; same thing for réduire /ʁeʣɥiʁ~ɾeʣɥiɾ/.

    Dutch has it as an offglide in diphthongs spelled with ‹ui›:

    ui /œɥ/ ‘onion’
    uit /œɥt/ ‘out’
    lui /lœɥ/ ‘lazy’

    It’s also a phonetic offglide in Dutch varieties that diphthongise mid-height long vowels /eː/, /oː/ and /øː/ to [eʲ], [oʷ] and [øᶣ], e.g. steunen [støᶣnə] ‘to support’, keuzen [køᶣzə] ‘choices’, Teun [tøᶣn] (a man’s name).

    I’ve heard the /œɥ/ diphthong also in Finnish, where it would be spelled ‹öy› (in songs by Värttinä) though I can’t think of any specific examples. The offglide never occurs in Occitan though; only /w/ can occur in syllable coda position.

  6. Christopher Miller says:

    I noticed the reference to tuyau d’arrosage for ‘hose’: in Canada, the almost universal term outside formal contexts is (la/une) hose /owz/. I’ve never heard anyone in everyday conversation refer to it as un/ le tuyau d’arrosage.

  7. Christopher Miller says:

    In fact, coming to think of it, in the written language, the term I’m used to seeing is boyau d’arrosage.

  8. Sandra says:

    A French idiom with “tuyau”:
    “C’est [déjà] dans les tuyaux” (literally “it’s [already] in the pipes”) means the process has started, the implementation of a decision has started.
    — Eh, mais tuer tous les canards à foie gras, c’est une super mauvaise idée ! (Hey, killing all foie gras fat ducks is a really bad idea!)
    — Je sais, mais c’est déjà dans les tuyaux alors on ne peut plus faire grand chose. (I know but c’est déjà dans les tuyaux so there isn’t much we can do about it).
    Don’t panic, as fas as I know, no crazy plan about annihilating the blessed source of foie gras is being implemented anywhere.

  9. Arakun says:

    From Wikipedia:
    Patterns of diphthongs of long vowels occur in three major dialect groups. The Central Swedish glide can be accompanied by a slight frication in the pronunciation of the high vowels /iː/, /yː/, /ʉː/, and /uː/, which are [ij], [yɥ], [ʉβ], and [uw].

%d bloggers like this: