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The martinet is a punitive device traditionally used in France and other parts of Europe. The word also has other usages (see below). It is also a term for a type of hammer in French, a diminutive of marteau (Latin martulus), "hammer".
A martinet is a short, scourge-like (multi-tail) type of whip made of a wooden handle of about 25 cm (10 inches) in length and about 10 lashes of equal, relatively short 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 physical punishment in France (in French, it also meant a similar dusting implement; the type for chastisement was also known as fouet d'enfant, 'child's whip') and other European countries.
The martinet was often applied on the calves, so that the children did not have to disrobe. Otherwise it was usually applied on the bare buttocks, adding humiliation to the physical pain, like the English and Commonwealth caning, birching, naval boy's pussy, American paddling, et cetera.
It is generally considered abusive to use it for spanking children in modern times. Still, martinets were 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. But, nowadays many supermarkets in France have stopped selling the martinet, even in the pet section. Some supermarkets in Spain still sell martinets.
The term was used for an external pupil of a collège (i.e. continental high school, especially Catholic). Jean Bodin, quoting the examination of three witches by Paolo Grillandi of Castiglione at the Castello San Paolo, Spoleto, records that the witches referred to the Devil as Master Martinet (maistre Martinet), or the Little Master (petit maistre).
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