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December 4, 2011
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That's more or less what I was getting at in my earlier post. These words entered the English language around the Middle English period but hadn't killed out the English equivalents yet and represent a trend of a influx that eventually led to the loss of many good English words. The date these words entered the language is probably recorded in the literary language of Chaucer and other educated London or East Midlands dialects and the Chancery Standard. This isn't the language spoken, for example, in the West Midlands countryside that Tolkien so loved. But indeed the adoption of French and Latin terms certainly has enhanced the English language but also pushed out many others. You're right--it's a matter of personal taste. As a student of Old English I have a fondness for that lost English of . I mentioned before that I revel in the lexical choice we have in English but the beauty of a language is measured by how many words it has in its vocabulary. It is a beautiful language in part because of the foreign influence of French and Latin and Norse and Gaelic.
Aye, I agree. The Scots and Northern English dialects are truly wordhoards for this kind of exercise. Furthermore, Middle English still had thousands of survivors from Old English that could still be currency in Modern English. The OED still preserves many of these as 'obsolete'. Some of them are even still in usage in regional dialects. For me, Middle English is the true mother tongue. It retained enough of the original Anglo-Saxon and Celtic words that made it British and with some Norman or mediaeval Latin erudition but hadn't been so corrupted that it would employ Greek- or Latin-rooted words like 'place' or 'use' or 'poem' or 'music' in everyday speech to stand in for basic English words. But mediaeval Latin or even Greek ecclesiastical vocabulary serves a historic function in the English language.
Language has long been a function of social class stratification. Often class lines are only discerned by linguistic differences or social class identities separated along linguistic lines. Indeed, even national identity is often defined along similar linguistic boundaries: who is Basque if he can't speak the language and who are Bretons if not Breton-speaking Frenchmen? The same goes for accents. In Glasgow, speaking the Patter is a marker of social class as is the Boston accent in Massachusetts, the 'Yat' dialect around New Orleans, the Cockney accent in Greater London, and so on. Traditionally this is manifest in the U/Non-U vocabularies. Here's a good read on that: http://www.helsinki.fi/jarj/ufy/24991_s113_150Ross.pdf
But this social divide is rooted centuries earlier in English and is intertwined with the mixed pedigree of English-language vocabulary. This divide is exemplified in the differences between words for meats and words for beasts the meats come from. The working-class Anglo-Saxon farmers said 'sheep' raising them in the field whilst the Norman nobles said 'mutton', seeing them cooked on the plate. These discrepancies are widespread throughout English: cow/beef, pig/pork, This disparity is not only a matter of social position but education: the Latin-literate upper classes would say 'urinate' whilst the lower classes would say 'piss' and over the years this difference became associated with the unrefined manners of working-class folks.In a way, this enriches the language as the French only have the word 'boeuf' while we have both. In some cases, we have the Norse word, the Anglo-Saxon word, the Norman word, and the Latin word ( cast off, snub, spurn, shun, scorn, reject) each with a slightly nuanced meaning, influenced by various factors over centuries, and only possible with so many equivalent words. What I lament is the loss of great English words. I lament the loss of words that could add to the palette of English vocabulary or that have needless been thrown out for Latin or Old French equivalents.
There is beauty in words like 'piss' and 'shit' in English. The English language has suffered enough under the oppression of the prestige dialects. This, from the Oxford English Dictionary says it all: ORIGIN mid-seventeenth century, from French, literally 'illusion, glamour', from late Latin 'praestigium' 'illusion', from Latin 'praestigiae' (plural) ‘conjuring tricks'.Prestige. Aptly yclept.
I'd like to bring up the word 'shark' and its mysterious origin. Before the word came into the language any ravenous marine fish, I believe, were known as a 'sea dogs'. I've always preferred this to 'shark' anyway and there are a few species of shark known as 'dogfish' to this day.
There is no proper name for it that I knowe, but that sertayne men of Captayne Haukinses doth call it a 'sharke' [handbill advertising an exhibition of the specimen, 1569]
This from Wikipedia,"Until the 16th century, sharks were known to mariners as 'sea dogs'. The etymology of the word 'shark' is uncertain. One theory is that it derives from the Yucatec Maya word 'xok', pronounced /shok/. Evidence for this etymology comes from the OED, which notes the name 'shark' first came into use after Sir John Hawkins' sailors exhibited one in London in 1569 and used the word 'sharke' to refer to the large sharks of the Caribbean Sea."
I'd imagine Captain Hawkins' servants were not German-speakers but more likely enslaved natives from the Americas
I s'pose the bridge is the meaning of 'imagination'. Our English word 'mind' has lost this sense of imagery and pictures--'the mind's eye', as it were. 'Kvikmynd' is great, though. We have very few general words for illustrations, pictures, images, et c. with English roots.
This reMINDS me of something. I seem to remember from Icelandic class the word 'mynd', 'picture'. I always thought it had something to do with the English word 'mind'. They've got 'hugmynd' for 'idea', literally, 'mind-picture'. I think 'mynd' still retains the meaning 'imagination' in Faroese. I know Old English had 'gemynd' [memory, thought]. Maybe it's related to 'minna'. Anyone have an Faroese or Icelandic etymological dictionary handy?
The words 'hearsome' and 'hearsomeness' can still be found in the wordbook.
I love the word 'addle'. The etymology given by Oxford is, Middle English : from Old English adela [liquid filth]. 'Liquid filth'. Brilliant.
It's also an archaic adjective for '(of an egg) rotten'. Now when we're confused, our minds turn to liquid egg filth.
Aye, 'Cymru' is the Welsh word for Wales which shares its root with 'Cumbria'. 'Wales' comes from the Anglo-Saxon 'wealh', 'foreigner' which is pretty bad. This is also the root of 'walnut', I believe.
What with the Scottish Unraveling (Scottish Devolution? < Latin, 'ex' and 'volvere', 'to roll out') you'll need to thinking again about British nomenclature. But you can still always say either England or the United Kingdom, outlandish earnings aside (Anglo-Saxon, 'utlendisc', 'foreign'). Scotland's not yet an outland. I read something in The Independent about the SNP looking to have Scotland "become a member of the Scandinavian circle of countries, with its own army, navy and air force modelled on its Nordic neighbours" after independence. Maybe we'll get a good name like 'Sjøforsvaret'. The Seaforswearing.
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