Size, Temperature, Altitude, Age #PlainEnglish #Anglish #SaxonEnglish #PureEnglish

August 11, 2018

The words “size”, “temperature”, “altitude”, and “age” are all borrowed words: Old French sise (1300ad), Latin temperatura (1670), Latin altitudinem (1300s), and Old French aage (1200s). Why should words for such basic concepts be borrowed? This is particularly the case when we have words such as “length”, “height”, and “depth” derived from the adjectives “long”, “high”, and “deep”. Why shouldn’t adjectives such as “big”, “hot”, “high/tall”, and “old” give rise to analogous derived abstract nouns?

Note that we talk about “length”, derived as it is from “long”, even for short things. Likewise, we have: “height” from “high”, even for short things; “depth” from “deep”, even for shallow things; and “width” and “breadth” from “wide” and “broad”, even for narrow things. Further note that the biggest or positive polarity is taken as the default, just as elsewhere in the language; there is “happy”, “sad”, and “unhappy”, but “unsad” is marked and odd-sounding.

Therefore, as weird or comical as these may sound at first, I think the following are the logical and sensible Saxon English alternatives to their Franco-Latinate counterparts:

  • “size” becomes “bigness”
  • “temperature” becomes “heat” or “hotness”
  • “altitude” becomes “highness”
  • “age” becomes “oldth” or “oldness” (I feel that “oldth” is just about passable, despite -th no longer being productive, whereas “bigth” and “heath” don’t work for me on an intuitive level, and “heighth” is an informal, dialectal, and humorous form of “height”)

I feel that “altitude” is different enough from “height” that we can’t always use the latter instead; “what’s the altitude of this plane” seems to work, but swapping in “height” seems not to. But as so often is the case, the Latinate word is used where the plainer, Saxon word could be: “What altitude are we flying at?” can be perfectly well said as “how high are we flying?” My proposal of “highness”, just like “bigness”, “heat/hotness”, and “oldth/oldness”, should only be used where the more basic word is inappropriate.

© Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from


deduct #Anglish #PlainEnglish

March 7, 2018

The word deduct is very Latin-sounding. Which is no surprise, because it is Latin:

early 15c., from Latin deductus, past participle of deducere “lead down, bring away;” see deduce, with which it formerly was interchangeable. Technically, deduct refers to taking away portions or amounts; subtract to taking away numbers. Related: Deducted; deducting.

The natural Saxon word would be “take away”. But it is interesting to see that “technically” deduct means to take away amounts, whereas subtract means to take away numbers. I’m not wholly sure if anyone follows this usage, to be honest. But if they do, us Anglishers have two options.

  1. Just replace both deduct and subtract with “take away”.
  2. Try to find another word so we can replace both words.

In option two, English has the handy little word “dock”. You can dock a tail, and you can dock wages. Both cases, we are taking about “portions or amounts”.

Therefore, it seems clear: in non-technical usage, both subtract and deduct can be replaced with either take away or dock, but in technical contexts, subtract becomes take away and deduct becomes dock.

© 2017-2018 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from


Spelling: -o(u)r

February 14, 2018

One of the most well-known splits between US and UK spelling is the ending –o(u)r found in colour/color, honour/honor, valour/valor and so on. Whatever your opinion of either spelling, it should be noted that the forms are French and Latin and therefore should probably be taken out of Anglish. However, short of getting rid of every single word in the tongue which has this ending, which may not be possible, we need to face the need to make these forms more English. But how should we do this?

Broadly speaking, –our is French whereas –or is Latin. See the history from below. The English form for this sound in the position is almost always –er, as in teacher. Now, folk might not want to spell words like “colo(u)r” the logical English way, “culler”, as this Anglish movement is not primarily about spellings. But spellings are a part of the language. And many words simply cannot be taken out of the speech; even Icelandic and German have many outland borrowings. But there is no reason why the outland spelling should stay. Bear in mind that spellings like “onner” (for “hono(u)r”) are attested.

Folk may also complain that –er makes agent nouns (a “teacher” is one who teaches), and so spelling it “culler” might confuse issues with one who culls. But in any case, –er isn’t exclusive for agents, unless “butter” is someone who butts. And indeed, “butter” being one who butts is a perfectly legitimate word — none-the-less, context tells us what we mean.

So how’s this for an Anglish proposal? Where we cannot get rid of –o(u)r words, change the spelling to –er, particularly where the rest of the word doesn’t need changing at all: so maybe maybe not “culler”, but definitely “governer”. 

© 2017-2018 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from


-orword-forming element making nouns of quality, state, or condition, from Middle English -our, from Old French -our (Modern French -eur), from Latin -orem (nominative -or), a suffix added to past participle verbal stems. Also in some cases from Latin -atorem (nominative -ator).

In U.S., via Noah Webster, -or is nearly universal (but not in glamour, curious, generous), while in Britain -our is used in most cases (but with many exceptions: author, error, senator, ancestor, horror etc.). The -our form predominated after c. 1300, but Mencken reports that the first three folios of Shakespeare’s plays used both spellings indiscriminately and with equal frequency; only in the Fourth Folio of 1685 does -our become consistent.

A partial revival of -or on the Latin model took place from 16c. (governour began to lose its -u- 16c. and it was gone by 19c.), and also among phonetic spellers in both England and America (John Wesley wrote that -or was “a fashionable impropriety” in England in 1791).

Webster criticized the habit of deleting -u- in -our words in his first speller (“A Grammatical Institute of the English Language,” commonly called the Blue-Black Speller) in 1783. His own deletion of the -u- began with the revision of 1804, and was enshrined in the influential “Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language” (1806), which also established in the U.S. -ic for British -ick and -er for -re, along with many other attempts at reformed spelling which never caught on (such as masheen for machine). His attempt to justify them on the grounds of etymology and the custom of great writers does not hold up.

Fowler notes the British drop the -u- when forming adjectives ending in -orous (humorous) and derivatives in -ation and -ize, in which cases the Latin origin is respected (such as vaporize). When the Americans began to consistently spell it one way, however, the British reflexively hardened their insistence on the other. “The American abolition of -our in such words as honour and favour has probably retarded rather than quickened English progress in the same direction.” [Fowler]

Break #Anglish #PlainEnglish

July 27, 2017

Sadly, I haven’t posted anything new on Wrixlings for more than month. Lack of time and a bunch of personal commitments were responsible. But it was nice to be busy with other stuff and have a hiatus. Or should that be break? I can’t really see the point in the word hiatus myself — but to make the user sound clever.

Break is actually quite a useful word, coming up in all sorts of compounds.

Breakup (noun) or break up (verb) means “to disintegrate / disintegration” and comes from the literal sense of breaking up plough land.

Breakdown (noun) or break down (verb), of course, means “collapse”: a mental breakdown, a machine breaking down.

Breakeven (adjective, noun) is the point outgoings and incomings meet.

Breakaway (noun, adjective) can mean succession, separation, departing from the normal routine, or a person who does any of these.

Breakout (noun): an escape, manifestation or appearance especially of a disease, an itemisaton; (adjective) sudden increase, advance, or success, as in “Tom Cruise’s breakout film was Top Gun

Break in (noun, verb): unlawfully getting into someone’s home, car, office, and so on.

Heartbreak (noun): great sorrow, grief, anguish.

Ground-breaking (adjective): originating or pioneering new work or ideas.

What a fruitful word!

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from


June 19, 2017

The English town “Shrewsbury”. How do you say it? Some, like me, say it as “shrowes-bury”, to rhyme with “owes”. Others say “shroos-bury”, to rhyme with “shoes”?

This town’s name is quite interesting as it shows how the Norman’s mucked our speech up.

In the beginning, the town was “Scrobbesbyrig”.

The Normans couldn’t pronounce “scr-“, which was said more-or-less like the modern “shr”. So they spelt it, and said it, as “sr”. That also proved too hard for them, though, so they then changed it to “sar”. To make things worse, the sounds /n/, /l/, and /r/ often change their positions (“metathesis”) or swap for each other, hence Latin parabola but Spanish palabra and English palaver, or Spanish playa but Portuguese praia. Thus, Normanised “Saropesberie” became “Salopesberie” — and remember, the Old English form was “Scrobbesbyrig”! This is also why the shortening of the shire’s name, Shropshire, is “Salop.”

Lay folk carried on saying it as they always did. Throw in a few regular sound changes from the Middle Ages, such as b–>v–>u, and we got the modern pronunciations and spelling around 500 years ago.

Wow, did the Normans muck our speech up!

But what of the “right” way to say the town’s name: “Shrowesbury”, or “Shroosbury”? The simple answer is that both are right; enough folk say both to warrant both being considered right, and that includes folk who grew up in the town itself! But I reckon “Shrowesbury” might better represent the continuation of ancient “Scrobbesbyrig”, whereas “Shroosbury” looks to me like a spelling pronunciation based on the animal “shrew”. Look at the northern spelling pronunciations of “tong” (to rhyme with “long”) set against the southern pronunciation which rhymes with “young” and which represents a continuation of the original “tung” of Old English.

The moral of this tale is twofold. One, there isn’t always one right way of saying a word. Two, don’t get scribes who can’t speak the language to devise or modify a spelling system for it!

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from


Obey #Anglish #PlainEnglish

April 17, 2017

This post is a lesson in how hard it can be to think clearly and come up with pithy plain, Saxon English wordforms.

I watched the wonderful film 3096 Days on Netflix last night. No spoilers, but the film featured the word obey prominently. It got me thinking: how would we say “obey” in Plain English?

Now, as far as French borrowings go, “obey” isn’t bad. It’s quite a short word and pretty much obeys(!) the sound structure of English. But it’s not plain English.

Do as you’re told, do what so-and-so tells you to do, follow (after): try to use these and similar phrases when you can.

But what about when we need a shorter expression? What Saxonism could we use?

We could make a phraseword on the analogy of words like wannabe (from the phrase “want(s) to be”). So how about… Tell-do? Say-do? They don’t quite work, do they?

Obey ultimately comes from the Latin meaning “listen to, pay attention to, give ear”. So… Give-ear/ear-give? Listen-do? Forheed? Nice, but I’m not sure they work 100%.

So let’s look to older English words.

Old English had the great word hiersum ‘hearsome’ (like handsome). Why not use this? Or better still, “listensome”? Why? Because listen is distinguished from hear in that it implies that your attention has been directed, whereas hear just means (passively) taking sound into your ear.

So if hearsome or listensome are the adjective, and the abstract noun would clearly be hearsomeness or listensomeness, what would the verb be? Old English had hiersumnian: hiersum with the verb ending, no longer in English. We could follow other -some words and use a phrase with to be. So, “Obey me!”, would be, “Be hearsome/listensome!” And, “You have to obey your father” might be, “You have to be hearsome/listensome with your father”.

As it happens, the root is the verb. Set side-by-side “He is tiresome” and “He tires me”. But there’s a problem: “hear” and “listen” don’t mean “obey”! Interesting, we say “listen to“, so maybe “listen” alone might be “obey”: “Listen to your father” and “Listen (=obey) your father”.

Maybe hear-listen to emphasise the point. “You have to hear-listen (to)   your teachers”.

…but in that case, I feel myself drawn back to “listen-do”. Do is the key, as obey mean do it, whatever it is. But compare: Obey your father and Do your father(!) No, it’s Do the thing that your father says. Using do changes the desired object of the verb.

Maybe swap the order around? Do-hear your father, hear-hear, listen-listen, forlisten/forhear, full-listen, fullhear. To-listen? Cf. Overdo, do over mean different things even tho bring in and in-bring don’t. So why can to-listen mean something different to listen to? You must to-listen your father.

We might use the words “hark” and “heed” in some way. Say, “full-heed your father!”. But this doesn’t work for me either.

We often say a word again to emphasise we mean a “real” or “legitimate” version of the thing: “I want to eat food food, not hamburgers” (that is, real, nourishing food); “I’m talking about football football, not American Football” (in a British context, likely meaning “soccer”). So: Listen-listen meaning to really listen, that is, listen and do… AKA obey.

In short, I am struggling to find a Saxon English form which is Plain English enough and which is short. My best ideas in this post are likely listensome (obedient), listen (without “to”) or listen-listen or listen-and-do (obey), listensomeness (obedience).

EDIT: Danny Scwartz left a comment below putting forward “befollow” on the German analog. Not quite perfect, but an outstanding suggestion. Many thanks, Danny!

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from

Reddit #Anglish #PlainEnglish

April 2, 2017

I only found out a short while ago that folk have been talking about Anglish, including my own work, at Reddit. It’s not a website I use, so I was unaware.

Pop over there for a lookie of what’s going on:

There’s some good talk to be had.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from×450.png

%d bloggers like this: