Coward

May 16, 2017

Short post this fortnight.

Coward is from Old French coart which comes from coe ‘tail’ from the Latin coda/cauda which also means ‘tail’. It has the agent affix -ard (as in “sluggard”, “drunkard”, and so on). The idea is the same as when we say “turn tail and run”, or how a dog will put its tail between its legs. So a good Saxon alternative to “coward” is surely tail-turner.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-TcAcQ8bQDPs/UG_tWETURwI/AAAAAAAAASQ/HFQ-GBtSx4I/s1600/dog_tail_legs_2.jpeg


Poetry #Anglish #PlainEnglish

May 5, 2017

Poetry, poem, and poet feel like such basic words, and Old English had such a great poetic tradition. Therefore, it’s a little sad to realise that we borrowed these words.

The word poetry ultimately comes from the Greek root ποιεω poieō meaning ‘I make’. In Old English, we had the words metergeweorc “meter-work” meaning ‘verse’ and metercræft “meter-craft” meaning ‘art of versification’.

Some senses of the word meter are ultimately from Greek, but some senses are from Old English. The homeborn, Germanic word is mete + er, mete meaning to measure (as in “mete out justice”). Thus meter is also Saxon word.

Poetry isn’t really about riming, but about the metre, that is, the rhythm and stresses. Therefore, meterwork and metercraft work really well for the word poem and poetry respectively.

A poet is clearly a meterworker or meterwright and/or a metercrafter/metercraftsman.

We also have the word skald which refers to a Scandinavian poet or singer of the Middle Ages — but we can easily take this word and update it for modern use (after all, “electric” comes from the Ancient Greek word meaning “amber”!) We might wish to spell this “scald” to show we have made the word English (and yes, the English word “scald” is indeed the same word as the Norse word skald! The link? Think how poets (and rappers) scald their opponents in verse).

Unlike in many languages, there is no deedword (verb) in English such as “poetrise”; that is, to do poetry. But with our Saxon forms about, we have no issue: both work and craft can be deedwords as well as namewords (nouns). So “I write poetry/I poetrise” could be “I meterwork/metercraft”.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://images5.fanpop.com/image/photos/31100000/poetry-poetry-31167131-998-783.jpg


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 http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ah9DaT1FNkM/UsvC-IxBUpI/AAAAAAAAC4I/T8ra-r9twuc/s1600/3096+Days+2013+(4).jpg


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: https://www.reddit.com/r/anglish

There’s some good talk to be had.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://marketingland.com/wp-content/ml-loads/2014/07/reddit-combo-1920-800×450.png


wan-

March 14, 2017

Here’s a great prefix: wan-. It is the affixed form of the adjective wane (related to the verb wane). It is “a prefix expressing privation or negation (approximately equivalent to UN- prefix or MIS- prefix)”, so says the OED. It was very common in Old English, but had more-or-less wholly died out by Middle English. I think it’s a great little affix and could be brought back to life as a useful variant to distinguish it from un– and mis– words; perhaps we could use it as a like-for-like (=equivalent) of “anti-“… We might need to say it the stressed way, though: wane.

How many words do you think you can make up using this affix? Do people understand you? Here are some great English words that have this prefix — sadly, all of these words are no longer in use.

  • wanbody n miscreant, infidel (“body” as in “anybody”, meaning “any person/individual”)
  • wandought n, adj (said as “won-dawt”) a feeble or puny person; feeble, ineffective, worthless
  • wanhap n misfortune (think “mishap”, “hap” meaning “luck, chance”)
  • wanhope n, adj, v despair, hopelessness; to despair; despairing.
  • wanhue v to stain (that is, to give a bad hue/colour to a thing)
  • wanluck n unhappy fate
  • wansome adj miserable, unhappy
  • wanspeed n ill-success, adversity, poverty (think speed as in God speed).
  • wanthriven adj failing to thrive, stunted
  • wanton n, adj as in… wanton(!)
  • wantruke n failure, doubt (from wan– + troke “to fail, lack, deceive”)
  • wantrust n distrust, doubt
    • Why did we ever bother to borrow doubt when we had wantrust and mistrust? We also had twēo and twēogan/twēonian in Old English using the root for “two”, just like in German! So why not even something like “twofulness”?
  • wantruth n lack of belief, especially proper Christian belief, a state of unbelief
  • wanweird n ill-fate, misfortune
    • Weird is the original English word for “fate, destiny”, hence the Weird Sisters in Shakespeare.
  • wanwit n foolishness, witlessness; a foolish or witless person;
  • wanworth n, adj a price below the real value, an undervalue, a bargain; a worthless person, a good-for-nothing, a trifle; worthless, unworthy.

Now you only have to work out if you say “wan” to rhyme with “can” or “con”.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.jasondemakis.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/phasesofthemood.jpg

 


Latinglish Poem: Æstivation #PlainEnglish #Anglish

March 5, 2017

oliver_wendell_holmes_sr_c1879

Here’s a delightful poem I’ve come across that tries to use as much Latin as poem. The very opposite of my project. Enjoy!

Æstivation

By Oliver Wendell Holmes

1858

Æstivation

An Unpublished Poem, by my late Latin Tutor.

In candent ire the solar splendor flames;
The foles, languescent, pend from arid rames;
His humid front the cive, anheling, wipes,
And dreams of erring on ventiferous ripes.

How dulce to vive occult to mortal eyes,
Dorm on the herb with none to supervise,
Carp the suave berries from the crescent vine,
And bibe the flow from longicaudate kine!

To me, alas! no verdurous visions come,
Save yon exiguous pool’s conferva-scum,–
No concave vast repeats the tender hue
That laves my milk-jug with celestial blue!

Me wretched! Let me curr to quercine shades!
Effund your albid hausts, lactiferous maids!
Oh, might I vole to some umbrageous clump,–
Depart,–be off,-excede,–evade,–erump!

text of poem from http://www.ibiblio.org/eldritch/owh/aest.html
featured image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Wendell_Holmes_Sr.#/media/File:Oliver_Wendell_Holmes_Sr_c1879.jpg


Backbones #Anglish #PlainEnglish

February 15, 2017

image

We talk of someone having or needing to get a backbone. This of course means to get a spine. But we don’t just use “backbone” metaphorically; the word “backbone” has meant a literal spine ever since the early 1300s.

“Spine” is from the Latin spina. So a plain Saxon English / Anglish alternative for spine is backbone.

It then struck me that the backbone itself is actually made of lots of little bones: vertebrae. Each of these is surely a backbone, too. So we have backbones made of backbones? Or perhaps, made of backbonelings… I wasn’t happy with this wordmess. And then I remembered that knuckle doesn’t just mean the finger joint, it also refers to any (particularly knobbly) joint of the body. Thus, your backbone is made up of knuckles; or to be overly clear, back-knuckles. No need to use Latin spine or vertebra or that dodgy outlandish plural –ae.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.healthline.com/hlcmsresource/images/topic_centers/osteoarthritis/642×361-Treating_Spinal_Stenosis-Exercise_Surgery_and_More.jpg


Gite #PlainEnglish #Anglish

February 1, 2017

image

I love house-buying shows. Mostly they look at homes in Spain or Portugual. But today they were looking in France. Just when you thought estate-agent-speak couldn’t get worse than bijou, cosy (=cramped), and the like, I learnt a new word: gîte. After about three minutes, and hearing it several times, the word had already begun to irk me. After an hour, I was ready to start stabbing.

So far as I can tell, the word means a small cottage or annex, self-catering. The Oxford English wordbook defines it as:

A stopping-place, lodging … a furnished or self-catering holiday home, usu. in a rural district.

Call me a “luddite” if you will, but what is wrong with (French-style) self-board holiday home/cot(e)? Or if that’s too overly specific, what about hire holiday home?

I think gîte, even without its little letter-hat (gite), is needless,  pretentious, dreck.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.hotel-r.net/im/hotel/fr/gîte-61.jpg


Century #Anglish #PlainEnglish

January 17, 2017

20thcentruyfox

The twenty-first century, a test century in cricket, a Roman century led by a centurion. Century means, as we all know, one hundred — of anything. The words come from the Latin centuria. But why bother with “century” at all? We have the word hundred! And the madness doesn’t stop there.

We have homegrown words for ten, hundred, and thousand. Yet we borrow the words for the same periods of years: decade, century, millennium? German gets by quite well with homegrown Jahrzehnt, Jahrhundert, and Jahrtausand; literally, ‘year-ten’, ‘year-hundred’, and ‘year-thousand’. So why can’t English?

Of course, in English we can just say things like “ten years” or “tens of years”. But a lot of the time this doesn’t quite work. These are descriptive phrases, when what we sometimes really want is one noun that pithily expresses the same concept. So in step decade, century, and millenium as our lexical saviours.

Yet it wasn’t always so.

Century only came into English in the 1530s with the sense of “hundred”. It only took on the meaning “period of a hundred years” in around the 1650s as a short form of the phrase “a century of years”. Likewise, decade only came into English in the mid-fifteenth century meaning “ten parts”, it acquiring the sense of “period of ten years” in the 1590s. And millennium, in the sense of any thousand year period, is only recorded from 1711.

So what did we say before then?

Confusingly, the Old English word for decade was hund. Century was ældu, as in eld, elder, old. Compare Modern Idelandic öld ‘century’.

These wouldn’t work for nowadays English. So what should we do?

  • When you can swap decade, century, or millenium out for the following phrases with no awkwardness or unnaturalness, then do so: ten years, tens of years, a hundred years, hundreds of years, a thousand years, thousands of years.
  • When you mean a group or amount of, then say tenfold, a group of ten, hundredfold, a group of hundred, thousandfold, a group of a thousand.
  • When you want to say “the twentieth century” (and so on), say “the 1900s” instead — like in Swedish.
  • You can also say ton for hundred, especially in money or speed or sport.

And when these don’t work, I say that Germanising “year-ten” is too un-English. I put forward the following.

1. Ten-year, hundred-year, thousand-year

“I met your Mum three ten-years ago”: cannot be mistaken for “ten years ago”.
“The Battle of Hastings was almost a thousand-year ago”: cannot be mistaken for “a thousand years ago”
“The twentieth hundred-year was a time of great change”: cannot be mistaken for anything.

2. I also put forward, on the analogy of “century of years” being simplified to “century”, these: ten, hundred, thousand.

“It’s been hundreds since England had a separate parliament”
“Tens ago, mobile phones was science fiction”
“Stonehenge was built thousands ago”

3. Swedish also provides a good model with hundratal: hundred-deal. Deal of course can mean amount or quantity, as in “a good deal of rain”.

ten-deal, hundred-deal, thousand-deal.

© 2016-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://i.ytimg.com/vi/MK7sju6Ka8E/maxresdefault.jpg


New Old Spellings #PlainEnglish #Anglish #PureEnglish #SpellingReform

January 2, 2017

beowulf_cotton_ms_vitellius_a_xv_f__132r

We spend a lot of time talking about Anglish words, but almost no time talking about spellings. The why is that I try to smuggle Anglish in. Non-standard spellings, however, draw attention to themselves. Therefore, I have only touched on spellings briefly (for example, see here). However, 1066 and all that left its mark on our spelling system, too. Many spellings were changed soon after the Conquest as the old English scribe class were killed and slowly dispensed with, Normans taking their place. For example, <cw> was respelt as <qu> on the French model: cwen became quen (now queen) almost overnight. However, other less radical changes have also happened over the years since then. This post looks at these spellings, specifically those changed based on an unright understanding of their origin (?erstspring ?upspring ?first-spring).

Before I go on, remember that my notion here at Wrixlings is not to create what might have been had history panned out differently — that is something I call “Modern Old English”. Rather, I try to inliven the Saxon heart our of present speech. Therefore, I do not say we must bring back ash <æ> or yogh, or spell <wh> as <hw> (OE hwearf ‘wharf’) or put an <h> back in words like lord (OE hlaford, would therefore perhaps be hlord if 1066 and all that had not happened). Therefore, I do not respell <qu> as <cw>: the grounds are that everyone can plainly understand <qu> for /kw/ — even tho the spelling is quite absurd, and French.

1. ACHE

Originally, there were two words: ake (deedwork/verb), ache (nameword/noun), as per speak (workword) and speech (nameword). Eventually, ache fell out of the language in favour of ake for both verbs and nouns (just like we used to say “reek” (deedword) OE reocan and “reech” (nameword) OE riec). However, it was felt by the 1700s that ake probably came from the Greek akhos, and so the spelling was changed accordingly (Greek kh / χ is rendered <ch> in English; see the arch– of words like archaeology, from arkhe / αρχη). Sadly, the word doesn’t come from Greek, but the Old English acan (deedword) and æce (nameword).

So let’s spell it AKE.

2. AGHAST, GHASTLY, GHOST

The letter g can “soften” to a “j” sound (or to a “y” sound in Old English: geong ‘young’). The letters <h> and <u> can “stop” it: guest, spaghetti. We don’t say these as “jest” and “spajetty”, do we? But this softening only can happen before e, i, and y. So why is there a <h> in these words before <a> and <o>? Oh yes, because that’s how it’s done in Dutch(!)… How does that make any sense?

The first two used to be spelt without the <h>. So let’s spell them AGAST and GASTLY once again. “Gost” might be troublesome as it may imply a rhyme with “lost” — although not needfully; see “host”! It comes from Old English gast; this <a> developed into a ‘long’ o elsewhere too. Sometimes it was spelt like this: OE stan –> ModE “stone”. And other times it was spelt like this: OE bat –> ModE “boat”.

So let’s spell it either GOST, GOAST, or GOSTE. I reckon the first two are best.

3. ANCHOR

The Old English word was ancor, taken from the Latin ancora (see, we did borrow sometimes in Old English too!). This itself probably comes from the Greek ankyra ανκυρα. None of these words have a <h>! Indeed, the word only began being spelt with an <h> in the late 1500s — after having spent around 700 years in English spelt without it. The decision is clear:

Let’s spell it ANCOR. Mark that “anker” would also clearly word on the grounds of saying (banker, wanker), but not on wordbirth.

4. AXE

This word was spelt æx in Old English and ax until around two hundred years ago. It is still spelt ax in the US, Canada, and increasingly now, Australia. The <e> was added for no apparent reason whatsoever.

Let’s just bin axe and spell it AX.

5. CRUMB, THUMB, LIMB, NUMB

Old English cruma, þuma and lim. Numb was earlier spelt as nome, from the OE root niman. Never had a <b> sound in there. Although the related words crumblethimble and nimble do. And then there’s dumb and lamb and comb, which used to be said with a /b/, but no longer are, yet are still spelt with a <b>. What a mess.

I suggest taking the <b> out in all cases, etymological and otherwise: CRUMDUM, LAM, LIM, NUM, THUM.

Only keep it where it is pronounced: CRUMBLE, THIMBLE, NIMBLE. Keeping the <b> in some related words but not others may trouble you, but it shouldn’t. For example, we write DECEIT and DECEPTION, not “deceipt”, which is an analogous case. In the case of “comb”, we need to show the way the vowel is said, so as with “ghost” above, we have either COAM or COME. COAME is even possible.

Maybe COAM to stop us mixing it up with the verb to come.

6. ISLAND, ISLE

Island represents Old English igland, from ig ‘isle/island’ + land land. It was thought to come from the Latin insula, hence why folk added the <s>. Although, by that logic (?through-thought) why wasn’t it spelt “insland”? The idea for <s> probably also took hold due to the word isle which actually is ultimately from the Latin insula. However, rather ironically, <s> was often lost from Latin to French (French fenêtre, Latin fenestra) — as it was in ISLE, too! We borrowed the word from French in the late 13th century as ILE.

Therefore: ILAND, ILE

If you want a homeborn word for isle, we do of course have ait and eyot which in some way represent the “i” of island.

7. SCYTHE

Influenced by Latine scissor ‘carver, cutter’ and scindere ‘to cut’. The word actually comes from Old English siþe and should be spelled again as once it was: SITHE (as in lithe, writhe, and so on; note: the letter þ is the exact equivalent of <th>).

8. TONGUE

This is a funny one. I often see it misspelt, by native speakers(!), as “tounge”. Why? They know how to say it, but they also know the spelling is a tad “funny”. So they take a guess. The OE was tunge and would naturally have lost the final <e>. Additionally, lots of words of this kind had their <u> changed to an <o> before <n, m> as the scribal writing of the time made them easily confusable. That’s why “come”, which rhymes with “hum”, isn’t spelt with a <u>. Therefore, this could be changed to tong or tung. But given that tong would be misleading, and the regular spelling would be with a <u> (see hung, rung, sung, and fellows):

I say this needs to be put back as TUNG. Altho it is true that some Northerners give this a spelling pronunciation of “tong”.

9. WHORE

Who, whooping cough, and therefore whore, right? Wrong. Actually, in Old English it was hore, and only began to be spelled with a <w> in the early 1500s. Let’s set this straight and bring back HORE.

10. OTHER WORDS

There are many other words we might respell. For example, see our little talk about <u> being changed to <o> as in tongue and come. There are a great deal of words that fit this mould exactly: wonder, monk, wolf, and so on. These could be respelt wunder, munk, wulf (see thunder and sunk). Or another idea: could could be respelt as coud. It comes from can, and was cuðe in Old English, but gained an <l> by analogy with would and should (which come from will and shall, words that DO have an <l>!). But both of these cases, wonder and friends and could, go beyond the bounds of this post. Could is indeed also false etymology, but one based on homeborn not outland words. And the case of wonder and fellows is about wonky former scribal habits — not incorrect etymologising. Maybe we’ll handle those kinds of spelling in another post.

11. SUMMING UP

Therefore, if we go down the road of Anglish spellings, we have changed the following from:

ache, aghast, anchor, axe, comb, crumb, dumb, ghastly, ghost, island, isle, lamb, limb, numbscythe, thumb, tongue, whore

to:

AKE, AGAST, ANCOR, AX, COAM, CRUM, DUM, GASTLY, GOAST/GOST, ILAND, ILE, LAM, LIM, NUM, SITHE, THUM, TUNG, HORE.

You might wanna check out a similar (but old) post by a fellow Anglisher here: New Spellings.

© 2016 – 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image the first lines of the manuscript of Beowulf: By anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet – This file has been provided by the British Library from its digital collections. It is also made available on a British Library website.Catalogue entry: Cotton MS Vitellius A XV, ff 94r–209v, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30380424


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