Niche Topic: Much Thanks

May 9, 2018

This little blog of mine, Wrixlings /, regularly gets dozens of hits a day and hundreds of hits a month. Given that I do not advertise this site, and I only tend to update it once or twice a month, and bearing in mind that it centres on a highly niche topic — a pure Saxon English –, I find the readership to be quite unbelievable.

So thank you to everyone who reads and (hopefully) enjoys this website every day! I dream of taking this site to the next level in more ways than one, but I just cannot find the time right now. “Anglish” is a lifetime obsession of mine, a meme I just cannot shake. I hope you all keep up this hobby (?mania) and carry on following this site.

My thanks to you all again!

© 2018 Bryan A. J. Parry


Wright #Anglish #PlainEnglish

April 30, 2018

Shipwright, cartwright, wheelwright, playwright (not “playwrite”!).

The word “wright” is related to wrought and work. A wright is, in short, a worker. But as you can tell from the above words, “wright” really implies a kind of craftsman or skilled worker, not just a regular slogger. This is clearly a useful word, but only pops up in these historic and set formations, and as a last name (Ian Wright! Wright! Wright!).

This nameword (noun) comes from the deedword/workword (verb) to work. But given the difference between a mere “worker” and the noble “wright”, we might wish to backform a new verb to wright, meaning to work in the specific sense of crafting or as a craftsman.

Let’s take this potentially useful nameword wright, and our new idea of the deedword to wright, and see how we can use them.

A carpenter (from the Latin root carpentum)  is someone who works wood, but with the craft-like connotations. Woodworker is a nice formation; indeed, I try to smuggle this word into everyday talk. Woodcrafter or woodcraftsman work, too, altho I feel not as well. Workwood, like turnkey or sawbones, are also fairly neat Saxon alternatives to “carpenter”. But I think woodwright really gets to the craftsmanlike aspect in an unambiguous way. Old English had the form treowwyrhta, which is literally “tree-wright”.

What about the stone mason? “Mason” itself is Old French masson of unclear parentage; it may ultimately be from a German tongue or Latin matio. Surely, we could say stonewright instead. Indeed, the Old English word was stanwyrhta “stone-wright”. Personally, I really like the sound of this even more so than the above alternatives to “carpenter”.

Maybe “wright” could be regularly treated as the English equivalent to Greek tekton as found in architect. Therefore, perhaps architect could be buildingwright? The following words also work, but are more unwieldy: buildingcrafter and  buildingcraftsman. Old English had the nice form heahcræftiga “high-crafter”, but maybe that wouldn’t be as self-clear as “buildingwright”.

© 2018 Bryan A. J. Parry

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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

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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

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Backbones #Anglish #PlainEnglish

February 15, 2017


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

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Gite #PlainEnglish #Anglish

February 1, 2017


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

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Century #Anglish #PlainEnglish

January 17, 2017


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

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