Bible-speak #Anglish #PlainEnglish

December 26, 2019

The early Modern English of the King James Bible, the traditional Bible in English-speaking countries, is rather different to today’s English. See Matthew 6:1-2 below in the King James version.

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

Now take a look at the same verses in the modern New International text.

‘Be careful not to practise your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. ‘So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

Sometimes, the older version has homeborn words (do alms) whereas the modern version has borrowed words (practise your righteousness). And other times, it’s the newer version which uses homeborn words and the older that borrows (Verily but Truly).

None-the-less, the King James version of the Bible, still so familiar to us despite de-Christianisation and “modernisation”, gives us many homeborn words to stand in stead of the borrowings; the main upside is that even though many of these older words are no longer (commonly) used, they stay well-known owing to their use in the Bible. These words are, as I put it, “buttressed” by their familiarity as part of scripture. Here are some other homeborn words from the same passage that you may wish to swap into your English, thanks to the Bible.

Swap in: take heed for pay attention; do alms for practise charity; blow/sound your trumpet for announce it loudly; have or get for receive.

What other passages from the Bible can you find where the older text gives us words of English birth?

© 2019 Bryan A. J. Parry

image from https://pastormikesays.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/bible.jpg


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 http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-GTTWr2bpaK8/U7Qig_E-7qI/AAAAAAAAAYU/2N_-zH9upS0/s1600/Mercuric+thermometer.jpg


Skeletons #Anglish #PureEnglish #PlainEnglish

May 25, 2018

I quite like the sound of the word skeleton; it’s very “cellar door“-ish to me. It has a fairly quirky word-history. It comes from the Latin sceleton, which in turn comes from the Greek skeleton soma: literally, ‘dried-up body, mummy’. Therefore, being a Greco-Latin word, this project aims to replace it!

Early English forms were more English-sounding: skelton and skelet. These would make excellent bishop-shifted forms. But could we come up with a wholly English form instead?

First, let’s ask: what is the skeleton? It is the bony framework of the body. Therefore, a more Saxon name for it might be “bonework” or “bonywork”. Think network and such.

There are other extended meanings of skeleton, too. How might these be put into Saxon English?

  • In the sense of “bare outline”, “skeleton” can be replaced with… bare outline!
  • “Skeleton crew” therefore become bare outline crew, bare crew, or outline crew.
  • “Skeleton in the closet” becomes “dead body in the cupboard” — closet also being a French word.

© 2018 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://skeletonpictures.org/large/6/Skeleton-Pictures-6.jpg


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

featured image from http://thecarpenterandthecook.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Carpenter.jpg


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


Gite #PlainEnglish #Anglish

February 1, 2017

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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


Collaborate

November 14, 2016

3dbad47

The verb “to collaborate” can easily be put into plain English by saying “to work with”. Indeed, this is exactly what “collaborate” means in Latin: com– ‘with’ + labore ‘to work’. But what about “collaborator” and “collaboration”? The fairly useless word “collaborate” looks like it’s being buttressed by these two words, as well as by the negative, traitorous sense. Indeed, perhaps “collaborator” is slowly coming to mean something like “traitor”, and thus the time might be right for “collaborator” to be shuffled off.

We could turn the verb phrase “work with” into the phrasewords “withworker” and “withworking”. However, “with” when used as a kind of prefix actually means “against”; look at “withstand” (stand against, resist), “withhold” (hold back), and “withdraw” (draw back). The reason for this weirdly counter-intuitive situation is that in Old English, “with” (wiþ) meant ‘against’. The meaning of wiþ changed under the influence of phrases like “fight with”. The eremost (original) English word for the concept of “with” was “mid” — this still lives on in words like “midwife” (literally, ‘with wife/woman’).

So we have two choices here.

  1. Extend the nearly-dead usage of mid- to mean “with” and with- to mean “against”, even though it runs counter to how these words work when not compounded/prefixed.
  2. Write off current with- and mid- as relics, patterns too irretrievably lost to bring back, and make a new prefix with-.

Option one gives us midworker and midworking. Option two gives us withworker and withworking.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://media.licdn.com/mpr/mpr/p/7/005/068/2bd/3dbad47.jpg

 


Pizzle #Anglish #PlainEnglish

November 1, 2016

dried-bull-pizzle-sticks-1525608

Away, you starvelling, you elf-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish!
Henry IV Part I – Act II, Scene iv [1]

Now that I’ve got a dog, it’s come to my attention that the word pizzle, featured memorably in the above Shakespearean quote, is still used. “Bull’s pizzle” is sold as a treat for dogs. A pizzle is properly the penis of an animal, often a bull but not needfully so. The word is Germanic and seems to be borrowed from Low German or Dutch. Why not let’s start using it again? Maybe for human knobs as well — which I have already begun doing.

The Old English word was pintel, which nowadays is/would be spelt “pintle”. I’ve tried slipping that in to conversations, too. Whilst “pintle” and “pizzle” cannot be classed as smuggle-words, they never-the-less do seem to be understood within context without folk piping up. Probably because they are, phonologically-speaking, not a million miles away from “penis”.

But why bother? Straight-forwardly put: “penis” is a Latin word. Originally a euphemism, but one that, to my ears, doesn’t sound sweet.

I cannot stand the word “penis”, which for me not only isn’t Saxon English, it isn’t even English at all. What kind of word is “penis”? Some kind of gibberish, like “vagina” (which I can barely bring myself to say) or “defecate”. I use a variety of the following depending on context, register, and politeness: willy, knob, prick, dick, cock, man part. Other words are used for humorous effect only, such as “John Thomas” or “love-weapon”. I don’t see why pizzle and/or pintle cannot be used as a “polite” swap for the word penis.

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/23/15-great-william-shakespeare-insults-which-are-better-than-swear/?ref=yfp

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.hornbonefashion.com/dried-bull-pizzle-sticks.htm

 

 


The Battle of Hastings: 950th Mind-day

October 16, 2016

image

Think upon this: the 14th of October 2016 marks the 950th mind-day of the  Battle of Hastings, the day that wrixled (changed) everything! (Note anniversary: Old English mynddæg ‘mind-day’; ‘year’s-day’ would also fit the Germanic mould). It was on this day that Harold, king of the English, was felled, and the conquest of England by the Normans began.

How would the English language be different if 1066 and its fallout had never happened? Nobody knows for sure. But here’s some thoughts.

  1. We still would have borrowed words, including from French, just as the other other Germanic languages have done. However, we would likely have borrowed far fewer. See Article I of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for a good example.
  2. However, funnily enough, the fewer words that we would have borrowed would be more obviously French as they would have had less time to become Anglicised, aka, bishop-shifted. Set English adventure, menu, and point by Swedish aventyr, meny, and poäng, for example. The Swedish words more closely keep to the French pronunciation.
  3. We wouldn’t necessarily have kept up the Old English alphabet with its various letters. This is down to English already using other forms in the Old English period itself, such as <th> instead of <þ> and <ð>, and <uu> instead of wynn (keep in mind that <uu> is the old form of <w>). And the loss of yogh (the Middle English development of the Old English form of writing <g>) had little to do with 1066 and all that. However, I feel that, owing to the eventual dominance of Wessex, the late West Saxon use of <þ> and/or <þ> along with perhaps <æ> would likely have kept them in our alphabet up to nowadays. Yogh may have, too, but wynn would almost certainly have been replaced.
  4. Other spellings would be changed (or, rather, wouldn’t have changed). For example, the use of <qu> for /kw/ would likely not have been used, <cw> being used in its stead (see analogues crab and club, and Old English cwene “queen” for comparison; <k> is only used to keep the /k/ sound where would otherwise go soft, for example, king). Other changes are less obvious but no less sure. Take olden long i, which became said as “eye” after the Great Vowel Shift, so now we have win (OE winn) and wine (OE win). However, olden long u came to be spelt the French way (compare Anjou, bijou, frou-frou). Yet, after the Great Vowel Shift, this came to be pronounced as in out. Therefore, without 1066 and all that, ancient long u, just like its brother ancient long i, would have carried on being spelt as it was. So what we now know of as house, out, and cow (<ow> being the word-final variant of <ou>; compare out, bout, and bow), would have stayed as hus, ut, cu.

Whatever other changes would have happened, English still be very much its own beast, the black sheep of the Germanic language family. But I should point out, Anglish and the project of this site, is not a try at making English as it would have been had the English won the Battle of Hastings. Rather, Anglish and this project is about uncovering the English roots of English, to come up with a more Saxon, plainer English.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayeux_Tapestry#


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