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

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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

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


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

 


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