The Battle of Hastings: 950th Mind-day

October 16, 2016

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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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Swedish Words of the Week

July 5, 2016

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Ah, Swedish, you beautiful source of inspiration. Doing Swedish on Duolingo constantly brings me face-to-face with some wonderful words, many of which work well in English. I thought I’d share some.

But first, a disclaimer!

As you may know if you are a regular reader of this site, I am thoroughly against Germanicising English. I do not believe loan translations from other Germanic languages are the default mode that we should opt for. Let’s take the word understand. In many of the other Germanic languages, the word translates back to English as “forstand”: Ger verstehen, Swe förstå, Dan forstå, Nor forstå. Clearly, loan translating doesn’t always work; English always has been the black sheep of the Germanic language family.

Therefore, I do not think loan translating from any language is our first go-to option. Rather, we need to look to the resources of the English language itself to uncover a richer, truer, homeborn English.

That said, looking to other languages can sometimes throw up inspiration. Here’s some more from Swedish. Note: the only link between these words is that they have all come up recently in my Duolingo studies.

bilingual adj. tvåspråkig ‘twospeeched/twispeeched’. Speech can mean language, bilingual means having two languages. I like. Incidentally, twi– is the old prefix meaning two, which by the way I think we need to bring back to replace Latin bi-.

change n. förändring ‘for-othering’. That is, a total (See forhere) ‘othering’… by which we mean, to make something other than it is. Indeed, we might well do with dropping the for-: (verb) to other, (noun) an othering.

citizen n. medborgare ‘withborougher/withburger’. This tongue-twister works quite well, although it feels a bit odd. Old English had burhsittend ‘borough-sitter’ and ceasterware ‘chesterer’ (that is, someone from a “Chester“). We could come up with our own forms, too. I think “fellow-townie” works quite well, and it sticks to the etymological root of “citizen” (compare “city”). Another one that I would like to put forward: “land-fellow” (“land” as in “country, nation”; that is, a fellow of our same land/country).

independent adj. självständig ‘selfstanding’. I have no qualms slipping this into my English right now! I think it’s a “smuggleword” for sure!

possible adj. möjlig ‘mayly’. Quite clear, right? Things that may be, must be mayly. English spelling rules would probably dictate “maily” (like “daily”), but as a new word it probably wouldn’t be understood unless spelt “may(-)ly”.

public n. allmänhet ‘allmenhood’. The Modern English noun came from the adjective, the Old English for which was folclic ‘folkly’, that is, of the folk/people. I think allmenhood works fairly well.

success n. framgång ‘forward-go’. Think: go forth.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Sweden#/media/File%3AFlag_of_Sweden.svg

 

 

 

 

 


Viking Words In English

July 21, 2015

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I love the Swedish language. Or rather, Jag älskar det svenska språket. Swedish is a North Germanic language, and therefore  genetically further away from English than German and Dutch (all these three are West Germanic). However, Swedish is actually much easier to learn for English speakers than either German or Dutch. But how can it be more similar despite being more genetically distant? Well, you could be more similar to your best friend Steve than you are to (closely related) Uncle John, after all; same sort of thing in the case of Swedish. Specifically, there are many reasons for Swedish being easier for English speakers to learn than German. The lack of case in both English and Swedish which German retains, is one. Another is that both English and Swedish have borrowed a lot from the same languages including French, Latin, Ancient Greek, and German. And a third reason is the Vikings.

Vikings in the British Isles

The Vikings landed at Lindisfarne in the year 793 with the sole intention of plundering the famed monastery. They continued their yearly raiding for decades. Then in 850 they overwintered in England for the first time. Things were only going one way. 865, and a great army crossed England and settled at York, setting up a Viking kingdom in England. Viking influence spread until 1013 when the Viking king Sweyn was made king of all England. His son, Cnut the Great, took over his kingdom and ruled until his death in 1035 bringing an end to Viking rule in England.

This history has left us with a lot of Norse words.

Words such as sky, slaughter, law, husband, and die. There’s a great little sentence which shows the Norse influence on English, particularly in parts of the north of the UK, and it goes: the barns are laikin’ in the gate, which means ‘the children are playing in the road’; compare the modern Swedish: barnen leker på gatan.

Warp, Cast, Throw

One of my favourite little word-histories concerns THROW. In Old English, the word for THROW was weorpan, that is, warp.  The Norse word cast (as in cast stones or cast a fishing line) came in with the Vikings and effectively replaced warp, the original English word sticking around with an altered meaning. And then another homeborn English word, þrawan ‘throw’, which originally meant ‘to twist, turn, writhe’, rose up and overthrew the Norse borrowing to become the default word, cast itself becoming specialised in meaning. Thus, words for THROW changed from warp to cast to throw. Also note how þrawan and weorpan more-or-less exchanged meanings: the former meant ‘writhe, twist’ and came to mean ‘throw’, the latter meant ‘throw’ and came to mean ‘bend, twist’.

Borrowings

Being the kind of Anglisher I am (see here), I have no real issue taking these historical borrowings into the English language and accepting them as thoroughly English. Indeed, sometimes words are so similar between Norse and Old English, that it’s difficult to know which language they came from.

The following lovely article, The Vikings Are Coming!: 139 Old Norse Words That Invaded The English Language, lists some wonderful and perhaps surprising Norse words. The article is lovely — although I do note that it rather irritatingly keeps the following linguistic myth alive: the words ‘beef’ and ‘mutton’ come from Norman French, whereas ‘cow’ and ‘sheep’ come from English because the aristocracy ate the luxurious food of beef and mutton, whereas the native Saxon peasants merely saw these animals in the field. But asides from helping perpetuate a lovely albeit historically inaccurate story, this article is great. Read it here.

I’ve reproduced the article below just in case babble.com takes this wonderful resource offline at some point. Do check out Babbel, as there is some great stuff on there.

featured image from http://www.babbel.com/magazine/139-norse-words?slc=engmag-a17-info-139norsewords-tb

© 2014 – 2015  Bryan A. J. Parry

139 Old Norse Words That Invaded The English Language

When I say “Old English” what comes to mind? The ornate, hard-to-read script? Reading Beowulf in your high school English class? The kinds of figurative compound nouns – or kennings – like “swan of blood” and “slaughter-dew” that have sustained heavy metal lyrics for decades?

Old English, also known as Anglo-Saxon, was a language spoken by the Angles and the Saxons – the first Germanic tribes to settle the British Isles. They were not the first inhabitants, as any Welsh or Gaelic speaker will tell you, but their language did form the basis for the Angle-ish we speak today. But then why can’t we modern-day English speakers understand Old English? In terms of vocabulary, grammar and syntax, Old English resembles its cousins Dutch and German more than it does modern English. So how did English change so drastically?

The short answer is that the English language changed forever after the Norman invasion brought a new ruling class of French speakers to the British Isles in 1066. French was the language of the nobility for the next 300 years – plenty of time for lots of French words to trickle down to the merchant and peasant classes. For example, the Anglo-Saxons already had words for “sheep” and “cows”, but the Norman aristocracy – who usually only saw these animals on the plate – introduced mouton (mutton) and boeuf (beef). Today, nearly thirty percent of English words come from French.

As a result, modern English is commonly thought of as a West Germanic language with lots of French and, thanks to the church, Latin influence. But this history of English’s development leaves out a very important piece of the linguistic puzzle – Old Norse: the language of the Vikings.

How To Speak Viking

The Old Norse noun víking meant an overseas expedition, and a vikingr was someone who went on one of these expeditions. In the popular imagination, the Vikings were essentially pirates from the fjords of Denmark and Norway who descended on medieval England like a bloodthirsty frat party; they raped, pillaged, murdered, razed villages and then sailed back across the North Sea with the loot.

But the truth is far more nuanced. The earliest Viking activity in England did consist of coastal raids in the early ninth century, but by the 870s the Danes had traded sword for plow and were settled across most of Northern England in an area governed by treaties known as the Danelaw. England even had Danish kings from 1018 to 1042. However, the more successful and longer-lasting Norman conquest in 1066 marked the end of the Viking era and virtually erased Danish influence in all aspects of English culture but one: its effect on the development of the English language.

Traust me, þó (though) it may seem oddi at first, we er still very líkligr to use the same words as the Vikings did in our everyday speech. Þeirra (their) language evolved into the modern-day Scandinavian languages, but þeir (they) also gave English the gift of hundreds of words.

[A note on the letter þ: the Old Norse letter, called thorn, makes the same sound as “th”.]

Names of Days

The most obvious Viking influence on modern English is the word Thursday (Þorsdagr), which you can probably guess means “Thor’s day”.

“Tuesday”, “Wednesday” and “Friday” are sometimes also attributed to the Norse gods Tyr, Odin and Freya, respectively; but the days are actually named for the Anglo-Saxon equivalents of these gods, Tiw, Wodan and Friga. The similarity of these names points to the common ancestry of the various Germanic tribes in prehistoric northern Europe – centuries before their descendants clashed on England’s shores.

War & Violence

If the Vikings are famous for one thing, it’s their obsession with war. They didn’t just bring death and destruction to England in the Middle Ages, they brought really cool words for death and destruction. They were certainly a rough bunch. Just look at a Viking the rangr way, and he might þrysta (thrust) a knifr into your skulle.

  • berserk/berserkerberserkr, lit. ‘bear-shirt’. A berserkr was a Viking warrior who would enter battle in a crazed frenzy, wearing nothing for armor but an animal skin.
  • clubklubba. People have been bashing each other with heavy things since time immemorial, but not until the Danes started bringing this weapon down on English heads did this blunt weapon receive its fittingly blunt name.
  • ransackrannsaka (to search a house)
  • These days, the adjective scathing is reserved for sharp criticism, but in the context of the original meaning of scathe (to injure), skaða takes on a much more visceral quality.
  • slaughterslatra (to butcher)
  • Even though the gun wasn’t invented until centuries after the Viking era, the word comes from Old Norse. The most common usage was in the female name Gunnhildr: gunn and hildr both can translate as “war” or “battle”. Only truly badass Vikings named their infant daughters “Warbattle”.

Society & Culture

But life in the Danelaw wasn’t all murder and mayhem. Ironically, these savage berserkers also gave us words that are central to our “civilized” culture:

bylawbylög (village-law) salesala
heathenheiðinn (one who inhabits the heath or open country) skillskil (distinction)
Hell – In Norse mythology, Loki’s daughter Hel ruled the underworld. steaksteik (to fry)
husbandhús (house) + bóndi (occupier and tiller of soil) = húsbóndi thrallþræll (slave)
lawlag thriftþrift (prosperity)
litmuslitr (dye) + mosi (lichen; moss) tidingstíðindi (news of events)
loanlán (to lend) troll
saga yulejol (a pagan winter solstice feast)

Animals

Although most English animal names retain their Anglo-Saxon roots (cow, bear, hound, swine, chicken, etc) the Vikings did bring certain animals names into the vernacular:

  • bugbúkr (an insect within tree trunks)
  • bullboli
  • reindeerhreindyri
  • skateskata (fish)
  • wingvængr

Some words associated with hunting and trapping also come from Old Norse. Sleuth now means “detective”, but the original slóth meant “trail” or “track”. Snare, on the other hand, retains the original meaning of O.N. snara.

The Landscape

Old Norse is good at describing bleikr landscapes and weather. This was especially useful in the Vikings’ adopted northern England, where flatr or rogg (rugged) terrain can be shrouded in fok, and oppressed by gustr of wind and lagr (low) ský (clouds).

Much of the Danelaw bordered swamps and alluvial plains, so it’s no surprise that many Norse words for dirty, mucky things survive in English:

  • dirtdrit (excrement)
  • dregsdregg (sediment)
  • miremyrr (bog)
  • muckmyki (cow dung)
  • rottenrotinn

The Norse Legacy in English

Thanks to the cross-cultural fermentation that occured in the Danelaw – and later when England was temporarily absorbed into Canute the Great’s North Sea Kingdom – the English language is much closer to that of its Scandinavian neighbors than many acknowledge. By the time that the Norman conquest brought the irreversible influence of French, Old English had already been transformed beyond its Anglo-Saxon roots.

This is still in evidence today; modern English grammar and syntax are more similar to modern Scandinavian languages than to Old English. This suggests that Old Norse didn’t just introduce new words, but influenced how the Anglo-Saxons constructed their sentences. Some linguists even claim that English should be reclassified as a North Germanic language (along with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish), rather than a West Germanic language (with Dutch and German). The Viking influence may be most apparent in the Yorkshire dialect, which uses even more Norse words in daily speech than standard English does.

English is probably too much of a hybrid to ever neatly classify, but its Old Norse rót is clearly there among the tangle of Anglo-Saxon, French and Latin roots. The language of the Vikings may have become subdued over the centuries, but make no mistaka about it – from byrðr (birth) undtil we deyja (die) – Norse’s raw energy simmers under the surface of everything we say.

More Norse Words

VERBS
barkbǫrkr ridrythja (to clear land)
baskbaðask (reflexive of baða, “to bathe”) runrenna
billowbylgja scareskirra
blunderblundra (to shut one’s eyes; to stumble about blindly) scrapeskrapa
callkalla (to cry loudly) snubsnubba (to curse)
castkasta (to throw) sprintspretta (to jump up)
choosekjósa staggerstakra (to push)
clipklippa (to cut) stainsteina (to paint)
crawlkrafla (to claw) stammerstemma (to hinder or dam up)
gawkga (to heed) swaysveigja (to bend; to give way)
getgeta taketaka
givegefa seemsœma (to conform)
glitterglitra shakeskaka
hagglehaggen (to chop skipskopa
hithitta (to find) thwartþvert (across)
kindlekynda wantvanta (to lack)
racerás (to race, to move swiftly) whirlhvirfla (to go around)
raisereisa whiskviska (to plait or braid)
OBJECTS
axleöxull (axis) loftlopt (air, sky; upper room)
bagbaggin mugmugge
ballbǫllr (round object) plow, ploughplogr
band (rope) raftraptr (log)
bulkbulki (cargo) scale (for weighing) – skal (bowl, drinking cup)
cakekaka scrapskrap
egg seatsæti
glovelofi (middle of the hand) skirtskyrta (shirt)
knotknutr wandvondr (rod)
keelkjölr windowvindauga (lit. “wind-eye”)
linkhlenkr
ADJECTIVES THE BODY
aloftá (on) + lopt (loft; sky; heaven) frecklesfreknur
illillr (bad) footfótr
looselauss girthgjörð (circumference)
slysloegr legleggr
scantskamt (short, lacking) skinskinn (animal hide)
uglyuggligr (dreadful)
weakveikr
PEOPLE EMOTIONS
fellowfelagi angerangr (trouble, affliction)
guestgestr aweagi (terror)
kidkið (young goat) happyhapp (good luck; fate)
ladladd (young man) irkyrkja (to work)
oafalfr (elf)

Word of the Week: Eyeblink

June 22, 2015

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As you may have picked up on, I am a lover of Swedish (see here and here). Going through the Duolingo Swedish course is providing me with a lot of delight and inspiration right now. For example, the Time module has  reminded me of a few lovely Swedish words.

There’s årtionde “decade”, lit. ‘year-ten’, and århundrade “century”, lit. ‘year-hundred’. There’s the particularly lovely årstid “season”, lit. ‘year’s-time’.

But my favourite is ögonblick “moment”: literally, ‘eyes-blink’.

Notice that all of these Swedish words are what I call “phrase-words“: phrases which have been condensed into a word. I propose using such phrase-words more often in English. I consider such formations to be “implied English”; that is, they don’t happen to exist in any dictionary, but they are implied by the mechanisms of the language.

The literal English oversetting of the above Swedish words doesn’t quite work in English. “Year-ten”, “year-hundred”, “year’s-time”, and “eyes-blink” have a distinctly Germanesque smack to them. However, we can make phrase-words of “ten years”, “hundred(s of) years”, “time of the year”, and “blink of an eye” in a style most English. I put forward:

ten-year, hundred-year, year-time, eye-blink (with or without the dashes as one sees fit).

Of course, there is nothing wrong with the phrases “ten years”, “time of the year”, and so on. And I would definitely advise people to use “In the last ten years”, and its ilk, instead of “In the last decade”. But when one needs to use a single word to encompass this phrase, as one does from time to time, let’s use the impled English phrase-words instead of complex Latinate jargon.

featured image from https://thewordsgirl.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/flat550x550075f1.jpg

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry


Worthful

May 23, 2015

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I was studying Swedish on Duolingo just now, and I was reminded of the lovely Swedish word värdefull. This is, quite literally, “worthful” and means exactly that: something worth a lot, i.e., valuable. Despite us using worthless, we don’t use the natural opposite, worthful (212,000 hits on Google set against 308,000,000 for valuable). Well, I for one am going to start!

There are two kinds of word which my Anglish project is very keen on: “forgotten words” and “hidden words”. “Forgotten” words are those which are no longer used even though they still make perfect sense. Worthful is a good example. And “hidden” words are those which are implied by other words or by the grammar of the language: I thought worthful would be such a word (implied by worthless), yet it turns out that it really exists. More on these two classes later.

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry

Featured image from http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0790/6779/t/8/assets/header_logo.png?9156818670359772067


Top Swedish Words of the Day

February 25, 2015

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Swedish, being a Germanic language, may sometimes give us a model or inspiration for our true, roots, Saxon, homeborn English made of homeborn roots. 8sidor (‘eight pages’) is a Swedish newspaper. Today’s issue has an article about Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims regarding Iran’s capacity for an atomic bomb. Here’s some delightful Swedish words appearing in the article and possible Anglish forms based on them.

kärnvapen: nuclear weapon, lit. ‘kernel-weapon’
spiongrupp: spy agency, lit. ‘spy-group’
tllverka: manufacture, fabricate, lit. ‘to-work’

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry


Black Sheep English

January 30, 2015

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English is so different to the other Germanic languages. This difference is really brought home for us when we compare Article I of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in various Germanic languages.

English:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

German:
Alle Menschen sind frei und gleich an Würde und Rechten geboren. Sie sind mit Vernunft und Gewissen begabt und sollen einander im Geist der Brüderlichkeit begegnen.

Dutch:
Alle mensen worden vrij en gelijk in waardigheid en rechten geboren. Zij zijn begiftigd met verstand en geweten, en behoren zich jegens elkander in een geest van broederschap te gedragen.

Afrikaans:
Alle menslike wesens word vry, met gelyke waardigheid en regte, gebore. Hulle het rede en gewete en behoort in die gees van broederskap teenoor mekaar op te tree.

Swedish:
Alla människor äro födda fria och lika i värde och rättigheter. De äro utrustade med förnuft och samvete och böra handla gentemot varandra i en anda av broderskap.

Norwegian (Bokmål):
Alle mennesker er født frie og med samme menneskeverd og menneskerettigheter. De er utstyrt med fornuft og samvittighet og bør handle mot hverandre i brorskapets ånd.

Norwegian (Nynorsk):
Alle menneske er fødde til fridom og med same menneskeverd og menneskerettar. Dei har fått fornuft og samvit og skal leve med kvarandre som brør.

Danish:
Alle mennesker er født frie og lige i værdighed og rettigheder. De er udstyret med fornuft og samvittighed, og de bør handle mod hverandre i en broderskabets ånd.

Frisian:
Alle minsken wurde frij en gelyk yn weardigens en rjochten berne. Hja hawwe ferstân en gewisse meikrigen en hearre har foar inoar oer yn in geast fan bruorskip te hâlden en te dragen.

Icelandic:
Hver maður er borinn frjáls og jafn öðrum að virðingu og réttindum. Menn eru gæddir vitsmunum og samvizku, og ber þeim að breyta bróðurlega hverjum við annan.

Faroese:
Øll menniskju eru fødd fræls og jøvn til virðingar og mannarættindi. Tey hava skil og samvitsku og eiga at fara hvørt um annað í bróðuranda.

[Translations from http://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Pages/SearchByLang.aspx]

Firstly, I’m sorry if I left your favourite Germanic language off! The above list wasn’t meant to be exhaustive, merely representative.

Straightaway, you should notice a lot of variety in the Germanic languages. They aren’t all just like German at all. But despite this variety, a quick glance shows just how far removed English is. Truly, English is the black sheep of the Germanic family!

FUN TASK 1

With the following English-Swedish key, see for yourself what these words come out as in the various Germanic languages:

  • human beings : människor
  • equal : lika
  • dignity :  värde
  • endowed : utrustade
  • reason : förnuft
  • conscience : samvete
  • act : handla
  • spirit : anda

Found those words in all the other Germanic languages yet?

FUN TASK 2

Think about what the English cognates to these Swedish words could be, e.g., lika is ‘like’. Then consider whether these cognates mean the same thing as the English word being translated. So, ‘like’ is the brother-word to lika, but does ‘like’ actually mean ‘equal’? And if not, how not? Do this for all the above words.

FUN TASK 3

Compare the English version to the Spanish and French versions paying particular attention to the eight words we highlighted above.

English:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Spanish:
Todos los seres humanos nacen libres e iguales en dignidad y derechos y, dotados como están de razón y conciencia, deben comportarse fraternalmente los unos con los otros.

French:
Tous les êtres humains naissent libres et égaux en dignité et en droits. Ils sont doués de raison et de conscience et doivent agir les uns envers les autres dans un esprit de fraternité.

And English is a Germanic language…? But of course, the heavy Latinate influence on English won’t surprise most readers of this blog. None-the-less, this kind of side-by-side comparison is illuminating, to say the least.

SO IT’S ALL LATIN’S FAULT?

Most of my fellow Saxonists — folk who still salute Harold Godwinson as their one true king — will claim this is all William the Conqueror’s fault. If only he hadn’t subjugated this nation, English would be more like Swedish and German. Why, if only he’d stayed in France where he belonged, we’d be using stout Germanic words like ogle, swinehound, and swart — just like any Germanic language worth its salt, such as Swedish: öga, svin, hund, and svart — instead of the pathetic borrowings we’ve been left with: eye, pig, dog, black.

Except eye, pigdog, and black are thoroughly English words. Their use has got nothing, direct or indirect, to do with William the Conqueror and the subsequent Frenchification of England (check the word-histories out here).

Y’see, English belongs to a different branch of the Germanic languages to all the others. The only other living language in this branch, Scots aside, is Frisian — a language more swamped by Dutch than even English has been by French. Furthemore, English being on an island, it has developed in a totally different direction to the other Germanic languages: “insular” does literally mean ‘of an island’ for a reason, you know.

So there we are. Even if it weren’t for the undeniable Latinate influence on English, English always was a bit different. It always was the black sheep.

featured image from http://www.parenthub.com.au/wp-content/uploads/612_black-sheep.jpg

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry


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