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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Hybrid #PlainEnglish #Anglish #PureEnglish

December 19, 2016

toyota_yaris_hybrid

hybrid (noun) c. 1600, “offspring of plants or animals of different variety or species,” from Latin hybrida, variant of ibrida “mongrel,” specifically “offspring of a tame sow and a wild boar,” of unknown origin but probably from Greek and somehow related to hubris. A rare word before the general sense “anything a product of two heterogeneous things” emerged c. 1850. The adjective is attested from 1716. As a noun meaning “automobile powered by an engine that uses both electricity and gasoline,” 2002, short for hybrid vehicle, etc.

hybridize (verb)

From the Online Etymology Dictionary

We can see indeed from our day-to-day experience that the words hybrid and hybridize are growing in popularity. But what’s wrong with our own Saxon words for these things?

The nameword (noun) is either: cross, crossbreed, or mongrel. I suggest a further word: blendbreed. Obviously, as far as “hybrid” cars go, “cross” is probably the best fit. We might also say half-and-half or half-half cars. And note that mongrel can (but needn’t) have negatives tones, whereas cross and crossbreed are more judgement-free.

The deedword (verb) can therefore either be: cross, crossbreed, and blendbreed.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-XggVsuU-4bs/T6c-uQx-47I/AAAAAAAAAJg/2LnX1gmPlV0/s1600/Toyota_Yaris_Hybrid.jpg

 


Labour

December 2, 2016

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Let’s have a workers’ revolution and purge our speech of the word “labo(u)r” and its derivatives, coming as it does from Latin labor. What are the plain, Saxon English alternatives?

Labour (n) = hard work, slog

Labour (v) = work hard, slog, slog away

Labour Day = May day, Workers’ day

The Labour Party = The Workers’ Party

Labour union = workers’ union

Go into labour = begin/start giving birth

Belabour = overwork, overdo, over-egg

Labourer = worker, unskilled worker, hand(y) worker [that is, “manual labourer”]

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labour_Isn’t_Working


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#


For-

June 27, 2016

forgive_and_forget_by_ambar89-d3f5m3w

Forgive and Forget

Forgive and Forget are two of the commonest words in English (forget is 875th, forgive is 3629th out of around a million words) But what do the words mean? Okay, we know what they mean. But what do they mean?

Forgive means to ‘pardon an offence’, a sense which developed from the original meaning of ‘grant, allow, give’; note that give is the root.

Forget means to ‘lose the power to recall to the mind, to not remember’. The root word, get, means/meant to grasp. Forget, when you get down to it, means to ‘un-get’, not grasp, or lose something from the mind.

For-give and For-get

Mark the prefix for– which crops up in both words. What does for mean in these words?

For– is actually a prefix that used to be extremely common in English. Indeed, it maintains this place in many other Germanic languages including Swedish and German (ver-). It is no longer used productively in English. Which is a shame, as it is such a useful prefix.

The meaning of For

For– usually means ‘away, opposite, completely’. To expand on that, it implies (meaning 1) intensive or completive action or process, and (meaning 2) something going amiss, turning out for the worse, ending in failure. It often implies both senses at once.

So forgive is (meaning 1) to completely give. Whilst forget is (meaning 2) to fail to [mentally] get.

The prefix, which is common across the Germanic languages, seems to be an old development of the word fore, meaning ‘forward, in front of’. This development makes sense when you consider words like foremost, foreman, forthright. Yet for– and fore– have come to be separate affixes spelt differently.

Buttresses

I talk about the concept of word buttresses. That is, words or phrases or usages which support less strong words and prevent them falling out of use; indeed, which may reinvigorate their use. So there’s hope that some commonly used for– words might act as such buttresses. Unfortunately for the rather useful for-, whose power I first realised as a teenager reading poetry which clearly used the prefix with proper force, many of the common words in for– are rather difficult to break down into self-explaining parts. Take the following.

  • forsooth: completely (meaning one) + sooth ‘truth’
  • forgo: ‘refrain from’: (meaning one and two) + go: ‘to completely away go’
  • forbid: ‘prohibit’: (meaning one and two) + bid ‘command’ (think: “Do someone’s bidding”)
  • forlorn: ‘wretched’, originally meaning ‘deprived of, lost, abandoned’: (meaning one and two) + lorn, old past participle of lose; so, ‘completely lost’
  • forsake: ‘sake’, originally meaning ‘to struggle, dispute, wrangle; accuse, blame’

Let’s not forsake for-

For– is a great word-forming device. Sadly, it is no longer in vogue and many (?most) words in for– have fallen out of use. Why not let’s trying bringing them back? They’re great!

  • forblack adj completely black
  • fordeal n precedence, advantage; a store, a reserve; adj in reserve, in hand
  • fordo vb tr kill, put an end to life; destroy, ruin, spoil; abolish (an institution), annul (a law); do away with, remove (an immaterial object, esp. sin); undo, make powerless, counteract (poison, temptation, aso).
  • fordone pp exhausted, tired out
  • forgather vb intr gather together, assemble; meet (with); associate (with), take up with.
  • forold vb intr grow old, wear out with age
  • forpine vb tr & intr (cause to) pine or waste away, torture
  • forset vb tr beset, bar (a way), waylay, entrap (a person)
  • forshape vb tr transform, (rare) disfigure
  • forslack vb intr slacken; tr be slack in, neglect, lose or spoil by slackness or decay
  • forslow vb tr be slow about, lose or spoil by sloth, delay, neglect; hinder, obstruct; intr be slow or dilatory
  • forspeak vb tr deny; renounce, (rare) forbid; speak against, speak ill of; bewitch or charm, esp. by excessive praising
  • forspeaker n a witch, an enchanter
  • forspend vb tr spend, squander; exhaust, tire out
  • forstand vb tr oppose, withstand; understand
  • forthink vb tr despise, distrust; refl & intr repent (of), be sorry (for, that, to do); tr think of with pain or regret, repent of, be sorry for
  • forwander vb intr weary oneself with wandering, wander far and wide
  • forwarn vb tr prohibit, forbid [note the difference to forewarn]
  • forwaste vb tr waste, use up, exhaust, lay waste, make feeble
  • forwear vb tr wear out, weat away, exhaust
  • foryield vb tr pay, recompense, requite

And you could easily make up new words. Try it yourself. Just remember, it means to “totally”, but often with a negative sense. And remember, there

for-

(meaning 1) intensive or completive action or process; (meaning 2) something going amiss, turning out for the worse, ending in failure.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://fc00.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2012/160/c/0/forgive_and_forget_by_ambar89-d3f5m3w.jpg


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