Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Speak like a Saxon: Happy Easter

Just a few days to go until Easter. There's no better time than Holy Week to have a go at some Old English Easter phrases:

þonc sie Gode for þissere Eastre*

[Thonk see-yuh Go-du for this-er-uh Ay-as-truh"]

Thanks be to God for this Easter

I reckon that just about counts for 'Happy Easter'...

And you should also have a go at one that's a bit longer; a couple of lines from the Dream of the Rood: 

Deað he þær byrigde; hwæðere eft Dryhten aras

mid his miclan mihte mannum to helpe.

["day-ath hay there boo-rig-du; hwath-er-uh eft Drich-ten ar-ras
mid his mitch-lan mich-tuh man-um toe help-uh"] 

He tasted death there [in the grave]; nevertheless, afterwards the Lord arose
to help mankind with his great might.


*Warning: the words are all pukka Old English but I made up the phrase.


Speak like a Saxon - in the garden

Impress your gardening buddies with some Old English plant names next time you're out. Here's one to get you started:

Heahheolode - elecampane


There's a great wikipedia article on elecampane...ahem...enquire in one of the Leechdoms* for all you need to know on this mighty plant.

The elecampanes in my patch of ground are just starting to poke through the earth, so you'll have plenty of time to get practising this word.

* to be precise, Leechdoms, Wortcunning and Starcraft of the Anglo-Saxons, ed. O. Cockayne, London (1864-6)

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Speak like a Saxon: blame

It's nice to have someone else to blame for the stupid decisions we all make. That time when you called Edwin a turnip-head to his face to see what happened; that Tuesday night when it seemed like such a good idea to go picking apples in the dark with cousin Eofor and you fell in the pond...


Þæt betweonweb het me hit gefremman.

["That be-tway-on-web het may hit ye-frem-man"]

The internet made me do it.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Speak like a Saxon: The internet

The highways and byways are teeming with messengers. All day long and well into the night they're carrying carefully-worded letters; love notes; recipes and paintings of ye cat dressed up like the king. That's right: the interwebs has come to Anglo-Saxon England.

I won't go into the techy detail of how the Anglo-Saxons created new words for foreign concepts here (you'd have to see my MPhil thesis for that and it's quite long). Anyway, here's one option for expressing 'internet':

Þæt betweonweb
Literally, the 'between-web'. Web can mean 'web' or also tapestry, so it's quite a nice word here.

["That be-tway-on-webb"]

Stay tuned for internet-related phrases next time.

*There are probably some of you out there who have your own new old words for 'internet' so do post your suggests in the comments box.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Speak like a Saxon: look up

Compared with the rapidity of change on the earth's surface - hundreds of years of language change, urbanisation, industrialisation and the developments of the nuclear age; the night sky changes very little. The constellations that the Anglo-Saxons stared up at, on a quiet night's walk from the privy to the hall, are the same constellations we see today.

When you're stargazing, try this:

Hwæt! þis is eoforðring.

(Look!* This is Orion**)

[Hwat! Thiss iss ay-off-or-thring]

*(Technically Hwæt is usually used to mean 'listen', but it's a word that means 'pay attention', so you'd probably be ok with this here)
**(Eoforðring translates as 'boar-thong')


Speak like a Saxon: Nice to meet you

When the envoy from a foreign nation arrives in town; when a new warrior turns up; or when you meet a fellow pilgrim on the way to Rome you'll no doubt be needing to ask:

Hwæt is þin nama?

(What's your name?)

["hwat iss thin nam-uh"]

If you need to suck up to said new friend (say, they're the head of a nation you want to build a special relationship with, or someone you really don't want to annoy) you can follow that with:

 þin nama is cynelic.*

(That's an kingly name)

["Thin nam-uh iss koon-uh-litch"]

(Geek alert: fans of the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings films might recognise this from a phrase that Aragorn says to the troubled horse in Rohan)


Monday, 9 September 2013

Speak like a Saxon: Goodbye, summer

After our weeks and weeks of glorious sunshine, it seems that summer is hastily making its exit (stage left, pursued by a bear?). This means we're back to the world of miserable Anglo-Saxon weather which is lucky for us as there's far more written in the poetic corpus about the wind, rain, frost, hail, hoar, sleet, snow, mist, drizzle and cold than the sunshine. So to get us started, here's a handy phrase from the Seafarer:

Calde geþrungen / wæron fet mine forste gebunden

(afflicted by cold, my feet were bound with frost)
["cald-uh ye-thrung-en / where-on fet meen-uh forst-uh ye-bund-en"]

Text from Sweet's Anglo -Saxon Reader in Prose and Verse, 1928.