Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Speak like an Anglo-Saxon #6: Eco Special

I wonder what the Anglo-Saxons would have thought of our own lifestyles if they'd been able to time-travel forward... There's no doubt that a thousand years ago we English lived far more eco-friendly lives... no oil, no food miles (well, not counting the odd piece of imported Norwegian dried cod), local, sustainable produce, decentralised energy. The list goes on. To get by in the Anglo-Saxon economy you might need some of these:


Where has all the oil gone? = Hwær cwom ele?
[‘H-where cwom ey-le?’]

I use no oil = Ic bruce nan eles
[‘Itch brroo-ke nan ey-les’]

Now the watermill is turning = Nu seo myle bið wendende
[‘Noo sey-o mü-le bith wend-end-e’]

I make this cheese = Ic macie þas ciese
[‘Itch mak-i-e thas chee-eh-suh’]

Here are my chickens = Her sindon min cicen
[‘Hair sind-on min chicken’]

My home-turnips are better than these viking turnips = Mine hamnæpas beoð beteran þonne þas wicingan næpas
[‘Mee-ne haam-napas bey-oth better-an thon-ne thas wick-ing-an napas’]

Three chickens for your sheep = þrie cicen fore þine sceap
[‘Three-uh chicken for-e theen-e shee-ap’]

Can you mend my cloak? = Cannst þu minne bratt aseowan?
[‘Cannst thoo min-ne brrat a-say-o-wan?’]

Friday, 10 October 2008

Speak like an Anglo-Saxon #5: Outside

For our pre-Conquest ancestors there was no rosy, post-victorian romanticism of the natural world. Let's face it: it was nasty out there. Who knows what lurked in the darkness... But, should you find yourself traipsing about in the olde Englishe countryside, some of the following might come in handy:


Where has the path gone? = Hwær cwom pæð? ['H-where cwom path?']

This water is iron-hard. = þis wæter is swa heard swa isern. ['This wat-ter is swa hey-ard swa is-ern']

Do you see the tree? = Siehst þu þæt treow? ['See-ist thu that trey-ow?']

Yes, it moved. = Giese, þæt eode. ['Yee-esse, that ey-od-e']

Oh! Oh! A wolf! = Eala! Eala! An wulf! ['Ey-ala! Ey-ala! An wolf!']

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Speak like an Anglo-Saxon #4: At the dinner table

Presuming you're still alive by tea-time and you've suitably ingratiated yourself with the locals, you may well find yourself comfortably reclining with your ancestors. The cauldron is boiling; delicious smells waft through the hut and out of the chimney hole. You eagerly wait on your bench for the culinary delights... It's time for your best Anglo-Saxon table manners:

Please pass ... = Gif me ... ['Yif me'] (literally 'give me' - bluntness probably wasn't a bad thing...)

... the knife = ...þone seax ['thoh-ne say-axe']
... the cheese = ...þone ciese ['thoh-ne chee-eh-suh']
... the bread = ...þone hlaf ['thoh-ne h-laff']
... the delicacy = ...þone swetmete ['thoh-ne sweht-may-te']

If things aren't going too well and the food is less palatable than you'd hoped, the following phrase might come in handy:

I need the bucket immediately = Ic hæbbe nyd for þam fæt. Sona. ['Itch habb-e nid* for tham fat. Soh-na']


* The sound of Old English 'y' is hard to explain. Some say it's like the French 'u'. Try saying an English short 'i' with pursed lips... That might work. Or you might just look silly.