Monday, 12 October 2009

Speak like a Saxon #12: Existential Angst

Who am I? What on earth am I doing here? Is there a point? What is it? What’s over there? What if I just....? Our Anglo-Saxon ancestors were just as worried about their raison d’être as most graduates today. When someone asks ‘what do you do?’ does your heart sink down below your wool-clad knees into your leathery, festering boots? Here are some phrases that might help the conversation go a little better...

'I sit lamenting' - Ic reotugu sitte (for the ladies) / Ic reotig sitte (for the men) [Itch ray-oh-tuu-gu/ ray-oh-tig sit-tuh]

'I am looking for something' -Ic secce hwæthwugu [Itch sech-uh hwat-hwug-u]

'I can’t think of any reason in the whole world why I shouldn’t be miserable' -Ic geþencean ne mæg geond þas woruld for hwan modsefa min ne gesweorce [itch ye-thenk-i-an nay mayg ya-yond thas wor-uld for hwan mod-sef-a min nay ye-sway-orch-uh]

'The winehalls festered and decayed!!!' - woriað þa winsalo [worr-i-ath thaa win-sal-o]– (oh alas! those sceattas we all believed king Athelflathlnoth had hidden away were a lie! What to do? Our economy is ruined!)

In the end, of course, everything is pointless anyway. As one Anglo-Saxon said:

þis lif is læne [thiss lif iss laynuh] – 'this life is transitory' (as in, ‘eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die’ and so on).

What’s more:

wyrd bið ful aræd [wuu*rd (*say this sound as an ‘i’ and pout at the same time. Just about works...) bith full a-rehd] – ‘fate is completely predetermined’ OR ‘s**t happens’*. It does indeed.

(* I am incredibly grateful to Dr R. Dance for this wonderfully concise translation).