Thursday, 26 November 2009

Speak like a Saxon #17: less than a month until Christmas

It’s less than a month until Christmas. Are you ready?

Have you got everything planned? What about a Christmas tree? A recent report proved that real trees are more environmentally friendly than the plastic ones.* Which is lucky really, since the Anglo-Saxons didn’t have plastic. They didn’t have Christmas trees either, for that matter, since the Tannenbaum was a Victorian fad stolen from Germany. But, details aside....

‘We have a proper Christmas tree’ – We habban geradlic Cristesmæssetreow [“way hab-ban ye-rad-litch Krist-es-mas-uh-tray-ow”]

‘You have a fake Christmas tree’ – þu hafast leas Cristesmæssetreow [“thoo haf-ast lay-as Krist-es-mas-uh-tray-ow”]

‘Our Christmas tree is environmentally friendly’ – Ure Cristesmæssetreow is middangeardfreondlic [“oo-re Krist-es-mas-uh-tray-ow iss mid-an-yay-ard-fray-ond-lic”]


Monday, 23 November 2009

Speak like a Saxon #16: when you've got to go...

When you've got to go, you've got to go. Whether you're looking for the smallest room in the house; the little girls' room or the ladies, here's what you need:

Gangpytt - ["gang-pu*tt"] (* this is the where you say an "u" sound but make your lips round)

It means quite literally the 'pit where you go'. Nice.

So, if you're looking for the toilet, you might want to ask:

'Where's the place to go?' - Hwær cwom gangpytt? ["hwar kwom gang pu*tt?"]

And once the gangpytt is full, it needs to be cleaned. That's when you call for the:

Gangfeormer! ["gang-fey-or-mer-uh"]

It's not just a toilet cleaner but, a "goings-farmer". To be crude, a s**t shoveller, perhaps. These two words, gangpytt and gangfeormer, are real, bona fide Angl0-Saxon words. I don't think it was until the Normans came along with their courtly sensibilities that we got all prudish and started calling it the 'privy.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Speak like a Saxon #15: The weekend beckons

You've got two whole days off before you have to start working again. That manuscript you've been copying for years can just wait. As can the money-counting for the thegn, the weaving and the hunting. For two days, you're going to have a weekend! But what to do...

'Let's sit and do nothing' - Uton we sittan and nales don ["oot-on way sit-an and naa-less don"]

'Let's eat turnips' - Uton we næpas abrucan ["oot-on way na-pas a-broo-can"]

'Let's sing psalms' - Uton we sealmas singan ["oot-on way say-alm-as sing-an"]

You get the idea. Here are some more words you might like to fill in the gaps with:

Uton we..... gan/gamolian/sacan - 'Let's go/grow old/fight' ["oot-on way gaan/ga-moh-lee-aan/sack-an"]

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Speak like a Saxon #14: The rains came down...

What with all the living in huts without double-glazing and damp-proof-courses, the Anglo-Saxons probably got quite wet quite a lot. But that's no reason to be down. Oh no. When the rains fall and the floods rise, know that they'll go away again sooner or later. Life is cyclical, and so proclaim this line (pilfered straight from the poem The Battle of Maldon) in defiance:

Se flod ut gewat! - 'The flood went away*!!! ["say flohd oooooot ye-waat"]


* well, technically it's translated as 'the flood went out', but that doesn't sound as good.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Saxon Phrase of the Day #8: It's windy

It’s been blowing a gale today: leaves flying everywhere; bits of tree falling off everywhere and poor little birds (and people) getting blown about by the wind. In fact, our word ‘windy’ comes straight from the Anglo-Saxons. Here’s a little ditty translated for the ears of the Old English speakers out there:

‘North-wind doth blow, and we shall have snow, and what will poor robin do then (poor thing)?’

Norðanwind bleow, and we habban snaw, and hwæt þonne do earm fugel (earm þing)?

[“North-an-wind blay-oh, and way hab-ban snaw, and hwat thon-nuh doh* (*as in “dough”) ay-arm foo-gel (ay-arm thing)”]

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Saxon phrase of the day #7: energy

Perhaps the Anglo-Saxons had it easier than we do now. Even if they didn't have solar panels or snazzy wind turbines, at least there were watermills and more wood-burning stoves than you could shake a stick at (or a log, for that matter).

'Our power is green. It comes from the mill' - Ure cræft is grene. Hit cumað of þæm myle ["oor-uh kraft is gray-nuh. Hit kum-ath off tham moo-le"]

Monday, 16 November 2009

Saxon phrase of the day #6: elevenses

It's not quite time to delve into the cauldron of boiling mystery meat that Ethel's cooking for lunch, and breakfast was a long time ago. Your stomach rumbles like the thundering viking hordes. What to do? Biscuits!

'Give me the biscuit' - Gif me þone brædhlaf ["Yif may tho-nuh bred-hlaff"]

'Where is the biscuit tin?' - Hwær cwom brædhlafcæpse? ["Hwar kwom bred-hlaff-cap-suh?"]

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Saxon phrase of the day # 5: birthdays!

It's your friend's birthday today! Assuming some time had passed since the Synod of Whitby (where they argued for hours and hours about how to count days) and you were calculating the calendar the same as your friends across the road, you might know just the right day to wish them a happy birthday, saying something like this:

Gesælig gebyreddæg to þe ["yuh-sail-igh ye-bur-ed-day toe thee"]

(thanks to Ms Hilditch for this one - her 18th birthday I think was the first occasion on which this was used)

Friday, 13 November 2009

Saxon phrase of the day #4: man flu

For as long as there have been men and women, there have been differences between men and women, including differences in how they cope... It's likely that even the Anglo-Saxon woman, thirteen children round her feet, spend a good deal of time mopping the brow of her disease-ridden husband:

'He has man-flu' - He hafað mannadle [hay haf-ath man-ad-luh]

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Speak like a Saxon #13: Illness

The Anglo-Saxon period, like many historical periods until now, was a pretty rubbish time to be ill. For a start, no-one really knew what was wrong with you, and if your local 'doctor' or 'leechman' had to guess, he'd probably say it was elves. To help you get better there'd be some herbs, some communion wafers, a bit of walking in circles, maybe some wool and quite a bit of mumbo jumbo.

Things the doctor might say to you:

'What is it?' - Hwæt? [hwat]

'Have you got water-elf disease?' – bist þu on wæterælfadle? [bisst thoo on wat-ter-elf-ad-luh?] (a real disease, apparently - check out Bald's Leechbook if you don't believe me)

‘Go to a maiden’ - ga to an mædenman [gaa toe ann maid-en-man] (she'd then sing something at you. This was also in the pukka Anglo-Saxon medical book)

‘Sing this many times...’ - Sing þis manegum siþum... [sing thiss man-ay-um see-thum]

Things you might say to the doctor:

'I am injured! stupid vikings!' - Ic hæbbe awierdnese!!Dysige wicingas! [Itch hab-buh a-wee-urd-nes-uh! Doo-siy-uh wee-king-as!]

‘I have a dwarf’ – Ic hæbbe dweorh [Itch hab-buh dway-orch] (also a real disease)

‘I am sick’ – Ic eom seoc(for a man)/seoce (for a woman) [Itch ay-om say-ok(uh)]

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Saxon phrase of the day #3: manners

In five minutes you have to meet the king/your in-laws/the bishop/the French emissary. It's not the moment to try out your new jokes or to be plagued with foot-in-mouth syndrome. This safe phrase will earn you brownie points and can be used in a whole variety of situations:

Wes þu [INSERT NAME HERE] hal - [Wess thoo (INSERT NAME HERE) haal]

It's roughly like drinking a toast to someone and saying "may you be healthy". Very polite, I'm sure.

(N.B. if you're saying it to more than one person, beware: grammar applies! More to follow later...)

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Phrase of the day #2: some wisdom

When terrorists attack (aka vikings) attack and the winter draws in; when the fragile economy crashes and it's all going wrong; remember this:

'This world is going quickly, and the end is nigh!!!!!!. (Panic!)' - ðeos worolde is on ofste & hit nealæcð þam ende ['Thay-oss wor-ol-duh is on off-ste and hit nay-a-lac-ath tham end-uh']

(this is what a famous Anglo-Saxon called Wulfstan wrote to his people in the early eleventh century).

Friday, 6 November 2009

Saxon phrase of the day #1: the price of things

There wasn't time for a whole lesson today, so here's a quick phrase for the intrepid time-traveller.

Have you ever wondered how much things cost in the ninth-century? Well...

'Ox horn is worth ten pennies' - Oxan horn bið tien pæninga weorð [Ox-an horrn bith tee-en pen-ing-a way-orth]

There. Now you know.

(for other interesting facts, check out the Laws of Alfred and Ine: