Friday, 21 December 2012

Speak like a Saxon: Not the end of the world

Today is neither more nor less likely to be the end of the world than yesterday or tomorrow. Sorry, Mayan believers. In the year 1000, the Anglo Saxons thought it'd be the end of the world and it wasn't. But, just in case of fire, famine, flood or other global misfortune today, try these phrases:

Where has my boat gone? - Hwær cwom scip min?
["H-wair kwom ship min?"]*

This fire is very hot - þis ligbyrne ful hat is!
["This liy-boor-nuh full haat iss!"]

Why is this hedge of terrors here? - For hwon is þis færhaga her?
["For h-won iss thiss fair-ha-ga hair?"]

Watch out for the deep pit! - Beo ymbhydig færseaðes!
["Bay-oh oomb-hoo-diy fair-say-ath-us!"

*You can read about the man building floating escape pods, just in case, here: 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Speak like a Saxon: Guess the carol

Nealece! Nealece! Immanuel!

Can you guess?

["Nay-ah-letch-uh, nay-ah-letch-uh, im-an-yu-el!"]

While you're singing around the fire, roasting pigeon and keeping the monsters at bay, try substituting the first line of this carol with the above phrase. It should scan, just about....

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Speak like a Saxon: Advent Sunday 1 and a gender inclusive translation

It's just twenty-three days until Christmas day. Time's ticking. Day by day we're all preparing, in our own ways for Christmas. Admittedly they had less tinsel and fewer baubles, but the Anglo-Saxons marked Christmas too. If you get lost in all the razzle and dazzle of the next few weeks of mad shopping, parties and Slade, then here are a few phrases to remind you what Christmas is all about (and yes, the first one is a bit of a mouthful but it's worth it):

ælmihtig Dryhten sylfa þas world gesohte and þurh unwemme fæmnan on þas world acenned wæs 

(Almighty God himself sought out the world and was given birth to by a virgin)

["Al-mich (like in Scottish 'loch')-tiy Dri-ch-ten Sulf-a thas world yuh-soch-tuh and thurH un-wem-muh fem-nan on thas world a-ken-ned wass"]

If someone asks you why, the response the Anglo-Saxons gave looked like this:

to þan þæt he eall mann cyn fram hellwara wite alysde 

(So that he might free all humankind** from the punishments of hell)

["Toe than that hay ay-all man kun fram hell-waar-a weet-uh a-loos-duh"]

We've got the wonderful tenth-century Vercelli Homilies to thank for today's selection. One day I'll translate all of them. If you're a publisher and you'd like to pay me to do that, let me know!!

**I hope you appreciate the gender inclusive translation here...