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.