Now You Know

No, by the grace of God, you will NOT plead ignorance. You will NOT testify that you never knew any better because no one ever taught you anything better. You will not plead that you were never told.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Knowing Your Language, Knowing Your Roots

If this blog has 2 readers, I just lost both of them with the title to this post. They've surely surfed on elsewhere in cyberspace. You can blame the Ace of Spades HQ for sparking the line of thought that brought about this post. In a post titled "The Moonbat in Its Natural Habitat," he cleverly suggested a term of venery for a group of protesters. His suggestion is "a stank of protestors." (I still await his reason for making it a "stank" instead of a "stink," because I'm interested and curious.) Then he went on to write another post in which he gives one of his "Top Ten Lists" about terms of venery for various groups of people. Go check it out and don't forget to vote for him in the Weblog Awards today and tomorrow, and the next day etc.

Meanwhile, since my areas of specialty include medieval studies, language, linguistics, history and translation (among other things) his clever invention of a new venereal term sparked a stream of consciousness in me. The best modern book on the subject of venereal terms is by James Lipton and is titled An Exaltation of Larks or, The Venereal Game. I hearkened back to thoughts of The Egerton Manuscript (the earliest surviving list of venereal terms, dating from the mid 15th century, probably about 1450), and The Book of St. Albans (dating from 1486 and containing one of the most complete lists of venereal terms). There are of course many other works on this subject. The two 15th century works I just mentioned are products of Middle English, the language that was spoken and written by Geoffrey Chaucer of The Canterbury Tales fame. The period in which Middle English was spoken extends roughly from the year 1066 after the Battle of Hastings until about 1500 when the language had evolved into Early Modern English (the language of William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson).

Then my mind raced on to the beauties of Old English, also called Anglo-Saxon. This is the language that was spoken and written in England prior to William the Conqueror and the Norman invasion. Although my thoughts are still going, rather than risk boring any potential brave souls who have read this far into a state of rigor mortis, I'll close this post with an example of written Old English. It's something with which you should already be familiar. It's something that you most likely know and have said yourself or have heard others say in Modern English. Can any of you guess what it is? I'll give you the answer tomorrow.

Fæder ure, þu þe eart on heofunum
Si þin nama gehalgod. Tobecume þin rice.
Gewurþe ðin willa on eorðan swa swa on heofonum.
Urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todæg.
And forgyf us ure gyltas,
Swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum.
And ne gelæd þu us on costnunge,
Ac alys us of yfele. Soþlice.

(Here's another hint: the funny looking þ and ð are symbols that in Modern English have been replaced by the letters "th.")

Now go blame Ace for this post and don't be merciful to him (but do remember to vote for him in the Weblog Awards!)

You've been told and NOW YOU KNOW.