Our linguistic heritage

I’ve been vainly searching for some of my papers about the development of the English language, but failing to find them (I’m not well-organized) I thought I would write about the subject here on the blog, rather than look for my missing work.

Obviously I think that  in historical accounts of Britain, the Normans are given short shrift, alluded to as rapacious and cruel people who invaded the island of Britain in 1066 and spoiled (in all senses of the word) the idyllic existence of the Saxons. They are often reduced to a “mocking and a byword”, seen as aliens even these centuries later. It seems most people either know little about the Normans at all, or they know them to be bad guys, of whom we are well rid. People do talk about the Normans, if at all, in a very negative way for the most part. Everyone seems to speak of them in the past tense, as if they are gone and left no progeny.

But just by surnames, it’s evident that there are many descendants of those Normans both in the British Isles and in all of the Anglosphere. I don’t know if DNA testing can differentiate Norman DNA from the other kindred peoples of the places where the Normans ruled. In my own extended family we all show some Norwegian descent though in our family tree we have scant documentation of recent Norwegian ancestry. But as we all know, the Normans, (‘Northmen’) came from Scandinavia, and mostly Norway and Denmark as far as British Isles ancestry is concerned.

Another evidence of the influence of the Normans is the presence of many words in our English vocabulary which had Norman origins. Since I can’t seem to find my own list of Norman words, I’ll refer to the website,The History of English:

“The Normans bequeathed over 10,000 words to English (about three-quarters of which are still in use today), including a huge number of abstract nouns ending in the suffixes “-age”, “-ance/-ence”, “-ant/-ent”, “-ment”, “-ity” and “-tion”, or starting with the prefixes “con-”, “de-”, “ex-”, “trans-” and “pre-”. Perhaps predictably, many of them related to matters of crown and nobility (e.g. crown, castle, prince, count, duke, viscount, baron, noble, sovereign, heraldry); of government and administration (e.g. parliament, government, governor, city); of court and law (e.g. court, judge, justice, accuse, arrest, sentence, appeal, condemn, plaintiff, bailiff, jury, felony, verdict, traitor, contract, damage, prison); of war and combat (e.g. army, armour, archer, battle, soldier, guard, courage, peace, enemy, destroy); of authority and control (e.g. authority, obedience, servant, peasant, vassal, serf, labourer, charity); of fashion and high living (e.g. mansion, money, gown, boot, beauty, mirror, jewel, appetite, banquet, herb, spice, sauce, roast, biscuit); and of art and literature (e.g. art, colour, language, literature, poet, chapter, question). Curiously, though, the Anglo-Saxon words cyning (king), cwene (queen), erl (earl), cniht (knight), ladi (lady) and lord persisted.

While humble trades retained their Anglo-Saxon names (e.g. baker, miller, shoemaker, etc), the more skilled trades adopted French names (e.g. mason, painter, tailor, merchant, etc). While the animals in the field generally kept their English names (e.g. sheep, cow, ox, calf, swine, deer), once cooked and served their names often became French (e.g. beef, mutton, pork, bacon, veal, venison, etc). Sometimes a French word completely replaced an Old English word (e.g. crime replaced firen, place replaced stow, people replaced leod, beautiful replaced wlitig, uncle replaced eam, etc). Sometimes French and Old English components combined to form a new word, such as the French gentle and the Germanic man combined to formed gentleman. Sometimes, both English and French words survived, but with significantly different senses (e.g. the Old English doom and French judgement, hearty and cordial, house and mansion, etc).

But, often, different words with roughly the same meaning survived, and a whole host of new, French-based synonyms entered the English language (e.g. the French maternity in addition to the Old English motherhood, infant to child, amity to friendship, battle to fight, liberty to freedom, labour to work, desire to wish, commence to start, conceal to hide, divide to cleave, close to shut, demand to ask, chamber to room, forest to wood, power to might, annual to yearly, odour to smell, pardon to forgive, aid to help, etc). Over time, many near synonyms acquired subtle differences in meaning (with the French alternative often suggesting a higher level of refinement than the Old English), adding to the precision and flexibility of the English language. Even today, phrases combining Anglo-Saxon and Norman French doublets are still in common use (e.g. law and order, lord and master, love and cherish, ways and means, etc). Bilingual word lists were being compiled as early as the 13th Century.”

The English language as it is today would not be what it is if not for the infusion of Norman-French words which are part of our daily usage. My personal belief is that the language would not be as complex and nuanced without the Norman influence. Some see that as a bad thing; some time ago I wrote here about the movement started by one scholar to de-Normanize (if there is such a word) the English language, and turn to the old Englisc tongue, which is more basic, using more one-syllable words and compound words to convey the message.

We can’t know how things would have happened had history taken a different course; had William and his knights failed in 1066, had the Normans never ruled, we can’t envision the result. To insist, as many do, that nothing but good would have befallen (there’s a good English word) England if the Norman Conquest never happened, is idle supposition.

The website which I quote above is a very interesting one if you are at all interested in the history of England or Britain and in the language we speak and the quite different language our ancestors spoke in the times of Chaucer, as the writer discusses. There are sound clips here and there on the web page so that you can listen to the Prologue to Canterbury Tales, for example, to hear the sound of the language of Chaucer.

I admit I love our language; I’m a partisan when it comes to the English language. Now, our cousins across the Atlantic may think our American version of the ‘tongue that Shakespeare spake’ is not very English at all but the language is a part of The Old Inheritance, and it’s very much a part of the English people and of our history and culture.

I expect I will probably have more to say of the Normans; they are a neglected part of the story of England/Britain, at least as it is told in our day.

The term ‘Anglo-Saxon’ should be dropped

So says Mary Rambaran-Olm, who is described in this Daily Mail article as an ‘independent scholar and author.’ She says the term ‘Anglo-Saxon’ is used by so-called ‘[W]hite supremacists’ to refer to ‘White British’ people and it should therefore be banned. I don’t quite see how that conclusion follows. If the term is tainted or offensive simply because it describes ”white British people” or because it is allegedly used by White supremacists, then a great many more words will be banned on that flimsy basis.

It’s troubling to hear that one’s ethnicity is so objectionable that the very name ‘Anglo-Saxon‘ ought to be banned. This woman says that, instead of Anglo-Saxon, the term ”early English” should be the acceptable name.

Mary Rambaran-Olm also says, of these elusive ‘White supremacists’:

‘Generally, white supremacists use the term to make some sort of connection to their heritage (which is inaccurate) or to make associations with ‘whiteness’ but they also habitually misuse it to try and connect themselves to a warrior past.’ …

She seems to imply that those she calls ‘supremacists’ have a false idea of their own heritage, connecting it somehow with ‘whiteness’ — but Whiteness and Anglo-Saxon or ‘early English’ heritage are connected. Anglo-Saxon=White. Why do these simple facts upset anyone?

As for the ‘warrior past’, that, too, is part of being an Anglo-Saxon, and what’s wrong with that?

This may seem trivial to some people, this toying with words, but it is symbolic of the ‘Great Replacement’ of the English and British peoples; even their name is to be effaced, so as to further nullify their identity and their rightful place in the UK.

Ms Rambaran-Olm, who is identified as Irish in the article, though she was brought up in Canada, is somehow designated to tell the people of the UK what words they may use to describe themselves. How does this happen?

In any case, her double-barreled surname doesn’t tell us much about her ethnicity, though she does not seem to be English. But there is more about her objections to the name ‘Anglo-Saxon’:

Miss Rambaran-Olm said people in early England – or ‘Englelond’ – did not call themselves Anglo-Saxons but tended to refer to themselves as ‘Englisc’ or ‘Anglecynn’.

The academic said the term became more popular in the 18th and 19th century and was used to link white people to their ‘supposed origins’.

Hitler wrote of the ‘Anglo-Saxon determination’ to hold India, while imperialist Cecil Rhodes also regularly used the term. 

John Overholt, curator of early books and manuscripts at Harvard’s Houghton Library, backed a ban on the term.

So I am getting the idea that if a word or phrase is used by the ‘wrong’ people, such as Rhodes or the ubiquitous Hitler, then that word is tainted just because it’s used by someone who is disliked or condemned. So the name must be changed.

And how is it that a curator of early books at Harvard is the arbiter of what must be banned? Who bestowed this power on him, ?

The International Society of Anglo-Saxonists voted to drop the name Anglo-Saxon from its name, as 60 per cent of its membership voted to ban the term. I can only assume these are the lockstep, group-mind academics.

When even a group calling themselves ‘Anglo-Saxonists’ are willing to bend the knee, it’s worse than I thought.

Look back on the glory days of England, and contrast that to today’s topsy-turvy world in which the English are being made to humble themselves, while others aggrandize themselves and wallow in schadenfreude at the apparent ‘fall’ of the once-great England.

But this is an unnatural situation, being created by those who are determined to erase England/Britain off their map and establish their regime of sacred ”Diversity” and pretend equality,none of which could exist without being engineered and imposed from above.

In the meantime, it’s vital that we don’t acquiesce in the destruction of our folk and our heritage. Let’s have neither art nor part in this.

English dialect words in Virginia

As I’ve said, the English language in all its various dialects interests me, especially as it illustrates that aspect of our heritage from England. Yesterday I posted an excerpt from a book called The Word-Book of Virginia Folk-Speech, from 1899.

Here, the writer lists some examples of Wiltshire and Cornwall dialect words found in use in Virginia.

Wiltshire words in Virginia speech_wordbookofvirgin00gree_0013

Anyone familiar with the various Southern American dialects of English, (at least as they existed before all the demographic and cultural changes that have swept over the South) will recognize many of these usages. I can pick out several of them in the above excerpt. For instance, the word ‘yellow’ pronounced as ‘yalla.’ Granted, it was mostly rural and older folk who retained this into our era, but my grandparents and their generation spoke that way. Likewise, the pronunciation of the word ‘seven’ as something like ‘seb’m‘. It can’t have been uncommon in England, as I’ve heard it from older speakers in the UK, and they were educated speakers, by the way. Same with the word ‘eleven’ as ‘eleb’m‘, roughly.

Why do I bring up these quirks? I think it’s important to point them out, not just for curiosity’s sake, but because far too many Southron people have been persuaded that everything about the Southern American dialects represents ‘ignorance’ on the part of Southron folk. Many of these old expressions and pronunciations were not ‘ignorant’ or the result of a lack of education; they were simply hold-overs from the dialect(s) our ancestors spoke when they arrived from England 400+ years ago. Some of those usages have long since died out in the UK, as language change does happen, but that does not mean that the older usages that survived here were in error. They were simply archaic, from the viewpoint of our cousins back  in the mother country.

In the quote above, another odd pronunciation in Virginia (and in my Texas childhood) was the word ‘rinse’ pronounced as ‘rench.’ My mother, being from the North, disdained this kind of ‘mispronunciation,’ seeing it as backward. Sadly many Northern people believe that the Southron dialect is a sign of low intelligence. Maybe if such people recognized that the different usages are simply ‘old-fashioned’ usages, or dialect variances, they might not be so disdainful.

The second paragraph in the quote mentions the habit of dropping the final ‘g’ in words ending in ‘-ing’. In my experience this is not a Southernism but is widespread across the United States and Canada. It’s also heard on the other side of the Atlantic.  (I remember the carping American media raking Sarah Palin over the coals for “dropping her ‘g’s”, as if a large proportion of Americans don’t do the same thing, regardless of regional origin or level of education. Funny how snobbish the self-important ‘journalistic’ classes can be.)

Books have been written about the Southern American dialect, or dialects. I can’t do the subject justice here, but I will return to it at times. It’s important for us to know that so much of what we take for granted about our culture, including our language, did not originate here. It is part of our ‘old inheritance’, and knowing these things should enhance our sense of identity, and remind us of our origins in Britain.

 

 

The early settlers of Virginia

From The Word-Book of Virginia Folk-Speech, by Bennett Wood Green, 1899

”We find many of the men connected with the early settlement of Virginia from Southwest England.  Of course there were many from London, Kent and other parts, but there were Cabot, Raleigh, Drake, the Gilberts, Somers, Basset, Botetourt, Cary, and others of the principal men from the Southwest.

Moreover, the west, above all districts of England, seems to have had a numerous gentry bound by constant intermarriages into a great clan, strongly animated by local pride and a peculiar love of country. These are striking characteristics of Virginians. In Virginia, essentially the whole of the white blood is English, that has been on the soil for over two hundred years.  It is not believed that there is any body of folk of as purely English stock as the white population of Virginia, and the States descended from here; and it amounts to about three millions of people, and there is scarcely any admixture of other blood. Nothing in their history shows the least falling off from the qualities that have always distinguished their race in all times and all places. The Virginian has a good opinion of himself, is calm, well-balanced, is self-reliant and has the English quality of not being afraid to take responsibility.”

[Emphasis above is mine.]

Of course, the above was written 118 years ago, and the Virginia of that day is not the Virginia of the 21st century. But it’s useful to look back at the origins of Virginia, and by extension, the rest of the South (‘and the States descended from here’), and to read that the original settlers of Virginia were overwhelmingly English by ancestry.

I plan to return to this book in future posts about the English language as it developed in the Virginia colony.

 

Transatlantic exchanges

The English language is endlessly fascinating to me. In an early post on this blog I mentioned my intention to write about the English origins of many American dialect expressions. Obviously the English and other British Isles colonists of this country brought over certain usages that persisted here while they died out, in some cases, in the mother country. (That is a subject I’ll return to later).

However it’s observably true that many current British usages and idioms have crossed the Atlantic, and have become more noticeably common in the United States.

Examples: the term ‘aggro.’ Millennial acquaintances of mine use it, and I know it was a colloquial or slang term decades ago in England. Then it was (according to the Oxford Dictionary) an abbreviation for aggravation or aggression. Now, that same source defines it as meaning aggressive, violent behavior, or problems and difficulties.

However, the American-oriented Urban Dictionary probably reflects the slightly mutated meaning as used by American millennials.

Many of the British expressions change meaning slightly when introduced into our country.

Other terms that have come into usage in the States which were once unknown here include terms like ‘arse’, now increasingly used, but sounding somewhat artificial here, ‘bespoke‘, meaning custom-made, made-to-order, usually high quality goods vs. the increasingly low-quality mass-produced goods we are now accustomed to.

More examples: ‘ginger,‘ for red-haired individuals, or ‘red-headed’ as the usual Southern idiom refers to them. The term ‘ginger‘ for a redhead was once unheard of in America, in my experience.

Going on‘ about something, meaning ranting, talking at length, harping or nagging on a subject ad nauseum. This is newly popular among some people in the U.S. Also ‘banging on‘ about something.

Going off’ something or someone: cooling to a person or thing or idea. ‘Going off on’‘ someone — losing one’s temper; ‘blowing up’ at someone.

Going missing‘ – used where we Americans used to simply say ‘disappearing’. However the term ‘disappear’ might imply something supernatural whereas ‘going missing’ is more descriptive.

Queue’ for ‘line’, or ‘queueing up‘ where once Americans would say ‘lining up.’

Wait for it…‘ – it’s hard to describe the usage of this one if you haven’t heard it used. It’s meant to create suspense in the listener as we are about to say something surprising (or not, if the phrase is used ironically).

The word ‘smarmy‘ and its transatlantic voyage is a pet peeve of mine, because its original meaning is not understood by most of its American adopters. Most Americans take it to mean ‘sleazy’, ‘slimy’, ‘lowlife’, or dishonest. It originally meant something more specific. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as meaning, loosely, insincerely helpful or charming. I think it originally meant unctuous, oily, and obsequious. That’s a little different than just sleazy and slimy, as in the American popular usage.

I believe that some of the earliest American users of ‘smarmy‘ were movie critics who had picked it up from English friends, and they may have used it correctly but their readers misunderstood it, while using it in an effort to sound cosmopolitan.

Which brings me to my next point: on a recent thread on a blog I read, some people were venting their bile about English idioms infiltrating American English. They particularly seemed annoyed about expressions like ‘at the end of the day…’, which we often hear TV pundits and other media personalities use. I agree, it can sound pompous, but I don’t know why it’s considered objectionable any more so than any number of other turns of phrase that the media often foist on us. For instance, usages like ‘…not so much‘ which suddenly was ubiquitous some years back. Or ‘my bad‘, which always grated on me. The commenters who complained about the encroachment of English idioms mentioned those, with some even positing that ‘my bad‘ came from England. I had read that it had originated with one of those African or Brazilian soccer players. This article looks into the story that it was Manute Bol who originated it. Ultimately they cast doubt on it, but it seems to me that it must originate from a non-native English-speaker at least, including possibly an Ebonics speaker. Not an Englishman, in my opinion.

Generally these adoptions of British idioms and terms is among the younger generations, many of whom have been to the other side of the Atlantic, or even attended colleges there, or worked there. The world is much more cosmopolitan now, and this is by design, as national cultures and local customs and speech are being deliberately subverted and destroyed by the globalists.

This is fostered by the media, and by the exposure of people everywhere to differing ways of life. The fact that ‘Harry Potter’ became such a phenomenon has introduced more young people to all things British.

Looking at the opposite phenomenon, that is, American English infiltrating British speech, I see much, much more of that taking place in recent decades, thanks to the global nature of the ubiquitous ‘mass media.’ Examples: the word ‘guy‘, which once meant either a dummy, (such as the effigies burned in Guy Fawkes’ bonfire-night ceremonies) or a ridiculous-looking figure. Now, the Oxford Dictionary gives the primary meaning as ‘a man.’

One often hears English people address a group of men, or even a mixed group of both sexes, collectively, as ‘guys’, much as do Americans, or Northern Americans, with their collective ‘You guys’ address.

I suspect that many British people are not pleased at the incursions of our mass media and our dialect of English, but it seems there are more peevish Americans complaining about ‘those Brits’ and their weird expressions. At least I see more of it online, with many people saying that any British turn of phrase is ‘pretentious’, even though the origins may well not be the hated British ‘upper class.’ Really, what was once called ‘upper-class British English’ in America seems to have all but vanished from the media, at least. The English newsreaders, who used to have impeccable diction, have been replaced by non-English minorities who speak with odd accents, or by people with strong regional dialects. Someone online (British) mentioned the old days of the Dr. Who series, back when the actors all spoke ‘RP’, or ‘Received Pronunciation.’

Today anything ‘posh’ or upper-class and educated is seemingly in disfavor, what with the celebration of the underclass and the ‘downtrodden’ Other.

So is it always affectation and pretentiousness to use a British idiom? Hardly. For people who have spent considerable time on that side of the Atlantic, it can become second-nature; ‘pretentiousness’ implies a self-conscious effort, when it may well be absorbed unconsciously by frequent exposure.

Languages do change, and though I am not a fan, like most post-modern linguists who proclaim that ‘change is unavoidable; we have to be descriptive, following current usage, not prescriptive, which is rigidly enforcing standards.’ No, we should try to maintain standards and rules; language should not be allowed to mutate willy-nilly, especially as education is dumbed down, and IQs apparently on the decline. And now, in America, we have much more underclass influence on our language, with young people in particular eagerly copying slang that originates in the ghetto, and silly adults follow suit. Examples: expressions like ‘woke’ and ‘based’, among myriad others, but those are rife among the young right, who are supposed to be racially conscious.

If we have to be linguistically colonized, far better to accept influences from our kinsmen on the other side of the pond (incidentally, some Americans say they ‘hate that expression’) than from non-kinsmen on the other side of the tracks, to use an old American term.