the rudest word of all isn’t very. by lynne gwyst.

a ‘count’ is a ‘conte’ is a ‘cunt’, i.e., a petty aristocrat or someone behaving like one – overbearingly, arrogantly and contemptuously.

a ‘cunt’ can also mean the pubic mound of a human female (not the canal as some have suggested – read on for an explanation) .

what we have here is a pair of homonyms, the same word with two or more different meanings. other examples are ‘bear’ (animal) and ‘bear’ (carry), and ‘fine’ (okay), ‘fine’ (thin and delicate), fine (high quality) and ‘fine’(penalise or a penalty). so cunt (unpleasant man) and cunt (a woman’s pubic mound) are homonyms.

both are related to gaulish forms of the modern irish ceann, from old irish words like cenn, cend, cion, et al., meaning a head, or cairn, and to English forms such as cone, or count (from the practice of piling up stones or other tokens as counters to represent livestock, sheaves etc) which occur as mutated p-forms such as mount, mound, amount, and is not particularly obscene.

this explains why in Australia at least the epithet ‘cunt’ refers to a bullying man, not to a bullying woman, although this seems to be changing and yeah, why not. in America it refers in a sexist way to a woman as a sex object, so it seems the other homonym is intended.

the examination of very rude words goes beyond linguistics, touching on sociology, psychology, interpersonal politics and more not the less sensitive for being subtle. but when it comes to ‘rude’ words, the cultural neurosis surrounding them having been instilled in early childhood when impressioning tends to be deep and enduring, the obscenification seems almost natural until you focus on it from the perspectives accessible to mature adults.

not every culture obscenifies a person’s sexual parts or excretoria. relaxed adult nudity is still common worldwide in cultures where the erotica is healthy and natural. obscenity, like other taboos, is culture specific. I’m assuming my readers are able to transcend the neurosis, and that the need for the de-obscenification of the so-called ‘rude’ words of so-called ‘refined’ English will be as clear and obvious to them as it is to me.

we’ve seen how the irish ‘feic’ meaning ‘see’ or ‘look’ was mistaken for the English word fuck, and anglicised as such. ‘fuck’ had begun life as a euphemism for rut or root (e-rot-i-ca), derived from harmless english forms of words preserved in latin as facere, to make, do, or work.

work, make, fuck or fac-, fake, wake, walk, fashion, and many more are all related forms, showing common initial letter mutations of the sort that are still preserved in welsh cornish and breton.

as you probably know I don’t believe in the antiquity of latin. we have no accurate dates for stone monuments. the earliest recorded efforts to derive a chronology for our oldest latin texts were part of a renaissance, based on fanatical religious, racist and political positions inherited from the middle ages, exaggerated by the outrages of the collapsing power structures of the period leading up to the renaissance, and distorted through the warped and delusional lenses of reconstructionists hell bent on channelling god, a claim some ecclesiasts still make for st matthew, st mark, st luke and st john, none of whom can possibly have lived more than a thousand or so years ago (but that’s beyond the scope of this essay).

latin was a school language in England for a long time, and derives much more from English than is usually observed. textbooks are still working on the belief that the besotted reconstructionists propagated, by malicious force it must be admitted, that fictitious chronology the textbooks still use, based on a roman/norman-flattering assumption that latin is more perfect, godly, and therefore nearer to the garden of eden when god spoke to adam, and is therefore nearly as old as the world itself, minus a few days for the creation…

there’s no real support for the claim. latin came into being as a school language when the norman/roman invasion of Britain, when the romans and the multilingual british nations intermarried.

dates are notoriously elusive as before the widespread use of the Gregorian calendar which was only introduced as late as 1582, different schools, towers, stores, businesses, families, farms, councils, monasteries, etc, in the same county might use quite different calendars, having no notion of synchronising theirs with that of another school or other schools that began on completely different dates. and even after the introduction of the Gregorian calendar it was a long time before the confusion caused by its introduction, and the perfectly justifiable resentment of it was sufficiently subdued to permit reliable chronologies to be compiled.

so what I’m saying is that it is more likely that the latin verb facere is derived from a cornovian word pronounced like fuck, and related to similar sounding words in the other spoken but not much written languages of Britain at the time of the latin speaking schools of tudor england. whether the initial letter mutations of the times were regularised or not as they sometimes now are at least in textbooks or within literate dialects, forms such as wake (hereward the worker) muck (mucking around, mucking things up) viking (working), make, bake, fake and (yipe) work, etc, would have been contemporaneous, mixing as freely as people do and as mindlessly mutating, following instincts beyond our understanding.

cornovian is latin for kernow – an(y), and means corn-all-s because the ‘any’ has become a plural ending. the corn, which may also be spelt kern, is itself a plural of ker which is a collapsed form of cather, and is related to words meaning chair or city of the cathers, and meaning a fortified town, but now perhaps already practically synonymous with the grain growing people of Britain before the normans/romans came, when many different languages were spoken in Britain and the languages of the schools, churches and universities, to say nothing of the merchants and seafarers were not always confined to geographic locations. perhaps they weren’t the only ones and perhaps cornovia was not only growing corn, but much becomes clear if british medieval history if we realise that that is what cornovia means.

anyway, back to the topic. it’s in these kinds of contexts, where the languages are all mixing that we find words proliferating from one language to another changing meaning slightly as they go. how did a count/cunt/conte get to be called that?

think of words like country, meaning the land. think of a country. a country is an area represented to the officialdoms of the aristoctracy by an officially appointed count. a caint is a language in irish. it’s pronounced cunt unless you’re trying to avoid it for prudish reasons.

so perhaps during the pacification of british minorities by the normans/romans, we have the small langauges of the illiterate majority represented by linguists called counts, meaning languages and by transference, linguists. these were used to communicate from the hated officialdoms, which they had to flatter in order to prosper and so were hated in their turn, and so their name has come down to us in its present form, only to clash resoundingly with an incidental homonym of the most screechingly sensitive kind. lawkes a mighty and all the poor hanged man said was ‘kill the cunts’ (guild the counts)… 

there now there aren’t any truly rude words are there?

what ox, which ford, and what’s a university anyway?

herman announces:

morning all, i’m as you know herman newt poking about in the medieval mire looking for scraps of history, and in my perambulations mysterious and deep i find myself up against the mysterious and deep mythology surrounding the famed name of oxford and not a whit the less of university, so i thought at once of my dear friend, etty moliji.  i find her in a sunny meadow on a mild may morning surrounded by a circle of admiring students and i arrange  my gills tidily over my shoulders and i raise my nice amphibian hand and i ask my questions most respectfully, as a good newt should.

herman boldly enquires:

where is the ox ford after which oxford is named, and who first called a university a university?

etty replies:

oxford is og’s fort, not oxen ford. og=egg. they were birds (confused nowadays with bards) and that was a kenning.

university is from iona/juno/ionia/jonah/jonas dion etc+gwersi+ty. no one was ever inventive enough to think up ‘one turning’ as a good thing to call an educational institution – imo! i could be wrong. maybe someone did and everyone just sooooo agreeeeeed with him/her because of the powerful force on their imagination of that glorious metaphor, but no, i think it meant gwersi/verses, and that meant rote-learnt chanted verses, and specified those of the joneses and not those of say the cailleach/colaiste/colleges.

keith, an earnest pupil, protests:

but ms moliji, is wikipedia so lost in its sin? why would it misinform us while referring us to academic resources?

wikipedia says

from wikipedia

common sense etymologist

word doctor

etty persists, gently but firmly, choosing her words with care:

ahem, yes. the ford for oxen. that seems to be current textbook opinion. well, i can’t say i’ve ever successfully pinned this one down, but here are my thoughts so far. the university of oxford is in oxford and oxford is in oxfordshire. now i’m not saying that anyone knows the origin of any of it – there’s nothing older than the old texts – and i’ve never seen anyone verify, in any way you could call academic, the folk tradition that it is named for a river crossing for oxen.

i find it unlikely that they would have named a whole shire after a famed city named after a river crossing so primitive it hasn’t even got a bridge and then put a university there. if you are establishing something so proud and elevated as a university you’re not going to name it after a particularly polluted and obstructed part of the local landscape relevant only to labourers, carters and other low types.

so i take leave of the textbook models which are still writhing in the grip of false bible-distorted chronologies and the cultural neurosis around sacred texts and the myth of the antiquity of the potted-into-paradigms ‘school’ languages such as latin and greek, and long overdue for an update, let alone lawkes a’mighty an up-hahaha-grade, heheheheh, because of course it’s so hard to get funding for anything that might threaten the credibility of the establishment with its investment in the magical events of the noughtth of nought noughteen noughty nought, which is of course the start of everything sort of. prolly adds up to 42 but i ran out of fingers and toes.

and yes, belinda, you do still get flamed and sometimes cruelly, for heresy/errorsie/errors, though there’s a sea-change in view as post-modernism unpacks the politics of academic discourse and makes us all behave. but like i said, you’re always treading on someone’s corn – ovia (oops, cor/kor/kernowvia)  wherever you go and there are sore points everywhere…

like i said, the etymologies have never been done. the plethora is unplundered. the richest, plushest, preciousest treasures of the english speaking world are buried undiscovered beneath the screen memory scab of the glorious biblical glossages of the renaissance, restoration and general rehash since the introduction of the gregorian calendar. (i allow myself the occasional coinage.)

nb (re above parag) notice the astounding spirit of eloquence that seizes me when i draw nigh to ogma. i recite anything you like, backwards or forwards, or boustrophodon and no one has to ask what is in that bou/bull’s troph.  i chant lists of lists of lists off by heart, all the way to ninthly, and tenthly and beyond. my captive audience is spellbound as if by the golden chains of my dogma – aye by the dogma of ogma.

i believe we learn more from a different kind of analysis, dealing in syllables as if they were whole words each with its own meaning, conscious of the limitations of the so-called ‘corpus etymology’ of the old comparative philologists and looking not so much for adam and god in the garden as for the bitchy snitchy sprangly, wrangly racist pious elevated debased degraded lah-di-dah, lithping, putting-on-the-dawg medieval patois/padua/pathways, focusing on english forms of it, since it seems to have been spoken in various local forms worldwide..

even aotaroa is water-rower in the patois. same words, different accent. and yeah, they sure were water rowers.

i should have added scholarly to that list of adjectives and even still ‘noble’ enough to be potted up for chanting in class.

og is irish for young. it occurs in words like dogma, pedagogy, ology. (i disagree with greek origins for these words, maintaining that they, like england, got them from their local patois, the forms being diverse but often still recognisable. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THE BELIEF IN THE ANTIQUITY OF ‘ANCIENT’ ‘GREEK’. they appear to me to be medieval.)

og/ag/ug/ig/og all have been ways of pronouncing it. the g can become a v or f or bh or y or i. it can pick up remnants of old articles, t-og, d-og, thug, yog, sieg, zieg, hag, hog, higgs, hug, hugh, or from the invading normans/romans, l’og,  lag, leg, lugh, etc – all are possible, some are probable, but i have a different derivation for lugh and haven’t finished comparing it with this one. then any of these might pick up remnants of old plurals such as ogre = og+array agnes/agonies oglaigh, oygle, aggle, hagel, hagan, hogan, and blimey, blokes, we’re all over the map of europe again and bá í craic í if it ain’t the court of the crimthann king.  yep the kremhild/cream guild that lugh invited in to teach the irish dairying and the making of butter and cheese.

si-(e)g seems to have been fried.

and this is what i see emerging from the mythtth. it all fits/fitz/feats. this has been fit/feat/fight the severalth.

herman winds up:

well, that was etty on the subject.

i’ll now go and see if i can waggle up some wireless and i’ll try and post it to you all.


hermeneutical championships: the rosetta stone challenge

good morning class. the subject for today is the rosetta stone. the rosetta stone is every bit as important as they say, as it is exciting hard evidence of a linguistic situation in the past. but to the consternation of any fastidious post-modern-and-beyond hermeneut they’ve gone beyond that evidence and look what a pickle they’re in.

we hermeneuts are oh so suave and heavens don’t we snuggle up close to our spirit guides and try earnestly to lift our games for the advancement of learning, oh yes, we do. chompy won’t mind if we drop the formalities.

chompy was a bright boy, and more than that he was a very privileged newt. he would probably have been all right if he’d kept to his proper ponds, but ambition, and not only his own, piled laurels upon him and he was, they say, awfully good at coptic, no really, SERIOUSLY PRODIGIOUSLY GOOD AT IT, back when NO ONE ELSE COULD  SPEAK A WORD OF IT to check whether he was or not, except copts but they were safely not in on the academic process, so weren’t much consulted except by chompy himself who being still at the dewy-eyed stage of growth, nevertheless found himself to be the only world expert, far above the steadying reach of peer review, the other contenders being of course, not only very inferior people, but also considerably less expert.

we know he spoke excellent coptic, flawlessly comprehending rapid speech and ingesting huge slabs of grammar and vocabulary every night before he went to sleep –  because he and his tutors tell us so. from Wikipedia at cometh thith:

he was a bright boy

he was a bright boy

i personally haven’t seen his test results, so i’ll do the hermeneutically punctilious thing and not regard these unsupported assertions as facts. that would be a bit slovenly wouldn’t it? they go back to 1808 when academic standards were naive and we-e-e-ell, fibby in bits, and well let’s face it, daft, or more than half daft anyway. they were worse than modern day students of old stuff, who still haven’t loaded the idea that going beyond the evidence is UN! ACA! DEMIC!!! they were worse than the worst of the romantics in fact they were the fountainhead the romantic lips leeched to. and they could get away with it. they were almost as bad as the king of greece in tirant lo blanc who judged debates by the most whimsical criteria. they were worse than the dear rev. skeet.


chompy in full battle array

well now, there he is for you, and a handsome lad if you can believe the artist. of course, some artists are paid to flatter, and he might have had patches of rough skin, dandruff, pimples even, while still mastering (???) his first fifteen languages or twenty languages. i mean wow, he was a charismatic boy, but as a hermeneut (interpreter of texts) he wasn’t taking the cake;  and let me tell you why.

he went beyond the evidence

he was competing for the honour of being the first to interpret the rosetta stone with others not making quite the same prodigious claims (clearly VERY INFERIOR SCHOLARS to our chompus) and was given the prize for filling in the most gaps. most of the others weren’t willing to go THAT far BEYOND THE EVIDENCE.

one day when i find my pencil i’m going to devise a test that corresponds precisely to the one that fate set for chompollion. it will feature a text written in a well-known classical language, say, sanskrit, of the exact same length as the rosetta stone texts, to be equivalent to the greek, and a translation of it into a known extinct language such as old english, for the coptic with its transliteration into a hieroglyphic or similar script of my own devising known only to me.  it will be fragmented with the same area of the pictographic text removed. i will make available an amount of writing in my pictographic text known only to me equivalent to the egyptian corpus that chompollion and his colleagues had to work with.

then, if anyone can from my schmossetta stone  decode my pictographics well enough from the 400 or so words to read the entire corpus with anything like accuracy i’ll bake them a cake, with icing on, and ball bearings and jubes, and pale blue piping round the edges, and champion hermeneut emblazoned across the top in your choice of lime green or fair-trade chocolate. and i’ll even pay the postage.

rude words, rude thoughts and references to very rude behaviour

euphemisms are like a disease, like lesions, or running sores. take sex for example. when I first learnt the word it had only one clearly-defined meaning: sex is whether you are a boy or girl. everyone is one or the other or some variation upon the theme, so everyone has sex – all the time. foetuses, newborn babies, children adults, old people, all have femininity or masculinity or some mixture of the two continuously. it isn’t something that comes and goes.

Everyone has sex 24/7 from birth to death.

that wasn’t too difficult to understand.

then in the 60s they started to use the word sex to mean fucking. that meant you could no longer use sex to mean whether male or female or some variant, without invoking the too-rude idea of fucking. so, when sex contaminated itself in replacing the now too-rude fuck, it became now too rude for m/f/other, and in the latish seventies some people started calling it gender. 3rd wave feminists seemed responsible.

up until then, gender was a grammatical term, with only incidental reference to sex. close relations of the word gender include kind (meaning sort or type) and genus. nouns, adjectives and articles can be masculine, feminine, neuter, common etc. now it also refers to what shape wee wee you’ve got, so soon it will be so contaminated with evocations of rude thoughts that we’ll have to replace it. but what with? how about manner of personhood, or beasthood to include all animals, or beinghood to accommodate all species? we could abbreviate it to mop or mob. what mop are you, male or female? who do prefer to have gender with, same or opposite or both or neither? that way we’ve done away with both sex and fuck, or only very rude people would say them. but gender would soon be contaminated too. the only way to stop it is to recognise the fear of mentioning fucking as a cultural disease and relieve us of it. it pullulates through our language like ulcerations in flesh, like a bad case of linguistic clap. dab on the Dettol. sex isn’t dirty.

poor fuck – it is itself a contaminated old euphemism derived from a variant of medieval words like make, work, fake, the latin facere (pronounced fuckery) and of course, viking, mac(k), mucker, and wake, the last three all meaning worker. was it replacing another word too rude and direct to say? rut or root perhaps? or was rut without a name because no-one had thought to give it one?

my guess is that the word it replaces died of disgustingness imputed by people who were sick in their own reproductive fuckery, sickened perhaps by the waves of syphilis and gonorrhoea going through during the medieval period. not physically sick, mentally sick. some euphemisms are symptoms of mental illness, part of a cultural neurosis. we should get over it.

words of one syllable

the study of old words is changing. while university teachings still go way beyond the evidence, all too often calling theory fact, I don’t have to. i theorise freely and experiment with various models, but never defend any of them as fact.

one big paradigm shift with word study is in the reading of the  literation: spelling, syllablisation and classification. that it hasn’t happened yet is astounding.

for most of us the best one can do for the spelling is spell phonetically, but for the purposes of etymology we have to also pronounce it as it is spelt because it shows how it may once have been pronounced. the phonetic alphabet has been built with very fine distinctions in mind, but for my purposes here, I’ll use the alphabet taught to English-speaking children at school. we have not got accurate enough info about pronunciation in the past to warrant anything of much higher resolution, and I find it surprisingly flexible.

example: thought = thort/thawt/thot, but also spells thoft/soft to some renaissance scribes (mostly women, not always scholars). but think??? obviously thought theemth thin rather than thoft to thum.

there may be reasons for polysyllablising
but you can see at a glance that the so-called words so created are actually phrases, or sequences of words. some may be modified or eroded, some absorbed altogether, but they are words in their own right, whether we can explain their meaning or not. and it takes years of lonely study of absolute oceans of historical linguistical data to rediscover the forgotten ones reduced or absorbed by adjacent syllables. when you do, the ones still observable in english can often be still recognisable in other languages. there is no evidence supporting the proto-indoeuropean language model now barely distinguished from fact in university
text-books. most of the medieval corpora were  drawn from a melee of several diverging patois. patois is a word not well understood these days, but its medieval meaning, or at least the general area of it, is accessible if we go gently. so no Maureen, not from god’s famous first discourse with adam in the garden of eden a few thousand years ago, so wondrously resurrected for us by the ecclesiasticated scholars of the embarrassingly recent past and still taught at universities worldwide – or else. delete PIE, insert medieval hip-talk, school-talk, padua, patois, the roving, interweaving, intermarrying common second language(s) of the literati of the major trade routes and routes of pilgrimage and the quiet farms, game-rich forests and factories of commerce of the times etc, as the grab-bag from which the modern indo-european languages were drawing at the end of the renaissance and not a generation earlier. this melee, always diversifying throughout its range, was widespread, extending well beyond the indo-european regions, as i will explain in later blogs if you’d like to subscribe.

example: pol-y-syll-a-bl-is-in-g. each syllable is a word, or often enough a collapsed phrase. pol = polis, y = way, syll = school, a(n/m) = a/the, b’l = school, is = is, in = the, g = way. i can’t explain why in less than five or six lengthy blogs, but for now let it illustrate my observation that each syllable is a word in its own right. in tables and with illustrative examples I will show why I am (tentatively) translating them into modern English as I do. the aim is to see clearly that each syllable has a consistent meaning from one polysyllabic word to another. in distinguishing them from true words as mere affixes we risk missing the point of them altogether.

classifications such as verb, noun and adjective tend also to break down and we’re left with mostly what grammar books call ‘stems’. any stem could be a verb or noun or adjective or adverb, qualified by other stems in conventional phrasings.

example: pol meant the whole palace full of people, or the people, or the buildings, and therefore ‘very many’, therefore ‘much’. elsewhere on the path it means a singularity or single moment, cornish pols, english pulse, pile, (opinion) poll, etc). it was handy enough in the vocab-poor patois for all manner of uses, and survives in many forms in english, including the b’l of the so-called suffix –able. don’t flay me, i’ll bring evidence.

at this point ms etty moloji was strait-jacketed and carried off back to her library gibbering incoherently at the idea of there being only ONE big paradigm shift to cope with. there she morphed comfortably back into vyvyan ogma wyverne aka wyverne or wy who clicked publish and then went off to get tea.

Lynn Gwsyt: a lucid look at St Luke

Luke 18:35-43

this is not pure greek, ma darlings, but richly mixed with a number of school and town languages which I class together loosely as ‘the patois’ (see padua) the language of the pathers/cathars (think of parthian, partholan (don’t believe the chronologies; they are guesses) catharism etc and catholic as well. (the official etymology is false)

official translations depend upon a lexicon that is schoolboyishly wistful and naïve. a lexicon is what you have when you have no dictionary, i.e., nobody knows what the words really meant, you’ve had to work it out from somebody’s best effort at a translation. the makers of these texts were passionate about reconstructing, and as naïve about it as the Romantics, or as the neopagans around us today.

it’s a passage taken from the gospel of st luke. I chose it at random to try my classical, mostly Homeric greek on, totally not expecting to find what I found.  I was going to fill in the ‘theirs’ column, but ran out of time. the feel of it is that it has been skimmed for a sense that it could have to agree with the growing mythos, without much expectation that anyone else could discern the errors. and the translators were without peer review and were committed to getting up a gospel for the indoctrination of school children. the bible used to be their primer. this accords with Cervantes’ description of medieval/renaissance translation practices. gets him some of his biggest laughs. i’ve set this out in table form. it’s not complete, but not, i do ardently believe, as wrong as the official one. have a look and see what you think.

a lucid look at a little of luke

the anglo-saxon rune poem: a new translation

the anglo-saxon rune poem: a new translation.

ma dear ones, turn to page whatever, depending on which textbook you are using and run your flipper, talon, fin, claw or foot down until you reach the anglo saxon rune poem. or better still, open these in another tab:

anglo-saxon version:

modern english translation:

the following sample shows the first verse of the anglo-saxon rune poem interlinear with a typical, fairly free translation.

feoh byþ frofur fira gehwylcum;

wealth is a comfort to all men;

sceal ðeah manna gehwylc miclun hyt dælan

yet every man must share it freely,

gif he wile for drihtne domes hleotan

if he wishes for honour in the sight of the lord.

do deeply interrogate the propaganda here, for there’s a savage spin on it that has wrenched it clear off its hermeneutica, which has gone to hell in a handbasket. the unjustifiable assumption is that the language is primarily ‘germanic’ influenced by ‘celtic’ and church latin. ‘feoh’ is assumed to be related to the english word ‘fee’, which once just meant money (in some old ballads for example). – note that this is strictly corpus etymology, which incorporates a vast amount of guesswork firstly in the translations of texts, which are questionable to say the least, and then in the deeply flawed 19th century comparative philology that the etymologies are drawn from. i believe it is quite wrong, so have no qualms in reinterpreting the evidence using 21st century techniques, some of which i am having to develop because, to my utter amazement, no one else seems to be intending to.

but spelling used to be phonetic, and while ‘fe’ might recall ‘fee’, what of the o and h.  this spelling would have been based on a careful analysis of real pronunciation of speech, and would have represented every sound produced by the utterer and no sound that wasn’t, at least somewhere in the history of this spelling – except in rare events which i need not detail here.  so feoh would have spelt a two syllable word ‘fe-oh’, with the h representing an audible breathing at the least. more like modern english ‘fair’, pronounced with what i as an australian would hear as a posh pommy accent. so i translate it as fair – and after all there would still be a connection since fairs were places where money changed hands.

but frofur?  they’ve had to guess. the word appears elsewhere in the corpus. someone’s guess, if not for this text then for some earlier text, has gone into the lexicons as official knowledge of the language, forever after to shape or distort all subsequent translation attempts. and in my opinion they’ve guessed wrong.

if you have false teeth (or if you haven’t, just imagine it) take them out for a moment and letting your lips relax completely, try saying ‘proper’. ‘is that the proper goose or just the propaganda?’ ‘is the proper propper propping up the proper properties?’ ‘poppa’s purple popcorn parlour proposes the proper propaganda’.

now look again at frofur.

now read on.

that drihtne means honour is also a guess, pure and simple.  so are domes = lord, and hleotan = praise.  they are guesses without foundation, based on an slight chance of a latin origin for which there is no evidence.

worse still, ‘gehwylc’ which occurs also with a case-ending as ‘gehwylcum’ is translated as ‘comfort’ in one place and ‘freely’ in another, with total disregard for grammar, and both ‘fira’ and ‘manna’ are translated as ‘man’.

this is simply not an academically sound translation, but we seem to be stuck with it. every student knows that his/her career depends on agreeing with the existing scholarship and that it is exceedingly difficult for any alternative theory to get a hearing among the professionals. unbelievable as it may seem, most currently existing scholarship, conceited in its wisdom, is committed to the grammatical logic it has derived by guesswork and which it then tautologically invokes to make further translations.

it’s often true that any historian with a knowledge of a couple of germanic languages (preferably dutch and danish), a couple of celtic ones, including irish, good english and some french, an ear attuned to dialect difference and a knowledge of how spelling sometimes reflects real speech and sometimes doesn’t and a feeling for when it’s likely to and when it isn’t can enable you to derive reasonable sense from the anglo-saxon texts using common sense alone, while the traditional scholars’ attempts based on unrealistically formalised grammar and lexicography based on such guesses as the above and worse are often unconvincing and sometimes down-right nonsensical.

whether we err through excessive simplicity, or through over-sophistication, naively or ‘conceited in our wisdom’, i argue that we get more sense out of the simple method than we do out of the overly sophisticated ways.

let’s try simple substitution of the english word nearest in sound to translate this poem. i’ll assume that the spellings are strictly phonetic. if there isn’t one, i’ll leave it unchanged for now. i won’t be right in every case: ge isn’t gay for example, but bear with me – things like that will be picked up and corrected at the end.

feoh byþ frofur fir a ge hwylc-um;

fair  be’s  proper for a gay hwylc -um

sceal ðeah manna ge hwylc miclun hyt dælan

sceal there many ge hwylc miclun it dælan 

gif he wile for drihtne domes hleotan

if he will for drihtne domes hleotan.

now i observe that three words, sceal, miclun, and drihtne are very close to the irish words, scéal, mic léinn, draíocht, and as i know from wider reading that irish words are as often to be found in old english texts as english ones are in irish texts, i’ll translate them without a qualm as story, students, and druids, since draíocht is from draoi meaning druid, and -ne is an old plural ending. now we get:

feoh byþ frofur fir a ge hwylc-um;

fair be’s proper for a gay hwylc-um

sceal ðeah manna ge hwylc miclun hyt dælan

story there many gay hwylc students it dælan

gif he wile for drihtne domes hleotan

if he will for druids domes hleotan.

now it becomes possible to look at words which are not quite so close to obvious english or irish equivalents: dælan and domes.  these are still recognisable english words if a dialect difference is noted: in some areas the hard t is softened to a d. so substituting we get:

feoh byþ frofur fir a ge hwylc-um;

fair be’s  proper for a gay hwylc-um

sceal ðeah manna ge hwylc miclun hyt dælan

story there many gay hwylc students it telling

gif he wile for drihtne domes hleotan

if he will for druids tomes hleotan.

and as for the rest, hwyl- can be while and mean ‘while away time’ or ‘a while’ and the –c, which if futharc is fathers is a plural ending (see here), and hleotan can carry both senses, letters and loud, and mean ‘read aloud’.

 feoh byþ frofur fir a ge hwylc-um;

fair be’s proper for a gay times -um

sceal ðeah manna ge hwylc miclun hyt dælan

story there many gay times students it telling

gif he wile for drihtne domes hleotan

if he will for druids tomes read aloud.

now we can interrogate the grammar: obviously ge is a prefix, not the english gay as first seemed possible.  although it’s spelt like the germanic ge- it’s used like the irish go, since the –um ending of gehwylcum signifies a plural noun in the dative or sometimes genetive case which is implied by the preposition fir=for.  so it can be left untranslated, and so can the –um (although it seems to have once been a separate word meaning ‘of)’  the a is no longer a singular indefinite article since the following noun is a plural, so it must either be a’=all, or part of the preceding word – i.e., fira = for (see sp para). my guess is the latter. for, as in dutch voor, looks like before, or in front of, especially since fira means for. byþ can be ‘be’s’, meaning is. and we can supply an indefinite article before the singular noun, story. finally, since miclun is plural (irish mac léinn (s) mic léinn (pl)) he must be they (and there’s nothing so variable from dialect to dialect as the pronouns, so it’s anybody’s guess, and this is mine!).  so it now looks like this:

feoh byþ frofur fira gehwylcum;

fair is proper for time-passings

sceal ðeah manna gehwylc miclun hyt dælan

a story there many times students it telling

gif he wile for drihtne domes hleotan

if they will before druids tomes read aloud.

let’s now consider the word-order.  the first line is idiomatic enough.  in the second, the word order is reminiscent of cornish word order. where the most interesting word in the sentence comes first: story, and it’s pronoun hyt, reminiscent of the dutch ‘het’ = ‘the’ refers back to it.  it’s actually two sentences, one without a verb, with the verb to be understood: “a story there many times; students telling it, if they want to read tomes aloud before druids.

okay, there is more work to do on this, but in defence of my technique, i might say that the use of rules for translation derived from texts written in one dialect or language to translate a text in a quite different dialect or even language, such as is currently in vogue, is utterly unsound. the reason that this text is not translated literally into perfect english via the known rules of anglo saxon grammar and vocabulary is that it doesn’t obey them. the languages of the time are very imperfectly understood and the chronology is based on guesses as dubious as those that supply the lexicography, and all bound to the superstition that time began only a few thousand years bc.

when does this date from if the current dates are not reliable? where would we start to enquire? the land was evidently a land of schools and colleges within which learning from childhood to adulthood were prized. druids were still educators.  from wide reading about pre-gregorian times, a diverse yet structured education system is evident, one which would produce language change far more than modern schools do. it brought many children of different backgrounds together to be educated in isolation from the rest of the world, within a linguistic environment both artificial and idiosyncratic. our rune-reciting children fit in well here. despite the fact that only a tiny minority are educated in any given population, one speaker can profoundly affect the speech of a whole generation.  a very elite school which has on its teaching staff a single teacher with a speech defect, or who has a foreign accent, or no teeth, or even an affectation, who takes the scholars for classes given in the school’s preferred language, while other teachers teach in, say, latin, or in classes where language is not so vital such as equestrianism, dancing and fencing, may introduce a particular trait into the language such that the next generation of teachers at that school learn it, the nobility learns it, their retinues affect it, and it begins to be a mark of superiority, such that the educated who use it begin to correct the ‘uneducated’ who still use the correct forms.

like I said, try saying “the proper propaganda is propagated properly” with two fingers in your mouth.  or if you have false teeth, take them out and letting your lips flop, try it then.  or if you have your own teeth, try sucking in your lips in imitation of someone who has none and try saying it then.  then, if you’re not hearing yourself say frofur, i’ll go he.

to test this translation method, let’s look at another verse.  some comments first. from other texts as well as this i take ur to mean fur or hair.  7 is at least sometimes the spanish y for ‘and’.  i take hyrn to be a form of hyr, meaning their, adding an n when preceding a vowel, (’ead) (as in the ‘my father’ but ‘mine uncle’ of not so long ago. )

ur byþ mod 7 ofer  hyrn ed

hair be’s mode and over their head

felafrecne deor feohteth mid hornum

fallow-freck(le)-s deer faredeth (fares+eth -note lisping)  with  horns

maere mor stapa 7 is modig wuht.

mare great-topcoat the one is modish white.

in the last line, mor=irish m/or, meaning great, english more, cornish meur, and stapa has the germanic s, remant of das, attached to tapa, which is the same as top(per), meaning top-coat. it is related to tapestry, and the french tapis, reflecting the weightiness and stiffness of the heavy furred animal skins which were worn as a top garment.

fur is fashionable, and over the head.

freckled fallow deer (that) runs(fares) with horns.

horse(-skin) great-coat that is fashionable white.

 this verse has been translated as something like

‘aurochs is ferocious with huge horns

a very fierce beast, it fights with its horns,

a well-known moor-stepper, it is a courageous creature.’

but the anglo-saxons wouldn’t have known about the aurochs.

I’ll leave you with these first two verses for now, and get back to you with the rest asap.