Anglo-Saxon vs French roots of English

A further and rather telling example [of difference in English word origins between Anglo-Saxon and French] is the fact that the English words for many animals (such as ‘cow’, ‘sheep’, ‘boar’, ‘deer’) refer to the living creature in the hands of the farmer or herdsman, while once slaughtered, cooked and served to the Norman barony they acquire a French-based culinary name: ‘beef’, ‘mutton’, ‘pork’, or ‘venison’.

Stephen Pollington, An Introduction to the Old English Language and its Literature, 8.

Knowledge of One’s Language

Educated speakers are notoriously unreliable in analyzing their own language. If Chrysostom weighs two competing interpretations, his conclusion should be valued as an important opinion and no more. If, on the other hand, he fails to address a linguistic problem because he does not appear to perceive a possible ambiguity, his silence is of the greatest value in helping us determine how Paul’s first readers were likely to have interpreted the text.

Moisés Silva, Philippians, 27.

Swearing people are verbally farting

Swearing people are verbally farting, I explain to my children, and one often gets trapped that way, playing free and easy with God’s name, edging into off-colour jokes unbecoming the tongue of a child of the king (Eph. 5:3-14), lost in a vile, scoffing sort of raping with the mouth, because one has not been faithful in undergirding, developing and norming the semantic quality of one’s communication. If one has poor grammar and no mastery of syntax, no colour to his vocabulary, then one has no control, no depth, no persuasive power to his language. So it’s very tempting to bolster one’s weak talk by pulling in dues ex machine exclamations and by violating different social and ethical norms in order to grab attention, trying to load your speech powerfully enough to gain dominating control of the communicating situation. But it is in vain, because God’s creational order forbids it. The havoc of hate takes place. Dirty and God-damning talk is terribly destructive. But that is not “strong language” any more than rape is passionate love.

-Seerveld, An Obedient Aesthetic Life, 54.

Illuminated Manuscripts

This brings us to the true function of decoration in a twelfth-century book. It was clearly not just because it was pretty. The twelfth century was an age which delighted in classification and ordering of knowledge. Its most admired writers, men like Peter Lombard and Gratian, arranged and shuffled information into order that was accessible and easy to use. Twelfth-century readers loved encyclopedias…Les us then consider book illumination in these terms. It suddenly becomes easy to understand. Initials mark the beginning of books or chapters (PL.85). They make a manuscript easy to use. It helps classify the priorities of the text…A newspaper does this today with headlines of different sizes…any reader of a modern newspaper will fiercely defend his choice of paper by praising the text, not the layout or illustrations. It is not surprising that the twelfth-century chroniclers from St. Albans, Lincoln, and Canterbury complimented the accuracy of manuscripts when what they meant was that they liked using them.

Christopher De Hamel, A History of Illuminated Manuscripts 99.

Amo, Amas, Amat

Amo, amas, I love a lass,
As a cedar tall and slender;
Sweet cowslip’s grace
Is her nom’native case,
And she’s of the feminine gender.
Rorum, corum,sunt Divorum!
Harum, scarum, Divo!
Tag rag, merry derry, periwig and hatband!
Hic hoc horum Genitivo!

-John O’Keeffe, Agreeable Surprise II.ii

Decline of Language?

Electronic communication is supposed to be destroying our ability to use normal language, as we resort to various forms of shorthand – BTW, FWIW, LOL, ROFLOL, etc, etc.

Well maybe.

But if it’s a sign of linguistic decline, it’s not the first time. FF Bruce points out that certain greetings were so common in Roman correspondence that letter-writers use abbreviations. Like SVBEEV for “si vales, bene est; ego valeo” (If you are well, it is good; I am well).

Peter Leithart