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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Locusts and lobsters

For the modern reader, the words ‘locust’ and ‘lobster’ refer to two very different species of the animal kingdom and at first glance they do not seem to have much in common. ‘Locust’ (the modern English word for an insect associated with migrating hordes that ravage whole areas of countryside, especially in Africa and Asia, by consuming all vegetation in their path) derives from the Old French and Anglo-Norman word locuste ( DMF locuste, from Latin locusta: ‘insect’, locust’, ‘grasshopper’). It is hardly surprising that several textual references we have to locusts in Anglo-Norman sources are from religious texts, as locusts are alluded to not only as one of the plagues of Egypt in the Old Testament Exodus (Ex. 10:1-20) but also as one of the horrors inflicted upon the earth in the Apocalypse or the Book of Revelation (Revelation 9:3-10), the last book of the New Testament. One such text is an illustrated Apocalypse commentary from the thirteenth century:

“Et de cele fumee issirent locustes en terre”  Apoc Prose 42
(“And from this smoke locusts came upon the earth”)

(Locust swarm, medieval Bible)

According to FEW (5,397a) the vowel of the stem syllable in the Latin etymon changed several times, and in some forms the ‘o’ would have changed to ‘a’. The consequent vulgar Latin form ‘lacusta’ in turn developed into the Old French form laoste and the Anglo-Norman lauste. This form retained the sense ‘locust’ and can also be found in religious texts such as the  paraphrase of the Old Testament from the thirteenth century (Poème anglo-normand sur l’Ancien Testament):

“Dunc fait Deus venir uns oisels senz numbre, Ceo sunt laustes ki tute la terre encumbrent” Anc Test (B) 2059

(“Then God made appear flying creatures without number, these were locusts that encumbered the whole earth”)

(Plague of locusts, Koberger's Bible, 1483)

Interestingly, both word, lauste and locuste, are also used with reference to ‘lobster’. In an Anglo-Norman prose lapidary from the thirteenth century, dealing with the properties of engraved stones, we find lauste marine:

“En un beril se vos trovez escrist une lauste marine et desoz ses piez une corneille [...] Iceste piere garde l’amur des entreesposez.” Lapid 291.xxix
("If you find a lobster in a beryl and beneath its feet a raven [...] This stone will guard the love of those married.”)

In another lapidary from the same period, we also find a reference to locuste marine, signifying ‘lobster’, with the same information and instructions for the use of such engraved ‘lobster stone’ as in the citation above (Lapid 286.L.2)

In fact the Latin word locusta (DMLBS 1634a/b) also denotes ‘crustacean’ and ‘lobster’, and the form used in some of the Latin examples reads as ‘locusta marina’ – a form adopted in the Anglo-Norman examples already cited. 

(Monster lobster, National Library of Sweden, Olaus Magnus 73 (1572))

According to the OED (see lobster n.1), the Latin word actually originally signified a lobster or a similar crustacean, and that the application to the locust was suggested by the resemblance in shape. It should also be noted that whereas the modern English ‘lobster’, deriving from an Old English corrupted reading of the Latin etymon (lopustre, lopystre, loppestre), only includes the original sense of the word, in the modern French ‘langouste’, a form already present in Anglo-Norman (languste), both senses survive. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Word of the month: lunages, lunetus and lunatics

In an Anglo-Norman prose lapidary from the second half of the thirteenth century – a study of the medical ‘powers’ of different stones and minerals, claiming to derive its knowledge from a letter which the mysterious Arabian king Evax wrote to Emperor Tiberius – we find the following recommendation:

“La rousse [celidoine] est bone a houme qui chiet de passion et a home lunage” Lapid 149.xxvi.7
(“The red [chelidonius] (=a small stone taken from the gizzard of a swallow) is good for someone who suffers epilepsy and for a ‘lunatic’ person”)

Leaving aside the question of how effective the use of a piece of red chelidonius would have been in these matters, we would like to concentrate on the word lunage. The adjective derives from lune (Latin luna: ‘moon’), followed by the (normally substantival) suffix -age, and is the Anglo-Norman equivalent to Latin lunaticus. This particular word formation is no longer extant in Modern French and is not found in English. Its primary (and literal) sense is ‘(under the influence) of the moon’ or ‘affected by the moon’, but  while in continental medieval French the word can also mean ‘lit by the light of the moon’ (DMF lunage 2), in Anglo-Norman it is only found in reference to a mental and/or physical disorder. A second attestation of the word can be found in an earlier Anglo-Norman lapidary, dating from the beginning of the twelfth century. Here it is advised to place a jet stone on burning coals, and to have the emanating smoke float over a person:

“se hom veot serf achater, Si le puet ben espermenter Se il est lunages u guttus U se il est palazinus: [...]” Lapid 240.1133
(“if somebody wants to buy a servant, he can very well test whether that person is ‘lunatic’ or gouty or whether he has palsy [...]”)

If suffering from any of the above, the lapidary claims, the person within this cloud of smoke will have a fit.

As the etymology suggests, the influence of the moon is essential to the understanding of this word. In medieval times the different phases of the moon were believed to have numerous effects: not only insanity as a disease of the mind (as discussed in the works of Aristotle and Pliny the Elder, as well as in the fourth- and fifth-century works of Julius Firmicius Maternus and Pseudo-Manetho), but also fevers, rheumatism and epilepsy (as observed, for example, in the Vulgate, Saint Matthew, 17-15-18, where lunaticus is used to refer to an epileptic boy cured by Jesus).[1]

(The phases of the moon, as described in Isidore of Seville's Etymologies, BL, Royal 6 C.i, fol. 30r)

The two Anglo-Norman examples taken from the lapidaries seem to suggest that the ‘lunacy’ or ‘state of frenzy’ in question was more of a physical than a mental nature, and that it is epileptic fits (as brought on by the moon) that these stones protect against. Evidently, from a medieval perspective, the distinction between the two cannot have been as exact as it is in modern science – the word is used to describe the condition of people who are in a state of fitfulness, believed to be a direct result of the effects of the moon.

Anglo-Norman also has the word lunatic as a second adjectival form of lune – also derived from Latin lunaticus, but believed to be a later re-borrowing than lunage (see FEW 15,456a).  The word is also frequently attested in Continental Middle French as well as Middle English and has persisted in the modern languages. Interestingly, this is the word found more frequently in Anglo-Norman legal texts, for example in the late-thirteenth-century legal treatise Mirror of Justices:

“cist n’est mie covenable [...] par ceo q'il est dedenz age ou pur ceo q'il est lunatic ou frenetic” Mir Just 117
(“this one is not fit [=as a juror] [...] because he is in age, or because he is ‘lunatic’ or frantic”)

and in the Yearbooks of Edward II:

“la ou un enfaunt dedenz age est folenatre, le roi avera la garde tote sa vie etc. Mes s'il soit lunatick, il n'avera point” YBB Ed II ii 151
(“if an underage child is born a fool, the king shall have the wardship all his life etc. But if he is ‘lunatic’, this is not the case”)

In both instances, the sense of the word seems to be closer to the modern sense, with a person being barred from certain rights or entitlements for reasons of being ‘lunatic’, i.e. presumably prone to fits of insanity. In a legal sense, the word became synonymous with ‘mentally unsound’ and continues to be used in English law to refer to a state of intermittent insanity (OED).

(Bible historiale, BL Royal 15 D III, fol. 262)

Used as a substantive, the word lunatic in Anglo-Norman demonstrates a wider range of senses once more. In Britton’s judicial compilation of the late-thirteenth century, we find another example, again in a legal context (where the word is often used together with frenetic), of the sense ‘temporarily mentally unsound’:

“Et ausi porrount lunatics et frenetics doner et aliener, mes nient en lour rage” BRITT i 223
(“Likewise, ‘lunatics’ and frenzied people may give and alien (i.e. transfer possession), but not during their state of madness”)

A citation from Jean de Mandeville’s Livre des Merveilles du Monde, reminiscent of the above lapidary examples, ascribes an ability to diamonds to cure ‘lunatics’ and, which it seems to consider a related activity, to exorcise the devil:

“ly diamant [...] fait homme plus fort et plus ferme encountre les enemys, et garit les lunatiques et ceux qe le diable porsuit et travaille” Mandeville 308 (var.)
(“the diamond makes a person stronger and more steadfast against enemies, and cures ‘lunatics’ and those that the devil chases and harasses”)

Returning to medical texts, in the Euperiston, an Anglo-Norman medical text of the thirteenth century, the word is used alongside words referring to those who are epileptic or possessed of the devil:

“E sachét ke l'epilemptic e lunatic e demoniac sont ausi cum semblables, sicum Constantin dit” A-N Med ii 143.37
(“And let it be known that the epileptic and the lunatic and the person possessed of the devil are also similar, as Constantin says”)

and seems to refer to somebody who suffers from fits and paroxysms.

(illustration to Psalm 52: King David in prayer and the fool, BL, Harley 2897, fol. 42v) 

Curiously, Anglo-Norman has three more synonyms to refer to the ‘lunatic’, i.e. the person suffering from ‘lunacy’, that are not found on the Continent and were not borrowed into English either.

The term lunager is found in another lapidary (an alphabetical lapidary attributed to Philippe de Thaon from the beginning of the twelfth century), again in a passage describing the healing qualities of chelidonius:

“Chelidonius [...] A langoros done sancté, A lunager e forsené” Lapid 220.490
(“Chelidonius [...] gives health to one who languishes in disease, and to the ‘lunatic’ and the madman”)

Whereas in the earlier examples, the power of Chelidonius seems to have been more as preventing the fits of epilepsy, here the ‘lunatic’ is mentioned alongside the forsené (the ‘madman’).

The second synonym, also unique to Anglo-Norman, is lunerasce. In a thirteenth-century account of pilgrimages to Jerusalem, the Saracens are described as

“sunt foles cumme lunerasces a deceivre chascun” London to Jerusalem 139
(“they are mad like ‘lunatics’ in that they betray each other”)

Unless the word is to be interpreted as a corrupt misreading of ‘luve[s] [i]rascés’ (i.e. ‘angry wolves’), the ‘lunatic’ here once more refers to a ‘madman’ rather than someone suffering from epilepsy.

Thirdly, the abovementioned passage in Mandeville describing the powers of diamond, appears in a late-fourteenth-century manuscript with the variant reading les lunetus (instead of les lunatiques). Once more, the term lunetus is attested only in Anglo-Norman: instead of the etymological -ic suffix, it uses -us.

(Christ heals a lunatic boy, Gospel of St. Luke, The Hague, MMW, 10 B 23, fol. 500r)

Finally, the term used to refer to the condition of being a ‘lunatic’ is surprisingly rare in Anglo-Norman. In another (and earlier) variant manuscript of the same Mandeville passage, the diamond is not said to cure les lunetus / les lunatiques, but it garit de luneties (i.e. ‘cures of lunacy’). Clearly lunetie must be the same word as Latin lunatia (DMLBS 1660c) and Modern English lunacy. It is, however, unique to this single Anglo-Norman attestation: it is not found in Continental French and appears both in Latin and in English only from the mid- to late-sixteenth century onwards.
A second, slightly problematic, term is lunaison, which has a primary meaning of ‘lunation’ or (according to the OED) ‘the time from one new moon to the next’ as well as ‘the time of full moon’. This is also the main sense in Anglo-Norman, but in the case of two attestations it may be possible to interpret the word as ‘lunacy’. In yet another lapidary (from the second half of the thirteenth century) and once more describing the powers of Chelidonius, it reads:

“garist ceus ki sunt malades par luneson et les langerus et les devez” Lapid 152.ii.4
(“it cures those who are ill because of lunation/lunacy as well as those who languish and the insane”)

It is, however, not clear whether the word is used here to refer to the condition one suffers (i.e. ‘lunacy’, a moon-induced madness) or the cause of the disease (i.e. ‘lunation’, the phases of the moon).
The second occurrence is in Hue de Rotelande’s Protheselaus, a late twelfth-century romance:

“En fol parler mult se delite; Alques fu melancolien, Il ne se set celer pur ren, Ainz dit ço que a buche li vent, Par luneisons issi le tent. Adés fu ben sa luneison” Proth ANTS 1292
(“He takes great pleasure in foolish talk; He was somewhat melancholic and could not keep  to himself at all: he immediately expressed the thoughts that lay on his tongue. He was governed by the phases of the moon, and suddenly his ‘lunacy’ began”)

The word is used twice in the same sentence, albeit with varying meanings, and, as the text editor confirms, the second time it seems to refer to the condition of mental disorder under the influence of the moon rather than the phases of the moon themselves. Still, the example is far from straightforward.

[1] For further historical information on this subject, see M.A. Riva, L. Tremolizzo, M. Spicci, C. Ferrarese, G. De Vito, G.C. Cesana, and V.A. Sironi, V. A. (January 2011). ‘The Disease of the Moon: The Linguistic and Pathological Evolution of the English Term “Lunatic”’, Journal of the History of the Neurosciences 20:1 (2011), 65-73.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Anglo-Norman Sweetmeats

At this time of year, our thoughts turn to Christmas foods – particularly to sweets and confections. A search of the use of the term ‘sweetmeat’ in the AND2 (one can search the translations or glosses in the dictionary from the homepage) shows that an international array of sugary goods was available in medieval England. For those unfamiliar with the English term, sweetmeat is used to describe any kind of confectionary – candied fruit, nuts etc. – nothing ‘meaty’ involved despite the name – ‘meat’ is used here in the original sense of ‘food’ and not ‘flesh’. This should not be confused with the similar sounding sweetbread – which is definitely neither sweet nor bread! Even the OED can’t explain that one!

Confection was the general term used in Anglo-Norman for any compound preparation – a mixture which included a number of ingredients. It was also used as a term for preserves, a mixture of fruit and sugar. From the Latin confectio, the word is attested in Middle English from the end of the fourteenth century (MED confeccioun; OED confection). While Godefroy (confection 2, 231a) suggests a gloss of ‘confiture’ for some 16th-century attestations of the word, other Medieval French dictionaries suggest the term was used for mixtures, particularly pharmacological mixtures to which honey or syrup had been added (FEW confection 2/ii,1029b; TL confeccïon; DMF confection; TLF confection). In the AND2, the citations illustrating this sense of ‘preserve, sweetmeat’ are all taken from late sources: two citation from the account rolls of the Abbey of Durham dating from about 1383 - 1403(and in a Latin context) and a citation from the Southampton Port Books from the early fifteenth century. You will note that Durham and Port Books are frequently our only source for this type of word. While the Port Books record all the imports into Southampton between 1427 and 1430, the Durham accounts record all the expenditures of the abbey between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries.

Related to confection, confit is derived from the past participle of the Latin conficere and listed in the AND as a past participle used as adjective sub confire2 meaning ‘preserved’. Again the attestations for its usage are mainly drawn from Durham and Port Books with the earliest attestation listed dating to about 1370. The term comfit (the -mf- spelling particular to English, and also found in the Anglo-Norman variants comfeth and comfyt) is attested in Middle English from 1425 in the sense of ‘sweetmeat made of fruit preserved with sugar’ (MED confit, n.; OED comfit, n). The term is equally attested in Old French as confit (FEW conficere 2/ii,1021b; Gdf 2,234b; TL confit; DMF confit (note that this article erroneously linls to AND2’s conflict rather than confire2) ) and also confite (Gdf 2,234b; DMF confite) with some hesitation about the gender of the word.

Dragee is defined in the AND2 as a ‘spice, sweet meat, though also a type of pill, or a sweet medicinal preparation’. The earliest citation of dragee in the OED is from 1853, though in the forms found under dredge, n.2  the word is attested from 1350, glossed as ‘a sweetmeat or comfit containing a seed or grain of spice’. (See also MED dragge n.2). The OED suggests a derivation from the Greek τραγήματα meaning ‘spices, condiments’ which became tragema in Medieval Latin (the DMLBS defines this as ‘fruit and nuts eaten as dessert’ with one attestation: tagimata sunt frustus dulces habentest dures nucleos, ut uve vel nuces’ Alphita 182).
The term is also attested in Old French(FEW tragema 13/ii 158; TL dragiee; DMF dragie1; dragée; GDF dragie1 2,766a (where both attestations are for the locution male dragie, ‘mauvais accord’); GdfC dragie 9,413c; TLF dragée1. The word continues to be used in both French and English, though the modern definition of the term is that of ‘a nut with a candied (sugarpaned) coating’. This type of candy is often given at weddings in North America (known as Jordan almonds), or after a birth in most of Flanders (known in Dutch as suikerboon (‘sugar bean’ and also popularly known as ‘baby poo’) .The term is also currently used in English to describe small metallic balls used in cake or cookie decoration.

The word gobet is normally used in Anglo-Norman as well as in Middle English and Old French to mean ‘a mouthful’ (FEW *gobbo 4,179b; TL gobet1; Gdf gobet2 4,298b; DEAF gobe G921; DMF gobet; TLF gobet; OED gobbet n.) However, in this entry, we can also find the locution gobet real, defined as a ‘kind of sweetmeat’ and illustrated by two citations: 

cofyns de anys confyt et gobetes reale Durham 126
Item in ij. libris de gingeur confecto ij. libris de annys confecto ij. libris de gobet rial ij. libris de gariofil ij. libris de zucre en plate GAUNT1 ii 270

This usage is unattested elsewhere except in the MED where the use of gobet real is noted with the gloss ‘royal tidbit, a delicacy made of spices and sugar’.

The word madrian, glossed simply as ‘a sweetmeat’ is only found in one attestation in a Latin context (again from Durham – those monks enjoyed their sweets!):

In diversis speciebus […] videlicet gobet reall, anys comfett et madryam Durham 560

It is attested in English between 1350 and 1500 at which point it seems to disappear (OED madrian, n.; MED madrian, n.) It is much more frequently attested in Old French (FEW o.i. 21,139a; TL madrïan; Gdf madrian 5,64b; DMF madrian) where, again, there are no attestations of the word after 1500. The OED is unsure of the etymology of word, but notes the use of madria in Latin (1329 DMBLS 1676b) and the Italian form madria, ‘a type of ginger’, in 1343.

In the entry sukade in the AND2 we find the following citation, glosses as ‘succade, sweetmeat’:

.ix. barels de sukade, valor .xl. s. Port Bks 109

This attestation dating from about 1430, appears to be the earliest attestation of the word, though the FEW (sukkar 19,162a) notes the use of sucrades in the 15th century and the DMF has an attestation from the end of the 15th century of the form chucade in the entry for succade. Godefroy also lists several citations using the word, but these are all later in date than our Anglo-Norman citation (Gdf succade 7,586a). The DMBLS suggests an Anglo-Norman source for their sole attestation of succada which dates to 1570. The term entered English in the forms succade n., succate n.. and sucket n., all with the definition of ‘fruit preserved in sugar’, with the earliest citation from 1463 but the etymology of the word remains unclear. The OED notes the presence of sukade in Dutch and the form succatum in a 15th-century Latin text, but nothing earlier than our Anglo-Norman attestation. However, our graduate student, Megan Tiddeman, has recently noted the presence of a similar form in an Italian (Tuscan) document, dating from the 14th century, so it is very possible that the word is in fact an Italian borrowing. Megan is going to give us some more insights on the development of this word and other words related to sugar in Italian and Anglo-Norman in a future Word of the Month.

Merry/Happy Christmas from the AND – have a wonderful holiday and don’t indulge in too many sweets!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Words of the Month: Noef! Novel!

The Nativity in the Bedford Hours: London, British Library, MS Additional 18850, f. 65r. - See more at:

It may be a little early for Noel, but already offer you a present in the shape of a novel version of the dictionary: we have proceeded not only with the online publication of the second edition of the letter N – from naal to nuus – but also with the introduction of some entirely new functionalities.

Work on the letter N in the course of 2013 coincided with a novation (‘the alteration of a contract to include a new person’), that is the inclusion of Katariina Nära to the project team. She has been working, since April, on the addition of a new feature now part of AND#2: an entirely new section at the top of the article (just below the headword and variant forms) provides live links and/or references to other relevant dictionaries. These will assist users wishing to explore the word as defined in etymological dictionaries of French (FEW, DEAF), in dictionaries of Old, Middle and Modern French (Godefroy, Tobler-Lommatsch, DMF, TLF), in dictionaries of Middle and Modern English (MED, OED),and in the dictionary of medieval Latin in Britain (DMLBS). This information will help situating the Anglo-Norman word in question within its wider linguistic context. Currently these links are already available for entries beginning with H, I, J, and K as well as the brand new N, and the coverage will gradually expand to the rest of AND#2.

In perusing the new N-entries, you will also notice a second novelty: the addition of a ‘commentary’ section at the top of selected entries. These allow the editorial team to provide additional information about the entry in question, ranging from etymological information, references to articles discussing the word, or an explanation why certain forms or definitions have been used. For example, in the entry novelerie, Geert De Wilde explains why he disagrees with the definition provided by the FEW and favours a different one.

We hope you enjoy the new features of the dictionary (there are more innovations to come!) as much as the availability of the second edition of N. We would love to hear your feedback, either here or through our facebook page, on whether you find that these new functionalities are useful to the dictionary user, whether they are presented in an clear way, whether they font la nove sause pire du prime!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Word of the Month: 'Organe'

Pending online publication of the second edition of ‘N’, AND revision work continues with the editorial team currently gathering information, citations and references for the letter ‘O’. 
To offer a glimpse of the process: it has already become apparent that while AND#1 only had one entry for organe, AND#2 (the second, online edition) will have (at least) two: one musical and one herbal.

The first entry (which was already present in AND#1), now becoming organe1, is derived from Latin organum. The word can be traced back to Greek οργανον, which originally referred to a tool or instrument to work with (cf. εργον, Greek for ‘work, task’), and more specifically to a musical instrument. That latter meaning persisted in medieval times, and the DMLBS lists as its 5th sense: ‘musical instrument that can be tuned’ (DMLBS 2053a).
Whereas the modern musical sense of ‘organ’, i.e. an instrument using pipes sounded by keys, is already well-attested in medieval Latin organum and Middle English organ(e, surprisingly no unambiguous examples have yet been found in Anglo-Norman. In contrast, all occurrences (both as a singular and a plural noun) seem to refer to a stringed instrument or lyre, for example:

'Sur les flums de Babilone, iluec seimes [...]; Es salz [...] suspendimes noz organes'
(Oxf Ps1 213. CXXXVI.2)
[Translated in the King James Version as: By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down [...]; We hanged our harps [...] upon the willows]

'E David sunout une maniere de orgenes ki esteient si aturnés ke l'um les liout as espaldes celi kis sunout'
(Liv Reis 71)
[And David played a type of harp which was fashioned in such a way that one attached it to the shoulders of the person who played it]

'les Helenis, quant voloient [...] avoic les estrumens de musique, harpe, vielle ou orghene  solacier, bon vin usoient, car lors soi trovoient de milhor sens et de plus soutil  contretroveure a faire dittees et contretroveures et melodies'
(Secr Waterford#1 95.846)
[The people of Hellas, when they wanted to perform on musical instruments, harp, viol and lyre, drank good wine, because then they found themselves in a better mood and with a more refined ingenuity to make songs, creations and melodies]

Le roi David et des musiciens. Psautier anglais de Saint-Alban (Hildeshaim) XIIe siècle
(E. G. Millars English illuminated manuscripts) 

Anglo-Norman also has the word orgues (always attested in the plural), which is an abbreviated form of the same Latin root organum. Again it seems to be used with reference to musical instruments. Trivet’s Chronicle provides a new attestation of the word being used referring unquestionably to an organ:

'Gereberd [...] fist orgues chauntauntz sanz eide de home'
(TRIV 278.19)
[Gerbert [...] constructed an organ that played without the help of man]

The chronicle refers to Gerbert of Aurrillac who famously constructed a hydraulically powered pipe organ for the cathedral of Reims in the late tenth century.

AND#1 provided only one attestation of the abbreviated form, together with the definition ‘organ’. However, that example is, after all, ambiguous:

'les chanz des angles e les dulz orgres des sainz'
(Eluc 105.106)
[the singing of angels and the sweet organs/lyres/instruments (?) of the saints]

The Ghent altarpiece (fragment)
Jan and Hubert Van Eyck, late 15th century

The context does not specify which particular type of instruments may have been used by the saints.

A second new citation for AND#2 provides a very different interpretation, as it uses the word to refer to birdsong:

'Li oisel chantent, li rossignos lur orgues mostrent'
(Secr Waterford1 83.373)
[The birds sing, the nightingales bring out their songs]

This particular (perhaps figurative) usage of the word is also found in Latin (DMLBS organum, senses 8. ‘song, hymn’ and 9. ‘music, esp. vocal’) and English (MED, organ(e, sense 3 ‘a sung melody’). The reference to bird-song is, however, unique to this Anglo-Norman attestation. In any case, it adds to the ambiguity of the above Eluc attestation, where the saints may well have been singing hymns, rather than playing any instruments.

The abbreviated form orgues, while also well-attested in Continental French (see DMF orgue), is rare (and obsolete) in English, with OED listing only two examples (also meaning ‘organ’) from the 18th and 19th centuries.

It is surprising that the other senses associated with Latin organum (and also well-attested in medieval and modern English), such as ‘bodily organ’ or ‘instrument of speech’ or ‘device’, currently have no attestations at all in Anglo-Norman – though, of course, work on the second edition of ‘O’ is still on-going. Do send us a message if you come across any examples.

The second organe entry for the AND, which will be new in the second edition, refers to the plant ‘wild marjoram’ (or a variety of similar plants with aromatic leaves). As it is has a different etymology, derived from the Latin word origanum (DMLBS 2054b), the word will be given a separate AND entry.

Section on 'origanum' in the Pseudo-Apuleius Herbarium,
Oxford, Bodleian Library, Ashmole 1431, fol. 29r (11th Century)

This plant-name is attested frequently in Anglo-Norman (mainly as an ingredient in medical treatises) and with many spelling variants, some of which are closer to the Latin form (such as origan or origanon) while others deviate further (orgon, orgoyne, etc.):

'Item pouder ad purger la teste: [pernez] de gilgano e de gingivre e de pelettre e de organe e de ysoppe e temperez od mel e eisel e gargari[s]és en la bouche'
(A-N Med ii 209.25)
[Item, a powder to purge the head: [take] ‘gilgano’ (=unidentified), ginger, pellitory, marjoram and  hyssop, and mix it with honey and vinegar, and rinse the mouth]

The same word is equally found in Middle English as origane n. (with the variant spelling ‘organe’) or origanum n.,  and persists in Modern English as organ n.2 (OED link, through subscription only) and origanum n. (OED link, through subscription only). The word oregano n. (OED link, through subscription onlycomes from the same Latin root, but is a later, post-medieval borrowing from Spanish.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Word of the month: havegooday

While gathering information for the revision of the AND, one of the sources available to the editorial team is the collection of ‘gleanings’ previously made by contributors. Certain texts were read completely and any number of noteworthy words, phrases or citations were set aside – in earlier days handwritten on slips or on typed lists, but more recently copied in digital files – for later consideration. Sometime in the late 1990s Dr. Lisa Jefferson contributed in such a way, and gathered material from (among other sources) the manuscripts of the Merchant Taylor accounts – which otherwise would not have been available to the AND. Her ‘gleanings’ for ‘H’ from these documents belonging the London guild of tailors included the following intriguing phrase:

‘Item pur .vij. havegooddays, un pur le stretdore, pris .iiij. d. et pur l’autres .vj. d. – xij d.’

It is a single entry in a list of payments made during the second year of the reign of Henry VI (1423).

Two seemingly English words appear in this otherwise Anglo-Norman sentence: havegooddays and stretdore. The AND’s editorial policy on matters like this has been that when a given context is Anglo-Norman, isolated English, Latin, Greek, Hebrew (etc.) words should be considered either as loan-words or, at the least, as comprehensible to the Anglo-Norman reader/listener. Either way, ‘foreign’ or ‘mixed language’ words such as these are normally included in the dictionary (obviously, with a relevant language tag indicating the language from which they are borrowed). Consequently, both havegoodday and stretdore will get their own AND entries, just like previously bacgavel, clapholt or debet

To what is this entry referring? The note is a financial record for the purchase of seven havegooddays, with one for the stretdore being more expensive (4 d.) than the other six (1 d. apiece). Stretdore can be found in the Middle English Dictionary (sub strete n.2) as ‘the door of a house leading to the street’, but what is the meaning of  havegoodday? Lisa Jefferson attached a puzzled note to her gleanings: ‘I fear one of those wooden plaque things, bearing words and which are affixed to a certain door’. Did the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors in London see the need to greet the visitors to their Hall with no less than seven such signs? Or was this a rather twentieth-century-like attempt to boost the morale of their members on a daily basis?

The solution, as is often the case, can be found in the OED. The Oxford English Dictionary has an entry for havegooday – an obsolete word with only one attestation – which is defined as ‘a kind of door-latch’. In addition, it links to another entry, haggaday which is accounted for as a contracted form of ha’ good day. In nineteenth-century dictionaries and glossaries (cited in the OED) ‘haggaday’ is defined as ‘a kind of wooden latch for a door’ (J.O. Halliwell, A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words), and described as ‘frequently put upon a cottage door, on the inside, without anything projecting outwards by which it may be lifted. A little slit is made in the door, and the latch can only be raised by inserting therein a nail or slip of metal’ (E. Peacock A Glossary of Words Used in the Wapentakes of Manley and Corringham). 

The word hagodai (with its variant have-godai) is also found in the MED, and appears from the middle of the fourteenth century onwards. It is, however, defined somewhat differently as ‘A ring forming the handle for raising the latch on a door’. The word seems to have been fairly common, albeit with quite some variation in its spelling: the earliest attestated form in the MED is hagonday (1353).

Returning to Anglo-Norman, also this syncopated form  can be found, i.e.  in a second attestation culled by Lisa Jefferson from the Merchant Taylors’ accounts, this time of the year before:

‘Item pur hokis, hengis, ceres, cliefs, boltis, staplis et lattchis, hagedaies et tout manere irenware .iiij. s. .ij. d.’

The word is unattested in Continental French or in Medieval Latin. However, these two ‘new’ citations document the existence of havegoodday in Anglo-Norman, and a new entry has been created, which will become live with the next phase of updates (i.e. when the recently finished N- entries are published online). As a preview, here is a screenshot of the editorial version of the new article:

The question remains how a greeting like ‘have a good day’ could have lent its name to (part of) a door-latch. It is the etymology proposed by the OED (not updated since 1898) and the MED, but ultimately remains unexplained. Is it a metonymical link, with the words usual said to someone before closing a door after him/her being applied to the instrument that locks this particular door? Or, similarly, does the safety of the latch guarantee a ‘good day’ to the owner of the house? The fact that the earliest attestation hagonday has an extra ‘n’ raises the possibility that this word may have had an entirely different origin, and that the more recognisable variant, have a good day, may have been the outcome of a folk-etymology, already in use in the Middle Ages. Is hagedaie a more original form than havegoodday?  So far we have not been able to find any other etymology for the word – could it be a place-name, another language, a person? 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Call for Anglo-Norman papers

Call for Papers:

Anglo-Norman Texts, Language and Contexts

The Anglo-Norman Dictionary ( is interested in sponsoring a session or series of sessions at the Leeds International Medieval Congress 2014 (see to new research on Anglo-Norman texts and their contexts. We will present papers on the subject, but are looking for further contributors.
We are particularly interested in hearing about new texts, new editions of texts, and texts that fall outside of the literary context. Paper topics could include, but are not limited to:

  • the use of Anglo-Norman in literary and non-literary contexts
  • the intended audience of Anglo-Norman texts throughout the medieval period
  • the transmission of Anglo-Norman texts
  • the revision, annotation or translation of Anglo-Norman texts 
  • the inclusion of Anglo-Norman with texts in other languages
  • the manuscript context of Anglo-Norman works
  • the use of Anglo-Norman outside England

If you are interested, please contact us, the session organizers, at by September 15 2013, with a short summary of your proposal.