. The History of English

Monath, the month of Easter.

May is named for the Roman goddess of growth and increase, Maia. She

was the Goddess of spring, because in spring everything was growing,

flourishing, increasing.

The English name is not so poetic. They called the month "Thrimilce",

which means something like to mi1k three times. In May the cows give so

much milk that the farmers had to milk them three times a day.

Month of "June" was so called after the Junius family of Rome, one of

the leading clans of ancient Rome. Besides, the Roman festival of Juno, the

Goddess of Moon, was celebrated on the first day of the month.

We think of June as the month of brides and roses, but to the Anglo-

Saxons it was "Sere-Monath", the dry month.

July is the month of Julius Caesar. The month began to be called that

in the year when Julius Caesar was killed.

The English called July Maed-Monath, meadow month, because the

meadows are in bloom in July.

Now, comes August. This month was once called sexillis, as it was

the sixth month from March, with which, as you remember, the year once

opened. It was then changed into August in honour of the Roman emperor

Augustus Caesar, the nephew of Julius Caesar. This man was chosen by Julius

Caesar as his heir, he took the name Caesar, and was given the title

Augustus by the Roman Senate. This month was a lucky Month for Augustus

Caesar. By the way, Augustus refused to have fewer days in his month of

August than there were in the month of July. So he borrowed a day from

February and added it to August; that is why August has 31 days.

The Old English name for August was "Wead-Monath", the month of weeds.

You know, the Old English word "weed" meant vegetation in generale.

September, October, November and December are just "seventh",

"eighth", "ninth" and "tenth" months of the year. You remember that before

the Romans changed their calendar, March was the first month.

The English had more descriptive names for these month. September was

called "Harfest-Monath", "the harvest month". October was "Win-Monath",

"the wine month". November was "Bloo-Monath", because in November the

English sacrificed cattle to their gods. December was Mid-Winter-Monath,

because this month was the middle month of winter.

C). Germanic tribes.

At the beginning of the 5th century the Romans left the islands, they had

t save their own country from barbarians. If you want to know what events

followed after that, turn on the Time Machine again. So, here we are, in

the 5th century, This is the time of the birth of the English language. he

Germanic tribes of Angles, Sxns and Jutes invaded th misty fertile

island. Some of the native Britons were killed, mn others fled from the

invaders "s from fire" into the hill parts of the country. Angls, Saxons

nd Jutes spread all over the fertile lnds of the Isles. Gradually th

bm one nation - English. They developed one language - English. As

historians write, "th English language arrived in Britain on the point of

sword"! The l f that tim of th history r called ng1-Sns,

their language is ld English r Ang1-Saxon as well.

h next destination f ur im hin is the 7th century, when

Christinity was introducd in Britain, monasteries with shools nd

libraries were set u all ver th untry. h English language was

considerably enriched b the Latin wods.

Now, with the help of the im hin we'll fly over into the 8th ntu.

t this time the ancient Scandinavians, clled the Vikings, began to id

Britin. h Vikings continued thir wars with the English until the tim

the Ang1-Saxn king Alfred th Great made treaty with them nd gave them

rt of the country, that was lled "Danelaw". h Vikings settled

thr, married nglish wives nd bgan peaceful life on the territory of

Britain. Later military conflicts resumed again, but by the 11th century

they were over. The influence of these events n the English lnguag was

great, indeed. lrge number of Scandinavian words m int nglish from

"Danes" as th Ang1o-Saxons called all the Vikings.

One reason why Roman Britannia disappeared so quickly is probably that its

influence was largely confined to the towns. In the countryside, where most

people lived, farming methods had remained unchanged and Celtic speech

continued to be dominant.

The Roman occupation had been a matter of colonial control rather than

large-scale settlement. But, during the fifth century, a number of tribes

from the north-western European mainland invaded and settled in large

numbers. Two of these tribes were the Angles and the Saxons. These Anglo-

Saxons soon had the south-east of the country in their grasp. In the west

of the country their advance was temporarily halted by an army of Celtic

Britons under the command of the legendary King Arthur. Nevertheless, by

the end of the sixth century, they and their way of life predominated in

nearly all of England and in parts of southern Scotland. The Celtic Britons

were either Saxonized or driven westwards, where their culture and language

survived in south-west Scotland, Wales and Cornwall.

The Anglo-Saxons had little use for towns and cities. But they had a great

effect on the countryside, where they introduced new farming methods and

founded the thousands of self-sufficient villages which formed the basis of

English society for the next thousand or so years.

The Anglo-Saxons were pagan when they came to Britain. Christianity spread

throughout Britain from two different directions during the sixth and

seventh centuries. It came directly from Rome when St Augustine arrived in

597 and established his headquarters at Canterbury in the south-east of

England. It had already been introduced into Scotland and northern England

from Ireland, which had become Christian more than 150 years earlier.

Although Roman Christianity eventually took over the whole of the British

Isles, the Celtic model persisted in Scotland and Ireland for several

hundred years. It was less centrally organized, and had less need for a

strong monarchy to support it. This partly explains why both secular and

religious power in these two countries continued to be both more locally

based and less secure than it was elsewhere in Britain throughout the

medieval period.

Britain experience another wave of Germanic invasions in the 8th century.

These invaders, known as Vikings, Horsemen or Danes, came from Scandinavia.

In the ninth century they conquered and settled the extreme north and west

of Scotland, and also some coastal regions of Ireland. Their conquest of

England was halted when they were defeated by King Alfred of the Saxon

kingdom of Wessex. This resulted in an agreement which divided England

between Wessex, in the south and west, and the Danelaw in the north and


However, the cultural differences between Anglo-Saxons and Danes were

comparatively small. They led roughly the same way of life and spoke two

varieties of the same Germanic tongue (which combined to form the basis of

modern English). Moreover, the Danes soon converted to Christianity. These

similarities made political unification easier, and by the end of the 10th

century England was one kingdom with a Germanic culture throughout.

Most of modern-day Scotland was also united by this time, at least in name,

in a Gaelic kingdom.

Paopla in Anglo-Saxon times. Living uncomfortably close to the natural

world, were wall aware that though creation is inarticulate it is animate,

and that every created thing, every with, had its own personality.

The riddle is a sophisticated and harmless for of invocation by imitation:

the essence of it is that the poet, by an act of imaginative identification

assumes the personality of some crested thing - an animal, a plant, a

natural force.

The specialists consider that they know not enough about The Exeter Book

collection of riddles. Ridding was certainly a popular pastime among the

Anglo-Saxons, especially in the monasteries, and there are extant

collections (in Latin, of course,) from the pens of Aldhelm, Bishop of

Sherborne, Tatwin, Archbishop of Canterbury and others.

The provenance and genesis of the collection are unknown, and from internal

evidence one can only draw the modest conclusion that the ninety-five

riddles were not written by one man.

In English a student and the little black circle in the center of the eye

are both called pupils? And the connection between them is a doll. Both

the words came into the English language through French from the Latin. In

Latin there was a word pupa a girl, and pupus a boy. When the

Latin ending illa was added to pupa or pupus, the word meant a

little girl or a little boy. Since little girls and little boys went to

school, they became pupils.

But pupilla, a little girl, also meant a doll. It is easy to understand

why, isnt it? Now, if you look into the pupil of someones eye when the

light is just right, you can see your reflection. Your figure, by the way,

is very, very small like a tiny doll. The Romans named the black circle in

the eye pupilla because of the doll they could see there. And the word

came into the English as pupil as well. And thus, we have in the English

language two words that are spelt the same and have the same origin, but

mean different things: pupil a student, and pupil a black circle in

the center of your eye.

Professor casts a quick glance at the wall and noticed a map there. This

map is made of paper. But the word itself meant cloth once. This word came

into English from Latin, the Latin mappa was cloth. First maps were drawn

on fabrics. In Latin the combination of the words appeared: mappa mundi

cloth of the word. It was the first representation of the world as a

drawing on the cloth. Later maps began to be made of paper, but the word


By another route the same word came into English for the second time. In

Late Latin this word was corrupted into nappa, and later, through French,

it entered the English language with the new meaning of napkin.

When a teacher asks you a question. She expects you will give a correct

answer. Answer is a very strange word. Its spelling makes no sense until

you know its origin. This is a very old word. In Old English the noun was

andswaru and the verb andswearing. So, you see, it consisted of two

parts: and and swear. The word and at that time meant against; swear meant

to give a solemn oath. In the youth of the English language andswaru was

a solemn oath made against an accusation. A man had to pronounce a solemn

in reply to an accusation, to prove that it is wrong. In the course of

historical development the word lost its solemnity and it means now a

reply, to reply. Any little child answer you back today.

Professor History remarks, I see that some of you write with a ballpoint

pen, others with a pencil, and there are some who write with a fountain

pen. So, you cant do without ink, after all. A simple three-letter word

ink comes from a nine-letter ancestor that meant a branding iron. And now a

few steps away from the skill of writing towards the skill of healing

wounds. When we have a wound we cauterize it, we burn it with heat or with

a chemical in order to close it and prevent it from becoming infected. The

ancient Greeks used to cauterize a wound as we do, and the grandparent word

of cauterize is kauterion, a branding iron. The Greek not only sealed

wounds with heat, but they used much the same process in art for sealing

fast the colours of their painting. It was customary then to use wax

colours fixed with heat or, as they expressed it, encauston, burned in. In

Latin this word changed to encaustum, and it became the name for a kind of

purple ink that the emperors used when they signed their official

documents. In Old French encaustum became enque. English adopted the word

as enke or inke, that is how today we have our ink, coloured liquid used

for writing or printing.

The start of spoken language is buried in mystery and in a tangle of

theories, Professor History begins his lecture. The history of written

language also disappears in the jungles, in the deserts and far fields of

unrecorded time. But at least the words that have to do with writing tell

us much about the early beginning of the art and the objects that were used

to record the written symbols.

The word write was spelled writan in Old English. It first meant to

scratch, and it is exactly what the primitives did on their birch-bark or

shingles with sharp stones and others pointed instruments. In the more

sophisticated lands that surrounded the Mediterranean the papyrus plant was

used instead of the bark of the trees; as you already know, that gave us

the word paper.

Pen with which we write now, in its Latin form penna, meant a feather and

in some ancient collections you can still see quill pens. And pencil that

we hold inherits its name from the Latin penicillum, meaning a little tail,

and this refers to the time when writing was done with a tiny brush that

looked indeed like a little tail.

The term letter designating a written symbol, a letter of the alphabet is

thought to be relative to the Latin word linere, to smear, to leave a dirty

mark on some surface. Isnt it a good description of some of the early


But what is written should be read. In read we have an odd little word,

from the Old English raedan, which meant first to guess, to discern. And

again it is just what you had to do to interpret what was scratched on

wooden shingles. Anything that had to be interpreted was called a raedels.

Later on people began to think that the word raedels was a plural because

of the s on the end. A new singular, raedel was formed and here is the

ancestor of our word riddle. Finally the word read took on its modern

meaning: if you can read, you have the ability to look at and understand

what is written.

Of course the basis of all writing is language. But it is first of all, a

spoken activity, and hence this noun is derived from a word referring to

the organ of speech primarily involved. In this case it is the French word

language, which goes back to the Latin lingua, tongue. The English, though,

retained their native word to name that soft movable part inside your mouth

whish you see for tasting and licking and for speaking, a tongue.

Sometimes you may hear the word tongue used in the meaning of language, but

it is an old-fashioned and literary use.

If you want to read what is written in a foreign language, you need a

dictionary. The term dictionary comes from the Latin word dictio, from

dico, say or speak. A dictionary is really a record of what people say, of

the pronunciation, spellings, and meanings that they give to words.

In Old English there was a different word with which the Englishmen called

bread, it was half. But then as a result of the Vikings invasion and

Scandinavian influence on the English language a new word of the same

meaning entered the English vocabulary from Scandinavian: cake. Since the

English had already their own word (half), they started to use the word

cake for a special type of bread. First it referred to a small loaf of

bread of flat and round shape. From the 15th century it began to mean sweet

food, as it does now.

To the Scandinavians, living in Britain, called their bread by the word

brauth. The English had a similar word bread meaning a lump, a piece of

bread. Under the influence of the Scandinavian language the word bread

widened its meaning and began to mean bread in general, while the word loaf

(from Old English half) narrowed its meaning, now it is a large lump of

bread which we slice before eating.

The Great Englishman Caxton, who introduced printing in Britain in 1476,

wrote in a preface to one of the books about a funny episode with egg. The

thing is that in Old English the word egg had a different form which

spelled as ey in Middle English; its plural form was eyren. And again the

Scandinavians brought with them to Britain their word egg. It first spread

in the northern English dialects, the southerners did not know it and used

their native word.

Caxton tells the readers that once English merchants from the northern

regions were sailing down the Thames, bound for the Netherlands. There was

no wind and they landed at a small southern village. The merchants decided

to buy some food. They came to a house and one of them asked a woman if she

could sell them eggs. The woman answered that she did not understand him

because she did not know French. The merchant became very angry and said

that he did not speak French either. Then another merchant helped. He said

they wanted eyren, the woman understood him and brought them eggs.

For rather a long period of time two words existed in Britain: a native

English word eyren was used in the South, and the Scandinavian borrow eggs

in the North. The Scandinavian word has won after, as you can see.

D). The Norman French.

I made another excursion into the past. The Time hin has rried me

into the 11th century, into the year of 1066. An wful picture ns before

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