Old English Dictionaries

Peter Buchanan, who teaches at New Mexico Highlands University, has assembled an excellent introduction to the three major Old English dictionaries: John Clark Hall’s Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (a.k.a., Clark Hall), Joseph Bosworth and T. Northcote Toller’s Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (Bosworth Toller), and Toronto’s Dictionary of Old English (DOE). Buchanan’s discussion can be found on his blog, Phenomenal Anglo-Saxons. Buchanan’s description is framed as a reference for students at NMHU, but it’s useful for anyone who wants an introduction to the dictionaries.

Clark Hall contains brief entries and is chiefly useful as a quick reference for translators or readers. There is a version available online for free, although it’s an image scan and unwieldy to use. Bosworth Toller is comprehensive, but it’s nineteenth-century scholarship. It’s also available online for free with a good, searchable user interface. The DOE is the gold standard, but it’s a work in progress: only A–H has been published, and it’s a subscription service, although limited access is available on a trial basis. Buchanan’s page details how to get temporary access.

(Disclosure: Peter is a friend from my time at Toronto. Despite that dubious association, he’s an excellent scholar and all-around good egg.)

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A Dialect Coach Critiques Actors’ Accents

The topic of actors’ accents has arisen from time to time on our discussion boards. In this sixteen-minute film from Wired magazine dialect coach Erik Singer examines some accents from big Hollywood productions. Yes, Kevin Costner’s English accent in Robin Hood is really that bad, but I was surprised at some of the accents Singer considered good, such as Renée Zellweger’s accent in Bridget Jones’s Diary. But I’ll accept Singer’s judgment as this is what he does for a living.

I do have a few quibbles. I wish they had grouped the clips by regional accent, so we could, for example, hear all the Russian accents at once to make it easier to compare. And the medievalist in me bristles at evaluating Mel Gibson’s Scottish accent in Braveheart by the standard of modern-day Scottish as opposed to how they spoke in the thirteenth century. (Singer does discuss historical accents to great effect when examining Daniel Day Lewis’s performances.)

Sixteen minutes is a bit long for many, but this film is well worth the time.

Tip o’ the hat to Languagehat.

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The Last Punchcutter

A delightful, short film about a dying art…

And a short article on the film.

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What Did Old Norse Sound Like?

My Old Norse expertise doesn’t extend to pronunciation so I can’t comment on the accuracy of this video, but Jackson Crawford’s academic credentials are quite respectable, so I’ll take his word for it. Plus, the image of a man in a cowboy hat reading Old Norse poetry is too good to pass up:

Tip o’ the hat to Jim Wilton for pointing me to this video.

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American Dialect Society Word of the Year (ADS WOTY)

The American Dialect Society (ADS) has decided upon its Word of the Year for 2016 and that word is dumpster fire, meaning “an exceedingly disastrous or chaotic situation.” The term was commonly heard in reference to last year’s presidential election. It won in a run-off vote against woke, an African-American slang term that has been making its way into white speech meaning “socially aware or enlightened.” The full ADS press release is here.

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