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Posted: 26 February 2014 05:44 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Insert pithy comment here

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Posted: 26 February 2014 07:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Insert nitpicky comment here.

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Posted: 26 February 2014 09:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Good to be reminded that what is known of Middle English depends on a relatively small literary corpus. Old English too, I suppose. Look at the arguments about hwaet [Pithy comment]: You’ve picked a rather fogbound profession, Dave! ;-). [Idle curious question] How many hapax legomena does the Middle English literary corpus have?

[aside] The phrase on a bus ranc is rendered as “on a bush strong”.  The word “rank” is still used in this sense, but only (so far as I know) to describe weeds, or other less desirable vegetation. No one today, surely, would describe their prize dahlias as “rank”.

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Posted: 26 February 2014 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Dave Wilton - 26 February 2014 05:44 AM

Insert pithy comment here

Great example for the fascination of word origins.  Wonderful post! Below, apropos of pithy.

Oxford English Dictionary | The definitive record of the English language

pithy, adj.
View as: Outline |Full entryQuotations: Show all |Hide all
Pronunciation:  Brit.  /ˈpɪθi/ , U.S. /ˈpɪθi/
Forms:  ME–15 pythy, ME– pithy, 15 piththie, 15 pyththy, 15 pythye, 15–16 pithie, 17 pithsie, 18– peathy (Eng. regional (Cornwall)); Sc. pre-17 pethe, pre-17 pithie, pre-17 piththie, pre-17 pitthie, pre-17 17– pithy. (Show Less)
Etymology:  < pith n. + -y suffix1.

1. Full of strength or vigour; vigorous, powerful, strong; substantial. Now rare (chiefly Sc. in later use).

a1400 (1325) Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) 9384 (MED), For yee haf..wel herd O þe begining o þis werld..For sun and mone..Had seuensith mare þan now o light, And al-king thing was þan to trow Wel pithier [a1400 Göt mihtier] þan þai ar now.
1483 Catholicon Anglicum (Monson 168) 282 Pythy, vbi strange.
1530 J. Palsgrave Lesclarcissement 320/2 Pythy stronge, puissant.

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Posted: 26 February 2014 12:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Good to be reminded that what is known of Middle English depends on a relatively small literary corpus.

I was speaking of early Middle English, in and around the twelfth century. The corpus of later Middle English is huge. Following the Norman Conquest, English stopped being used for any kind of official or legal documentation and for most literature produced for noble patrons. While written English did not disappear, it became much scarcer until the late thirteenth century when it began to reassert itself as the dominant language.

The “literary” corpus of Old English is pretty small, about 30,000 lines of poetry total. (There are individual poems in Middle English that long.) There is a large selection of legal documents (laws, charters, wills, etc.), lots of hagiographies and homilies, chronicles and histories, and scholarly/philosophical/theological works (mostly translations of Latin works). What we don’t have is what monks didn’t bother to preserve either in their monastic libraries or as part of their function as court officials (e.g., personal documents, commonplace books, popular songs and lyrics, “secular” literature—if that is a category you can apply).

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Posted: 26 February 2014 11:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Thanks for the clarification, Dave. Would that all scholars were as meticulous as yourself. In the field (ancient metrology) in which I have done some research (as an amateur, not as a a licensed academic) I have come across one “academic researcher” after another exhibiting extreme sloppiness of every kind: copying unsupported statements from unreliable sources without verifying; ignoring facts which don’t fit the pet theory; even inventing data, where real data are lacking. A sorry tale.

I wish you success in your chosen career. The more fogbound the field, the more important conscientious, rigorous research becomes.

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Posted: 27 February 2014 10:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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The phrase on a bus ranc is rendered as “on a bush strong”.  The word “rank” is still used in this sense, but only (so far as I know) to describe weeds, or other less desirable vegetation. No one today, surely, would describe their prize dahlias as “rank”.

Though we still have rank injustice, hypocrisy, heresy, and the like.

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Posted: 27 February 2014 12:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Good for you, Syntinen Laulu! Never thought of that!  ( “Rank outsider”, too!)

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Posted: 28 February 2014 01:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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The “literary” corpus of Old English is pretty small, about 30,000 lines of poetry total.

I remember Helene Hanff in 85 Charing Cross Road saying she had a friend who had started an Eng Lit degree which entailed writing a 10,000-word essay in Old English on a subject of her choice, (I think 10,000-word; I don’t have the book to hand) but gave it up on coming to realise that the only subject there are enough Old English words to write about at that length was ‘How To Slaughter a Thousand Men in a Mead-Hall’.

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Posted: 28 February 2014 04:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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There’s a lot more variety than that:

Beowulf: 3182 lines about a man who slaughters a monster, the monster’s mother, and a dragon
Genesis: 2936 lines retelling the bloodiest book in the bible
Andreas: 1722 lines about the Apostle Andrew and how he slaughters a race of cannibals
Elene: 1321 lines about Constantine’s mother and how she tortures Jews to find the true cross
Daniel: 764 lines mostly about interpretation of dreams, but there are three youths who are thrown in a furnace
Juliana: 731 lines about a woman being tortured for her faith
Christ and Satan: 701 lines about God and the Devil at odds
Exodus: 590 lines about the slaughter of the Egyptians
Judith: 349 lines about a widow who seduces and decapitates an Assyrian general and then leads the Israelite forces onto victory

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Posted: 28 February 2014 08:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I know, Dave, I know, but it was still quite a good crack.

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