wassail
Posted: 11 December 2015 07:49 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I thought this would be a quick and easy Big List entry. Little did I know what I was getting into...

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Posted: 11 December 2015 11:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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You did a great job, Dave. Be healthy.

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Posted: 11 December 2015 12:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Rabid Tolkien fans may recall that Eomer at one point greets Theoden with Westu Theoden hal!, which is the same phrase with a pronoun and name inserted: “Be you, Theoden, healthy!”

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Posted: 11 December 2015 02:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Great addition to the Big List, Dave. Before I read the entry I was all set to quote the very passage from Hamlet you used, “Keeps wassail and the swaggering upspring reels” is such a great line. Interesting too to see the old verb clepe or clip being used in that passage. It survived as a poetical archaism, such as welkin for the sky, long after fading from general usage. You often see it in the form y-cleped, called or named. (That y- prefix crops up a lot in old words, I’m not sure how it was used in Old English or whether it has a connection with the a-prefix one also sees a lot of in verse, Froggy will a-wooing go).

Spenser loved these archaisms and because of his influence they survived in poetry for centuries.

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Posted: 11 December 2015 11:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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There are two phrases in that speech of Hamlet’s, which today are part of the language: “to the manner born” (sometimes misquoted as “to the manor born”), and “a custom more honoured in the breach than in the observance”.  Are these phrases original there, I wonder, or can they be antedated?

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Posted: 12 December 2015 05:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Rabid Tolkien fans may recall that Eomer at one point greets Theoden with Westu Theoden hal!, which is the same phrase with a pronoun and name inserted: “Be you, Theoden, healthy!”

All the examples of the speech of the Rohirrim in LOTR (there aren’t that many) are straight up Old English. Unlike his Elvish, this isn’t a case of an invented language; Tolkien just had the Rohirrim speak Old English.

I included the extended quote from Hamlet precisely because it contained these other well-known phrases (plus clepe). I’m 99.9% certain that these phrases are original to Hamlet. (I haven’t bothered to look them up.) When it comes to Shakespearean coinages, it’s a fair bet that phrases are original to him, but he was not a great inventor of individual words. He did, however, often use existing words in novel ways.

Reading Hamlet (and watching Casablanca) for the first time, one is struck by how full of cliches they are, and one wonders who such derivative writing could be so highly praised.

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Posted: 12 December 2015 07:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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(That y- prefix crops up a lot in old words, I’m not sure how it was used in Old English or whether it has a connection with the a-prefix one also sees a lot of in verse, Froggy will a-wooing go).

Nope, no connection; y- is from a Germanic prefix equivalent to German ge-, the latter is just a reduced form of on.  The OED has a long, long etymological note on y-; here’s an excerpt:

The like developments of Old English ge- are traceable in the history of several words in which its identity and force have long ceased to be recognized, or from which all traces of the prefix have been obliterated: e.g. Old English geforðian, Middle English iforð(i)e, aforth, afford v., Old English gewær, Middle English iwar(e, awar(e, aware adj., Old English gelíc(e, Middle English ylike, alike adj., like adj., adv., prep., conj., and n.2, Old English gemang, ongemang, Middle English ymong n., among prep. and adv., mong n.2, Old English genoh, Middle English inoȝ, anoȝ, enough adj. and adv., ‘nuff, Old English handgeweorc handiwork n.  (whence, by analogy, handicraft n. and adj.), Old English ǽghwæðer either adj. and adv.  For further examples of the complete disappearance of the prefix see below.

The general facts of the history and survival of Old English ge-, of which some details are given below, are:—In positions where it was still recognizable as a prefix, it had left few traces in northern English by 1200; its disappearance in the north was assisted by the absence of the prefix in ON. Substantival, adjectival, and verbal forms (other than pa. pples.) continued, not later than the end of the 14th century, only in southern and west-midland dialects. The pa. pple. was regularly formed with the prefix in southern Middle English till about the middle of the 15th century, and its use in the form a- survives in south-western dialects to the present day. Pa. pples. so formed were a prominent feature of the archaistic language of Spenser and his imitators, and a few of them, the most notable of which is yclept adj., persist as conventional archaisms of poetry.

In Old English and Middle English the prefix was written either continuously with the body of the word of which it formed a part, or disjoined from it by a full or a half space; in the archaistic usage of the 16th and 17th centuries the general practice was to print the compound as one word, without hyphen. In this Dictionary established and well-known forms such as yclad, yclept, are printed without hyphen, but in other instances the convenience of the reader has been consulted, where occasion arises, in the avoidance of unhyphened forms where these would not suggest the nature of the word-formation.

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Posted: 12 December 2015 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Speaking for myself, there’s a great deal to be learned from this thread.

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Posted: 12 December 2015 10:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Dave Wilton - 12 December 2015 05:06 AM



Reading Hamlet (and watching Casablanca) for the first time, one is struck by how full of cliches they are, and one wonders who such derivative writing could be so highly praised.

I think it’s Partridge in Tom Jones who, when taken by his master to see Garrick in Hamlet, remarks, “Well, I didn’t think much of that. It’s full of quotations!”. If not he definitely said, on David Garrick, “He the best player! Why, I could act as well as he myself! I am sure, if I had seen a ghost, I should have looked in the very same manner, and done just as he did.”

Thank you, lh. I should have connected y- with the German ge-. I can’t access OED for the moment as Firefox seems to have forgotten my library number for login and I need to dig my card out, wherever that is. It’s funny. If someone had tod me 20, 30 years ago that I would rarely visit the library in the future I would have replied that I must be then clearly dead or gaga. I used to constantly attend both the University and Public libraries, voracious in my thirst for knowledge. Now, of course, the net provides for much of that need, although not all, and I visit the library far less frequently.

ADDENDUM

Found my card and got OED back, so I can settle perhaps a niggling doubt which has rooted itself in the back of my mind since I posted the above paragraphs. Can one be voracious in one’s thirst? The sentence involved arose through my switching horses in midstream, I was going with voracious in my hunger, and, checking OED I think I should have stuck with that. One of the senses is figurative but still, I think I goofed. Would you agree?

[ Edited: 12 December 2015 04:54 PM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 13 December 2015 04:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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"Voracious in my thirst” is something of a mixed metaphor, but it’s perfectly understandable and probably unremarkable.

“Voracious in my hunger” is redundant.

More clean would be “voracious in my search for knowledge” or, somewhat more elliptically, “voraciously attend.”

(This reminds me of the old Usenet days on alt.urban.folklore with the punning on voracious/veracious.)

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Posted: 13 December 2015 05:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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or, somewhat more elliptically, “voraciously attend.”

I think that Dave is being too generous by far, aldi, and that you were right to have niggling doubts about being “voracious in your thirst for knowledge”. The only creatures who attend public libraries with true voracity are silverfish, cockroaches, and various other small arthropods, who are quite happy to ingurgitate their knowledge dry-as-dust. Of course, you could try having (like the aforementioned) a hunger for knowledge —- that looks like safer ground.

;-)

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