A SOLIS ORTUS CARDINE.

Having finished Ford Madox Ford‘s The Fifth Queen; And How She Came to Court (see this recent post) with great pleasure, I’ve moved on to the sequel, Privy Seal (1907; Gutenberg text), and have run across a conundrum. One of his characters, Nicholas Udall (or “Magister Udal,” as Ford calls him), is in Paris learning about the latest developments from an innkeeper who gets all the gossip, and he thinks (in free indirect speech) the following: “Out of all this holus bolus of envoys, ambassadors, cooks and prisoners one thing appeared plain to view: that, for the first time, a solis ortus cardine, Cromwell had loosened his grip of some that he held.” The Latin phrase (and I must say, it’s odd that I’ve now titled three LH posts in a row with Latin phrases without premeditation) is the title of a poem (and hymn) and means ‘from the region of the rising of the sun,’ and I can’t imagine what it’s doing here, where we might expect something like Deo gratias (‘thank God!’) or haud credo (‘I can hardly believe it!’). Now, Fordie (as Pound called him: “Old Fordie saw more than we gave him credit for”) was surely enough of a Latinist to know what the phrase meant, and he’s putting it in the voice of one of the most learned Englishmen of his day (who is terribly offended that Thomas Cromwell has forced him to write “a play in the vulgar tongue. Me, a master of Latin, to write in English!”), but I can’t make out what the purport of the phrase is here, so I turn to the Varius Lector for ideas.

Comments

  1. I think either Ford or Udall has twisted the quotation a bit, and that it is to be read ‘from the rising of the sun’ = ‘from the beginning of time’. But I may be quite wrong, of course.

  2. In the German Wipe on this, to which the English one refers, we find the full text, Luther’s rhyming version of it, and a modern German translation. Luther’s version, supported by what I find under cardo in my digital Georges: Lateinisch-Deutsch, makes good sense in the context. A solis ortus cardine adusque terrae limitem means “everywhere”. I take it to be referring to the extent of Cromwell’s “grip” until then.

    [Sedulius]
    A solis ortus cardine
    adusque terrae limitem
    Christum canamus principem
    natum Maria virgine.
    [Luther]
    Christum wir sollen loben schon,
    der reinen Magd Marien Sohn,
    so weit die liebe Sonne leucht
    und an aller Welt Ende reicht.

    [WiPe contributor "Rabanus Flavus"]
    Vom Angelpunkt des Sonnenaufgangs
    bis an den Rand der Erde
    lasst uns Christus besingen, den Fürsten,
    geboren von Maria, der Jungfrau.

  3. Trond Engen says:

    Since the dawn of time means exactly that, and the corresponding siden tidenes morgen is commonplace in Scandinavian. I’d be surprised if they weren’t calqued on something older and sutherlier. Not directly on the qouted phrase, though.

  4. Dan Milton says:

    Ford picked up some strange phrases. “Holus bolus”
    sounds sixteenth century (and maybe it is) but OED earliest citation is from an 1847 dictionary.

  5. While browsing among these by-me-half-understood things, I learned a bit about Antient Hinges. Georges cites cardinem versare = “turn the hinge” = “open the door” in Ovid. “Rabanus Flavus” translates cardo as Angelpunkt = “hinge (pivot)”. The German expression “der Dreh- und Angelpunkt” means the central issue around which everything else turns.
    Then comes a cute bit of helpful info: “The Old Ones (die Alten) had door hinges different from ours. The lower one was just a pivot (Zapfen) which rotated in a hollowed-out support, as our barn doors do”. I checked the doors in my apartment, which is not a barn. Sure enough, their pivots are in the bottom part of the barrel hinge, while the ring in which they turn is in the upper hinge part fastened to the door frame.

  6. Goddammit, the pivot is of course in the lower hinge part fastened to the frame, while the ring is in the upper hinge part fastened to the door. So the “hollow” is above the pivot, while barn doors and The Old Ones had their “hollows” below the pivot.

  7. I think the comma after ‘the first time’ is misleading; “for the first time a solis ortus cardine” would more clearly mean “for the first time ever”.
    “From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great” (Malachi 1.11) literally means “all day long”, but presumably has an intended metaphorical sense of “always”, which would make sense in Ford’s context.

  8. I just said the same, correct thing twice, with some pointless irritation in between. Sigh.

  9. I think the comma after ‘the first time’ is misleading; “for the first time a solis ortus cardine” would more clearly mean “for the first time ever”.
    It could be taken to be misleading if one is hell-bent on giving the words a solis ortus cardine an interpretation in terms of time. Is is definitely misleading, it seems to me, to ignore the context of those words: a solis ortus cardine adusque terrae limitem. This suggests an interpretation in terms of physical extent: “from one end of the earth to the other”, as indeed Luther took it to mean.

  10. In other words I am suggesting that the sentence should be read this way: “that, for the first time, in any place in his dominion, Cromwell had loosened his grip of some that he held.”

  11. J.W. Brewer says:

    That bit from Malachi in the Vulgate is “Ab ortu enim solis usque ad occasum.” So same concept but not really in haec verba, although that doesn’t mean the hymn may not have been alluding to it.

  12. J.W. Brewer says:

    See also “A solis ortu usque ad occasum
    laudabile nomen Domini” from Psalm 112 (in the LXX/Vulg numbering – 113 in the MT/KJV).

  13. Yes, cardo in a solis ortus cardine seems to be what several of Georges’ citations use in the sense of axis, pole, celestial direction or region – as in “hinge”. It is this word, along with the a .. adusque pair, that tie the meaning down to spatial extent, so far as I can see.
    There are at least two issues here that can be cleanly separated. One is the hymn as a historical artefact independent of English literature. It seems unambiguously to refer to spatial extent – as Luther took it to mean.
    Another issue is what Ford might have had in mind when he has one of his caracters cite the first line of the hymn. This is an open avenue for endless speculation. But whatever consensus might be reached, it cannot possibly affect the meaning of the hymn as historical artifact.

  14. Well, “Ab ortu enim solis usque ad occasum” shows that I am mistaken about usque having any special connotation of spatial extent. Still, my point about cardo is the main one.
    The hymn says not ab ortu but a cardine (cardinal direction). Which cardine ? The one of the ortus of the sol, which is east. Is there really any opening for hermeneutics here ?

  15. To be consistent with my own usage, I should have written “Which cardo ?”, not “Which cardine ?”

  16. Interesting biography:

    Nicholas Udall (1504 – 23 December 1556) was an English playwright, cleric, paederast and schoolmaster

  17. That’s a good example of a badly constructed sentence. “Paederast” is not a profession or vocation, unlike playwright, cleric and schoolmaster. Similarly ridiculous would be: “he was short-tempered, long-lived and a playwright”.

  18. I think you all (starting with the polymathic JC) must be right, and he is using it in the sense of “for the first time.” Many thanks, o Varie Lector!
    Is is definitely misleading, it seems to me, to ignore the context of those words: a solis ortus cardine adusque terrae limitem.
    But that context is irrelevant; if it were relevant, it would have been quoted. It is the most common thing in the world for scraps of old literature to be ripped from their context and pressed into service for new purposes; to take Shakespeare alone, think to what uses “To be or not to be” and “All the world’s a stage” have been put (to say nothing of poor, misunderstood “wherefore art thou[,] Romeo?”).
    Nicholas Udall (1504 – 23 December 1556) was an English playwright, cleric, paederast and schoolmaster
    Yes, and it is therefore amusing that Ford makes an inveterate womanizer of him (he was actually chucked out of Eton for buggery).

  19. But that doesn’t make sense, Hat. Grumbly Stu’s interpretation at least makes sense. “From the east” doesn’t mean “from the beginning of time” at all. Which doesn’t of course prevent Ford from having intending it to mean that, but aren’t we bound to pick a sensible interpretation if we have one?
    Or am I missing some obvious way in which sunrise implies the beginning of time?

  20. dearieme says:

    “That’s a good example of a badly constructed sentence.” No it isn’t, it’s an example of a well-known way of amusing the reader by wrong-footing him. “He was short of time, patience and stature.” That sort of thing. Someone will be along in a mo’ to tell us the name of the construction.

  21. But that context is irrelevant; if it were relevant, it would have been quoted. It is the most common thing in the world for scraps of old literature to be ripped from their context and pressed into service for new purposes;
    Irrelevant ? Irrelevant to what, and to whom, and by what means ? “Ripping something out of context” creates a relevance different from what that something had in context, by giving it a different context. “Irrelevance” is not given, it is manufactured – exactly like “relevance”, and in the same ways.
    “If it were relevant, it would have been quoted”: is this an argument to the effect that nothing can be relevant that is not expressly stated ? Your post itself is inconsistent with such a view. Confronted by a string of Latin words whose significance is not clear to you, you do not stop there. No, you go looking for relevance outside those words, in the form of Wipe articles, quotes by Pound on Ford, and suggestions from readers.
    Finally, you choose to dismiss the relevance of the hymn as context, and to accept a different context as urged by various commenters. You write: “I think you all (starting with the polymathic JC) must be right”, but I still don’t understood at all what the arguments for that rightness are supposed to be.
    Whatever the Latin expression was intended by Ford to mean, or is interpreted by readers to mean – the line is the hymn is not about temporal extent. That is my claim, anyway. I have the impression that people are taking what the line might mean in the novel as a guide to what it must mean in the hymn. Either that, or nobody cares much what it means in the hymn.
    I will continue to rely on Luther here.

  22. “That’s a good example of a badly constructed sentence.” No it isn’t, it’s an example of a well-known way of amusing the reader by wrong-footing him.
    Yes, that’s why I called it a good example. We are in perfect agreement.
    Whoever wrote that introductory sentence to the Udall article in the Wipe is either an amusing fellow, or a clunko in need of a course in remedial English. Amusing fellows have a lot to answer for – they make it hard to separate the neat from the gaff.

  23. Syllepsis?

  24. dearieme says:

    Ha, Stu, you don’t know its name either.

  25. Whatever the Latin expression was intended by Ford to mean, or is interpreted by readers to mean – the line is the hymn is not about temporal extent. That is my claim, anyway. I have the impression that people are taking what the line might mean in the novel as a guide to what it must mean in the hymn. Either that, or nobody cares much what it means in the hymn.
    The latter. Who cares what it means in the hymn? It is not in the hymn here, it is in a novel. If the hymn were a useful context for interpretation here, it would be valuable. It is not, so it is not; I discard it.
    My “Syllepsis?” was in response to dearieme; little did I know how quickly the conversation would move.

  26. I’ll be damned before I learn all that Greek and Latin rhetorical terminology. We’re in modern times, for God’s sake, we have telephones and toxic derivatives, who needs to know what syllepsis is ? Bunch of intellectuals, is all.

  27. Who cares what it means in the hymn? It is not in the hymn here, it is in a novel.
    Then why did you bring up the hymn at all ??

  28. Michael says:

    “der Dreh- und Angelpunkt”: I think it’s spatial too. The principle seems to be, if you are a Roman, instead of framing up your door as a neat rectangle with added hinges, you cut one of the verticals overlength and make the sticking out bits into spiggots. You then need sockets top and bottom (often wood at the top and stone at the bottom) for your door to swing on. This vertical swinging post is the Cardo, and the Cardo is also the first main road running North/South, the first thing you set out when making a camp or a town.
    The English word for the spiggot is harr (I didn’t know this ten minutes ago), which may or may not be the same word as cardo. The gates of Hell (http://homepages.abdn.ac.uk/lib399/english/commentary/page049.shtml) and the gates of the slype of St Albans Cathedral have harrs at the bottom and strap hinges at the top.

  29. It is (one kind of) zeugma, I believe.

  30. Treesong says:

    ‘Syllepsis’ is the closest I could come, a bit better than ‘zeugma’, but all the examples seem to involve yoking two incongruous words or phrases to another: ‘You took my hand and breath away.’ Doesn’t work for a list that’s not part of a larger grammatical structure. But absent anything better….

  31. Then why did you bring up the hymn at all ??
    Because that’s where the phrase is from !!
    It’s like the etymology of a word: interesting, but not decisive for current meaning.

  32. I agree with Grumbly Stu; it’s true that quotations are often ripped from their context and used in a completely unrelated way, but it’s also true that fragments of quotations are often used as allusions to their original contexts. If you hear something described as a “gift horse”, it’s not because it’s a horse, and it would be absurd to say that the rest of “don’t look a _____ in the mouth” were irrelevant to the meaning just because it wasn’t included.

  33. harrs at the bottom and strap hinges at the top.
    Sounds like the Hirsute Lady’s garter belt.

  34. J.W. Brewer says:

    Contemporaneous with FMF’s own life, the fairly free translation of the Latin hymn by John Ellerton (1826-1893) possibly first published 1871 and later anthologized in the 1906 first edition of the English Hymnal begins “From east to west, from shore to shore” which is certainly spatial rather than temporal and I would think be broadly consistent with Luther’s German, which may well have been known to Ellerton.

  35. Michael: make the sticking out bits into spiggots. … The English word for the spiggot is harr.
    My “pivot” was a desperate attempt to render Zapfen. I know exactly what a Zapfen is in this context, but maybe I never knew an English word for it.
    I have never encountered the word “spiggot” (I know that water comes out of a spigot), nor “harr”. When you say that “harr” is the English word for “spiggot”, do you mean the same thing as would be expressed by “the British English word for the American English spiggot is harr” ?

  36. A mortise and tenon joint, for example, is a Zapfenverbindung. A Zapfen is a sticking-out bit – except when it means “(pine) cone” or suppository (Zäpfchen). Tapered, as they say, so that your ass doesn’t slam shut.

  37. Michael says:

    Grumbly: Spiggot is an shocking misspelling of spigot, brought on by excitement at finding a new word. Harr seems to be the (old) English/American/Scottish word for either the spigot at the bottom of that sort of door, or the whole main post, the cardo. And thank you, I like the hirsute lady.

  38. it’s true that quotations are often ripped from their context and used in a completely unrelated way, but it’s also true that fragments of quotations are often used as allusions to their original contexts.
    It is indeed very true, and if you can find a way in which the meaning in the original context makes sense here I’ll be happy to adopt it. It was precisely my inability to make the original sense work here that led me to post in the first place.

  39. Michael Trevor says:

    Judging from the long silence, and the pine cone, I should add that I wasn’t accusing you of confusion about joinery, only of being right about Luther.

  40. It is indeed very true, and if you can find a way in which the meaning in the original context makes sense here I’ll be happy to adopt it.
    Maybe my browser is posting in invisible ink. I already suggested: “that, for the first time, in any place in his dominion, Cromwell had loosened his grip of some that he held.” It’s a bit theatrical, but so are Latin tags, and so is the character.

  41. I wasn’t accusing you of confusion about joinery
    Oh no, I didn’t think that. I picked up several useful phrases from your description: “cut one of the verticals overlength”, for example. I always managed to avoid woodworking shop in high school, so I know zilch about these things today.
    Until an hour or so ago, I had never looked closely at a door hinge. I have lifted doors off their hinges and set them back again, but never paid attention to the details.

  42. dearieme says:

    I think I’ve met “harr” only as a misspelling of “haar”.

  43. The OED spells it harre or har (but not harr) and labels it “obsolete except in dialects”. It provides no etymology beyond Germanic; apparently there are two Proto-Germanic forms *herrâ- and *herron required to account for the Old English, Dutch, and Old Norse forms. I don’t think that either of those can be a cognate of cardo because of the vowel, but I may be missing something. Etymonline doesn’t list the word at all.
    The cardinal virtues are justice, temperance, courage, and prudence: the hinges on which moral character is said to turn.

  44. “it’s true that quotations are often ripped from their context and used in a completely unrelated way, but it’s also true that fragments of quotations are often used as allusions to their original contexts.”
    to which response,
    It is indeed very true, and if you can find a way in which the meaning in the original context makes sense here..
    I was going to bring up John Ellerton but J.W. beat me to it.
    However this makes sense to my little mind at least,
    “that, for the first time, a solis ortus cardine, Cromwell had loosened his grip of some that he held”
    becomes, with the loose Anglican English translation,
    “that, for the first time, anywhere (from east to west, from shore to shore), Cromwell had loosened his grip of some that he held”
    However I can’t come up with any exegesis to decide if Ford meant the quotation to reinforce the temporal “first time”, or expand to the spatial “anywhere/from east to west”. It is a pure mystery.
    For a soundtrack to the discussion, the Anglican in plainchant is on youtube

  45. Michael says:

    Until an hour or so ago, I had never looked closely at a door hinge.
    I doubt if Nietzsche did either, and it’s well off thread, but I like:
    Denn es gibt für jenen Intellekt keine weitere Mission, die über das Menschenleben hinausführte. Sondern menschlich ist er, und nur sein Besitzer und Erzeuger nimmt ihn so pathetisch, als ob die Angeln der Welt sich in ihm drehten. Könnten wir uns aber mit der Mücke verständigen, so würden wir vernehmen, daß auch sie mit diesem Pathos durch die Luft schwimmt und in sich das fliegende Zentrum dieser Welt fühlt.
    a misspelling of “haar”
    Haars I know well. Only some sorts of architectural historians seem to know about harrs, and maybe a few farmers in Orkney and Shetland.
    http://www.dsl.ac.uk/getent4.php?plen=1479&startset=17228180&dtext=snd&query=HARR
    I think it was Merriam Webster that suggested cardo might be the same word, but only might.

  46. marie-lucie says:

    Thanks for the hymn and translations, Grumbly.
    I suppose that “Rabanus Flavus” wanted to provide a literal translation since Luther’s takes various liberties, but RF’s does not seem poetic in the least, but very awkward.

  47. I already suggested: “that, for the first time, in any place in his dominion, Cromwell had loosened his grip of some that he held.”
    Well, to me, if he’d wanted that sense he’d have quoted the following bit as well (adusque terrae limitem), but it’s certainly a point about which honest folk can differ. I guess I’m sort of half-and-half about it now. But at least I’m in a more informed state of confusion than before!

  48. And considering that later on Ford omits the crucial word (κακῶν) from a Hesiod quote (πλείη μὲν γὰρ γαῖα κακῶν, πλείη δὲ θάλασσα), I guess I shouldn’t trust his quotes to include all relevant bits.

  49. Michael Trevor, that’s very interesting about the harrs. I can’t add much, except I looked up “harr-hung” doors and found this reference to some in Yorkshire. It says:

    Of particular interest are the doors at Gunthwaite Hall barn. There are three sets of large bar doors; adjoining two of which are two smaller entrance doors. As at Dives House Barn and Greenhill Bank Barn the heavy doors are harr-hung; that is to say, the hanging-stile, or “harr-stile”, has projections at the upper and lower ends. The lower projection which is iron shod, pivots in a hole in the stone threshold; the longer upper projection passes through a hole in a stout oak bracket. Harr-hung doors according to Sir Leonard Woolley, have been found in the Near East dating as far back as 4000 B.C. and they have a wide distribution. In Britain they are much more common in the Highland zone than elsewhere and in our district field gates are often hung in this manner.

    I’d love to see one of these doors.
    I can’t find any reference anywhere to harrs and C. Leonard Woolley, the archeologist. The stile is the common name for the 2 vertical side pieces of a door construction (the horizontal bits are the rails). From googling the phrase it seems that the name harr stile has sometimes continued to be used to mean the stile where the hinges are, regardless of whether harrs or normal hinges are used.
    Stu, since you live there you may be interested that on the Wikipedia page for Cardo, it says:

    Cologne, Germany

    Hohe Strasse and Schildergasse in Cologne, Germany may be taken as examples of streets, that have kept their course and function of Cardo and Decumanus Maximus until this day.

    Oddly the German Cardo article doesn’t mention Köln.

  50. Michael says:

    AJP, thanks – I think I saw one years ago in one of those huge 17c farmhouse/barns rebuilt in an open air museum in the Black Forest. But the only picture I can find is an Egyptian one, http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/aes/w/wooden_door_from_the_tomb_of_k.aspx

  51. Coming late to the party:
    Classical scholars call the “he was short-tempered, long-lived and a playwright” type of joke para prosdokian (contrary to expectation). Of course, that requires the unexpected word to be at the end, unlike the Udall quote.

  52. Oh, great picture, Michael!

  53. Here‘s a direct link.

  54. vrai.cabecou says:

    The hinge discussion made me think of this rather cruel Egyptian door socket (about three down):
    http://penn.museum/what-in-the-world-answers.html

  55. Another great picture. The pivot point is quite far in from the edge of the door, rather like with heavy glass pivoting doors nowadays. You only see the bound captive when you’re going in one direction, I don’t know whether that’s significant metaphorically.

  56. Crown: Hohe Strasse and Schildergasse in Cologne, Germany may be taken as examples of streets, that have kept their course and function of Cardo and Decumanus Maximus until this day.
    I don’t know what it means to say that these streets have “kept their function” until this day. It’s not surprising that streets today still allow people to move from A to B without running into buildings, just as in Roman times. Also it’s no surprise that the streets have “kept their course” – they’re not rivers, after all.
    Note that the quoted sentence from the English WiPe was probably written by a German, from motives unknown. You can tell from the comma after “streets”.

  57. You’re right. I hadn’t noticed the comma (it’s the same in Norwegian). I’ve only ever seen Köln from the train, just a bit of the Dom before you go over the river, if I remember right, but I thought what was written might have some significance to someone who knew the city.
    A lot of British & German streets didn’t keep their course after the bombing. I don’t know if Cologne was heavily bombed.

  58. Trond Engen says:

    John C: Do you know that ON cognate of harr? I find herðr f. “shoulder; axle” herd, but I don’t know how to dispose of the -d- in English.

  59. @ AJP Crown: Yes, Cologne was quite heavily bombed . And considering with how little regard for history the rebuilding of many cities in the 50s and 60s was done, the fact that these Cologne streets still continue in the position and direction of the main streets of the Roman camp is indeed worth mentioning.

  60. Crown, sorry if I seemed dismissive. I actually checked up on the decumanus and cardo origins of the two streets, and was preparing a dossier for you with Google map links to show how unlike anything Roman those streets are today.
    In particular, they are passengers promenades now. Only delivery vehicles or ones with special permits are allowed to drive through there early and late in the day.
    However, it quickly became clear to me that, since I know absolutely nothing about the various social, military etc. functions of city structures in history, not even of Cologne, it is ridiculous of me to grab a few links from here and there, then paste them together into a clump of pseudy pseudo-information.
    I hadn’t thought about the effects that WW2 bombings must have had on the course of streets. Hans’ remark has made me sit up and take notice.

  61. “passengers promenades” ?? I meant pedestrian zones.

  62. Well, thanks for the thought, Stu.
    “passengers promenades” ?? I meant pedestrian zones.
    I don’t think there are any good names for these places, but I like promenades better than zones, which sounds like the kind of area where you might get shot. In London they’ve started to combine traffic and pedestrians again in certain areas with the understanding that the traffic drives very slowly and gives way. We’ll see if it works. It’s a Dutch person’s idea.

  63. Trond, the OED says in full:
    Old English heorr (hior) feminine and masculine, and heorra m.; the former corresponding to Middle Dutch herre, harre, Dutch har, harre, feminine, the latter to Old Norse hjarre, -ri m. < Old Germanic types *herrâ- and *herron-.
    So apparently no /d/ or /ð/ at all.

  64. Trond Engen says:

    Thanks. It didn’t strike me to check words beginning in hj-. Now I wonder how heorr became harr. And I may well have stumbled upon a root-cognate of cardo with herdhr.

  65. English underwent an /er/ > /ar/ change that was mostly reversed under the influence of the written form. We still have star, farm < ME sterre, ferme, which changed early enough to affect their spelling, and we have a few relic forms: varsity < (uni)versity, sergeant, clerk (but not in North America), parson < person (a parson was originally persona ecclesiae). There are also the proper names Derby/Darby, Berkeley/Barclay, Hertford/Hartford. But we no longer have larn, sarvice, sarmon, varmin(t).
    So that probably accounts for heorre > harr.

  66. Further examples: shear/sharp, sherd/shard (synonymous), dear/dar(ling), steer/starboard, errant/arrant, and the name of the letter R.

  67. My grandfather, a nautical gent, used to say starn for stern (of a ship).

  68. Trond Engen says:

    Thanks, JC, it’s probably that straightforward. I knew of /er/ > /ar/, but I thought /eo/ > /e:/ quite early, like in ‘Leeds’, and then /e:r/ > /i:r/ like in ‘cheers’.

  69. Trond Engen says:

    Thanks, JC, it’s probably that straightforward.
    By which I mean that the vowel of heorr was shortened, possibly compound shortening like in ‘starboard’. This is consistent with the inconsistent spelling which might suggest irregular regularization in the dialects. Is there a surviving compound that is a likely suspect?

  70. No compounds that either the OED or I know of, no. Irregular shortening is common enough.
    It’s important to remind yourself occasionally that StdOE is not really ancestral to StdME > StdModE, and that some of the supposed sound-changes from OE to ME are really nothing of the sort. In particular, the vowel-breaking diphthongs like eo probably weren’t broken at all in East Midlands OE, any more than in London ME.

  71. marie-lucie says:

    JC: But we no longer have … varmin(t)
    I thought that in North America varmint coexisted with vermin, in different social contexts and with a different meaning: varmint as a rural term referring to ‘animal(s) large enough to be shot, considered undesirable (coyote, skunk, rat, etc)’, versus vermin, a mass noun referring mostly to maggots and other tiny creatures rarely seen individually.

  72. Historically that was true, but I didn’t think varmint was still current. It may well be, though.

  73. marie-lucie says:

    I am not in a position to judge of the currency of varmint! I have only encountered it in writings dealing with rural Americans.

  74. marie-lucie says:

    From Wikipedia under vermin/varmint:

    Although this version [varmint] of the word “vermin” is not a prevalent term in Standard Written English, it is a common descriptor for certain kinds of weapons and pest control situations in the Appalachian and nearby states and the American west and south-west which have adopted terms such as varmint rifle and varmint hunting.

    The same article refers to similar regulations about the hunting of varmints in New Brunswick (a province of Eastern Canada).

  75. I have heard ‘varmint’, in the backwoods of N. Carolina..
    and varmint rifles are discussed in Wyo, mostly in terms of prairie dog colonies and eradication thereof.

  76. Varmint is still current in the US, although generally used by urban people in a jocular way. Yosemite Sam probably has a lot to do with that.

Speak Your Mind

*