A Middle English Vocabulary.

Again going through my unread-mail file, I discovered that years ago longtime LH commenter Paul Treuthardt sent me a link to A Middle English Vocabulary, Designed for use with Sisam’s Fourteenth Century by J. R. R. Tolkien, adding “This is the opening of his introductury Note (admirable, I think)”:

This glossary does not aim at completeness, and it is not primarily a glossary of rare or ‘hard’ words. A good working knowledge of Middle English depends less on the possession of an abstruse vocabulary than on familiarity with the ordinary machinery of expression — with the precise forms and meanings that common words may assume; with the uses of such innocent-looking little words as the prepositions of and for; with idiomatic phrases, some fresh-minted and some worn thin, but all likely to recur again and again in an age whose authors took no pains to avoid usual or hackneyed turns of expression. These are the features of the older language which an English reader is predisposed to pass over, satisfied with a half-recognition: and space seldom permits of their adequate treatment in a compendious general dictionary or the word-list to a single text. So in making a glossary for use with a book itself designed to be a preparation for the reading of complete texts, I have given exceptionally full treatment to what may rightly be called the backbone of the language.

Admirable indeed; alas, I have just discovered that Paul died in 2017. Hard to believe I’m just finding out; I miss him already.


  1. I’m really sorry Paul Treuthardt died. Not many Languagehatters are journalists who know all about motor racing. He had a blog that I thought was on my own blogroll but now I can’t find it. In your link it says he was an AIDS expert, which I didn’t know. He was a tiny bit conservative politically but he spent the summers in Brittany, liked wine, read books and was Australian, which more than made up for it.

  2. Yes, he was a remarkable fellow and I wish I could have known him in person.

  3. Blogs are an ethereal form of communication so I half expect the ex-Hatters to someday resume their commenting. I believe it’s only the technology that’s stopping them, at this point.

  4. Lars Mathiesen says

    Finding this on the random link was a comfort to me.

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