Via Iridic’s MetaFilter post, a glossary of an early (the earliest?) conlang, Lingua Ignota: “Below is a semi-complete alphabetized English glossary of the Lingua Ignota – a secret language constructed by twelfth century polymath, Hildegard von Bingen. I grew fascinated with this constructed language a while back and was chagrined that there wasn’t a freely available online list of the entire extant glossary.” It may or may not be useful, but it’s certainly a lot of fun.


  1. “chagrined” is so much better than “peeved”.

  2. Yes, a fine word.

  3. Since they mean different things, I’m not sure in what sense “chagrined” could be better than “peeved”. As words, either can be used to describe (accurately or inaccurately) a given response to disappointment. Chagrin may be a more polite response, but peevishness is so much more satisfying, don’t you think ?
    But too much chagrin can induce peevishness, and vice versa. Better not to have been born at all.

  4. Sorry to be off-topic, but I meant to thank Giacomo and continue the conversation on the Celebrated Restaurant thread, only to find that it, like many others before, has been closed because of spam. I’ve obviously missed the explanation somewhere along the line why this is the only way of coping with spam. None of the other blogs I frequent seem to have this problem.

  5. marie-lucie says

    I have seen the word “chagrin” written in English occasionally but am never sure of its exact meaning. In French, le chagrin means ‘sorrow’, such as after the loss of a loved one. A child can have un gros chagrin for a less catastrophic reason but cry and feel thoroughly miserable. “Peevishness” is not part of the meaning at all.

  6. There’s are various rivulets of hildegardian enthusiam in Germany that never seem to dry up. I hadn’t heard of the conlang angle. I see in the German WiPe that the current popularity of bread and other bakery products made from spelt (instead of wheat), among health-food people at any rate, started in the early 70s at the instance of an Austrian doctor, as part of Hildegard-Medizin (what that?).
    She is often cried up as a Universalgelehrte (know-it-all), but then, as the main WiPe article on her says, in her day everybody who was anybody was a Universalgelehrte(r). “Visions” hold no appeal for me. In a recent essay Sloterdijk goes on a bit about Rudolf Steiner being “misunderstood”. I just hope Steiner is not into visions, since where Sloterdijk goes I go, if only for a look-see.

  7. Yes, marie-lucie, for a long while I misunderstood the French concept of chagrin. As MW says, the English “chagrin” means “vexation, disquietude, or distress of mind brought on by humiliation, hurt pride, disappointment, or consciousness of failure or error. <the unhappy defects of her family, a subject of yet heavier chagrin> Jane Austen”. Being chagrined is being vexed by something, thus the connection with peevishness.

  8. I should have said that being chagrined can mean being vexed, but not necessarily. I think of chagrin as a kind of reserved reaction to disappointment. That’s why I called such a reaction “polite”.

  9. marie-lucie says

    Thank you, Stu. In French you can actually die of chagrin, but not so in English, I presume. The adjective chagriné also exists, it has a less strong meaning than the noun but still is not equivalent to the English chagrined.
    As for Balzac’s homonym-homophone in La peau de chagrin, it has a completely different meaning, ‘shagreen’, a kind of leather (from an Arabic word).

  10. They’re etymologically the same word; OED: “French chagrin (1) rough skin, shagreen, (2) displeasure, ill-humour, etc. The sense-development took place in French, where the word meaning ‘rough and granular skin employed to rub, polish, file’, became by metaphor the expression for gnawing trouble (Littré).”

  11. @Stu Clayton: As one of a number of people I know who read Steiner many years ago because Owen Barfield endorsed him, and who wandered away shaking our heads, I wonder how he can be understood, let alone misunderstood. But as our two examples (Barfield, Sloterdijk) show, he seems (inexplicably to me) to have been an inspiration to some very smart people.

  12. I think Steiner is like Gurdjieff; people read into him what they themselves are interested in.

  13. This is fantastic! Sarah Lynn Higley’s “Hildegard of Bingen’s Unknown Language: An Edition, Translation, and Discussion” has been on my check-ABE-books-for-an-affordable-ex-library-copy-every-few-months list for years now.

  14. Higley, by the way, is a mediaevalist as well as a conlanger under the name of Sally Caves. She made a prose translation of the mediaeval Welsh poem Preiddeu Annwfn, on which my Heanyization of it, “The Spoils of Annwn”, is founded.

  15. marie-lucie says

    TR: chagrin ‘sorrow’ from chagrin ‘type of leather’: You quote Littré for this, which I had not heard of, but the TLFI does not make the connection, although it lists the earliest occurrences as roughly contemporary. I don’t know what to think! Perhaps Etienne knows more.

  16. Marie-Lucie: alas, lexicography is not my forte, so I am not sure what to think either.

  17. Rodger C: Saving the Appearances, yes ! Here is a blogsite reporting that Steiner wrote on Hildegard, and Barfield on Steiner. Not surprising, I see now, since the WiPe says that Barfield was “a founding father of Anthroposophy in the English speaking world”.
    Not to forget the effect Norman O. Brown’s book Love’s Body had on certain impressionable youths. I hitchhiked to UC Santa Cruz (I think it was) to see the great man, only to find that I had nothing to say. I can’t remember exactly what ensued – I think I just donned my cloak of shame and tripped back to Texas.

  18. It’s actually the OED who quotes or rather cites Littré. However, the online copy of Littré has different entries for the two senses ‘shagreen’ and ‘sorrow’, and makes no explicit connection between them. The OED2 gives the ultimate etymology as Turkish çāghrī, çaghrī, saghrī ‘rump of a horse’; the modern orthography is apparently sağrı.

  19. The English WiPe on shagreen explains that it is the skin from the back of a donkey, camel, horse that is processed in various ways (such as hammering pebbles into it) to provide surface structure. The result was fashioned into saddles, book coverings and other things. Sharkskin is also used. The article claims for chagrin that “the roughness of its texture led to the French meaning of anxiety, vexation, embarrassment, or annoyance”.
    The German word for the back of a horse is Kruppe, related to French croupe. A Kruppade (croupade) is one of several “airs above the ground”.

  20. I didn’t know the word Kruppe. I find that it is not just the back of a horse, but the back of a horse at the hinter part of the back. The croup, in fact.

  21. @Stu Clayton: I had a moment of revelation in 1970 when I found Love’s Body actually quoting Barfield. Those were the days, my friend …

  22. marie-lucie says

    JC: I know, I was collapsing the Littré-to-OED-to-TR chain of citations, omitting the OED step.
    Stu: The article claims for chagrin that “the roughness of its texture led to the French meaning of anxiety, vexation, embarrassment, or annoyance”.
    This may be the English meaning, but not the French meaning (at least not the current one). See the TLFI for relevant examples.
    la croupe: At a time when the physical ideal for women required voluptuous curves, a naturally well-padded woman could be justly proud of her croupe. Nowadays this word would be considered derogatory in a description of a woman.

  23. In French you can actually die of chagrin, but not so in English, I presume.
    The difference between “grin and bear it” and chagrin and be buried with it. The first camp strikes me as resolutely more vivifying.

  24. Sounds like our proper French lady atop a rough “shagreen” saddle was spurned by her mysterious, imperturbable Eastern cavalier to the point of Gallic dramatics. “I will kill myself…” she exclaimed, passing the back of her hand over her moistened brow in a fit of amourous pique.

  25. marie-lucie says

    Another English word for French chagrin would be grief. Sorrow and grief are nothing to joke about.

  26. Anxiety, vexation, embarrassment, annoyance or gnawing trouble…no sign of sorrow or grief in those descriptions. Sometime along the way the notion of sorrow or feeling sorrowful arose from the rough treatment of harsh leather on soft sentiments. Oh, woe is me!

  27. marie-lucie says

    Stu, Hozho, can you read French? Look up “TLFI chagrin”, then go to CHAGRIN 3. None of the definitions you cite correspond to the French meaning, or could replace the word in the examples given.
    The meaning I know is not quite modern: see for instance the still well-known 18th century song Plaisir d’amour which starts with:

    Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment;
    Chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie

    Wiki translates this as:

    The pleasure of love lasts only a moment; the grief of love lasts a lifetime

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