Radices and radishes: Latin roots in Old English

How many languages are there in the world? Seventy-two. Why are there no more and no fewer? Because of the three sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japhet.  Shem had twenty-seven sons, Ham had thirty sons, Japhet had fifteen sons.  These added together are seventy-two. This text comes from a dialogue between Pope Damasus and…

God bless my epiglottis: why I love the Lorica of Laidcenn

In this blog, I have written a lot about Anglo-Saxon prayer, medicine and poetry. Of course, these aren’t exclusive categories: medicine sometimes involved prayer, and prayers could be in the form of poetry. And sometimes, the same text can be all three. The Lorica of Laidcenn is a good example of this. A lorica is…

Caroline and hiragana: learning to write

As I wrote in a recent post, I currently have less time for blogging due to an impending book deadline.  Which is why it is complete foolishness that I have taken up learning a completely new language. Well, sort of.  What happened was that, having heard good things about it, I signed up to Duolingo…

Anglo-Saxon Riddles

I hope you’re enjoying the summer (or winter)!  I’m spending it adapting my doctoral thesis into a book, which is taking up a lot of my writing time at the moment, and I don’t have much left in which to write this blog.  Still, I’d hate to miss a fortnightly post date. A couple of…

Strange beings: translating some Exeter Riddles

I saw four strange beings travel together: black were their tracks, very dark traces.  Fast on its journey, bolder than birds, it flew in the air, dived beneath the waves.  The labouring fighter suffered restlessly, he who shows all four of them the paths over ornamented gold. The four strange beings, if you were wondering,…

Anglian-era York at the York Festival of Ideas

The 2017 York Festival of Ideas will be running from 6-18 June, with the title The Story of Things. With a number of the events relating to York’s Anglian era, I was asked to translate a small number of Anglo-Saxon riddles to decorate the promotional bookmarks for this strand of the festival. The three riddles,…

Faithful cross, gate of heaven

Today is Good Friday, the day which commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  For today’s blogpost, I’ve decided simply to post and translate some Anglo-Saxon texts dedicated to the Holy Cross: a hymn, a poem, and two prayers.  As my research is all about how texts were adapted and reused in different contexts, in each…

An Old English Alphabet (part 2)

In my previous post, I took a journey through the Old English language, exploring a single word beginning with the letters from A to L, using each one to explain a particular characteristic of the language.  Here, I will carry on from M until the end of the alphabet … M is for Micel Micel…

An Old English Alphabet (part 1)

Sometimes, in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, we come across grammatical treatises and lists of Latin words, to act as learning aids for those new to the vocabulary and grammar of the main language of the church.  Unfortunately for us, nobody at the time created word lists in Old English: there was no real need, and dictionaries as…