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Beantree

Old English

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I've found that a lot of French words are simply old English ones. So 'retrait', which was retreat, an old word for a military withdrawal is now a withdrawal is taken from a cash machine. Got me thinking about lots of old words that are no longer used.

Duff: A lightbulb that doesn't work.

Bonkers: Totally stupid

Anyone has any more?

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@Beantree, just a bit of clarity needed. Do you mean old English words as in "words in the English language that have are becoming/have become old fashioned" or do you mean words rooted in Old English (an ancestor to Middle English, itself an ancestor to modern English)?

Either way, I see nothing old fashioned or obsolete about "duff", "bonkers" or "bucolic". That means either none of them are aging English words or that I am myself becoming archaic. Both are possible.

What I do find interesting, though, is that we have quite a few perfectly current English words whose obvious and directly related opposites are no longer in use at all, such as ineffable, inert and inane. By their very makeup, the adjectives effable, ert and ane must exist or have existed, but, apart from Terry Pratchett's use of "effable" in "Good Omens" for comedic effect, I cannot remember ever having read or heard any of them used.

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Well @majorbloodnock, inert (chemistry) and inane (my father used it a lot) are familiar to me but Ineffable is not. I mean words that I used 50 years ago that have since disappeared, so I suppose have become old fashioned, as you say. We could also include phrases like 'got your gansey on?' which really asked 'are you cold?'. Are you wearing a pullover of the very close knitted type that was worn by northern fishermen? But then we would drift into dialects.

The root of this post is the French that I can relate to is because I recognise the old and now little or unused English words that they are derived from. These are words that are no longer used in English in conversation, which I know is a tiny part of the written language. Being an engineer, even the English language is very difficult to get to grips with and I'm looking for ways to tackle the French. And it's nice to get some feedback (and I know you shouldn't start a sentence with 'and').

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Apparently there are many words used by modern Americans that have their roots in 16th/17th century English - presumably from the early settlers. Trash (which I thought was a very American word) appears in a Dowland song from the early 1600s and has the same meaning. Equally some Devonian dialect words (I did know which ones but have forgotten as it was some time ago that this came up - OH has Devonian roots so Plymouth fathers and all that!)

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2 minutes ago, soapdragon said:

Apparently there are many words used by modern Americans that have their roots in 16th/17th century English - presumably from the early settlers. Trash (which I thought was a very American word) appears in a Dowland song from the early 1600s and has the same meaning. Equally some Devonian dialect words (I did know which ones but have forgotten as it was some time ago that this came up - OH has Devonian roots so Plymouth fathers and all that!)

Same is true about the American ‚Äúspoken dialect‚ÄĚ. They say the settlers took the dialect to America, where it didn‚Äôt change and British is the one that has evolved.

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10 minutes ago, Cat tails said:

Same is true about the American ‚Äúspoken dialect‚ÄĚ. They say the settlers took the dialect to America, where it didn‚Äôt change and British is the one that has evolved.

Yes, that's what I have heard, esp with the Devon dialect which is very specific.

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Interesting you should mention 'sufficient' @Luvachicken, because that's a word I've stopped using, replacing it with 'enough'. Still used everyday in French though as 'suffisant'. The only time I'd use 'sufficient' now is combined with 'self'.

Not centuries @Cat tails I know, but the difference became obvious when we arrived in France having been going to French classes in England for years, just for holiday usage. What we were being taught was about 30 years out of date, so probably the time when the teachers learned their French. We didn't realise the differences on holiday because invariably tourist places spoke a 'variant' of English.

Now this 'variant' has come about because many, perhaps most, English teachers in France are American. I watched an English class on (French say 'in', which is sensible) the TV during lockdown. The subject was animals, their age and sex and the resulting translation into English. So guess what cockerel (coq) was translated as? Rooster. The French do use American words like car 'boot'(no idea why it's called that?)  would be 'trunk' translating to 'coffre'; sensible, as that's what they started as. Another sensible is being 'on' the car park, not 'in' it. If you were in it you'd be covered in tarmac!

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In Dutch it‚Äôs also ‚Äúon‚ÄĚ the car park.¬†

Think we are taught a combination of British and American. But I think that is mostly due to the overwhelming amount of American television compared to British. We watch movies, not films.

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Its an interesting premise Beantree, as I have long thought about English words which are a corruption of the French, presumably dating from Norman times, but never the other way around, although several years ago there was a campaign in France to stop the use of words like 'le weekend', I don't know if that still goes on?

When joking, we sometimes say 'I've had an ample sufficiency, thank you very much' after food, but I'm not sure why!

Some younger people here do speak English, but the older generation are much more likely to speak French if they have a second language as there has long been travel between the countries, with Portugeuse people looking for work.   The English that is learnt is a mix of American (films) and English (school), but I will have to listen more closely to decide which is used more.  I have a Japanese friend who speaks English English and beautiful sounding Portugeuse.

One thing I have noticed about Portugeuse is that the vocabulary is smaller than English and we have had many discussions in class about various words as we students are a mix of English, Spanish, Dutch and French.  Last week we discussed word order, something I have never given a thought to.  In English we would say 'short brown hair' in Portugeuse 'brown short hair'.  Our teacher found a set of rules in English and Portugeuse and they are different.  The English example was something like 'an old, brown, leather, suitcase', there were more adjectives, which I can't remember, but the point was the rules for English were something like 'age, colour, material, noun' and we do obey them, instinctively.

Perhaps there is a book in it for you Beantree!

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On 6/4/2021 at 7:00 PM, Beantree said:

Well @majorbloodnock, inert (chemistry) and inane (my father used it a lot) are familiar to me but Ineffable is not.

Ineffable (meaning unutterable or indescribable) isn't exactly frequently used, but is most common in relation to things godlike. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman mentioned God's ineffable plan, meaning a plan so complex and overarching as to be beyond anyone else's comprehension (and therefore impossible to describe). Not archaic, but rather a niche scope, methinks.

 

On 6/4/2021 at 7:00 PM, Beantree said:

The root of this post is the French that I can relate to is because I recognise the old and now little or unused English words that they are derived from. These are words that are no longer used in English in conversation, which I know is a tiny part of the written language.

You're right, of course; despite L'Academie Francaise's best efforts the French do borrow words from the English language as well as English benefiting from French language. I imagine you're better acquainted than me with examples like "Le week-end", "Un brunch" and "Un sandwich", but I must admit I'm quite intrigued about false Anglicisms such as "Un smoking" (presumably short for "smoking jacket"), meaning a dinner jacket.

 

On 6/5/2021 at 8:56 AM, Beantree said:

I watched an English class on (French say 'in', which is sensible) the TV during lockdown. The subject was animals, their age and sex and the resulting translation into English. So guess what cockerel (coq) was translated as? Rooster.

I know it's a bit of a deviation from the main topic - looking at French words used in English - but I find it fascinating the effect history and amalgamating of languages has had on the English terms for food. Names for live animals differ greatly between French and English (cow/vache, chicken/poulet, pig/cochon) and yet once they are cooked many are referred to by approximately the same word (beef/boeuf, mutton/mouton, pork/porc). As I understand it, the Norman conquerors brought the French language with them and so effectively imposed their terms on the food of the rich, but the farming of the animals was seen as a job for the lower classes with little direct intervention from the conquerors and so the Anglo-Saxon terms persisted.

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It's not only live animals that differ greatly @majorbloodnock, so do most names of vegetables and crops, which is another peasant occupation. As an aside our farm manager neighbour has a jacket with 'paysan' emblazoned on the back; inverted snobbery we'd call it.

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10 minutes ago, Beantree said:

It's not only live animals that differ greatly @majorbloodnock, so do most names of vegetables and crops, which is another peasant occupation.

You're right, of course. As I understand it, vegetables were once seen as a means of feeding the common people or, at best, flavourings for enhancing meat and fish. A few exceptions existed, of course (such as peas), but it's no accident vegetables were originally referred to as pot herbs.

The evolution of a language is fascinating but you've reminded me that the interaction between neighbouring cultures and their languages over centuries adds an extra dimension. Thank you.

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Perhaps I am unwittingly mocking my late Grandma - I'd better stop! 

It is interesting, all this thinking about language.  Here 'porco' means both pork and pig (although you could say 'pork meat' to tell the difference) which still makes me smile when somebody is talking about a piggery which many of the houses still have, although most are no longer occupied.  Typically its a small, low stone building, set down in a hollow to keep cool.  I imagine a joint of pork running about, a bit like a haggis, although actually its no different to us using lamb/lamb for the animal and the meat.

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We (as in OH and I) use the word emmet for tourists here near Oxford......apparently a west country word (or grockle) as OH's family were originally from Devon. I love to use as many 'old' or obscure words as I can - they are free, after all :dance:! My mother's mother was a true cockney born within the sound of Bow bells and so I use a bit of rhyming slang where appropriate....had to explain 'tea leaf' to my ES this evening, tho' not whilst he was going 'up the apples and pears'!

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I'm so sorry @soapdragon, but my absolute hate of English is 'Cockney rhyming slang'. I have no idea why it started and can't see why it would. It's a total corruption of everything English. It's a grotty London thing; a tinniest part of England.

And there's another oldie, grotty.

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12 hours ago, Beantree said:

I'm so sorry @soapdragon, but my absolute hate of English is 'Cockney rhyming slang'. I have no idea why it started and can't see why it would. It's a total corruption of everything English. It's a grotty London thing

It started as an intentional obfuscation of the English language in the Seven Dials part of London. There is debate whether it was primarily used by traders or criminals, but the best guess is that it was probably to confuse those not in the know (i.e. customers if used by traders or police if used by criminals) and allow reasonably free communication in public between those who were in the know.

There is also the theory that it developed as more of a linguistic game as part of the sense of community; to enhance the feeling of "us together" and help exclude non-locals (similar to the concept of "grockles" in the West Country).

Personally I find a lot of the current use of Cockney rhyming slang to be a pretentious affectation amongst "Mockney" wannabes demonstrating a bit of inverse snobbery. However, I still like it very much, partly for its regional colour (much as I enjoy listening to a Scottish accent using regional terms like "bairn" and "ken", a Liverpudlian talking about "nesh" or a Welsh promise of a "cwtch") and partly for what it demonstrates about our history and the English language's ability to grow to accommodate. In short, it's fascinating but far too often trivialised to the point of parody.

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