Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas 2015: Anglo-Norman words overview

2015 has been a turbulent year for the Anglo-Norman Dictionary, with the unfortunate illness and extremely sad passing away of our General Editor, Prof. David Trotter, last August.

Looking forward to a more positive 2016, the current AND team, Dr. Heather Pagan and Dr. Geert De Wilde, would like to wish our readers a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

(Ranworth Antiphoner, fol 22, fifteenth century)

We will be back in January with new Anglo-Norman words of the month, but in the meantime, here’s an overview of all the vocabulary we have discussed on this blog so far, in the past 2 or 3 years. There might be one or two you’d missed?

‘alphabet’/’abc’ - link

‘nick’, nock’ and ‘notch’ - link

The ‘Croes Naid’ - link

‘nuncheon’ - link

‘monoceros’ and ‘unicorn’ - link

‘havegooday’ - link

‘organe’ - link

‘noef’ and ‘novel’ - link

Anglo-Norman sweetmeats - link

‘lunage’, ‘lunetus’ and ‘lunatic’ - link

‘locust’ and ‘lobster’ - link

‘ongler’ - link

‘quyne’ the ‘evil monkey’ - link

‘herds’, ‘bevies’ and ‘sounders’ - link

‘ombre’ - link

‘outremer’ - link

‘nice’, an Anglo-Norman insult - link

Anglo-Norman chess terminology - link

‘gagging, ‘queasy’ and ‘squeamish’ - link

‘fitonesse’ -link

‘pedigree’, ‘pé de colum’ and ‘péage’ - link

‘fitchews’ and ‘mitching’ - link

‘pie’ and ‘pastry’ - link

‘penthouse’ - link

‘giggling’, ‘jigg(l)ing’ ‘gigolo’ - link

‘parker’, ‘paliser’ and ‘parchementer’, Anglo-Norman surnames - link

The Anglo-Norman horse (part 1) - link

‘predire’ and ‘prediction’ - link

The Anglo-Norman horse (part 2): horsemanship - link

‘lit’ and the Anglo-Norman bed - link

After the festive break, work will continue on the revision of P-, which we hope to publish online by the end of 2016.


Monday, November 30, 2015

Word of the Month: Lit

The recent windy Welsh weather has certainly made staying in bed an attractive proposition this week! That got us wondering about what the Anglo-Norman Dictionary could tell us about where people slept in the Middle Ages. Beds and bedding aren’t normally things that are described in the types of sources the AND used – there's never much discussion of home furnishings in literary texts or in administrative documents. Two other types of texts do provide some clues about medieval beds: inventories and wills. These tend to be related to wealthy individuals, so the goods described certainly wouldn’t be typical for the average medieval person. They do provide an interesting glimpse at how the 1% of the population furnished their bedrooms during this period!

Talbot Shrewsbury Book

The bedroom was known as the chambre, from whence we get the Modern English chamber, though you can occasionally find the word closet used in Anglo-Norman (and in Middle English) to refer to a private room:

tapitz pour la chambre, cuissiens, closet, oreillers Test Ebor i 229[1]
[carpets for the bedchamber, cushions, closet, pillows]

This room seems quite luxurious, with cuissiens, a variant spelling of cussin. As we have noted in that entry, this word derives from the Latin word coxa, which meant ‘hip’, suggesting that these cushions were originally meant to support the hips or upper thighs.  By the medieval period, cussin was used to refer to any type of bed-pillow or bolster. This word was then borrowed into Middle English by 1361 where it would take the form cushion.

If you wanted to rest your head rather than your hips, you’d be looking for an oreillier, which is literally a place for your ears (oreille). This term would become synonymous with cussin, referring to any sort of cushion or bolster. It would also develop a heraldic sense, which would be borrowed into English as oreille meaning ‘a representaiton of a pillow or cushion used as a heraldic charge’. Pillow, the most commonly used term in English for a place to lay your head, derives from Old English. We were apparently very attached to our traditional sleeping patterns!

On top of our mattress, a term derived from the Anglo-Norman materas, which was likely filled with litere‘straw for bedding’, we would find our bed linen, which was normally referred to as draps, a generic term for fabric which, in the plural, often referred to sheets on a bed. These were clearly valuable items as one poor student, writing home to his parents, confessed that:

j’ay mys en gage lez draps de mon lyt  SAMPS1 402
(I put in pledge (gave as security) the sheets from my bed.)

I’m not sure you could get a payday loan with your bedsheets nowadays.

BL MS Royal 20.C.III

The assortment of sheets and cushions for a bed were referred to as apparail from which we have the modern equivalent of apparel. One can also find it referred to as aurnement which might be more familiar to English speakers as adornament:

.i. tent bede de drap de baudekyn d’or, fait pour le gesyne de la royne, ovec .ij. panes d’escharlet, furrez dez ermyns, ovec tout l’aparaille Rot Parl  iv 229
[1 ‘tentbed’[2] of baudequin of cloth of gold, made for the queen’s lying-in with two covers of scarlet furred with ermine, with all of the fittings]

Essential on these windy days, the bedframe could be surrounded by cortines, known in English as curtains. On top of the bed would be a canopy (celure or canopé).

un grant lit […] avec le celure entiere, curtyns, quissyns, traversin, tapitz, de tapiterie (l. tapicerie) , et tout entierment l’autre apparaille Black Prince 230
[a great bed, with the entire canopy, curtains, cushions, traversin (??), carpets tapestries and the entirety of the other fittings]

les curtins del taffata blank Test Ebor i 231
[the white taffeta curtains]

BL MS Harley 4431

The fabric of the bedcovers and curtains could be quite luxurious and striking:

mon graunt lit de camaca escheicé blank et rouge Test Ebor i 230
[my large bed of camaca (a silk fabric) chequered white and red]

mon grant lit de noir velvet embroudé d’un compasse de ferrures et gratiers Test Ebor i 229
[my large bed of black velvet embroidered with a circular image of fetterlock and gratings]

un coverture d’ermyn  […] ovecque la coverchief de la suyte ensemble Test Ebor i 230
[a bedcover of ermine [...] with the coverlet of the suite included]

mon grant lit de drap d'or, de champ piers poudrés des roses d'or mises sur pipes d'or Test Ebor i 227
[my large bed of cloth of gold, with a blue background powdered with gold roses place on gold piping]

Pour une chambre de drap d’or lozengee des armes de France, d’Angleterre et de Brebant, c’est assavoir coute pointe, chevetier, ciel, 8 quarreaux et 8 pecis(l. petis) tappis Isabella Inventory 520
[For a bedchamber of cloth of gold with lozenges containing the arms of France, England and Brabant, that is counterpane, trappings for the bed-head, 8 square cushions and 8 small carpets]

The most essential of all furnishings, especially with winter on the way, must be the chaufelit or bedwarmer! Keep warm!

[1] This citation is taken from the collection of wills from Yorkshire published in three volumes by the Surtees Society, known as Testamenta Eboracensia. The first of these volumes can be consulted on the AND website at .
[2] Likely refers to the canopy of the bed having a pitched rather than a flat roof.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Word of the Month: Horsemanship - The Anglo-Norman Horse (part 2)

(Tristan and Yseult in Roman du Chevalier by Gassien de Poitiers, 15th Century) 

Tristran i fet Ysod mener <1140>
E par la raigne la senestre.
Caerdins li chevauche a destre
E vount d’envoisures plaidant;
As paroles entendent tant
Qu’il laissent lor chevaus turner <1145>
Cele part qu’il volent aler.
Cel a Caerdin se desraie
E l’Ysodt contre lui s’arbroie.
Ele le fiert des esperons
Li palefrois avant s’enpaint <1155>
E il escrille a l’abaiser
En un petit croser evier - Trist 1140-56

(Tristran took Yseut along with him, Holding her rein as he rode on her left. Katherdin rode on her right, And they told amusing tales as they went along. Such was their conversation That they let their horses roam where they would. Katherdin’s mount wandered across And Yseut’s reared up against it. She pricked it with her spurs [...] Her palfrey plunged forward, And, as it touched the ground, it slid into a water-hole - translation by S. Gregory)

This instance of blundering horse-riding in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman romance of Tristan and Yseut causes an uncontrollable fit of laughter in Yseut, who, to the horror of her brother Katherdin, jokes about the splashing water touching her in places that Tristran hadn’t tried to reach yet ‘Ceste aigue, que ci esclata, Sor mes cuisses main d’ome ne fist, Ne que Tristran onques me quist’ (ll. 1193-96). The fragment of text breaks off here, and any possible riposte by Tristran, a paragon of chivalry and fin amour, remains unrecorded.

For last July’s word of the month I started to look into the Anglo-Norman terminology of horses and horse-riding. The subject matter turned out to be such a prolific one that I had to restrict my overview to only the very general vocabulary for 'horse' (cheval, horse, estalon, stot, ive, jument, poutrel, pulain, hakeney, palefrei, sambuer etc.) and 'horse-riding (chevalcher); see here.  

(The Luttrell Psalter, BL Add. 42130, f.41r, 1325-40)

For this month’s blog, I’d like to return to the equine world, and have a look at some of the Anglo-Norman terminology on the subject of horse-riding. And the rather amusing passage cited above brings together a fine group of words relevant for the purpose.

Firstly, there's the verb chevaucher/chevalcher (line 1142): 'to ride a horse'. As discussed in the previous blogpost, this is a verbal derivation of the noun cheval, with the -auch/-alch part a reflex of the Latin etymon caballicare (FEW 2,6a). The term (literally 'to horse') is omnipresent in Anglo-Norman, as it is in Continental French, but, consistent with the noun cheval, was never borrowed in English (except for some rare late-medieval derivatives chivauchier for 'horse-rider', and chevachee for 'an expedition on horseback')[1]. The AND currently offers only two synonymous verbs, with chevaler2 (a rare and even more direct verbal derivation of the noun) and guier (a general term for 'to guide, steer, direct'[2]).

(Chroniques Jean Froissart Gallica, BN Français 2643 (detail), 15th century)

Yseut and her company ride in relaxed conversation, on horses that were probably amblant ('walking, ambling' from Latin ambulare[3] - one of the few words discussed in this post that were also used with the same sense in English[4]). Another verb used for the same type of relaxed riding is hobeler2, from an intensive form the Germanic root hobben ('to bounce', FEW 16,215a). The word is also attested in Middle English as hobelen ('to rock') but, apparently, without the equine sense.

'[...] Li destrers[5] neir ke il sist desure [...]; Par la plaine vait hobelant Vers la cité'  ˗ Ipom BFR 9322
([...] The black charger on which he sits [...] He rides, ambling over the plain, towards the city)

For a trotting horse, moving slightly faster (although the verb covers a range of speeds), Anglo-Norman uses the verbs troter (from a Germanic etymon *trotton, 'to run'[6], appearing in English from the second half of the fourteenth century) and ungler (a word previously discussed on this blog here).

'Busuin fait vielle trother' - Prov Serl2 4.32.
(Necessity makes an old horse trot)

An even faster gait would have been galoper (also from a Germanic root: possibly the compound *wala hlaupan, 'to jump well'[7]), or coure1 ('to run', from Latin currere[8]) les galops. Anglo-Norman has a number of expressions (les grans galops, les menus galops, les petits galops), which must have indicated different types running (including a canter and a trot), but which did not persist in English (where the word gallop itself wasn't attested before the sixteenth century).

'Les galops vient avant sur son cheval flory' - Rom Chev ANTS 1961
(He advanced at a gallop on his glorious horse)

(BN, Français 343, Queste del Saint Graal, f. 49v, c.1385)

When Yseut loses control of her horse, she pricks it with her spurs, and the phrase used is ferir des esperons (l.1149): literally, 'to strike' (ferir1) with 'spurs' (esporon)[9]. Anglo-Norman has a generous number of cognate periphrastic expressions for this particular action, using a variety of verbs that must have expressed the different levels of force applied: hurter des esporons (with the verb hurter related to modern English to hurt, but only in its original sense of 'to strike');[10] somewhat more softly in tucher des esporons ('to touch'); but more vigorously again in brocher as esporons (brocher, 'to prick, prod'); more painfully perhaps with  ficher des esporons (ficher, 'to fix, fasten', but also 'to drive in, pierce'), and poindre des esporons (poindre, 'to prick, sting'); and almost viciously in arguer des esporons (arguer, 'to oppress, afflict' and related to Modern English to argue). Once more, almost none of these verbs, even though most of them moved into the English language ('to hurt', 'to touch', 'to fix', archaic 'to poin', 'to argue')[11], were ever used in the same equine context.[12]

The noun esporon, also produced a direct verbal form esporoner2: 'lur chevals espurunent', FANT OUP 316. And the aforementioned verbs poindre ('to prick, sting')[13] and brocher ('to prick, prod')[14] were also used non-periphrastically:

'Ipomedon venir le veit, Vers lui point le cheval tut dreit' ˗ Ipom BFR 6190
(Ipomedon saw him coming, and spurred his horse straight towards him)

'Abessent les espiés e brochent les brandis[15]' ˗ Rom Chev ANTS 7416
(They lower their swords and spur their spirited horses)

Furthermore, poindre's present participle form, poignant, used as an adjective acquired the specific sense of 'at a gallop' or 'hastily':

'Mes les Alemans venent donc poynant' ˗ Boeve 2337
(But the Germans then arrived at a gallop)

(BL, Stowe 17, detail of f. 153v, ‘The Maastricht Hours’, 1st quarter of the 14th century)

Not surprisingly, the adjective poignant also developed a range of figurative uses in Anglo-Norman (e.g. 'par dures et poignantes penancez' Sz Med 107.19)[16], and it is mainly as such that the word gets borrowed in Middle English (MED poinaunt, '(of a sauce) piquant' and 'of a state of feeling) distressing'; and OED poignant, 'arousing or expressing deep emotion', first attested at the end of the fourteenth century in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales). The horse-related sense is not attested in English.

Lastly, Anglo-Norman also uses the less common verb cuiter ('to urge, compel')[17] to refer to the spurring of a horse:

Sun chasceor[18] a tant cuté Que sanglant en sunt li costé ˗ Waldef BB 6655
(He has spurred his hunting horse until its sides were bloody)

together with the expression using the cognate noun, a cuite d'esporon ('with urging by the spurs, spurring hard', sub cuite):

'Le messager […] vint a Hamtone a coste de esperun' ˗ Boeve 109
(The messenger arrives at Hampton at a gallop)

In the case of Yseut, she spurs her palefrei (line 1154, cf. previous WoM) when it is rearing its legs (line 1148, s'arbrer - a verb derived from arbor, 'tree', drawing an effective analogy with the branch-like shapes of the horse's kicking legs).[19] The horse becomes entirely uncontrollable (line 1148, se desreier),[20] and the result is that the animal rushes forwards (line 1154, s'empeindre avant), slips and splashes into a ditch. Yseult takes the involuntary shower of water lightly, but the mareschal or garçun back at the estable may have been less impressed with the state of the horse, eschif and without deboneireté, having to torcher the wet skin with their strile, and taking off the mud-splattered huce, sele, lormerie and panelloun. But the discussion of these words will have to wait for another time.


[1]  Earliest attestations for these uncommon words are 1420 and c.1380 respectively.
[2]  Just like English guide v. from Germanic *witan (FEW 17,600b).
[3]  FEW 24,425a.
[4]  Cf. OED amble v.: 'Of a horse, mule, etc.: To move by lifting the two feet on one side together, alternately with the two feet on the other; hence, to move at a smooth or easy pace', first attested in Chaucer.
[5]  See AND destrer1.
[6]  FEW 17,371b.
[7]  FEW 17,484a.
[8]  FEW 2,1565b.
[9]  The noun esporon comes from the Germanic word for the same object: *sporo (FEW 17,185b).
[10] The etymology of Anglo-Norman hurter remains unclear, and the FEW's proposed Frankish origin (*hurt-, FEW 16,271b) was already questioned by the OED in 1899. The DEAF prefers the reconstruction of *urgitare, an intensive form of urgere ('to push') as an etymon, but is by no means convinced (hurter, H732).
[11]  The verb ferir1 (from Latin ferire, FEW 3,465b), though particularly common in Anglo-Norman, has no equivalent in English.
[12]  The only exception is brocher, with its Middle English counterpart brochen also used to refer to the action of spurring horses (as well as, among other things, putting meat on a skewer or tapping a barrel).
[13]  From Latin pungere (FEW 9,597a).
[14]  From Latin broccus (FEW 1,547b).
[15]  The word 'brandif' is considered a spelling variant of braidif, defined in the AND as 'spirited horse'.
[16]  The AND entry poindre is currently under revision, together with the rest of the P-entries. The second edition of this part of the AND is planned to be published online towards the end of 2016.
[17]  From the reconstructed Latin verb *coctare (FEW 2,830b).
[18]  A type of horse, cf. chaceur. The term for 'hunter' was used not only with reference to a 'hunting horse', but also as a gloss for the Latin word for 'ambler, trotter'.
[19] FEW 25,89b and DMF arbroyer ('to plant or decorate with trees'). Anglo-Norman also has the synonyms brandir ('to brandish') and once again ferir1 ('to kick') for a horse bucking or rearing.
[20]  FEW *arredare 1,144b.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Word of the Month: Predire

Do you ever wish you had a way to see into the future, to see how events might play out? The editors at the AND would certainly love to have this ability! As evidenced by a numerous medieval writings, the desire to predict or foretell the future, or predire in Anglo-Norman, has been a longstanding wish of many.

Two of the most recent additions to the Dictionary library are Tony Hunt’s Writing the Future: Prognostics Text of Medieval England (Textes littéraires du Moyen Âge 24, Paris, 2013) and Stefano Rapisarda’s Manuali medievali di chiromanzia (Biblioteca Medievale 95, Rome, 2005). Both of these books contain editions of Anglo-Norman texts which could be used to tell the future – texts to interpret the lines on hands, the meaning of dreams, the zodiac, the moon, the stars...[1]

Palmistry, BL Additional 11639, f. 115
Lunarie, a term attested in another prognostic text edited by T. Hunt[2], refers to a ‘lunary’, a text that provides a collection of predictions based on the day of the lunar month. These lunaries provide a wide range of very practical predictions, including the best time for blood-letting, the fates of children born on that day, the medical prognosis for those that are sick and general statements about the day.

The full moon falls on the 27th this month, and the lunary in Oxford, Bodl. Libr. Ashmole 342 provides this prediction for the first moon:

La prime lune est bone a comencer totes choses, vendre ou achater. Ki enmaladira, ben eschapera e garra. L’enfant ke nestra serra de grant age. Le soynge turnera a grant joye. Bon seigner fet de veyne. Future 68

[The first moon is good for beginning all things, selling or buying. Those who will fall ill, will escape and recover. The child who is born will live to a great age. Worry will turn to great joy. Good bloodletting can happen from a vein.]

While the many prose and verse lunaries do not always agree on their predictions, most seem to agree that the first day of the lunar cycle is a good day for new beginnings. So plan your weekend accordingly!

Prognostic texts based on a combination of the zodiac and the months of the year were also common, and provide information on the fates of individuals born in certain months, under certain signs, with different predictions for men and women (the predictions for women are much shorter). So what is in store for the dictionary editors based on their birth months?

Il serra de ouel estature de cors. Il avera bel chevelure. En acune tens il avera plenté e en autre tens defaute [...] Il avera le[s] dens large. Il espousera treys femmys e le un irra de ly sans revenyr [...] Le[s] premere [en]fans que il ad serrunt femmeles. Ky o ly mange ou beve il dirrent mal de ly e volenters voylent combatre o ly. Quant il est de age de .xxiii. ans, une grant renoumé avera [...] il vivera a l’age de .lxix. ans e il morra en autre tere de une espeye ou de doulur de ventre en jour de mardy. Future 144

[He will be of regular physical stature. He will have beautiful hair. At some times he will have plenty and at other times not enough. He will have large teeth. He will marry three women and one will leave him without returning. The first children he will have will be female. Those who eat or drink with him will speak ill of him and wish to fight him. When he is 23 years old, he will be famous. He will live to the age of 69 and will die in another land from a sword or a pain in the stomach on a Tuesday.]

Ele serra honuré. Ele avera fort corouce. [...] Ele serra sages. Un jour ele serra seyn e une autre jour serra dolant. Ele avera treys barons e entre ly e la premere serra grant corouce e grant changle e de le[s] deus ele avera fiz e fillez. De ces que ele eyme ele eydera volenters. Ele avera descord entre ly e sa veysyne. Ele morra en le jour de judy en dolur de la senestre coste Future 143

[She will be honoured. She will have a great anger. She will be wise. One day she will be healthy and another ailing. She will have three husbands and between her and the first will be a great anger and bickering and of the other two she will have sons and daughters. Those whom she loves she will help voluntarily. There will be discord between her and her neighbour. She will die a day in July of a pain the left rib.]

A bit of a mixed bag for us both, though we clearly need to line up more marital partners!

BL Arundel 377, fol. 5, Calendar page for September and October

Another series of texts predicts future events based on the day of the week the event or major holidays fall. For example, the text in Oxford, Bodl. Libr. Digby 86 offers predictions based on the day on which Christmas is celebrated. Christmas Day falls on a Friday this year so,

Si avient par venderdi, iver mervilous sera, ver bon, esté sech, [...], Aust sech. Vendeinge bone et plentivous. [...] Chevalers cumbatrirount. Plenté de oille. Noveles entres princes serount. Ouailles e boys perirount. Les vendredis de cel an bon est de toutes choses comencer. Future 208

[If it (=Christmas) occurs on a Friday, the winter will be marvellous, spring good, summer dry, August dry. The harvest will be good and plentiful. Knights will fight. Plenty of oil. There will be news between the princes. Loss of sheep and wood. Fridays of this year will be good for beginning things.]

Next year looks like a promising year – Fridays might be a good time to put into action some of the new plans we have in store for the dictionary. The price of oil might go down, but we better not buy any more sheep.

BL Egerton 2572, fol.51. Description from the BL: A volvelle, a device with a moveable disc rotating with a fixed matrix, the pointing moveable index of which could be set at the sign and degree of the zodiac for a particular day in order to predict the best time to provide medical treatment: the moving central part of the volvelle, with the pointer, is inscribed in red with numbers from 1-30; in the concentric circles around this are drawings of the signs of the zodiac, their names, and the names of the months and emblems for the occupations of the months

Numerous dictionary entries will be improved thanks to these new editions, with new citations to illustrate words such as geomancie ‘the art of divination by means of signs derived from the earth’, or new variants spellings such as maginacioun for machination. Multiple new entries will be created based on the vocabulary attested here: juracioun meaning ‘blasphemous oath’, malageous to mean ‘a sick person’ or soungerie to mean ‘a book of dreams’.

We predict that these new texts will greatly aid our understanding of the uses of Anglo-Norman and may even bring us our first attestation of prediction and prognostication![3]


[1] There still remains material to be edited of this type, which would undoubtedly enrich the dictionary even further. For example, the catalogue entry for BL Ms. 18210 Additional notes that ‘ff. 85-103: Treatises on palmistry (or chiromancy), spatulomancy (the use of the shoulder bone in divination), geomancy and hematoscopy (prognostication by inspection of the blood) in Anglo-Norman French. The texts on spatulomancy and hematoscopy are unique’. These latter texts are not currently edited.
[2] Tony Hunt, 'Les Pronostics en anglo-normand: Méthodes et documents', in Richard Trachsler, Julien Abed and David Expert, 'Moult obscures paroles': Études sur la prophétie médiévale, Paris, 2007, 29-50.
[3] The word prediction appears in English  from the mid sixteenth-century only and slightly earlier in Middle French. It was attested in Classical Latin so its absence from the Anglo-Norman lexis is surprising. The word prognostication is attested in Middle French from 1355 and in Middle English from 1400 which strongly suggests that it would have been present in Anglo-Norman.