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David Trotter

It is with extreme sadness that we report the death of our chief editor, Professor David Trotter, after a battle with cancer. Not only is the loss to the field of historical lexicography immense., we will also greatly miss our friend and mentor. 

While the editors will continue their work revising the entries for P-, we will be taking a temporary break from the Word of the Month out of respect for him.

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Word of the month: nuncheon

It is mid-afternoon and the editorial team of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary is producing XML files of the latest batch of new entries for N-. They have been sitting in front of their computers and processing the data for about six hours now, and their typing fingers are noticeably slowing down. It is still too early to call it a day, but minds are inevitably beginning to wander. Fortunately, a resolution for the growing three-o’clock malaise is found in the Oxford English Dictionary under the word ‘ nuncheon ’, that is, ‘a drink taken in the afternoon; a light refreshment between meals; a snack’. ‘Nuncheon’ is a word labelled as archaic or regional – the sort of vocabulary encountered in nineteenth-century novels: Sir Walter Scott still wrote ‘I came to get my four-hours’ nunchion from you’ in his novel Fortunes Of Nigel (1822), and in Charlotte Mary Yonge’s Love and Life (1880) a sister tells her siblings ‘I will give you some bread and cheese and gingerbread for noonchin ’.

Word of the month: Nice! An Anglo-Norman insult.

English speakers may be surprised to learn that the etymology of nice is not very nice at all and that its semantic development is unparalleled in the Romance languages. This word, which style guides recommend that you avoid as it both ubiquitous and nearly devoid of all meaning, has a most complicated semantic evolution. The word nice is attested quite early in French – ca 1160 and has its roots in the Latin nescius , an adjective meaning ‘ignorant, unknowing’. [1] The word was used in French (and other Romance languages) in Middle English (c. 1400) to disparage people, actions and sayings as silly or foolish. This is the meaning the word retained in the Romance languages, though in French the word is rather uncommon today though you may find it in some older texts to refer to someone as simple or naive, such as those the TLF cites: Un brave homme, un peu nice, appelé Monthyon   ( Pommier, Colères, 1844 , p.66) The semantic development of the word nice  in English is a rat

Word of the Month: Purple

As the editors of the AND work their way towards the end of the revision of the letter ‘P’, one of the entries being rewritten is that of the colour purpre , that is, ‘purple’ [1] . Defining what that means is trickier than it first appears, as is often the case with colour words. Is purple a colour in the pink/red family or is it a shade of blue? To further complicate matters, there are in fact numerous words used in Anglo-Norman to refer to different shades of purple, some of which we’ll look at here. Purpre derives from the Latin purpura [DMLBS 2584c] , and doesn’t refer always to the colour we now know as purple. Originally, the term referred to the shade of dye obtained from a sea snail, which was a variable crimson or reddish shade, which is also known as Tyrian purple. The blue-purple colour found in medieval manuscripts is often plant based, normally from the plant known as turnsole though this colour was also created using a variety of other plants and berries. [2]