Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Old English’

I was thinking the other day about the word found, and how it can mean “discovered” and also “begin, lay the base”.  So I decided to search the etymologies, primarily using www.EtymOnline.com and supplementing with other dictionaries available online such as the Webster’s 1828.

Found, as in “lay the base” is from the Latin for “bottom”.  It shares a root with fund, which entered English meaning “bottom, foundation, groundwork” and quickly came to mean “stock of available money” by the 1690’s.  It is theorized that the PIE root, *bhudh- is also the source of Old English botm – and maybe even the Hebrew for “build”, banahBuild, in English, is supposed to come through the Germanic for “home, building” from a PIE root, *bhu- “to dwell,” from root *bheue- “to be, exist, grow”.

In Old English, the word timbran was preferred to communicate “to build”, but it died out and primarily remained in our word timber from PIE *deme- “to build,” possibly from root *dem- “house, household” (source of Greek domos, Latin domus; and of our words: domestic and domain and don).

The derivative verb, founder, is less encouraging that the verb found – the latter meaning “to establish” but the former meaning “to collapse” or “to sink to the bottom”.

Another sense of found, as in foundry, means to “cast metal”, originally “to mix, mingle” from the Latin fundere “melt, cast, pour out” from the PIE *gheu- “to pour”, cognate with guts “bowels, entrails”, gutter, gush, and geyser.

The noun fountain comes from the Old French fontaine, “natural spring” from the Latin fontanus “of a spring” and fons “spring (of water)”.  The proposed PIE is *dhen- (1) “to run, flow”.

Find, my original curiosity for the day, is from the Proto-Germanic *finthan “to come upon, discover”.  Before that, it comes, we think, from PIE *pent- “to tread, go” as in pedestrian and path and pontoon.  Isn’t that lovely imagery?

But isn’t it curious how these such similar words are thought to have independent etymologies?  It makes me wonder how well-attested the published etymologies are, or could there be alternatives that are more united?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

JRR Tolkien reported that he discovered his stories and the world of Middle Earth.  Bilbo’s complaint that Gandalf took him home from the Lonely Mountain by much too direct a route is perhaps a testimony of Tolkien’s own experience with the Hobbit and subsequently the Lord of the Rings.  Even though the legends of the elves were sprawling through Tolkien’s imagination long before either the Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings were published, we know that Lothlorien and Fangorn – and the stories swirling and marching out of them (respectively) – were unexpected developments that Tolkien met as he traveled with Frodo and his companions to the War of the Ring.

To many people, Tolkien’s description of his sub-creation is merely a metaphor for the creative process.  An idea wasn’t in mind before and then unfolds faster than we can write it or say it aloud, as though the whole were in existence before we thought of it.  But for Tolkien, there was more literal (and literary) truth to discovering his characters and stories than I would have guessed.  Especially in the Lord of the Rings, peoples and places were dynamically inspired by meditations on words.

The lore-master of Middle Earth discovered that fantastic age in the associations and nuances of English.  English being only the top level.  He didn’t just borrow an archaic term to sound old or fantastic (as so many pretentious fantasy-novelists do today).  Involved in the study was a lot of Old English, Old Norse, Germanic and even Celtic derivations.  Tolkien hoarded word-mathoms, specimens of language passed around and hidden in old literature, buried in place-names.  Believing that language bore record of a people with creativity, wisdom, and art worth recovering, Tolkien studied and meditated on this vocabulary.  Meanings all-but-forgotten, he restored them, often telling a story in which multiple definitions took living form.  Or if the meaning really was entirely lost, like the purposes of some mathoms, Tolkien upcycled them, making all new but deeply appropriate uses of obscure terms.

One of the easiest examples may be Ent.  In Tolkien’s mythology, Ents are shepherds of the trees, ancient forest-keepers.  They do many things, but most importantly they bring down the corrupted wizard, Saruman, by destroying his stone city, Isengard.  Ent comes from an old English word from which we also get the word “giant.”  The word is also associated with trolls, the large stone-people.  Giants in old mythology were credited with writing the pre-historic epics and constructing the marvelous architecture known to the medieval people only as mysterious ruins.  Tolkien pulled all of these things together in the character and origin of the Ents, and in their stone-dominating assault on Isengard.

Perhaps Lord of the Rings was so successful because Tolkien tapped our own imaginations, our nightmares and our memories, our own ways of talking about those things.  We feel that Middle Earth is part of us because it came from the same places we did.  The Hobbit was nursery-fable, not entirely devoid of the word study that made Tolkien’s other work great, but mostly a hodge-podge of mythology and adventure.  The Silmarillion studied not only the English words and Germanic epics at the root of English and American imagination, but also delved into Greek myths, and more obscure stories (like the Finnish Kaelevala).  The Elvish languages have more to do with Celtic.  All those sources were more remote than the wights and wargs and farthings and elves that resonate with the first audience of Lord of the Rings, the English.

Enormous creativity is required to make stories – especially as complex as Lord of the Rings – out of word definitions and roots.  But it also takes genius to hold so many facts and references in mind at once, seeing comparison and contrast, projecting backwards, remembering how the ancient form of the word was used in some obscure poem.  Thomas A. Shippey’s biography of Tolkien first alerted me to this aspect of his work some years ago, but The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary goes much farther.  A word can be a poem or a story or a mythology or just a really-neat sound.  Tolkien delighted in and brought out all of these.

For more information, look to the Letters of JRR Tolkien and the History of Middle Earth (a series of books containing early manuscripts of Middle Earth stories and also containing glossaries and word-explanations for the languages of middle earth).  I highly recommend that you pick up The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary by Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall, and Edmund Weiner.  It contains over a hundred studies of words either invented or revived by JRR Tolkien or associated with him and his work.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Sets of four?  Sounds like rummy!  I love being asked questions.  For one thing, answers are so much easier then. 

1. 4 movies you can always watch: Wives and Daughters, While You Were Sleeping, Two Towers, Pride and Prejudice with Kam Heskin (no, I’m not Mormon)

2. 4 bands you can never get enough of: Bands aren’t my think, but oh, I like Boyz In the Sink  After that we’ll have to do singers: Michael Card, Steve Green, (stealing one from Woven and Spun) Beauty and the Beast Soundtrack

3. 4 towns you lived in: Blue Springs, MO; Aurora, CO; Farmer’s Branch, TX; Garland, TX

4. 4 shows you like to watch: Pushing Daisies, Leave it to Beaver, Numbers, Joan of Arcadia
5. 4 websites you visit daily: WordPress, Biblical Womanhood Blog, Amy’s Humble Musings, Elect Exiles

6. 4 favorite foods: chocolate, pizza, hamburgers, strawberries
7. 4 places you’d like to be now: Chicago, Scotland, the mall, Israel
8. 4 songs that really move you: Christmas Shoes, Held, We Will Dance, Beauty and the Beast

9. 4 books you will always love:The Walk by Michael Card, Lord of the Rings, Passion and Purity, That Hideous Strength
10. 4 colors that will always be in your closet: navy blue, white, black, green

11.4 authors you’ll always love: Jane Austen, Elisabeth Elliot, Michael Card, Dr. Henry Morris
12. 4 favorite actors/actresses whose talent you honestly respect: Gerard Butler, Cary Grant, Sandra Bullock, Bill Paterson
13.4 languages you’d love to be fluent in: Hebrew, Old English, German, French
14.4 other countries you would like to live in: Scotland, Israel, New Zealand, Ecuador
15.4 skills you would like to improve: sewing, teaching, writing, cooking

16.4 items that are “a few of your favorite things”: white curtains, soft throws, my trifle dish, fog

17. 4 items you actually use like they’re your favorites: laptop, car, tiny hair clips, denim skirt

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »