Q&A

WordPress gives me a list of most search terms used to find my blog. Sometimes, my posts answer the seeker’s question as-is. Sometimes, I think, “Just e-mail me! I could answer that one right away!” Here are the answers to some of those search terms and thoughts on the terms that have me completely baffled. All are reproduced with original spelling and punctuation.

“daeg west saxon word”
“Dæg” means “day.” The “æ” is pronounced like the “a” in MnE “cat,” and the “g” is pronounced the same as the “y” in the MnE word.

“what is the saxon word for villain”
Translating this into Anglo-Saxon depends on the implied meaning. According to my dictionary, you could use “oferhoga,” despiser; “feond,” enemy; “feondsceaða,” dire enemy; “mānfremmend,” evildoer; “lēodhata,” persecuter, “rȳpere,” robber; or “wærloga,” oath-breaker.

“onfunde old english meaning”
“Discover” or “realize,” third person singular preterit.

“what is the origin of the word yfele”
It’s used in Anglo-Saxon. I would presume it’s also used in Saxon, Old Norse, and possibly even Proto-Norse, but I can’t confirm that since I don’t have dictionaries.

“old english dictionary”
Germanic Lexicon Project
EOW
Old English Translator
Old English Made Easy

“what is middle english composed of”
Much of the vocabulary is French or Latin transmitted to English through French. The structure is largely Germanic and many Anglo-Saxon words remain.

“is beowulf a flawed hero”
No.

“does beowulf have shortcomings?”
No.

“what is beowulf trying to teach”
One main topic of Beowulf is how a good king should behave. A good king should be a courageous man of physical prowess, but he must also be honest, generous, pious, wise, and kind to his people.

“what is beowulf made of ?”
Beowulf is made of ƿ, of course!
On second thought, I withdraw my sarcasm because this reader may have wanted to know what materials were used to make the original codex. It is made of vellum.

“what kind of music is eowyn’s funeral song”
I most commonly see it referred to as a dirge. It is written in Old English that alliterates as an Anglo-Saxon poem would. The first line, “Bealo cwelm hafað freone frecan forð onsended,” is similar to lines 2266-66 in Beowulf: “Bealo-cwealm hafað / fela feorh-cynna forð onsended!”

“where did midevil torture devices originate from?”
Most of them originated in ancient or classical Rome, so start there if you’re doing research. However, be careful with your sources because some of the more wicked devices were products of modern imagination.

“why is paul sherwen wearing glasses”
I presume he needs them to see clearly.

“lobster pajamas”
Until this moment, I have never used either of these words on Made of Ƿ, nor are they contained in any file names. I was initially confused that one person found my blog with these search terms. I continue to be baffled since a second person has also found my blog with these search terms. I don’t understand…

“what is patron made of”
Blue agave, apparently.


Comments

Q&A — 12 Comments

  1. On yfel, I hope it’s not too pedantic to mention that Old English isn’t a descendent of Proto-Norse – they’re different in different sub-groups of Germanic (West and North, respectively). As it turns out, Proto-Norse quite probably didn’t have a cognate of Germanic *ubilaz, which is missing from both the older Runic inscriptions and literary Old Norse. The Proto-Germanic pedigree of the word is still guaranteed by Gothic ubils, as davidacarlton mentioned, along with its presence in all the literary West Germanic languages of the Middle Ages (we could add Old Frisian evel to the list of cognates brought up so far).

    In addition to the dictionaries already mentioned, here’s a pretty user friendly interface for Bosworth-Toller: http://www.bosworthtoller.com/

    Regarding Béowulf, I personally fully agree that he is not portrayed as flawed in the poem, but there is a fair amount of critical work done on supposed indictments of Béowulf in the text (either as a whole character or in his end). J.R.R. Tolkien had some censure for Béowulf’s ‘excess’, and various people have thought he was being criticized either because he was a pagan, or because of a vague sense that he is to (partly) to blame for the tragedy at the end. Even Andy Orchard, who mostly stops short of endorsing any of these particular interpretations, is fond of pointing out Béowulf’s small (perceived) failures: most of his boasts aren’t actually fulfilled according to the letter, for instance.

    I personally don’t think any strong criticism of Béowulf was meant, but those other views are not entirely baseless. A lot hinges on how you interpret things like line 3077-8 – did a lot of people suffer on account of Béowulf, or perhaps because of the dragon? If refers to Béowulf, then what are the implications for evaluating his deeds in dragon fight? It’s a bit thorny no matter which way you argue, at any rate.

    A relatively minor note on Éowyn’s song – it doesn’t quite alliterate properly, and the metre is off rhythmically a good bit (only 4 out of the 9 lines are problem free, and two of those are taken as-is from Béowulf). Mind you, I’m happy to see any sort of Old English in a movie of that scale, but it’s a bit of a shame they couldn’t have used some fraction of their immense resources to ensure it was properly done, especially given Tolkien’s own care with the details of Old English in his books. And it might have been nice to have something reliable as a teaching tool . . .

    And I definitely agree, Béowulf is made of ƿ!

    • Agreed on all of the above! And thank you, as always, for your linguistic insights.

      When I claim that Beowulf isn’t flawed, I consider the most likely source of the question–someone in an introductory English class. Beowulf isn’t blameless in all of his deeds, but he isn’t an antihero, he isn’t a Byronic hero. He doesn’t fit most of the descriptions that would be listed in a Norton glossary to define a flawed hero.

      I think that most of the people searching with this phrase are probably comparing poem Beowulf to movie Beowulf (who fits the flawed category much better). One of the problems I’ve also encountered is that students are so used to antiheroes and Byronic brooding that they aren’t willing to accept a hero without a major fault and a bad attitude (and this was the topic of my last conference presentation).

      • Fair enough on Béowulf, and those are some very interesting comments about students’ approach. Any chance of some posts on the topic at some point? (Or are have there been some already that I’ve missed?)

        • I may have touched on it in Why We’ll Never Have A Decent Beowulf Movie, which was the precursor to that conference paper, but most of those ideas come from talking to colleagues and whining with my friends about how bad the Beowulf movies are. I’ll see if I can explore this in future posts. :) (I’m also looking for a place to publish the paper, but I haven’t found one yet.)

  2. (I’m not sure if my attempts to comment are simply being eaten, or if posts are just not being displayed to the poster while waiting to be moderated. So there might be two posts from me in a row saying fairly similar things.)

  3. Old English “yfel” is from Proto-Germanic (and Proto-Norse) “*ubilaz.” Compare, for example, Old Saxon/ Old High German “ubil” and Gothic “ubils.” Proto-Germanic “*Ubilaz” is conjectured to come from either the Indo-European root “*wep-” (cf. Hittite, “huwap-” [“to treat badly”] and Old Irish “fel” [“bad”]), or “*upelos” (related to both “up” and “over,” in effect meaning to go “up or beyond things that are acceptable”). :) Also, I too would love a pair of lobster pajamas. Pajamas are rad, but lobsters are even radder.

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