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The Earl of Cork's Enigma

Monday, May 6, 2024

Sum þing Māra Abūtan Englisċ

Hƿæt sǣde hē?

The blog discussed Bellairs's use of Old English in the Aelfrics Wuldor, as mentioned in The Lamp from the Warlock's Tomb (1988) not too long ago. It also noted how Bellairs's friend, Charles Bowen, commented on Bellairs's use of the language in the book, mainly:

Hwenne tha mona in Maerc gefyllede is, thonne
Cometh Aesctaroth, ond micel wundor gewyrcath.

Thus Charlie:
John's memory of his Old English class at the University of Chicago must have faded considerably by the time he wrote the lines in the book. I found three errors in the first clause:
  1. The correct form of the definite article before a masculine noun in the nominative case is 'se,' not 'tha' (Mona is masculine).
  2. There was no Anglo-Saxon word Maerc. The Latin names of months are used in Old English texts; in this case, it would be Martius. March entered the language in the early Middle English period (i.e., after the Norman Conquest), when French introduced it.
  3. Englishmen of the ninth to eleventh centuries said 'when the moon is full,' just as we do, though they pronounced and spelled the words differently. They did not say 'when the moon is filled,' which is what it says here.
None of this matters to the book, of course. As a grumpy pedant, I naturally wish that John had gotten his Old English letter perfect, but that won't bother anyone who is not a grumpy pedant one iota.
Those are good points. I wonder if some of the language was simplified to make it easily understood by the reading audience. I doubt that, though.

Here's to all the grumpy pedants out there!

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