A great site

Archive for the tag “language”

So if …

… Edward IV is either Mr. Rochester or Captain Mainwaring, which other fictional character may be based on one of his contemporaries?
John, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, posthumously Edward’s father-in-law, who was identified after the battle of Castillon by the gap between his teeth might be Terry-Thomas?
Domenico Mancini, a foreign visitor who barely understood the English language or our law and customs could be Manuel the waiter, perhaps ?


Shakespeare said it first….!

Shakespeare's phrases

I am always intrigued to know the origin of words, phrases, proverbs and so on, if only so that I don’t use them anachronistically in my books. It’s not always possible, of course, because some things are just too engrained in the English language, and sticking to the correct English for, say, the 15th century, would make for an impossible book for me to write, or for a reader to get to fully enjoy. Unless they have degrees in such things! That’s my opinion anyway.

Some of the phrases contained in the following link were known to me as being from Shakespeare, but I certainly didn’t know all of them. It’s an interesting subject.

However, it often happens that an author—or an entry in a dictionary that is given a specific date—turns out to have merely recorded something that was in circulation anyway. I’m not saying this is necessarily the case where Shakespeare is concerned, but I have to wonder if he is the source of all the phrases accorded to him. In my writing career I try to stick to the proper dates, but have discovered before now that, e.g. Merriam-Webster, isn’t always  spot-on. A lot of authors use MW, indeed it was specified by one of my publishers. But I’ve found words/phrases to have been extant at a far earlier date than MW gives in its hallowed pages. I informed them on one occasion, having found sources up to a century earlier, but didn’t get an acknowledgement. I haven’t tried since. So the incorrect date remains in place. Please don’t ask me to identify the word in question, because I can’t remember. It was years and years ago.


Whither Goest Thou?

key to writingHaving just written my first novel, in which Richard III visits the 21st century, I needed to let the reader see a contrast between him and modern people, partly in the way he spoke. I quickly found that this wasn’t as easy as I’d thought, so my Richard has a great facility for languages and soon learns to speak in modern parlance! However, I did have to use ‘Mediaeval speak’ for a few chapters and I came across a few snags.

For example, the words ‘hath’ and ‘hast’ and other verbs – do you put ‘-eth’ on the end or ‘-est’? I was fairly confident about my title (Richard Liveth Yet) as it was a quotation, so that must have been right. But some of my Mediaeval sentences didn’t flow so well and I wasn’t sure how correct they were.

And what about ‘Ye’, ‘you’, ‘thee’ and ‘thou’?

After doing some research, I found a few web pages that address these problems. I’m sure some of you, maybe all of you, already know this, but I didn’t – at least not all this information, so here goes:

‘Thou’ and ‘thee’ were the subject and object forms respectively for the second person singular pronouns where ‘ye’ and ‘you’ were the plural forms. ‘Ye’ was later dropped completely, and ‘you’, also used as a polite form for the second person singular, eventually replaced ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ too.

But from 1470 – 1650 or thereabouts, ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ were the Mediaeval equivalent of the French ‘tu’ and ‘toi’ – i.e. not only signifying the singular form, but also a more familiar or less respectful form of address.

Along with ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ came the possessive forms ‘thine’ and ‘thy’, used in the same way for the second person as ‘mine’ and ‘my’ were (and still are) for the first person singular. In addition, ‘thine’ was used before a vowel or a non-voiced ‘h’. (E.g. thine orange, thine honour, thy wife).

Not only that, but thee and thou had their own endings for present tense verbs: -(s)t (e.g. thou hast, thou lovest, thou shalt). And the third person singular also had its own ending in –th (e.g. he giveth, she loveth, it goeth, etc)

Hence ‘Richard liveth yet’, but ‘thou livest yet’. I’d better get on and do some editing!

If you want to see a couple of useful tables regarding this, click here.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: