mongrel

English as we know it today was shaped principally by three periods of settlement and invasion […] In the fifth and sixth centuries […] the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes […] sailed over from the north-western coastline of continental Europe […] pushed most of the Celtic-speaking Britains north and west […] and their Germanic language developed into what we now call Old English […] A few centuries later […] the vikings were on the move […] their language was also a Germanic variety, Old Norse, and it had a deep influence on Old English…

Then it was the turn of the Normans. This was the invasion which triggered enormous changes in English, as it developed into what’s called Middle English […] English vocabulary increase[d] hugely with the influx of French borrowings.

There was a third language too, though: Latin. Ever since Augustine and his monks came to Britain in the sixth century, Latin (and Greek) words have been influencing English. During this trilingual period in the later medieval period, words stepped over from one language to another and left their footprints. Hugh numbers of French and Latin words entered English, and English was happy to accommodate them. The habit of borrowing and assimilating became second nature.

I’ve sort of perhaps, in a way, kind of knew this, and it could be you maybe did to, but it was nice to be reminded, while reading Planet Word by J.P. Davidson, that the English language is essentially, at its core, a hybrid language with, to quote Davidson again, “the vigour and subtlety of a mongrel creation”.

Shellac of North America Tonight

I’m off to see Shellac of North America tonight at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. I saw them ages ago at an All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in a year I can’t at the moment quite recall. I can’t quite recall the gig either so I’m looking forward to this one. That I’m going also gives me the excuse to draw your attention to Douglas Cowie’s summation of Shellac’s greatness that has stayed with me since I read it a few years ago because it is, I feel, spot on.

Going For A Song: ‘I Need You’

Nick Cave & The Bad Seed – ‘I Need You’

After reading a review this week about the Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds gig at the O2 Arena in London I was reminded I hadn’t chosen, on its release last year, a song off Skeleton Tree for Going For A Song, though I had meant to at the time.

The song ‘I Need You’ might serve as a good indicator of Skeleton Tree as an album: lyrics are uncluttered, direct (evidenced by ‘I Need You’ as a title), sung by Cave in a voice that for the first time admits age and fragility into its timbre. Sounds of synths and parred back instrumentation – a tender wash of sound – are put in motion by Thomas Wydler’s drums; the Bad Seeds’ vocals provide additional support, together holding up and urging the song and singer forward to the main admission.

A year on from when I first heard them song and album have lost none of their emotional force. They are quite an achievement.