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”.

Sunday Just Gone

Made a trip to Broadstairs, Kent:

It was the weekend of the week-long folk festival.

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In The Chapel on Albion Street (a bar I’ve heard being disparaged but that I like for the fact they sell beer, very good cider and books) as well as discovering¬†The Prodigy I bought this book:

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I bought it for that title really. And the aforementioned cider might have, at first, influenced my decision, but my mind was made up when I saw this great photo inside:

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Uncle Fred

In actual count of time, he was no longer in his first youth. The Spring now enlivening England with its alternate sunshine and blizzards was one of many that had passed over his head, leaving it a becoming iron-grey. But just as the years had failed to deprive him of his slender figure, so had they been impotent to quench his indomitable spirit. Together with a juvenile waistline, he still retained the bright enthusiasms and the fresh, unspoilt outlook of a slightly inebriated undergraduate – though to catch him at his best, as he would have been the first to admit, you had to catch him in London.

So goes the introduction to Uncle Fred in P.G. Wodehouse’s Uncle Fred in the Springtime. It’s my first Wodehouse novel I’ve read and I’m beginning to sense that quality (which was mentioned to me) a Wodehouse novel possesses – its ability to pull you up out of despondency; this no doubt connected to, as Stephen Fry writes in praise on the book’s back cover, its ‘sunlit perfection,[…] its warmth and splendour’.

I also wanted to give this particular passage a mention because it kind of touches on a point that came up in a conversation I was having recently: when someone refers to maturity, or perhaps more often levels the charge of immaturity (not that the narrator of Uncle Fred is doing so here), what exactly do they mean? What was this measured in then, when Uncle Fred was on the loose, and now? Responsibilities? Appearance? As a work colleague said to me the other day: “My Dad never wore jeans; if he had I would have been shocked.”