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POEM ON THE LIFE OF EDWARD THE CONFESSOR.' By ROBERT ATKINSON, LL. D., Professor of Sanskrit in the University of Dublin.

T is well enough known that our language has derived

a considerable portion of its vocabulary from a Norman source; but as yet, at least, very little use has been made of this fact in any really scientific, or even methodic fashion. In a spasmodic way, indeed, reference is occasionally made by well-meaning lexicographers to a presumed intermediate form of Old French, which they either postulate altogether, or else accept on totally insufficient evidence. There seems, for example, no reason to doubt that many of the ordinary dictionary-makers would receive any Burgundian or Picard form of the langue d'Oil, or even Provençal or Catalan forms in case of need (not to go farther a-field) as ample justification for any linguistic freak of etymology. Even when the actual origin of the word is stated, it is put in so clumsy a manner at times, that the student had better be without the information. Ex. gr. I take at random from by no means the worst of the lately

· Master of the Rolls Series.


published English Dictionaries, 'Chambers' Etymological' (1867), the following specimens :'

« Poor ... [Old E. poore, povere ; Fr. pauvre; L. pauper, akin to paucus, few].”

Now, one naturally asks, where is the point in inserting F. pauvre? why not put in the Ital. povero, the Spanish pobre, &c., &c. ? No doubt the idea that glimmered before the lexicographer was that poor came through the French somehow, so it might be as well to insert the French form. Yes, certainly, the French form, i. e. the Norman-French form, which is poure, whence directly our word, the stages being pauper, povere, povre, poure, poor. It is evident that the introduction of the Mod. Fr. form is altogether an obstacle to a right understanding of the process.

Again. “Portcullis,’ a sliding door, &c., [Fr. porte, and coulisse, from couler, L. colo, to filter].”

The inference likely to be drawn from this statement is that portcullis is a modern French word,—which it certainly is not. An example will show the use of the word in O. F., cf. Bertrand du Guesclin in 1. 21447, speaking of a palace :

Mais cretel n'i ara ne nul fossez par

fons Ne porte couléice pour les deffencions.

But there shall be no battlement nor

deep moat
Nor sliding-door for the defences.

Couléice meant, in O. F., sliding, slipping (Lat. colaticius from colo].

Again. “Riot,' to brawl, &c. [Fr. rioter, Bret. riota ; Gael. raoit, shameless mirth].”

I am inclined to think the lexicographer would be astonished if he looked in a good French dictionary, to see what the meaning of the word rioter really is in Mod. Fr.

The O. F. has the word in its present English signification. Might one ask, in passing, what on earth the Keltic forms are inserted for?

Further; there are a great many words for which an

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English derivation is either given, or left to be inferred, which belong altogether to the O. F.

E. gr. “ Foreclose,'' to close before something can get in," &c.

Now, foreclose is meant here to be derived from fore = before and close, with the former of which it has nothing to do. It is the 0. F. for-clos, fors-clos (Lat. foris clausus] shut out. The following remark of Voltaire, quoted by Burguy, Gram. II., p. 128, will explain the word better :-“On arrive aux portes d'une ville fermée, on est quoi ? ... Nous n'avons plus de mot pour exprimer cette situation. Nos pères disaient forclos; ce mot très-expressif n'est demeuré qu'au barreau ; c'est dommage.”

Sometimes, again, a special form is quoted which is either incorrect, or not to the purpose, or both. Ex. gr. “Power,'rule, &c. [Norm. povaire, povare; Lat. posse, contr.of potesse-potis, able (akin to Sanskrit pati, ruler)-pa, to rule, and esse, to be].”

Now the more simple Norman form, and that with which our English word is immediately connected, is the dissyllable poer, from the Romance form potere.

These few instances will suffice to show the perfunctory manner in which the etymological study of our language has been carried on in this direction. But surely sufficient advance has been made in the comparative study of languages to admit of a removal of similar time-honoured forms, which are now mere absurdities. The interest and utility of a careful investigation of the Norman-French, which was current so long in England, could hardly be overrated, and there is, perhaps, room for astonishment that no scholar has taken in hands a subject so virgin, and so likely to afford a rich harvest of positive and appreciable gain.



• This popular etymology is interesting enough, but very objectionable. The classic languages are still subjected to the process. I doubt whether the old y ñ lg' öo wp would not still pass


sound etymology for répupa. So Paley, in his notes to the Choëphoræ 87, on davloi, says, word is probably from 8à, and "! It really is = δα(σ)υλός, from δασύς.

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