Hughes, Thistles and the Origins of English
kind of words does Hughes use?
some up in an etymological dictionary. Where do they
first three lines have been done for you:
Key: OE = Old English; ME = Middle English.
(ME, C12th) the rubber (discovered in C18th)
tongues (OE tunge) of cows (OE cu)
and the hoeing (hoe ME C14th) hands
(OE hand) of men (OE menn)
(OE žistel) spike (ME spyk C13th) the
summer (OE sumor) air (ME, from Latin/Greek)
crackle (OE cracian - to crack) open
(OE open) under (OE under) a blue
(ME C13th bleu)-black (OE blęc) pressure
(C14th ME from French/Latin).
from 'rubber' all these words were in use by the time of Chaucer.
Excluding 'and' and 'the' (also Old English), ten of the 17
words checked were Old English and used in the time of Beowulf.
Now continue checking the rest of the poem
speaking Scandinavian languages - Norwegian, Swedish and Danish
- can immediately recognise many words in this poem. A Norwegian
speaker found an amazing 36 familiar words, including:
blood - blod
frost - frost
up - opp
over - over
stiff - stiv
same - samme
tongue - tung
weapon - våpen
summer - sommer
links still exist. Old English includes both words that came
(with other invaders) from the same sources as the Scandinavian
words and words that the Vikings brought themselves. Old English
itself is an interweaving of languages. There is nothing 'pure'
to Ted Hughes - he has made his vocabulary fit his invasion
do you notice about the language of his other poems
The poems of other modern writers
a contrast to the vocabulary of Ted Hughes, look at the passage
in Samuel Johnson.
find out more about Old English, go to the Beowulf
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