Thanks for joining me on Peg’s Blog Crawl! Stay with the group and you’ll have a great time. Everyone who comments will be entered in a drawing for Peg’s new release, THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY (LL Publishing), and other interesting giveaways.
The Post- Why Do We Say That? Part I
You learn the secret of time travel and decide to visit someone from British history, like Elizabeth I, Macbeth, Thomas Becket, or Boudicca. Forget the fact that the food will gross you out or that bathrooms as you know them are nonexistent. You will be unable to ask for the chicken instead of the boiled eels or for directions to the outhouse. You will not comprehend what they say, and vice versa.
The language we call English has been around since the middle of the fifth century, but spoken language changes constantly. What we know today as English is not what it used to be. Old English “Hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon!” (From BEOWULF: “How the heroes valor performed!”) is pretty much unintelligible without tutoring in its sounds and meanings. What pronunciation does one give to a ð, anyway? (Answer: a breathy th sound, such as in the word “thin”.)
Middle English “And at a knyght than wol I first bigynne” (CHAUCER: “And at a knight then will I first begin.”) has words we recognize on paper, but when it is spoken, we’re lost. For example, in the word “knyght”, all the letters were pronounced, so it would be “k-neecht”, with the ch a growl in the back of the throat that sounds like a phlegm problem. Since written language seldom keeps up with pronunciation changes, we ended up with silent letters and confusion. (Is it “in-ter-est-ing” or “in-tres-ting” at your house?)
Modern English is over five hundred years old, and Shakespeare is considered a writer of Modern English. “Really?” You might ask. Yes. We recognize most of the words he used, and the sentence structure, though eccentric, is decipherable. Hearing Shakespeare speak would be problematic, however. For example, what we call "wind", the air that blows around us, was pronounced like "wind", as in to wind up a music box. With differences in pronunciation, inflection, and syntax added to the speed of spoken language, we’d be lost in the Elizabethan world, at least for the first few days.
So why do we say things the way we do? In some ways, we’re lucky. English has more words than any other major language, so nuances of expression are possible and varied. As conquerors and visitors came in, we often simply tacked their language onto what was already there. After the Norman Conquest in 1066, for example, the Saxons were a defeated people, living close to the land. We use their terms for animals on the hoof, like "deer" and "swine". The Norman conquerors, however, gave us the words used for those same animals when they are served at dinner: "venison" and "pork".
English today is a blend of its ancient roots, modern life, and foreign phrases we adopted or adapted. Readers hope writers use the language well, and that will be the subject of this Blog Crawl: the good, the bad, and the ungrammatical. Follow the Pathway, and tomorrow we’ll take up the topic, “Slowing Readers=Bad Policy.”
The Poser: Name three books/series in which the protagonist meets a famous person from history. (Your comments on this or any other aspect of my post will enter you in prize drawings.)
The Prizes-Weekly prizes (your choice of THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY in e- or print format) will be drawn from the names of those who comment on the blogs as we go, either answering the daily question or adding to/commenting on the information in the post. Comment once/day, but the first commenter each day gets entered twice in the drawing on Saturday!
The Pitch: THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY, #1 in The Dead Detective Mysteries-paranormal.
Tori Van Camp wakes in a stateroom on a cruise ship with no memory of booking a cruise, but she does have a vivid recollection of being shot in the chest. Determined to find out what happened and why, Tori enlists the help of an odd detective named Seamus. Together they embark on an investigation like nothing she’s ever experienced. Death is all around her, and unless they act quickly, two people she cares about are prime candidates for murder.
The Perpetrator: Peg Herring is a writer of historical and contemporary mysteries. She loves everything about publishing, even editing (most days). Peg’s historical series, The Simon and Elizabeth Mysteries, debuted in 2010 to great reviews. The second in this series will be available in November from Five Star.
The Pathway: The next entry, “Slowing Readers=Bad Policy” at http://candidcanine.blogspot.com
on Feb 2nd.