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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
** Founders' Day XVIII Middle English Vocabulary Challenge!


Apr 26 2017, 5:05am

Post #1 of 16 (2258 views)
** Founders' Day XVIII Middle English Vocabulary Challenge! Can't Post

The Reading Room is too stuffy they say, the Reading Room has no interest in diversions, amusements, pastimes, nor games of any sort they say...

(not even a lively match of table top miniatures?)

Warhammer Bretonnian Green Knight

...well I say get this party started, yo!

As with MEVCs of yore, follows is a list of ten words drawn from two of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle English glossaries:

A) A Middle English Vocabulary, by J.R.R. Tolkien, as published in Sisam, Kenneth, ed. Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose, London: Oxford University Press, 1955; and

B) The Glossary published in Tolkien & Gordon ed. Sir Gawain & The Green Knight, London: Oxford University Press, 1963.

Note: publication dates are of my copies; yours may be as old as 1922 and 1925 respectively. That's right, that would put A Middle English Vocabulary among Tolkien's earliest published works.

The Rules (or why we can't have nice things):

This is a guessing game, sooo, if you have have access to the glossaries please leave them on the shelf until after you make your post. As always, no answers in subject lines please!

Have at Thee:

For each of the following, please provide a contemporary word or definition as you deem appropriate.

1. harnays
2. strenkşe
3. cheualry
4. lowable
5. schylde
6. knȝtyly
7. Ȝelde
8. şryue
9. swerd
10. soşe

Some advice:

Regarding the characters ş and ȝ, the first (thorn) can usually be read as "th," the second (yogh) "gh." At the end of words ȝ often sounds the same as the letter "z."

When it comes to Middle English, NEB once shared this advice from NZ Strider: "Try reading Middle English aloud while looking at the text. A few words that your eye misses your ear will catch."

Finally, Professor Tolkien, in his explanatory note to A Middle English Vocabulary writes: "A good working knowledge of Middle English depends less on the possession of an abstruse vocabulary than on the ordinary machinery of expression..."

Tarry not! Answers will be posted by week's end!

(This post was edited by SirDennisC on Apr 26 2017, 5:18am)


Apr 26 2017, 8:58am

Post #2 of 16 (2193 views)
*Raises hand....."Please Sir, please sir...." [In reply to] Can't Post

Are you asking us to guess the correct meaning? Or to be creative? Or both? Crazy

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood and every spring
there is a different green. . .

Forum Admin / Moderator

Apr 26 2017, 1:16pm

Post #3 of 16 (2184 views)
Whanne that Aprille... [In reply to] Can't Post

Or something like that, it's been decades since I last read Chaucer! Laugh

Okay, let's see what these sound like:

1. harnays - harness, as for a horse.

2. strenkşe - strength, might

3. cheualry - chivalry

4. lowable - lovable? Did they even think anything was lovable back then?

5. schylde - shield

6. knȝtyly - Actress in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Also, happening every late evening (night).

7. Ȝelde - Origin of the Legend of Zelda game. Or halt, "yield".

8. şryue - thrive, grow. (What did they use for "u" back then?)

9. swerd - dark, of darkness (not necessarily "black")

10. soşe - truth, as in "sooth", soothsayer, "In sooth I know not why I am so sad".

Well! Did I give you a chuckle for the day, SirD? Smile


"I desired dragons with a profound desire"


Apr 26 2017, 1:40pm

Post #4 of 16 (2179 views)
'Ask not the elves for advice, because they will tell you both 'yes' and 'no'.' [In reply to] Can't Post

Both if you can manage it Laugh


Apr 26 2017, 1:47pm

Post #5 of 16 (2180 views)
So close (careful, **quiz spoiler** within) [In reply to] Can't Post

You made 8 correct guesses. Well done!

For number 10, I would also have accepted "for soothe my whizzle."


Apr 26 2017, 3:28pm

Post #6 of 16 (2177 views)
Forsooth and verily..... [In reply to] Can't Post

1. This fine harnays joins the ox to the plough.
2. My strenkşe is as the strength of ten, because my heart is pure
3. The age of
cheualry is long gone
4. He's a
lowable rogue
5. A
schylde maiden of Rohan
6. Surname of the hero in Jane Austen's Emma (almost)
7. "How much will this field
8. If you don't water the plants, they won't şryue.
9. I would never use a swerd to cut the sward
10. For
soşe and verily!

[harness, strength, chivalry, loveable, shield, knightly, yield, thrive, sword, sooth]

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood and every spring
there is a different green. . .

(This post was edited by dormouse on Apr 26 2017, 3:30pm)


Apr 26 2017, 3:57pm

Post #7 of 16 (2163 views)
I've read enough Malory and Chaucer to take a few wild stabs... [In reply to] Can't Post

1. harness
2. strength
3. chivalry
4. lovable
5. shield
6. knightly
7. geld
8. thrive
9. sword
10. south

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters, these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. -Psalm 107


Apr 26 2017, 4:08pm

Post #8 of 16 (2165 views)
Nicely done! [In reply to] Can't Post

9 out of 10, plus 1 for making me smile. Laugh

It could be argued that the one you missed, indeed the one everyone has missed so far, is correct. But the word we're coming up with doesn't quite grasp the original meaning. (I'd say more but spoilers is as spoilers are, for now)


Apr 26 2017, 4:11pm

Post #9 of 16 (2162 views)
A worthy showing of any knight [In reply to] Can't Post

You achieved 7 out of 10, but falling prey to the one the others have missed as well (see my reply to dormouse just above your post). So we may yet award 8, after much debate I'm certain.

Thanks for playing!

(This post was edited by SirDennisC on Apr 26 2017, 4:13pm)


Apr 27 2017, 2:22am

Post #10 of 16 (2142 views)
OK I'll try [In reply to] Can't Post

How hard can it be, she sayeth, forsooth.


1. harnays --harness
2. strenkşe --strength
3. cheualry --chivalry
4. lowable --hmmm. Something about law or allowed. Allowable?
5. schylde --shield
6. knȝtyly --knightly
7. Ȝelde --yield?? geld so gilt or something like gilt??
8. şryue --thrive
9. swerd --sword
10. soşe --sooth

I don't actually speak Middle English. I guess that shows.


"an seileachan"

"A safe fairyland is untrue to all worlds." JRR Tolkien, Letters.


Apr 27 2017, 2:30am

Post #11 of 16 (2142 views)
9 of 10, and [In reply to] Can't Post

where all have stumbled so far (no. 4) you at least tweaked that something was fyshey there. "Don't speak Middle English," my Aunt Fanny!


Apr 27 2017, 2:35am

Post #12 of 16 (2134 views)
put an apostrophe in front of number 4 and it could be [In reply to] Can't Post

Southern American English for "allowable" (as in, "Why bless your heart, I guess goin' barefoot is 'lowable 'round here, yes ma'am")

Just saying.



"an seileachan"

"A safe fairyland is untrue to all worlds." JRR Tolkien, Letters.


Apr 27 2017, 4:02am

Post #13 of 16 (2135 views)
My Brain Hurts! [In reply to] Can't Post

I think I just threw my fontal lobe! ;)

This was some serious wordage!! OMG! But I took a flying shot at them... and found I was having some serious fun with it!

Most excellent game! Thanks so much :D

1. harnays – harness – sportswear for horses, oxen, or mules
2. strenkşe – strength - power
3. cheualry – chivalry – classiness ;)
4. lowable – liable? - responsible to fulfill something?
5. schylde – shield – a wooden or metal portable barrier for protection against incoming obstacles, water or heat... normally worn strapped to one's arm.
6. knȝtyly – knightly – a warrior who serves and/or fights for those they serve
7. Ȝelde – Salad – lots of greens
8. şryue – brew – beer, ale, or other serious thirst quencher
9. swerd - sword – Strider's weapon of choice ;)
10. soşe – frozen dessert




We have been there and back again.

TIME Google Calendar

6th draft of TH:AUJ Geeky Observations List - November 28, 2013
4th draft of TH:DOS Geeky Observations List - May 15, 2014

5th draft of TH:BotFA Geeky Observations List - January 30, 2015

TORn's Geeky Observations Lists for LotR and The Hobbit


Apr 28 2017, 12:47am

Post #14 of 16 (2107 views)
I don't think they had frozen anything back then, [In reply to] Can't Post

...except maybe in winter... which is when Sir Gawain and the Green Knight takes place... you may be right!


May 5 2017, 9:16pm

Post #15 of 16 (2004 views)
i'll give it a go... [In reply to] Can't Post

1. harnays - harness/tack
2. strenkşe - strength
3. cheualry - jewlery
4. lowable - permissible
5. schylde - shield
6. knȝtyly - knightly
7. Ȝelde - payment?
8. şryue -
9. swerd - sword
10. soşe -

mostly me guessing based on what they sound like..


May 19 2017, 3:12am

Post #16 of 16 (1850 views)
Not bad **answers within** [In reply to] Can't Post

I think most of us who played noticed that most of the words pertained to knightly culture (which makes sense now that I think about it, given the works the glossaries are made from).

1. Harness/tack
2. Strength
3. Chivalry
4. Praiseworthy*
5. Shield
6. Knightly
7. Yield
8. Thrive
9. Sword
10. Sooth/truth

* so this is the one that gave everyone difficulty. I'm thinking that "lowable" became "laudable" somewhere along the way. Or perhaps it always was laudable but spelled oddly? ** consults online etymological dictionary **

Okay, I'm back. According to this: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=Laud "allow" used to mean commend or praise, and is related to laud. Right click the link for a more complete (and decidedly lowable) explanation.

In any event "lovable" hints at an aspect of "praiseworthy" and is closer to the ME word, but not all that is praiseworthy is loveable, present company excluded of course.

Thanks for playing!

(This post was edited by SirDennisC on May 19 2017, 3:22am)


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