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Middle English Vocabulary Challenge (MEVC): Whitsun Edition!


May 23 2021, 6:21pm

Post #1 of 17 (1257 views)
Middle English Vocabulary Challenge (MEVC): Whitsun Edition! Can't Post

It's been a while since we've played this game and I've long wanted to do one on Whitsun aka Pentecost.

Why? Well, our Professor worked a great deal with the Medieval poem Sir Gawain & The Green Knight, publishing both Middle English (ME), and Contemporary English versions; Tolkien's earliest published work (afaik) was A Middle English Vocabulary, and his ME "Sir Gawain" contains an exhaustive glossary; Gawain was one of the Knights of the Round Table; and finally, according to tradition, every year at the feast of Pentecost Arthur's Knights took their oaths anew:

"The king...charged [the knights] never to do outrageousity nor murder, and always to flee treason; also, by no mean to be cruel, but to give mercy...and always to do ladies, damosels, and gentlewomen succor...Also, that no man take no battles in a wrongful quarrel for no law, ne for no world’s goods. Unto this were all the knights sworn of the Table Round, both old and young. And every year were they sworn at the high feast of Pentecost." (Le Morte d'Arthur as cited here.)

... short answer: why not?

The Rules:

This is a guessing game, so 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!

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

1. kenne, v.
2. ŝaȝe, conj.
3. vpryse, v.
4. sister-sunes, n. pl.
5. iuge, v.
6. felaȝschip, n.
7. Ȝerne, v.
8. ŝouȝt, n.
9. feruent, adj.
10. bytyde, v.

The words come from either (or both) of the following works:

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.)

Some advice:

Regarding the characters ŝ and ȝ: the first (thorn) can usually be read as "th," the second (yogh) "gh," but also "g" as in "gate" or "z" as in "hazy" (which is apt, especially when you also have to consider the varied pronunciations of: i, sometimes said like j or y; v, sometimes said like u or f; f and w, sometimes said as v; and u also sometimes said as v). Riddles in the dark indeed!

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 familiarity with the ordinary machinery of expression..."

Don't miss this chance to schyne! Answers will be posted by week's end!

(This post was edited by SirDennisC on May 23 2021, 6:34pm)


May 23 2021, 9:18pm

Post #2 of 17 (1176 views)
I think I have a few of them. [In reply to] Can't Post

I have some guesses:

4. sister-sons; nephews.
6. fellowship
8. thought
10. betide; will happen to



May 23 2021, 9:53pm

Post #3 of 17 (1185 views)
Couldn't resist this [In reply to] Can't Post

Just by coincidence I spent this afternoon re-editing the audio files for my HS-level lesson in Chaucer and Middle-English, and then this appears!

Not that any of the words in my lesson's vocab overlap with this list (that would be too easy), but at least I've spent the last hour or two with Middle-English poetry ringing in my ears...

So, let's give it the old high school try.

1. kenne, v. - to know
2. ŝaȝe, conj. - though
3. vpryse, v. - to apprise
4. sister-sunes, n. pl. - sister-sons, nephews
5. iuge, v. - to judge
6. felaȝschip, n. - fellowship
7. Ȝerne, v. - to garner
8. ŝouȝt, n. - thought
9. feruent, adj. - fervent
10. bytyde, v. - betide

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May 24 2021, 2:22am

Post #4 of 17 (1163 views)
I imagine "reckon" may come from kenne as both mean to know [In reply to] Can't Post



May 24 2021, 11:02am

Post #5 of 17 (1143 views)
So, I avayl meself of Sir's helpful hints and gesse: [In reply to] Can't Post

1. to know
2. though (or thus?)
3. apprise (or appraise?)
4. nephews
5. to judge
6. fellowship!
7. to journey
8. thought
9. fervent
10. betide

Thank you, Rodgers and Hammerstein!

I am sixty(+) going on seventy.
I know that I'm naive.
Fellows I meet may tell me I'm sweet
And willingly I believe. Angelic

I am sixty(+) going on seventy
Innocent as a rose.
Bachelor dandies
Drinkers of brandies
What do I know of those? Evil

Totally unprepared am I
To face a world of Men.
Timid and shy and scared am I
Of things beyond my ken. Wink

I need someone younger and wiser
Telling me what to do...oooo.
You are ...something going on something,
I'...ll depe....end on youuuuu!

Ok, this is waaaay too silly for a serious academic discussion, but it's always a good time when you show up, Sir D, and a little singing was definitely called for.
Cheers, freend!


May 24 2021, 9:00pm

Post #6 of 17 (1140 views)
No sucker better try to succour you! [In reply to] Can't Post

The Arthur quote notwithstanding, I wince now whenever that tune pops into my head (which is more often than you might think, having played Rolf in a high school production oh so many years ago!)

Hey Lis, always a pleasure seeing my favourite Hobbit cast member! I hope you don’t mind me saying here, for everyone’s benefit, that most (but not all) of the challenge words have been guessed in the posts made so far: two, maybe three, have been said incorrectly. May this encourage everybody who still wants to have at thee... it... thing!


May 25 2021, 12:02am

Post #7 of 17 (1122 views)
Poor deluded Rolf! "Fair speech may hide a foul heart." [In reply to] Can't Post

Misguided youth! But you would not have been so easily duped, I trowe. You escaped his fate, and no doubt those stage performances for your peers served as a useful cautionary example to them of the dangers of such unquestioned loyalty as his. So, no more wincing, sir knight!
Or was it the dancing that causes current cringe?


May 25 2021, 12:07am

Post #8 of 17 (1118 views)
Trying #3 again: [In reply to] Can't Post

3. vpryse, v. = uprise? i.e. stand up, wake up, rebel, set the bread dough to rise in a warm spot?

(This post was edited by Lissuin on May 25 2021, 12:09am)

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May 25 2021, 12:16am

Post #9 of 17 (1121 views)
Feasting on an elder tongue! [In reply to] Can't Post

Pentecost was once one of the great feasts, but is so oft forgot these days!

Diolch for another vocabulary quiz! So familiar some seem, and some I deem nought:

1. kenne, v. - To know, to understand
2. ŝaȝe, conj. - Though, although
3. vpryse, v. - To prise, to force open; or is this, to surprise?
4. sister-sunes, n. pl. - Sister-sons, the sons of one's sister, and deemed definitely blood relations
5. iuge, v. - To judge
6. felaȝschip, n. - Fellowship? Is it really?
7. Ȝerne, v. - To yearn, to want
8. ŝouȝt, n. - Thought
9. feruent, adj. - Violent?
10. bytyde, v. - Betide, to bring tidings?


"I desired dragons with a profound desire"


May 25 2021, 12:45am

Post #10 of 17 (1113 views)
Another go at #10: [In reply to] Can't Post

10. bytyde, v. = to mean
The bit of Swedish I learned while living there - where "bytyda" means "mean" - suddenly popped into my head. Mayhap it be a borrowing from those Viking invaders?

We are going to get your list up to 10/10, Sir D!

(This post was edited by Lissuin on May 25 2021, 12:49am)


May 25 2021, 12:39pm

Post #11 of 17 (1087 views)
Syghte unsene [In reply to] Can't Post

I haven't read anything in Middle English for a while, but here goes:
  1. to know
  2. though
  3. to rise up
  4. nephews (sons of one's sister/s)
  5. to judge
  6. fellowship
  7. to desire (yearn for)
  8. thought
  9. fervent
  10. to happen (betide)

I avoided reading the orthography/pronunciation guide before guessing. I probably wouldn't have come up with that guess for #2 if I hadn't seen it was a conjunction. For #5 I had trouble thinking of a verb. I kept thinking of nouns or adjectives related to youth or yew trees.

Hêlâ Auriwandil, angilô berhtost,
oƀar Middangard mannum gisandid!


May 25 2021, 2:49pm

Post #12 of 17 (1096 views)
Such a vulgar expression! [In reply to] Can't Post

The entry for "reckon" at the Online Etymology Dictionary, says in part: 'In I reckon the sense is "hold as a supposition or opinion, regard, consider as being," and the expression, used parenthetically, dates from c. 1600 and formerly [see full entry, c1200 through 1550s] was in literary use (Richardson, Swift, Jowett, etc.), but came to be associated with U.S. Southern dialect and thereafter was regarded by Anglophiles as provincial or vulgar.'

Yet, I love the word, as I reckon Tolkien did. If memory serves, he gave the word to our heroes to say more than a few times: see Gramma's BS post here, for instance. It does seem to add rustic charm to such lofty sayings as: 'For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. [Romans viii.18] (Also cited at the Etymology link). However, "reckon" does not appear to be related to "kenne," which I will have more to say about soon.

(This post was edited by SirDennisC on May 25 2021, 2:53pm)


May 26 2021, 1:24am

Post #13 of 17 (1080 views)
**This post contains quiz spoilers** [In reply to] Can't Post

Half a fortnight is a long time to wait for answers so I'm calling it a bingo. Well said Hasuwandil, you got them all! Lacking any context other than being on a list of ME words, I hoped indicating parts of speech for each word would help--so glad it did!

Speaking of context, and owing to such I reckon, in both works our Professor glossed "kenne" as "v. to teach;" only in Sisam (i.e. A Middle English Vocabulary) does he also gloss "kenne" as "v. to know."

Here are both entries (minus page references, largely meaningless without my editions in hand):

In Gawain: "kenne, v.to teach; entrust, commend (=BIKENNE); kende, pa. t. taught. [OE. cennan; ON. kenna.]"

In Sisam: "Ken, Kenne, v. to make known; to teach; to know, in daw to ken, to be known for a fool; will ȝe it ken, if you will recognize the fact; understand; pp. (well) known. [OE cennan, prob. infl. by senses of ON. kenna.] Cf. Knowe(n)."

As for the other list words, "Ȝerne" and "vpryse" gave the most trouble (perhaps owing to my hastily written pronunciation guide), while "felaȝschip" and "sister-sunes" were easier, especially in these parts: most of our friends are familiar with Theoden's term for Eomer (see Gramma's BS post here); oh and why not? for more about sister-sons see noWizardme's post here, and surrounding posts. I tried to find a reference to Thorin applying the term to Kili and Fili, but to no avail (though he does say something to the effect that they are his nephews, the sons of his sister Dís).

Thank you to everyone who played, and has yet to play!

(This post was edited by SirDennisC on May 26 2021, 1:36am)

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May 26 2021, 2:14am

Post #14 of 17 (1062 views)
The closest reference [In reply to] Can't Post

to "sister-son" in The Hobbit is from "The Journey Home": "Fili and Kili had fallen defending him with shield and body, for he was their mother's elder brother." Alas, you are right, the term "sister-son" is found nowhere in that story.

That's interesting about "kenne" being also "to teach"! But then, it does seem logical that teaching and knowing would go hand-in-hand.


"I desired dragons with a profound desire"


May 26 2021, 2:20pm

Post #15 of 17 (1046 views)
Forsooth, and what of commend? [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien glossed kenne as "commend" as well. It would be unseemly to commend someone whose qualities you did not know. There is also the sense when commending someone or something that it is to make [their quality or some attribute] known; and to make known, said plainly, is to teach.

Dernwyn, I always value your reflections in these threads; and for the record, you were the first to identify yearn correctly!


May 26 2021, 2:32pm

Post #16 of 17 (1036 views)
Paper Bag Princesses and Explainers [In reply to] Can't Post

... is where I was leading with my comments. ;p

Speaking of the movie, apart from Rolf's ridiculous paternalism and misplaced self-confidence, the worst thing was the lighting, especially when Liesl shouts "Yippee!"

It is a catchy tune though, and I thank ye for the sentiment.

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May 28 2021, 2:02am

Post #17 of 17 (1010 views)
Really! [In reply to] Can't Post

All I did was say it outloud! Laugh

But I blew it with "feruent", forgetting the u/v similarity.

I do enjoy your Middle English "quizzes", they give the brain a nice workout! Smile


"I desired dragons with a profound desire"


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