old english expressions

wretch   Tue Mar 03, 2009 3:10 am GMT
You know how English has a bunch of Latin expressions like 'par exelence' and 'ad hominem' that people shove in the middle of sentences in a bid to sound clever? Does English also retain any expressions straight out of Old English or at least Middle English? Or were those languages not cool enough?
Uriel   Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:48 am GMT
Sure they were. We still use their cuss words, for instance.

shit (v.)
O.E. scitan. The noun is O.E. scitte "purging;" sense of "excrement" dates from 1585, from the verb.

cunt (n.)
First known reference in Eng. is said to be c.1230 Oxford or London street name Gropecuntlane, presumably a haunt of prostitutes. Avoided in public speech since 15c.; considered obscene since 17c.

prick (n.)
prick Look up prick at Dictionary.com
O.E. prica (n.) "point, puncture, particle;" prician (v.) "to prick," from W.Gmc. *prikojanan (cf. Low Ger. pricken, Du. prikken "to prick"); Dan. prikke "to mark with dots," Swed. pricka "to point, prick, mark with dots" are probably from Low German. Meaning "pointed weapon, dagger" is first attested 1552. Earliest recorded use for "penis" is 1592.

Online Etymology Dictionary
Robin Michael   Tue Mar 03, 2009 11:37 am GMT
Some Common Expressions


As the Crow Flies -
When lost or unsure of their position in coastal waters, ships would release a caged crow. The crow would fly straight towards the nearest land thus giving the vessel some sort of a navigational fix. The tallest lookout platform on a ship came to be know as the crow's nest.
Damian in Edinburgh   Tue Mar 03, 2009 11:51 am GMT
In his diary Samuel Pepys used the word "shit" quite frequently as the word was not considered quite as "taboo" as it is today in standard everyday speech in "polite" company. I can remember one entry in his diary when he said that he stopped off to "take a shit" while on the way to meet someone in his office in Cheapside (a street in what is now the City of London - the inner core of London itself and now a financial and commercial area, independent of the Metropolitan area.

Anyway, shit is not considered all that offensive is it? How many days pass without you hearing some guy yell it out full blast in your average busy office when something goes even mildly pear shaped?

We all use Latin expressions at some time or another, some more frequently than others - they are quite effective in the way they get a point across without us scrabbling about in our heads for the English words with the same meaning.

I could go on ad nauseam about this but I don't have the time right now....tempus fugit.

The legal profession is awash with Latin expressions.
Damian in Edinburgh   Tue Mar 03, 2009 12:20 pm GMT
PS: Many British towns and cities still make use of their original Roman Latin names in much of their local terminology.....for example in the names of streets or buildings or shops or theatres etc.

I live in the city of Dunedinum, in the country of Caledonia, and the Latin word for anything connected with this city is Edinensis. Away to the west you come to the city of Glascouium - just follow what's left of the Antonine Wall - not much of it left but it has been there since for 1,800 years.

Go down to the city of York, for example, and you will find the words "Ebor" or "Eboracum" everywhere in the names of such establishments and streets, etc. Likewise in Chester where the name "Deva" abounds. Have tea in the "Dubris Tea Rooms" down in Dover, and over in Wales visit the "Segontium Centre" in the Welsh town of Caernarfon.

Bath has "Aquae Sulis" all over the place, and you will find "Londinium" in the City of London, and it's no accident that people from Manchester are called "Mancunians" as it was the Romans who founded the settlement of Mancunium. Down on the Isle of Wight you will see "Vectis" all over the place.

That's just a few of very many across this country......littered with so many fond memories of our hardy Roman conquerors. Those guys set the foundation stones for so much of what is now part of our culture and society.

When my mate and I went down to Cornwall for part of that long journey we followed the dead straight modern road which now runs along the exact route of the original Fosse Way - or Foss Way according to some sources - a highway built by the Romans, slashing right across the English Midlands from north east to south west..it now has the less romantic name the A429 for general motoring purposes. So as you would expect you see the name "Fosse" here and there all along the length of that road.
Leasnam   Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:42 pm GMT
<<Sure they were. We still use their cuss words, for instance. >>

Come on now...be civil :-)

To tell the truth and give a true impression, Yes we do still use Old English phrases. In fact we speak the direct descendant of Old English, if you're an English speaker, everyday. The difference between the Old English and French/Latin phrases above is that the Old English phrases are unnoticeable because they require no special learning or memorization--and they have been tranlslated into Modern English, so they don't stick out as being so obviously foreign.

Now, we don't have any Old english phrases that I know of that are still in Old English form or in the Old English stage of the language: perhaps maybe for a few words like "wergild", "atheling" "kenning".

Some well known Old English phrases are "rule of thumb", "getting one's goat", "doom's day", and yes Uriel, "son of a bitch" (common North Germanic phrase:-), etc
Buddy   Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:04 pm GMT
<<Those guys set the foundation stones for so much of what is now part of our culture and society.

Yes, but it's not a direct link from them (Romans) to you (Modern British).

The Bible has a verse that says something along the lines of this: I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you have lived in them; you are eating of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant. So it is with the Brits and the former occupiers of their land the Romans.

Our ancestors inherited the Romans' ghost-towns. They did not found our societies and culture--they forfeited the structures upon which our ancestors capitalized, and they did this owing to their superior ingenuity and character.

Don't get it twisted into something it isn't for a fanciful notion
Guest   Tue Mar 03, 2009 7:00 pm GMT
I'd say we're more or less using them everyday, only morphed into modern English form.
wretch   Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:30 am GMT
I'm not talking about just words, or expressions using common modern English words. I'm talking about expressions taken straight out of another language or from a completely different parent language.

From Latin we have things like "ad hominem", and from French we have things like 'c'est la vie'. These expressions are unchanged from the original language as far as I know. Why do we have nothing unchanged from Old English?
Guest   Wed Mar 04, 2009 9:12 am GMT
Because they are more likely to have evolved with the language, when the root forms of the words are the same.
wretch   Wed Mar 04, 2009 9:41 am GMT
While we're at it, what other languages does English have EXPRESSIONS borrowed from? Straight out of the original language, but not just single words...

"Hasta la vista" is pretty widely known, "do svidaniya" probably somewhat less...
Skippy   Wed Mar 04, 2009 4:15 pm GMT
What about names of pubs? Sometimes those silly names have etymologies going back to at least Middle English pronunciation...
Leasnam   Wed Mar 04, 2009 5:58 pm GMT
<<Why do we have nothing unchanged from Old English? >>

Probably because it's too close not to translate it.

For instance, if we borrowed Old English "domes daeg"--it sounds too much like "Doom's Day" and we would automatically start using the translated version.

Old English "thaet is" (cf. Latin phrase "id est") sounds too much like Modern English "that is", etc. Old English just isn't different enough from English to substantiate separate reserved forms like Latin.
Guest   Wed Mar 04, 2009 7:25 pm GMT
Are there any well-known expressions in Old English that haven't survived into modern English?
Joel   Wed Mar 04, 2009 8:59 pm GMT
I imagine some of the basics such as: "because" or "of course" that are combinations of Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman derived words developed in Middle English and replaced existing terms. I'm sure many idiomatic expression have been lost too, since expressions found in 19th century are often no longer used: "wounded my vanity" today "hurt my feelings"