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Celtic etymologies for Old English cursung 'curse,' gafeluc 'javelin,' staer 'history,' syrce 'coat of mail,' and Middle English clog(ge) 'block, wooden shoe,' cokkunge 'striving,' tirven 'to flay,' warroke 'hunchback.'

THERE is at present no agreement about the etymology of late Old English curs and cursian, even though Tolkien accepted a derivation from the Old Irish verb cursaigim |I reprove'.(1) When Norman Davis revised Tolkien and Gordon's edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, he allowed this to stand in the glossary entry for corsed |cursed'.(2) Yet in his own glossarial work Davis stated the origin of Old English cursian to be |obscure'.(3) His caution is shared by recent lexicographers, who describe Old English curs as of |unknown origin'.(4) Nevertheless, at least one textbook accepts that cursian may be an Old English loan from Irish, dating from the seventh-century conversion of Northumbria.(5) Given this lack of unanimity, there is room for further discussion.(6)

Modern English curse and cursing go back to forms first attested in late Old English. Cursung figures in the Old Northumbrian gloss on the Lindisfarne and Rushworth Gospels, and the eleventh-century psalter gloss in London, British Library, MS Stowe 2; curs appears in certain charters, Wulfstan's Institutes of Polity, the eleventh-century gloss on Liber scintillarum in London, British Library, MS Royal 7 C.iv (formerly at Canterbury), and twelfth-century Peterborough additions to the Laud Chronicle; cursian in the Stowe gloss and Peterborough additions; and acursian in the Salisbury psaltergloss of c. 1100. The fact that the earliest English evidence is Northumbrian is significant, and consistent with the theory of Irish origin. It is also striking that in the anathemas of Old English writs, the sole instance of curs is in a twelfth-century forgery from Winchester. The implication seems to be of a Northern dialect form working its way south.(7)

How does the use of cursung and its associated forms compare with that of their Irish equivalents? The verb-noun cursagad |reprimand, reproof', and the verb cursagaid |corrects, chastises, rebukes', are attested in Irish from as early as the eighth-century Wurzburg glosses on St Paul's epistles. These gloss Romans 8:9, Vos autem in carne non estis, sed in spiritu, |according to the practice of every good preceptor, he praises and soothes before he reprimands (rochrsacha)'; 1 Corinthians 1:10, Obsecro autem vos fratres per nomen Domini nostri Iesu Christi, |He gives the name of "brothers" to them lest they should say the reproving (in cursachad) is out of hatred of them, but it is out of love of them'; 2 Thessalonians 3:11, Audivimus enim inter vos quosdam ambulare inquiete, |it was not on account of readiness to reproach you (far cursagtha) unless we should have heard evil tidings concerning you'; and 1 Timothy 5:20, Peccantes coram omnibus argue, |let as many as know their sin know their reprimanding (a ccursagad).'(8)

The Old Irish evidence leaves no doubt that cursagad was a term familiar to Irish monks in the century after Northumbria was converted. The ecclesiastical milieu of the word is further indicated by the fact that cursagad derives from Latin curas agere; and that it was associated with the Latin loan-forms maldachad |cursing' and bendachad |blessing', as shown by the misspelling cursachad (already found in the Wurzburg glosses), which later became standard.(9)

Since cursagad was a familiar term of ecclesiastical discipline, the word would be known in the Northumbrian Church, where as cursung it received the standard abstract affix -ung on the analogy of bletsung |blessing'. There is, however, one curious point. Throughout the medieval period to curse meant primarily |to excommunicate', as in the Chronicle for 1137, or The Owl and the Nightingale, or Henryson's Fables. This might mean either excommunicatio major, Henryson's |grit cursing', the severe penalty of exclusion from the community of the faithful, or excommunicatio minor, prohibition from receiving the sacraments.(10) This sense would be a natural development of the use of cursagad in the Wurzburg glosses for St Paul's reprimands. But in the Lindisfarne glosses cursung has developed from the idea of apostolic reprimand to the much more terrifying one, which Irish cursagad does not have, of the damnation of the soul. There cursung glosses such texts as Matthew 10:28, potius timete eum, qui potest et animam, et corpus perdere in gehennam. Within English, then, there was a sense development from that of (ecclesiastical) reprimand or censure or anathema to that of consignation to ultimate spiritual evil, or damnation. However, that detail provides no grounds for doubting the derivation of Old English cursung from Old Irish cursagad, as maintained by Tolkien.

Old English gafeluc "javelin": Old Irish gablach

Standard authorities show uncertainty on the etymology of Old English gafeluc "javelin". In its entry for gavelock, OED comments that gafeluc has the regular form for a diminutive of Old English gafel |fork', but that evidence to confirm that the word meant a |forked' weapon is lacking. Recent Oxford lexicography echoes this view.(11) OED also states that Old Norse gaflak, gaflok |javelin' probably derives from English; that Rudolf Thurneysen regarded Old French gavelot (> Middle High German gabilot), javelot, Italian giavelotto as of Celtic origin; but that the links between English, Celtic, and Romance forms of the word are unclear.

Campbell observes further that, while Max Forster accepted a British origin for Old English gafeluc, others have queried whether it is Celtic at all.(12) Despite such doubts, one textbook still regards gafeluc |small spear' as probably borrowed from Brittonic between 370 and 570.(13)

In short, the whole question is unresolved. Does fresh examination of the evidence, particularly in Welsh and Irish, shed light on the matter?

We may note first that gafeluc is a late, uncommon Old English form, occurring as a gloss on iaculo, sagitta, and (with the Old Norse loan arwe |arrow') catapulta, as well as in AElfric's account of St Edmund's murder by the Danes. |As if for sport, they shot at him with darts (mid gafelucum), until he was entirely covered with their missiles (mid heora scotungum), like the bristles of a hedgehog, just as Sebastian was.'(14) There is nothing to suggest Old English gafeluc was an early borrowing.

This accords with what is known of Welsh gaflach and Irish gablach, even though University of Wales lexicographers are undecided on whether the Welsh word is a loan from Irish or vice versa (in which case Welsh gaflach would have derived from Common Celtic (*)gablaccos |a forked weapon').(15) This uncertainty goes back to a dispute of Whitley Stokes and John Rhys in the 1890s; Stokes took the Irish word as a loan from Welsh, Rhys the opposite. Recent opinion supports Rhys, somewhat cautiously.(16)

But there can be little doubt that Welsh is here the borrower. Gaflach is unknown in early Welsh poetry, in spite of the superabundant evidence for Celtic weaponry there.(17) The word occurs only in prose, and after 1100. The hero of the twelfth-century romance Peredur spends his boyhood going to the forest each day |to play and to throw holly darts (gaflacheu kelyn)', until one day he sets off for Arthur's court, |a handful of sharp-pointed darts (gaflacheu blaenllym) in his hand'.(18) such statements denote not the traditional equipment of a champion, but small weapons suitable only for a boy or youth. Gaflach also figures in the Welsh translation (c. 1250-75) of La Geste de Boun de Hamtone (in an account of Bevis's tussle with a giant), and in the slightly later Welsh versions of tales from the Charlemagne cycle.(19) The fact that gaflach never occurs in Welsh poetry, and is never mentioned amongst the weapons of Welsh fighting men, strongly suggests it is a late loan from Irish.

Significant here is a passage in the biography of Gruffudd ap Cynan (d. 1137), king of Gwynedd, on the battle of 1081 at Mynydd Cam, somewhere in |the middle or the eastern end of the Presely range, not very far from the borders of Ceredigion'.(20) This account occurs in an early thirteenth-century translation of a Latin text (now lost) written after Gruffudd's death, but before 1170. Gruffudd has returned from Irish exile to land near St Davids with combined Danish, Irish, and Welsh forces; and his usurping enemies trembled when they saw the |sundry mighty hosts and troops of king Gruffudd and his ensigns before them, and the men of Denmark with their double-edged axes, and the javelin-equipped (gaflachauc) Irish with their knife-armed iron balls, and the men of Gwynedd with spears and shields'.(21) Here we have a clear indication that the Welsh saw the gaflach as a typical Irish weapon.

Evidence for the gablach (< gabul |fork') in Ireland is provided by early sources in Irish. The Royal Irish Academy's Dictionary quotes gablach from the ninth- or tenth-century mythological text Cath Maige Tuired, |The Battle of Moytura', in an allusion to sian. . . na foghaid ocus na ngabluch, |the sound . . . of the darts and the javelins' amongst the shouting and clashing and whistling and jingling and crashing of battle.(22) It also cites a reference to |spear and gablach' in an eleventh-century metrical tract drawing upon older material.(23) But a citation of gablach from the tale of Cano son of Gartnan, written in the late ninth century and revised in the early eleventh, has been explained by one editor as meaning not a forked spear, but a |forked branch'or sling.(24)

Less problematic are the dictionary's attestations for the combined forms fogablach and fogablaige |pronged'. These clearly refer to a forked spear. Conchobhar, king of Ulster, is described in the eight century tale of Intoxication of the Ulstermen as advancing with a |gold-hilted, embossed sword, a purple-bright, well-shaped spear in his white firm right hand, accompanied by its forked dart (foga fogablach)'.(25) In the ninth-century epic of the Cattle Raid of Cooley, Cu Chulainn's divine father Lug appears carrying a five-pointed spear and a forked javelin (foga fogablaigi), and this expression is paralleled in other Irish heroic texts.(26) It also occurs in the late twelfth-century Acallam na Senorach (the |Colloquy of the Ancients') and Irish version of Lucan's Pharsalia.(27)

The conclusion to draw from the above is that forked spears were known in Ireland from at least the eighth century until after the Norman invasion, but unfamiliar in Wales much before 1100 (after which at least one writer took them as an Irish weapon). This weakens any argument for taking Old English gafeluc as a loan from Welsh, especially at an early date. In any case, had a British form (*)gablaccos existed, the fact that cc developed to ch apparently by the middle or end of the sixth century effectively disproves Forster's derivation of English gafeluc from Brittonic. Amongst evidence that Brittonic cc > ch by the date of the earliest English loanwords is Old Northumbrian luh |loch, lake' (cf. Welsh llwch |lake, pool').(28) Yet this sound-change is not reflected in English gafeluc.

What seems to be the best interpretation of the evidence is that Old English gafeluc is a loan from Irish via Scandinavian (like Old English cros |cross'). This would explain why the word is unknown in early Old English; why, in his account of St Edmund's martyrdom, AElfric writes of the gafeluc as a Danish weapon; and why the word appears in an Old English gloss with arwe |arrow', known to be from Old Norse. Hiberno-Norsemen would easily have learnt the Irish word in their shifting alliances with native kings; indeed, the life of Gruffudd vividly portrays such combined Irish-Danish forces, the Irish with javelins, the Danes with double axes.

If this argument is correct, we can rewrite the etymology for Old Norse gaflak as well as for English gafeluc.(29) De Vries takes the Norse word as from English and the English from Welsh; but the evidence makes a derivation of the English from Norse, and Norse from Irish, more likely. If it is objected (cf. OED) that we do not know if forked javelins were used in late Anglo-Saxon England, we can reply that our knowledge of late Anglo-Saxon spears of any kind is poor, but that spearheads from pagan Anglo-Saxon graves include barbed darts, |designed as throwing spears and barbed to hinder removal from a wound or from a shield', which might be what the Battle of Maldon poet called a darod.(30) It was a darod thrown by a Dane which hit Byrhtnoth, enabling others to finish him off; and it is likely AElfric had similar Viking spears in mind when he described the death of St Edmund.

Old English staer |history': Middle Breton ster |history, meaning'

Staer |history', ultimately from Latin historia, has been listed amongst words |of seventh century introduction into English' borrowed from Irish during the conversion of Northumbria.(31) But this origin was challenged by Campbell, who provided another explanation for the anomalous development of Latin long o > ae: that West Saxon scribes may have assumed that Anglian ster (OE Bede) with e < oe had an long e, and that the spelling ae implies long ae, the West Saxon equivalent of long e (though Campbell notes the metrical difficulty his poses for laerig |part of a shield' < lorica).(32)

An Irish etymology for staer is certainly unacceptable, as the Old Irish form of the word is consistently stoir (Middle Irish stair).(33) This would not give English staer. Yet Campbell's intricate arguments also pose difficulties. There is thus room for a Cornish explanation of staer.

Final i-affection of o in Cornish and Breton gives e, but in Welsh either ei or y, as with (*)donio- > Cornish and Breton den |man', but Welsh dyn.(34) Latin historia therefore gave Middle Welsh ystyr, but Middle Breton ster.(35) South-West British or Cornish (*)ster would give the staer, ster and steor of the Martyrology, Old English Bede and Werferth's translation of Gregory's Dialogues (all Mercian texts), and the staerwritere of the Old English Bede and Orosius. In short, staer seems to be a fragment of evidence for Mercia's debt to the learning of South-West Britain.

Old English syrce |coat of mail': Welsh seirch |armour'

Syrce |shirt of mail' is a familiar word in Old English poetry, especially in combination with beadu-, here-, hioro-, and lic- in Beowulf. Yet its etymology is disputed. OED, s.v. sark, compares Old Norse serkr |shirt' (Swedish sark, Danish saerk), from (*)sarki-z, and adds that no non-Germanic cognates are known, Old Slavonic sraka |tunic' probably being a loanform. Recent lexicography similarly derives Norse serkr from (*)sarkiz, |from a base represented also by Old English serce, syrce, syr(i)c'.(36)

However, this etymology is challenged by others. Kiaeber thought syrce might be from Latin; Gordon described Norse serkr as from Latin sarcia; while de Vries, though relating serkr to English serc < medieval Latin sarcia < serica |seidenes gewand', nevertheless called the history of the word unclear.(37)

Given this disarray, and the fact that no cognate for Old English syrce occurs outside Scandinavian, it is worth investigating whether Old English syrce could be a borrowing from Welsh seirch |armour, harness', rather than a development of Germanic (*)sarkiz or direct loan from Latin sarcia. A case for this is suggested by sercae, glossing armilausia |tabard' in the late seventh century.(38) A century later the same lemma is glossed serce.(39)

Now, seirch is well attested in the earliest Welsh poetry, especially the Gododdin, commemorating a heroic but doomed attack by British warriors on Northumbrians about 600. The men of the Gododdin wore the llurig (< Latin lorica), a leather coat with iron pieces sewn on, for which another name was seirch, a loan from Latin sarcia < sarcio |I mend, repair'. Ifor Williams noted that these metal parts were called gemau |[fish-]scales', which might suggest the seirch was covered with small overlapping plates, rather than ring- or chain-mail. Seirch is also used of a horse's harns or traces, likewise made of leather with metal fittings. Williams also commented on the expression gwrmseirch in the Gododdin and later Welsh poetry, where he interpreted gwrm as |brown', referring to leather.(40) But later scholars have taken it as |blue' (as in English cairngorm), applied to the dark sheen of metal.(41) A brave warrior's seirch would also bear the colour of blood, as with Buddfan, son of Bleiddfan, whose |blood washed over his armour' (gorgolches e greu y seirch), an expression (Gododdin 290) curiously paralleled by swatfah syrce at Beowulf 1111.

While the importance of the seirch in battle is indicated by numerous references in Welsh battle-poems, its importance on the parade ground is also shown in Taliesin's elegy on Owein, prince of Rheged (the ancient British kingdom around Carlisle), which calls him 'a fine man in his many-coloured gear (amliw seirch), who gave horses to his dependants'. This poem may date from the late sixth century.(42) That the seirch was known in South Britain as well as the North is clear from an elegy, probably of the earlier seventh century, on Cynddylan of Powys, who brought back from a raid on Lichfield over a thousand cattle and eighty horses and their harness (seirch).(43) Another poem from Powys, of the later ninth century, mentions the dark trappings (gurumseirch) of Cynddylan and his fourteen steeds', now the booty of his English enemy.(44) The emphasis given to the seirch in these and later Welsh poems leaves no doubt that it was a prized possession.

General probability apart, there is evidence that the early Northumbrians also wore the seirch. In the Gododdin, we hear that Merin son of Madiain, |scatterer of the men of Deira', |used to trample on dark-blue armour (gwrymgaen) in the forefront of the army'.(45) This implies that Deirans wore the same dark-sheened armour as their British foes. A reference to the |mailcoat-stripping hand' (llaw luric wehyn) of the warrior Ywain supports this idea.(46) The expression means that Ywain was strong enough to rip away an enemy's battle-tunic with his hands alone, rather than that he went about looting armour from the dead (as menials are shown doing in the Bayeux Tapestry). The implication is that the English were as well-protected as their British opponents. They would hardly have made much progress in their conquests had they not been.

The development of Latin sarcia > Welsh seirch has long been understood.(47) But is it possible to say exactly when English sercae could have been borrowed from Brittonic? On the basis of the name ANATEMORI < British (*)Anatiomarus |Great-soul' in an inscription of c. 500 at Llanfaglan, just south of Caernarfon, Jackson argued that i-affection could have begun in Brittonic by the later fifth century.(48) English sercae is from Brittonic (*)serc-, the loan cannot predate that. On the other hand, it cannot postdate the process of spirantization whereby British rc > rch. Since this change is common to Welsh, Cornish, and Breton, it can hardly be later than the sixth century; yet the Gloucestershire place-name Turkdean, containing Old English (*)Turce, the equivalent of the Welsh river-name Twrch |boar', implies it was not complete by 577, when Gloucester, Cirencester, and Bath fell to the English.(49) However, phonology apart, it is improbable that the Anglo-Saxons had not learnt much about battle-armour considerably before 577. Sercae is thus likely to have first appeared in English in the late fifth century or early sixth.

If Old English sercae is a loan from late British (*)serc-, this would explain why the word has no cognate in West Germanic, and why it occurs as both a strong masculine a-noun and (as in the F-pinal-Erfurt glosses) a weak feminine. It also raises the possibility that Old Norse serkr is a loan from English, the Norse word in its turn giving Scottish English sark, Russian sorochka |shirt', Lithuanian sarkas |garment', and Finnish sarkki. Whether this is so may perhaps be determined by specialists in North Germanic and Slavonic. If the Modem Russian for |[night]-shirt' were found to have a British Celtic origin, it would be a surprising aspect of Welsh influence, but not without parallels.

English clog |block, wooden shoe': Welsh clog |stone, boulder'

The etymology of the English noun and verb clog has been unknown. Amongst early sources cited in OED, the sense |thick piece of wood'is clear, as in The Sowdone of Babylone (c. 1400), |With a Clog of an Oke he faught', and The Arrest of the Duke of Suffolk (1450), |Jack Napys, with his clogge, / Hath tied Talbot, oure gentill dogge' (accusing Suffolk, whose badge was a clog and chain of the kind worn by a tame ape, of impeding Talbot's war-effort against the French).(50) In these circumstances, a link of the English word with Welsh clog |rock, cliff, precipice Irish cloch |stone, rock', might seem farfetched.

Nevertheless, light is cast on the problem by OED's earliest citation for clog, from a polemic on women's fashions in London, British Library, MS Harley 2253. This warns evil women, |In helle / With deueles he shulle duelle, / For the clogges that cleueth by here chelle.'(51) The last line has puzzled scholars. OED interprets clog here as |a block or lump tied to anything for use or ornament', and chelle as an|?early variant of CHAVEL, now JOWL'; Dickins and Wilson take chelle as a scribal variant of kelle |woman's hair-net', and translate |because of the wooden ornaments which stick to their hairnets. But the poet, who does not mince his words elsewhere in the poem, means something much blunter than that. Clogges here must have the same meaning as in the fifteenth-century secular lyric beginning |May no man slepe in youre halle'.(52) The OED entry for |chell, -e' should therefore be deleted, and chelle in the Harley satire be regarded as a previously unnoticed transferred usage of Middle English chelle |vessel' < Old English cylle |leather bag, flagon, vessel'.

If an early sense of clog was that of OED, s.v. stone, I.11.a (earliest citation from the Peterborough Chronicle for 1154), a derivation from Welsh clog becomes easier. Does this tally with what we know of the Welsh word?

Although Irish cloch |stone' is well attested, as the Royal Irish Academy's Dictionary of the Irish Language (Dublin, 1913-76) shows, its Welsh cognate clog is rare in the literary language, though a common place-name element, where it usually has the sense |cliff, precipice'. The original sense is recorded in the dictionary of William Owen-Pughe (1759-1835): |a large stone, or a detached rock'.(53) It also appears in the Scottish place-name Clackmannan |stone of Manu', where the boulder itself (a former tribal meeting-place) still exists behind railings in the main street of the town.(54) Here the spellings Clac-, Clack-, indicate a source in the Cumbric equivalent of Welsh clog, rather than Gaelic cloch, clach (as in Clochmabenstane, site of a prehistoric stone circle near Dumfries).(55)

In the Welsh landscape clog |rock, cliff, clogfaen |boulder', clogftyn |cliff', and clogwyn |crag' are prominent features. Y Glog is a place name (attested in the twelfth century) in the Rhondda parish of Llanwynno; Clogfryn is a farm near Aberaeron, on the Cardiganshire coast; and Clocaenog (with unvoicing of g) is a hamlet near Betws-y-coed, in Snowdonia. In addition, penglog is standard Welsh for a skull (cf. Irish cloigeann |skull, head'), giving, with an old plural form, the place-name Penglogor |Skulls', near Denbigh.(56) The sense-progression here thus parallels that of English block, first attested with the slang sense |head' in 1635.

The evidence we have is, therefore, consistent with the borrowing of Welsh clog |stone', which must have been a common word, into non-literary English at an early date. The line |For the clogges that cleueth by here chelle' suggests that it remained a word of low status (like early English ball), which was not recorded in texts. In English the main sense of clog ultimately shifted from that of |[stone] block' to that of |[wooden] block', and the various meanings of the modem language. If this theory is correct, clog indicates (amongst other things) that the Celtic contribution to English of all periods may well be greater than has been realized.

Cokkunge |striving' in Hali Meidhad: a Welsh loanword?

The etymology of Middle English cocke |to fight, strive' and cokkunge |striving' is problematic. The earliest evidence occurs in a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 9:25 in Hali Meidhad: |None is crowned except whosoever fights faithfully in that fight, and with strong combating (cokkunge) overcomes herself'.(57) This is paralleled in London, British Library, MS Harley 2253, in a satire on fashion beginning |Lord that lenest us lyf ant lokest uch-an lede, / Forte cocke with knyf nast thou none nede'- that is, the Lord who guards each nation needs no physical means of defence.(58)

OED notes of the verb cock that, although the separate uses appear to come from the name of the fowl, this is doubtful for the earliest sense: Hali Meidhad uses a Pauline image for an anchoress's inner mortification, where the language of the cockpit is out of place. OED thus cites a conjectural comparison of cokkunge with Irish cog-aim |I war, I make war', stem in Old Irish coc-. This comparison appears unchanged in recent Oxford lexicography.(59)

Now, Old Irish contains a noun cath |battle', a verb cathaigid |gives battle', and a noun cocad |war, conflict' (from Common Celtic (*)konkatu-, and not a |stem'(*)coc-).(60) But OED's cogaim seems to be a ghost; in any case, an Irish form is unlikely in a Herefordshire text like Hali Meidhad. On the other hand, Irish cocad does have an exact Welsh cognate in cyngad |battle'. Hali Meidhad was written a few miles from Wales, and is known to contain the Welsh loanword cader |cradle' < cadeir.(61) Cokkunge may thus be explained as another, previously unrecognized, borrowing from Welsh.

This can be shown on both semantic and phonological grounds. Cyngad is an archaic form found only in early Welsh poetry. It occurs in two poems by Cynddelw (fl. c. 1155-1200): in the line glew glewrad gloew gyghad gyngwyt |hero of heroic grace in bright battle-attack' from an elegy on Owain Gwynedd (d. 1170); and ergyr waew kynkad ar ueirch kynkan |spear-thrust in strife from white-breasted steeds' from a praise poem to Madawg ap Maredudd, prince of Powys (d. 1160). It also figures in the line kynrabad kyncad wlad wletychu |ruling a domain by condition of battle' in a poem of c. 1180, composed by Gwynfardd Brycheiniog in honour of the Lord Rhys.(62)

Cyngad and cokkunge thus accord as regards meaning. There is no difficulty about transfer of a battle image to the trials of spiritual self sacrifice, since the Old Irish verb noun cathugud |act of fighting, battle' also means |testing, temptation': cf. Modem Irish Na lig sinn i gcathu |Lead us not into temptation.' To demonstrate a phonological link between cyngad and cokkunge is more difficult, but can be done. The fact that cyngad is rare in Welsh, is not used after 1200, and is archaic in origin, suggests that if it is the source of cokkunge, it would have entered English long before Hali Meidhad was written in the early thirteenth century. There is nothing to indicate a very recent borrowing.

The o of cokkunge poses no problem, since the weakly rounded obscure vowel in Old Welsh initial syllables (later commonly represented by y) was usually taken into English as a or o. This is seen in Cameleac, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle form for |Cyfeiliog', a bishop of Llandaff mentioned in an entry for 918; but it also appears in the English place-name forms Roden (east of Shrewsbury), Clodock and river Olchon (in Herefordshire, in the Black Mountains massif), and river Olway (near Raglan), all of Welsh origin. The last three may not have been borrowed by English until the Nortnan conquests of the late eleventh century.(63) The o of cokkunge could thus derive from the obscure vowel that gave the y of cyngad.

The medial consonants offer greater difficulties. British -nc- > Welsh -ng(h)- has been described in terms of a development to [n.sup.k]h by the early ninth century, and full absorption to nh in the ninth century.(64) If cyngad was not felt as a compound (thereby retarding this process), this would suggest cokkunge derived from a loan of no later than the ninth century, followed by loss of n, as sporadically elsewhere in Old English.(65) Finally, the affix -unge must be due to assimilation to the many Old English abstract nouns ending in -ung, perhaps especially costnung |temptation'.(66)

If Middle English cokkunge is here correctly derived from a Welsh word for battle, it adds to the tally of English military loanwords from Brittonic, like Old English mill[paep], prass, serc, truma, and trym. In later English cokkunge was associated with cock-fighting; but the evidence points to an original link with the uncertainties of life on the Welsh border, not with country sports. Herefordshire was a frontier zone long before Hali Meidhad was written, and the proximity of army camps and an enemy frontier must have left its mark on all aspects of life there: even, it seems, on a treatise on virginity for women religious.

Middle English tirve |strip, flay; overthrow': Welsh tryfu |wrench, turn'

Although OED quotes tirve |strip, flay' and |turn [upside down], topple over, fall down' from Havelok the Dane and The Destruction of Troy, associated with Lincolnshire and Lancashire respectively, these verbs are most familiar from the work of Chaucer and the Gawain-poet. Chaucer uses them at Canterbury Tales VIII.1171 and 1274 (in the Canon's Yeoman's Tale), where the first refers to the |fleecing' of a gullible client:

Til he had terved hym, koude he nat blynne;

As he did er -- the devel out of his skyn

Hym terve, I pray to God, for his falshede!(67)

The literal sense |to skin' occurs at Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 1921, in the aftermath of the fox-hunt,

Hor houndez pay ber rewarde,

Her hedez bay fawne and frote,

And sypen bay tan Reynarde,

And tyruen of his cote.(68) It also occurs at Cleanness 630, of Abraham's entertainment of guests,

He cached to his cov-hous and a calf bryngez,

pat watz tender and not toze, bed tyrue of pe hyde.

At 1234 we have the other sense |overturn, overthrow', of Nebuchadnezzar's destructive activities,

zet nolde neuer Nabugo his ilke note leue

Er he hade tyrued his toun and torne hit to grounde.(69)

On the origin of the word, it has been noted that OED treats tirve |strip, flay' and tirve |turn, overturn, overthrow' as separate verbs, but that this is without etymological justification, as we can see the sense |strip' as a special development of |turn, overturn'. Yet the etymology remains obscure, since Old English getyrfan is recorded only in the sense |assail, attack', while OED suggests a connection with Old English tearflian |roll over and over'.(70) A recent glossary here still cites (with a query) Old English (*)tyrfan, related to tulf.(71)

Another approach is thus possible. Some of the above problems, if not all, may be dispelled if we can treat tirve as a borrowing from Brittonic tyrfu |burrow, dig up; wrench, twist, turn'. The first meaning is clear from a gnomic poem, perhaps of the early twelfth century, in the Red Book of Hergest of c. 1400, which remarks gnawt y uoch turyaw kylor |it is of the nature of pigs to root up pig-nuts'.(72) The second appears in a verse (perhaps of the late eighth to midninth century) from the saga of Urien, where a retainer carries Urien's severed head from the field of battle.

Ry thyrvis vym breich ry gardwys vy eis.

vyg callon neur dorres

penn a borthaf am porthes.

|It has wrenched my arm, it has crushed my

ribs, it has broken my heart: I carry a head

which cared for me.'(73)

The modern understanding of tyrfu is due to Sir Ifor Williams, who cites the definition here of Dr John Davies (c. 1567-1644) |distorqueri' |to be turned awry, to be twisted'. In the Welsh Bible of 1588, Proverbs 25:19 reads megis dant wedi ei dorri a throed wedi tyrfu, where the Authorized Version has |like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint'. Sir Ifor also quotes the definition of tyrfu in the Welsh-English Dictionary of Thomas Richards (1710-90), |to be shrunk or contracted as the sinews are, to be wrested or writhed'.(74)

These definitions enable us to propose a link of Welsh tyrfu with Middle English tirve, though we may note as well the (contentious) associations of tyrfu with Old Irish torann |thunder', torbaid |injures, confuses', and Latin turbo |disturb, confuse'.(75) The original sense of tirve |turn, overturn' proposed by Anderson, with its later one |twist back, flay, strip', agree well with those of tyrfu |burrow, turn; twist, wrench'; while there seems to be no objection to aligning the two on the grounds of form. If tirve is an English borrowing from Cumbric (a language akin to Welsh, spoken in Cumbria and Strathclyde until the twelfth century), this would explain why the word is characteristic of texts in northern and Scottish English, as the OED entries make clear. It would be another previously unrecognized Brittonic loanword in the vocabulary of Middle and Modern English.

Warroke |hunchback' in Jolly Wat the Shepherd

|Jolly Wat the Shepherd' in the sixteenth-century Oxford, Balliol College, MS 354 is a famous much-edited Christmas carol. Yet the lines of Wat's farewell to his sheep and dog as he sets off for Bethlehem contain a crux.

Dog, kepe well my shepe fro the corn,

And warn wel Warrok when I blow my horn.(76)

The meaning of |Warrok' (MS warroke) was obscure until fairly recently. One editor takes it as perhaps the name of Wat's assistant.(77) Another, referring to Scottish warroch |a stunted or puny child', treats it as a common noun |apparently applied by Wat to his helper'.(78) Comparison with warroch certainly tallies with other evidence for northern provenance, including |gud herdes boy' in line 5 of the carol, and a payment to an actor playing |Joly Wat' at York in 1447.(79) Warroke is thus plausibly interpreted as a dialect word (and name?) for |stunted child' in Yorkshire and elsewhere.

What has not yet been noted is that the arguments for this can be strengthened and slightly modified if Warroke can be shown to be a Celtic loanword in English. Gwar is early and modern Welsh for |nape of the neck', but Welsh also contains the rarer forms gwarrog |stooping, humpbacked' and gwarrwg |stoop, hump; hunchback'. These are known from the fifteenth century, while dyn gwarrog is still a spoken form in Gwynedd for |a man with a stoop'.(80) If warroke does derive from Brittonic, the failure to adopt initial gw is easily explained as characteristic of medieval English, while the similarity of warroke to Welsh forms suggests a recent loan (that is, not an early Anglo-Saxon one).(81) The suffix of modern Scottish warroch, in contrast, would show further sound-substitution taking place.

If the above reasoning is correct, warroke is best understood in this northern carol not as a Welsh loan, but one from Cumbric, a sister language of Welsh spoken in Cumbria and Strathclyde up to the twelfth century (when shepherds were no doubt among its last speakers).(82) The Balliol manuscript (a London grocer's commonplace book) would thus provide unexpected evidence for Celtic survival in the pastoral communities of Northern England. If the name is interpreted literally as |stooper, hunchback', it may be noted that anyone with a spinal deformity would be unfit for the bending and lifting of much farm work, but might be able to help another tend sheep. In any case, warroke suggests the author of |Jolly Wat the Shepherd' had a sharp ear for the language of shepherds, and the unflattering name a deputy shepherd might have. (1) S.v. curse in his glossary to Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose, ed. Kenneth Sisam (Oxford, 1921). (2) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, ed. J. R. R. Tolkien and E. V. Gordon, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1967), 173. (3) Early Middle English Verse and Prose, ed. J. A. W. Bennett and G. V. Smithers, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1968), 463. (4) The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edn (Oxford, 1973), 475. (5) A. C. Baugh and Thomas Cable, A History of the English Language, 3rd edn (London, 1978), 74. (6) CL also R. L. Thomson, |Aldrediana V: Celtica', English and Germanic Studies, vii (1961), 20-36, which I have not seen. (7) Cf. Anglo-Saxon Writs, ed. Florence Harmer (Manchester, 1952), 402; Institutes of Polity, ed. Karl Jost (Bern, 1959); The Salisbury Psalter, ed. Celia and Kenneth Sisam, EETS o.s. 242 (London, 1959); The Peterborough Chronicle 1070-1154, ed. Cecily Clark, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1970), xlv-lxiii. (8) Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus, ed. Whitley Stokes and John Strachan, i (Cambridge, 1901), 516, 544, 668, 687. (9) Rudolf Thurneysen, A Grammar of Old Irish (Dublin, 1946), 81; Joseph Vendryes et al, Lexique etymologique de l'irlandais ancien: Lettre C (Paris, 1987), 296-7. (10) The Owl and the Nightingale, ed. E.G. Stanley (London, 1960), 134; Clark, 108; The Poems of Robert Henryson, ed. Denton Fox (Oxford, 1981), 254. (11) The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 837. (12) Alistair Campbell, Old English Grammar (Oxford, 1959), 220. (13) Barbara Strang, A History of English (London, 1970), 391. (14) AElfric, Lives of Three English Saints, ed. G.I. Needham (London, 1966), 50; M.J. Swanton, Anglo-Saxon Prose (London, 1975), 99. (15) Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (Caerdydd, 1950- ), 1370. (16) Historia Gruffud vab Kenan, ed. D. S. Evans (Caerdydd, 1977), 76. (17) John Lloyd-Jones, Geirfa Barddoniaeth Gynnar Gymraeg (Caerdydd, 1931-63), passim; Canu Aneirin, ed. Ifor Williams (Caerdydd, 1938), Ixii; K. H. Jackson, The Gododdin: the Oldest Scottish Poem (Edinburgh, 1969), 31-2. (18) The White Book Mabinogion, ed. J. G. Evans (Pwilheli, 1907), 59, 60; The Mabinogion, tr. Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones (London, 1949), 183, 185. (19) Geiriadur, 13 70; D. S. Evans, A Grammar of Middle Welsh (Dublin, 1964), xxxi. (20) J. E. Lloyd, The Story of Ceredigion (Cardiff, 1937), 29. (21) Evans (1977), 15; Drych yr Oesoedd Canol, ed. Nesta Lloyd and Morfydd Owen (Caerdydd, 1986), 62. (22) Dictionary of the Irish Language (Dublin, 1913-76); T. F. O'Rahilly, Early Irish History and Mythology (Dublin, 1946), 316 n. 3; Myles Dillon, Early Irish Literature (Chicago, 1948), 58; Ancient Irish Tales, ed. T. P. Cross and C. H. Slover, 2nd edn (Dublin, 1969), 44; Cath Maige Tuired, ed. Elizabeth Gray (London, 1983). (23) Rudolf Thurneysen, |Mittelirische Verslehrung', in Irische Texte, ed. Whitley Stokes and Ernst Windisch, iii/1 (Halle, 1891), 1-182, at 97; Early Irish Lyrics, ed. Gerard Murphy (Oxford, 1956), 174, 215. (24) Scela Cano meic Gartnain, ed. D. A. Binchy (Dublin, 1963), 29, citing a paper by Bauersfeld in Zeitschrift fur celtische Philologie, xix (1931), 294ff. (25) Mesca Ulad, ed. J. C. Watson (Dublin, 1941), 24; Proinsias Mac Cana, Branwen Daughter of Llyr ( Cardiff, 1958), 18; Cross and Slover, 226. (26) Lebor na hUidre, ed. R. I. Best and O. J. Bergin (Dublin, 1929), 194; K. H. Jackson, The Oldest Irish Tradition (Cambridge, 1964), 16. (27) Robin Flower, The Irish Tradition (Oxford, 1947), 137; Stories from the Acallam, ed. Myles Dillon (Dublin, 1970), ix. (28) K. H. Jackson, Language and History in Early Britain (Edinburgh, 1953), 403-4, 569-70. (29) Jan de Vries, Altnordisches etymologisches Worterbuch 2nd edn (Leiden, 1962), 152. (30) N. P. Brooks, |Weapons and Armour', in The Battle of Maldon A.D. 991, ed. D. G. Scragg (Oxford, 1991), 208-19, at 210-11. (31) Strang, 373-4, and (more cautiously) Baugh and Cable, 74, both ultimately based on Max Forster, Keltisches Wortgut im Englischen (Halle, 1921). (32) Campbell, 203, 220. (33) Joseph Vendryes, Lexique etymologique de l'irlandais ancien: Lettres R S (Paris, 1974), S 191-2. (34) Jackson, Languange and History in Early Britain, 581, 595. (35) John Morris-Jones, A Welsh Grammar (Oxford, 1913). 38, 91; Henry Lewis and Holger Pedersen, A Concise Comparative Celtic Grammar (Gottingen, 1937), 56; Henry Lewis, Yr Elfen Ladin yn yr laith Gymraeg (Caerdydd, 1943), 48. (36) The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 1887. (37) Beowulf, ed. Friedrich Klaeber, 3rd edn (Boston, 1950), 407; E. V. Gordon, An Introduction to Old Norse, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1957), 379; de Vries, 471. (38) Old English Glosses in the Epinal-Erfurt Glossary, ed. J. D. Pheifer (Oxford, 1974), 4. (39) The Corpus Glossary, ed. W. M. Lindsay (Cambridge, 1921),19; cf. Campbell, 249. (40) Canu Aneirin, lxii. (41) Geiriadur, 1711; Jackson, The Gododdin, 32. (42) Rachel Bromwich, |The Character of the Early Welsh Tradition', in Studies in Early British History, ed. Nora Chadwick (Cambridge, 1954), 83-136, at 88; The Poems of Taliesin, ed. Ifor Williams (Dublin, 1968), 12. (43) I. Ll. Foster, |The Emergence of Wales', in Prehistoric and Early Wales, ed. Foster and Glyn Daniel (London, 1965), 213-35, at 231-2; Early Welsh Saga Poetry, ed. Jenny Rowland (Cambridge, 1990), 176-7. (44) Rowland, 440,490. (45) Williams (1938), 29; Jackson, The Gododdin, 141. (46) Williams (1938), 36; Jackson, The Gododdin, 144. (47) Lewis, 2, 21, 46. (48) V. E. Nash-Williams, The Early Christian Monuments of Wales (Cardiff, 1950), 88; Jackson, Language and History in Early Britain, 598-9. (49) R. J. Thomas' Enwau Afonydd a Nentydd Cymru (Caerdydd, 1938), 90: Jackson, Language and History in Early Britain, 570-2. (50) Cf. The Oxford Book of Late Medieval Verse and Prose, ed. Douglas Gray (Oxford, 1985), 6, 417. (51) English Lyrics of the XIIIth Century, ed. Carleton Brown (Oxford, 1932), 133; Early Middle English Texts, ed. Bruce Dickins and R. M. Wilson (Cambridge, 1951), 125. (52) Secular Lyrics of the XIVth and XVth Centuries, ed. R. H. Robbins (Oxford, 1952), 27; Medieval English Lyrics, ed. Theodore Silverstein (London, 1971), 132. (53) Geiriadur, 505. (54) Jackson, The Gododdin, 72-3; A. A. M. Duncan, Scotland The Making of the Kingdom (Edinburgh, 1975), 33. (55) W. J. Watson, The Celtic Place-Names of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1926), 103, 181; T. Coventry, |Sgire Chlach Mhainainn agus Achil', Gairm, xcv (12976), 267-70; A. L. F. Rivet and Colin Smith, The Place-Names of Roman Britain (London, 1979), 396. (56) Ifor Williams, Enwau Lleoedd (Lerpwl [Liverpool], 1945), 23-4; Geiriadur, 505-6; Elwyn Davies, A Gazetteer of Welsh Place-Names (Cardiff, 1957), 50; G. M. Richards, |The Distribution of Some Welsh Place-Names', Lochlann, iii (1965), 404 14. (57) Cf. Middle English Religious Prose, ed. N. F. Blake (London, 1972), 60, and Bali Meidhad, ed. Bella Millett, EETS o.s. 284 (Oxford, 1982). (58) English Lyrics of the XIIIth Century, ed. Carleton Brown (Oxford, 1932), 133; Early Middle English Texts, ed. Dickins and Wilson, 124. (59) The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 359. (60) Cf. Dictionary of the Irish Language; Revue celtique, xxxviii (1920-1), 159-60, cited in Lloyd-Jones, 224; D. E. Evans, Gaulish Personal Names (Oxford, 1967), 171; Joseph Vendryes et al, Lexique etymologique de l'irlandais ancien: Lettre C, 137; Dr Padraig O Machain (DIAS) kindly informs me cogaim seems a dictionary word. (61) E. J. Dobson, The Origins of |Ancrene Wisse' (Oxford, 1976), 115. (62) Llakysgrif Hendregadredd, ed. John Morris-Jones and T. H. Parry-Williams (Caerdydd, 1933), 90, 117, 206; Geiriadur, 734; J. P. Clancy, The Earliest Welsh Poetry (London, 1970),137. (63) R. J. Thomas, |Enwau afonydd a'r olddodiad- wy', The Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, viii (1935-7), 27-43, at 42-3; Jackson, Language and History in Early Britain, 679, and his |The British Language during the Period of the English Settlements', in Studies in Early British History, 61-82, at 82; Rowland, 598. (64) Jackson,Language and History in Early Britain, 502-6. (65) Campbell, 190. (66) Randolph Quirk and C. L. Wrenn, An Old English Grammar (London, 1955), 112; Campbell, 237. (67) The Riverside Chaucer, ed. L. D. Benson (Oxford, 1988), 278, 279. (68) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, 53. (69) Cleanness, ed. J. J. Anderson (Manchester, 1977), 28, 45. (70) Anderson, 78. (71) A Chaucer Glossary , ed. Norman Davis (Oxford, 1979), 151. (72) Early Welsh Gnomic Poems, ed. K. H. Jackson (Cardiff, 1935), 7, 26. (73) Rowland, 388-9, 422, 478. (74) Ifor Williams, |Nodiadau Cymysg', The Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, xi (1941-4), 140-9, at 145-6; Canu Llywarch Hen, ed. Ifor Williams, 2nd edn (Caerdydd, 1953), 123. (75) M. A. O'Brien, |Old Irish torbaim "I perturb, confuse", Erui, xi (1930-2), 91; Julius Pokorny, Indogermanisches etymologisches Worterbuch (Bern, 1948-69), 1100; Joseph Vendryes, Lexique etymologique de l'irlandais ancien: Lettres T-U (Paris, 1978), T-98, 114. (76) The Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse, ed. Celia and Kenneth Sisam (Oxford, 1970), 529; and cf. Douglas Gray, Themes and Images in the Medieval English Religious Lyric (London, 1972), 116, and his A Selection of Religious Lyric (Oxford, 1975), 10. (77) Gray, Lyrics, 105. (78) The Early English Carols, ed. R. L. Greene, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1977), 3 59, citing John Jamieson, An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language (Paisley, 1879 82), s.v. |warroch'. (79) Greene, 358-9. (80) Geiriadur, 1586. (81) Cf. A. C. Breeze, |Old English wassenas "retainers" in Gospatrick's Writ', N&Q, ccxxxvii (1992),272-5. (82) P. H. Sawyer, From Roman Britain to Norman England (London, 1978), 90-1.
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Author:Breeze, Andrew
Publication:Notes and Queries
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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