On the use of the word ‘gotten’

Many UK readers have wondered about–and objected strongly to–the use of the word ‘gotten’ in my books. Since the word is not in common usage in England right now, it seems odd to them to read it at all, and a glaring ‘Americanism’ in a book set in the medieval period. At first glance, this might appear to be yet another instance of ‘two countries separated by a common language,’ but as it turns out, the history of the word ‘gotten’ is a lot more interesting than that. Gotten’ is, Read More…

Welsh Idioms

To understand a language’s idioms, is to be fluent in the language.  Maybe this isn’t entirely true, but it’s close. When I lived in England, I remember being stumped by the phrase, “it’s like money for old rope.”  I didn’t know if that meant: 1) someone had given me money for old rope–in which case, that was a good thing; or 2) I was paying money for old rope–meaning I was getting ripped off.  As it turns out, the saying “originates from the days of public hangings. It was a perquisite of the hangman Read More…

Welsh Names and Places from the Books

  Aberystwyth –Ah-bare-IH-stwith Bwlch y Ddeufaen – Boolk ah THEY-vine (the ‘th’ is soft as in ‘forth’) Cadfael – CAD-vile Cadwallon – Cad-WA/SH/-on Caernarfon – (‘ae’ makes a long i sound like in ‘kite’) Kire-NAR-von Dafydd – DAH-vith Dolgellau – Doll-GE/SH/-ay Deheubarth – deh-HAY-barth Dolwyddelan – dole-with-EH-lan (the ‘th’ is soft as in ‘forth’) Gruffydd – GRIFF-ith Gwalchmai – GWALK-my (‘ai’ makes a long i sound like in ‘kite) Gwenllian – Gwen-/SH/EE-an Gwladys – Goo-LAD-iss Gwynedd – GWIN-eth Hywel – H’wel Ieuan – ieu sounds like the cheer, ‘yay’ so Read More…

The Evolution of Welsh

The first thing you learn in linguistics is that languages evolve.  The second is that they are arbitrary.   This does not mean language isn’t important, or that it isn’t integral to culture. (see this article on Quebec’s policing of language).  It does mean that there is nothing inherent in the word ‘spoon’ that denotes the rounded tool with which you cook or eat. Medieval Welsh, or Middle Welsh, was the language spoken in the 12th to 14th centuries.  Like when a modern English-speaker attempts to read Chaucer in English, it is possible for a modern Welsh Read More…

Welsh Surnames

It is a standing joke among people who know Wales that there are only a handful of Welsh surnames (last names), consisting primarily of Jones, Evans, Roberts, Thomas, Williams, and Davies. Among English speakers, these last names are clearly derived from first names. Why is that? Why don’t the Welsh have the huge variety of surnames like the English do? The answer lies in the moment that the Welsh switched from the patronymic system of names (Sarah ferch Ronald; Carew ap Daniel) where a child’s name contained a first name, Read More…

Scots, Scottish, and Gaelic … what’s the difference?

What language were people speaking in 13th century Scotland? Undoubtedly, that is a question that keeps most people up at night. In a nutshell, in 1288, in Scotland, people spoke three local languages regularly.  At the time, they called them:  French, English, and Scottish. What is confusing is that those are not the names used to refer to these languages NOW.  French, was Norman French. Robert the Bruce, a great King of Scotland, descended from the Gaelic Earls of Carrick, and on his father’s side from “ancestors in Brix, in Read More…

How did Latin get into English?

It was the Romans right? Well, ultimately, but not necessarily because they conquered Britian in 43 AD. The Romans controlled Britain from 43 AD to when they marched away in the beginning of the 5th century.  During that time, they built roads, towns, forts, and established a government.  Upon their departure, the ‘dark ages’ consumed Britain, with the assistance of several invading groups (Angles, Saxons, Jutes, plus Picts, Scots, Irish). The people who lived in Britain at the time were Celtic and spoke a language that eventually became what we Read More…