Old English Terminology




Present days English language has changed in many ways in the past 350 to 1600 years. The way words are pronounciated and written have changed the most. I have chosen the subjects of sports and games because both have altered in both of these manners. By looking at the words I am going to describe, you will able to see how modern people have came up with our own way of saying the same item.

Sports are now being called different names then when they were originated, but the games have almost stayed the same. For example, what we call two chickens fighting to the death is a cockfight. During old England, the called the same fight a “Shrove Tuesday”(www.regia.org/games). There were slight differentials though, in where kids would bring these angry chickens to school and the schoolmaster would control the fights. Some minor changes in the language were words like billiard, which was spelled “billard” (Hendrickson, page 23), or javelin, which was known as “gafeluc”(www.mun.ca/ansaxdat/vocab). Board games were also a favorite pastime of children and adults alike. The most played games were “tafl” (www.regia.org/games), which was virtually checkers with a few special pieces that had more options on the board. Tafl literally meant table. “Brannantafl, hnefatafl”, and “hraeotafl” were all variations of the special game of checkers, except there were a few variations of the rules depending on where you were in the country. Chess, however, was by far the most popular game of the time. In the 1200’s, it was spelled “hchestafl”(www.mun.ca/ansaxdat/) but it had the same rules that we use today. Other pastimes of the era included “knatteleik”, “kingy-bats”, and “skofuleik”, which were all violent versions of hockey and hurling combined (www.regia.org/images/Tiberius/). Some less violent sports played in about 1000 were swimming. Swimming of course had been around until man realized that he could float to a certain extent, but during this time period, swimming hit a high of participation and spectating. They also had variations in this sport too, in which you were allowed to try to drown your opponent, and if you lost you were sometimes killed or you had to pay the winner a certain wage. Other water contests included seeing who could hold their breath longer under water and having races in which you were forced into carrying things across water in full armor without help. The swimmers were known as “fleotend” (www.regia.org/ansaxdat/vocab/). Their want for extreme conditions reminded me of early Romans growing rowdy over gladiators who were also faced against improbable odds. Some of the more fun and interesting games that the English used to play were “skin-pulling”(www.mun.ca/ansaxdat/). A form of tug-of-war, they used animal skin instead of a rope and they used to play over a fire, which made each man fight even harder not to lose.

Though the origins of these words that I have described happened 350-1600 years ago, the actual word has not drastically changed for the most part. These sports and games were a great example of how time changes the words into current understandable words like chess and billiards. It was a great when it happened, for it showed the progress in humans to make changes to something that had been done to them, and it showed how we thought of some new exciting games such as skin pulling and the swimming competitions. All together, the world and its languages benefited between Old England and the Renaissance, helping insure, the growth of the English language.




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