Do you kiss your mother with that mouth, you old Norse Saxon dog?

I didn’t get around to composing a “Challenging Word of the Week” post earlier this week, but I’ll share this from today’s Writer’s Almanac (emphasis mine):

It was on this day in 1066 that William the Conqueror of Normandy arrived on British soil. He defeated the British in the Battle of Hastings, and on Christmas Day, he was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.

One of the most important consequences of the Norman conquest of England was its effect on the English language. At the time, the British were speaking a combination of Saxon and Old Norse. The Normans spoke French. Over time, the languages blended, and the result was that English became a language incredibly rich in synonyms. Because the French speakers were aristocrats, the French words often became the fancy words for things. The Saxons had “house”; the Normans gave us “mansion.” The Saxons had “cow”; the Normans gave us “beef.” The Normans gave us “excrement,” for which the Saxons had lots of four letter words.

The English language has gone on accepting additions to its vocabulary ever since the Norman invasion, and it now contains more than a million words, making it one of the most diverse languages on Earth.

Thank goodness for the Normans, or we’d all be still be talking like the left-side of the blogosphere…and it wouldn’t be so funny when Learned Foot types “poop”.

5 thoughts on “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth, you old Norse Saxon dog?

  1. Is it true that in olden days, for some reason or another, they use to ship manure? During loading they would put on the crates, “Store High In Transit” or when shortened, S.H.I.T. And thus came this wonderful word into our vocabulary. I read that somewhere.

  2. I think that author was full of shinola (and I can tell the difference). According to Wikipedia (from an amazingly long and thorough entree) the entymology is as follows:

    Scholars trace the word back to Old Norse origin (sk?ta), and it is virtually certain that it was used in some form by preliterate Germanic tribes at the time of the Roman Empire. It was originally adopted into Old English as scitte, eventually morphing into Middle English sch?tte. The word may be further traced to Proto-Germanic *skit-, and ultimately to Proto-Indo-European *skheid-, “. Spoken and written substitutes for the word shit in American English include sugar and shoot.

  3. Kevin, why don’t you surrender to peace and good will towards others? 😉 Hee hee. Just kidding. I know you’d melt or something if you did that.

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