Episode 97: Let’s Put It In Writing

The early 13th Century saw a massive increase in the production of government documents, including charters and official letters.  In this episode, we explore the changing role of the written word in the Middle Ages. We also examine how King John’s financial exploitation of his barons led to revolt and Magna Carta.

6 thoughts on “Episode 97: Let’s Put It In Writing

  1. Loved this episode (well, honestly, I love them all!)
    Really interesting about the word “Patent”.
    One thought and one question:

    Thought: Would have been useful also to point out that that is how we use the adverb patently (e.g. openly, obviously, without hiding).

    Question: Why was the English phrase transposed as letters patent/closed and not in the normal Germanic order or patent/closed letters? Did we take the phrases from French or Latin (i.e. Did they originally exist there and we just appropriated them into English?).

    Interested in any thoughts you or others might have.

    • Hi Joshua,

      The terms “letters patent” and “letters close” were both borrowed from French. In fact, as I noted in the episode, the words “letter,” “patent,” and “close” are all loanwords from French.

      In French, it is standard to put the adjective after the noun, so that construction still appears in certain terms borrowed from French. We also have it in the term “attorney general” which it literally a ‘general attorney’ or an attorney who represents the interests of the general populace. We also have that construction in the borrowed term “court marital” which is literally a ‘martial court’ or ‘military court’ (compare with “martial law” which is an English construction using the Norse word “law”).

  2. James Cook claimed the eastern part of the continent of Australia for the Crown of England so that when the colony of New South Wales was eventually founded, it was all Crown Land till it was alienated from the Crown by Deed of Grant. This is still the case despite the fact that the land had been occupied for countless millennia. By 1859 the colony of NSW was a small fraction of its original size but in 1861 two important Acts were passed allowing ordinary people to select designated portions of land on conditional purchase. The title deeds provide valuable history of the white settlement of our locality.

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