Episode 99: The Second French Invasion

The early 13th century saw the arrival of a new wave of Frenchmen on the English shores. Some came as conquerors, and some came as nobles and courtiers looking for land and titles. During this period, Norman French started to lose much of its prestige in England, and it was gradually replaced with the French of Paris and central France. In this episode, we look at this second French invasion and the impact it had on the English language.

12 thoughts on “Episode 99: The Second French Invasion

  1. Listening to the bit about the word “chase”, I wondered if you know the history of the English “cat” vs the French “chat” – an animal that chases. Are they related?

    • Yes, “cat” and “chat” are based on the same root with the French word “chat” showing the sound change I mentioned in the episode. The word is ultimately a Latin word (“cattus”) that was borrowed by the Proto-Germanic speakers and has been widely borrowed throughout Europe over the centuries. Since it existed in Proto-Germanic, Old English had the word as “catt.”

      There are actually a lot of English words with ‘CA’ that have a French equivalent with ‘CH.’ In the episode, I tried to focus on pairs where both versions exist in English, and where one or both versions entered English in the 1200s or 1300s.

  2. Really interesting episode. Regarding the meanings of “reward,” you mentioned (if I recall right) that it lost its negative associations and retained only the good. But there is a sense in which it retains its older dual meaning: when a criminal is punished for his crime, he can be said to have received a “just reward.” I had always thought that was an ironic or even sarcastic use of the word, but, based on your lecture, it now seems to be an echo of its original use.

    • Thanks! The phrase “just reward” is indeed a holdover from the punitive sense of the word “reward.” The OED attributes it to that original sense.

  3. I have been listening to your wonderful podcasts. Thank you. I want to revisit the episode where you talked about the words “bee” and “honey”. I cannot find it again. Can you direct me to the episode? Thanks!

    • Hi Jennifer. I first discussed honeybees in Episode 6 in regard to Indo-European words. I discussed them again in Episode 9 as part of the attempt to identify the first Indo-Europeans. I also discussed the use of honey and mead in the context of medical remedies in Episode 63. Hopefully, one of those is the episode you are looking for.

  4. I have been listening to your podcasts for a long time now in spurts of 20 episodes or so and then I take 6 months off. Because of this, I’ve never caught up to a point where I could leave a reply before this.
    Thank you for all your research and hard work. This is such a great podcast. I enjoy it immensely.

  5. This episode discusses cognates that came into English separately from Northern and Central France, examples of the doublet ‘g’ and ‘w’ being ‘Guillaume’ / ‘William’, ‘guard’ / ‘ward’, ‘guerre’ / ‘war’. Note all of the initial ‘g’s are followed by ‘u’.

    Perhaps the earlier Central French form was pronounced like ‘gward’ or ‘gwerre’? That the ‘u’ after the ‘g’ signified a ‘gw’ pronunciation? So in the centre they went (phonetically) from Germanic ‘ward’ to Old French ‘gward’, to Modern French ‘gard’.

    PS: the old spelling ‘real’ for ‘royal’ is still evident in the toponym Montréal (Mount Royal).

    • Hi John. I think your summary of the phonetic development is correct. I believe it was initially a /gw/ sound. I think the ‘g’ was initially softer and simply a way to help the Central French speakers get to the ‘w’ sound at the front of those words. Over time, the ‘g’ sound became more pronounced (both literally and figuratively) and the ‘w’ sound disappeared.

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