Episode 59: Let’s Make A Deal

The decline of the Anglo-Saxon Golden Age occurred in the late 900s as the English kingdom passed from King Edgar to his son, Aethelred the Unready.  it was a period surrounded by many deals, contracts, bargains and treaties.  We examine the etymology of words related to deals and contracts. We also examine how literate Anglo-Saxons tried to balance the use of English and Latin.


11 thoughts on “Episode 59: Let’s Make A Deal

  1. I’ve just got to this episode having been listening to the podcast from the beginning over the last month or so. I am hugely enjoying it- but I have to point out a wording concern I had with this episode: You mentioned the normal age a priest could first have their ordination was when they were ‘ordinated’; at least in British English, the word is always ‘ordained’.
    I know I’m a little late to the party in pointing this out but I couldn’t hold back from saying so 😉
    (I spotted the ‘coronated’ issue too but see you picked this up in the next episode…)

    • Hi Clare,

      Thanks for the note. I reviewed the transcript for the episode, and I can’t find the word “ordinated” in it. Perhaps I said the word by accident, but it is not a word that I would normally use. I should note that the Oxford English Dictionary does list “ordinate” as a synonym for “ordain,” but “ordinate” sounds odd to my ears as well.

    • It’s a vowel sound that developed within Australian English. I’m sure I will discuss it when I get to the Modern English period and the development of Australian English. I haven’t researched the specific history of that vowel sound, but it is one of the most distinguishing features of that accent.

  2. Hi Kevin thanks for your podcast – it is very entertaining and enlightening especially because the history of English is also the history of Danish at least for the first 60 episodes.
    Many of the old english words are still in use in modern danish for instance “overmod” from The battle of Maldon, still with the same meaning.
    I have a question for you:
    The word “draw” comes from Old English, and “drag” comes from old danish, but what about “tray” (as in betray – danish: bedrage) how does that fit in?

    • Thanks for the feedback! According to most of my sources, the “-tray” part of the word “betray” is related to the words “traitor” and “treason.” All of those words are derived from the Latin root “tradere” meaning to ‘hand over’ or ‘deliver.’ Even though the root word was attached to the Old English prefix ‘be-‘ in the Middle English period, it doesn’t appear to be connected to any other native Germanic terms. Having said that, the online OED confirms the etymology above, but provides a link to a possible Germanic root. So that is a little confusing. I don’t think the Latin root is derived from or connected to any Germanic root.

    • As to “overmod”. This made me think of the word “Übermut” in modern German – overconfidence.
      What I find particularly interesting in context with the Battle of Maldon – it hasn’t got anything to do with pride. It’s an exaggerated opinion of oneself.
      The modern German word “Mut” literally means “courage”, but it is used in a different sense here, in the sense of mindset. Another word in this meaning is “Hochmut”. It means arrogance. No pride involved. “Langmut” is patience.
      So in modern German depending on the context the word “Mut” can mean mindset rather than courage. It does not necessarily have to be in a compound word. So “er war guten Mutes” means he was in a good mood. or he was optimistic. Again no connection to pride or courage here.

  3. Such a great series. Alas a disappointing episode for me as I remember a history teacher telling me with glee that everyone THOUGHT Ethelred the Unready meant the obvious but actually it related to Viking demands for tribute which was called Rede. He couldn’t pay so he was ” rede less” or ” unready”. Sadly it seems this was nonsense.

  4. I just read Ken Follet’s “The Evening and the Morning” about this time period and he refers to King Aethelred as “Aethelred the Misled.” I thought it was clever because I remembered this episode of the podcast and recognized that he maintained both the original meaning of “unraed” and the rhyme/lyrical sense of the original nickname. So it’s accurate without sounding as clunky as “poorly advised.” That small detail made me smile and really appreciate Follet’s writing and the research that goes into it.

    One of the many reasons I love your podcast!

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