Episode 60: Danes, Death and Taxes

In this episode, we explore the Danish Conquest of England in the 11th century.  The Danish victory brought a temporary end to Anglo-Saxon rule, but it didn’t bring an end to death and taxes. We examine the etymology of words related to death, and we also explore the connection between high taxes and Modern English.

Map Prepared by Louis Henwood (Click Map for Larger Image)

Map Prepared by Louis Henwood (Click Map for Larger Image)

5 thoughts on “Episode 60: Danes, Death and Taxes

  1. Hi. A fascinating episode.

    It’s interesting that you say that murder comes from a Latin root. The Old Icelandic equivalent is morðvig, which literally means “secret killing” – the distinction from manslaughter was that you tried to hide it. As it sounds so similar, I’d be interested to know whether there’s any parallel.

    • Great point! The English word should have ended up as something like murther, from the Old English morþor, also meaning “secret killing.” It is indeed because of Latin, however, that English has murder. Latin passed on murdrum to the Anglo-Norman murdre, which then likely influenced the English spelling and pronunciation toward murder. Interestingly, the Latin murdrum ultimately comes from a Germanic root (probably shared during the Roman’s contact with Germanic tribes).

    • I think Ryan has given you the answer, but just to clarify, my exact quote from the episode is as follows: “The word ‘murder’ is also an Old English word from the same Indo-European root which gives us the Latin word ‘mortal.'” So the word “murder” didn’t come from a Latin root. It is a native Old English word. However, Latin borrowed essentially the same word from the early Germanic tribes, and that is the form found in French. The Anglo-Norman version of that word also altered the form of the English word over time. So to be fair, the Modern English word “murder” is effectively a blend of the original Old English root word and the French version of a word from the same Germanic root.

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