Episode 70: Mind Your Manors For Pete’s Sake

For more than a century following the Norman Conquest, English writing fell out of favor. During that hiatus, French words continued to flow into English. A lot of those words were associated with the manors that dotted the English countryside where most of the peasants lived and worked. In this episode, we look at some of those French and Latin words associated with manors and peasants.  We also examine how the manorial courts were used as tool to exploit the peasants and tie them to the land.


4 thoughts on “Episode 70: Mind Your Manors For Pete’s Sake

  1. While I am fond of poetic etymologies, I find it more likely that baron (Frankish barō )and the Old English beorn ultimately come from the PIE root bher-, “to bear, carry.” This makes sense in the context of those who serve someone, literally bearing things (weapons, supplies, etc); moreover, the semantic extension of “holding lands” follows suit. Though, as you mentioned, either etymology (bear-the-animal vs bear-the-verb) does not have resounding consensus among linguists. In fact, I assume Tolkien would disagree with me and argue for the root as bear-the-animal, what with his therianthropic Beorn changing into a bear.

  2. The sense of “manor” as meaning a large house seems to be largely American. In the UK, we’d still usually refer to a manor house. Manors still technically exist here, although only in a ceremonial sense you can become the Lord of the Manor somewhere, but it doesn’t actually give you anyauthority. Manor is also sometimes used for a neighbourhood, in a similar sort of context that “hood” is used in the US.

  3. Could it be that in Spanish madrastra /padrastro (stepmother /stepfather) has The meaning of evil mam or evil dad?
    Love the podcast

    • The suffix “-astro/a” is pejorative in Spanish. “Madrastra” and “padrastro” may mean either “stepmother/father” or bad mother/father.

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