Episode 71: On The Hunt

In this episode, we explore the events leading to the death of William the Conqueror. And we’ll look at the reign of his son and namesake, William Rufus. The story of William’s succession is also the story of a sibling rivalry. William’s three sons fought with each other – and even with their father – for control of the Anglo-Norman kingdom. But one thing that William and all of his sons had in common was a love for hunting, and the importance of hunting is reflected in the English language which contains many words and phrases originating in the language of Medieval hunters.


22 thoughts on “Episode 71: On The Hunt

  1. Lots of fascinating word origins here. I was particularly taken, though, with the original meaning of “deer” as a more generic term for animal.

    It made total sense to me from studying German and Danish. In those languages the word for animal is “Tier” and “dyr” respectively. Now that you’ve explained the shift in meaning that’s occurred in English, the connection is obvious!

    • I have been learning German and Icelandic and this podcast has Really tied it all together and been SUCH a good way to learn and have the story connecting it all. Absolutely love it, 10/10.

  2. AHAHAHAHAHAH that was a really good segue at 1:30 until 2:00
    loving the podcast, I’ve binged up until here starting from only a week ago.

      • Enjoying your podcasts. Last week I was in England and I visited Winchester and its Cathedral. The Cathedral is being restored by a massive donation from the U.K. lottery. And 5M GBP was earmarked for a project to identify and bring together the bones in 6 mortuary chests which were disturbed during the English civil war. The bones are of the Anglo Saxon Kings of Wessex and later England. They were buried in the Old Cathedral and were collected and “reburied” in the Norman Cathedral. William Rufus was added to the chests too. The chests have lists showing who was originally in the chests.
        The DNA has identified the bones of those listed but the project is still continuing. So they have identified Cnut, Harthacnut, a series of Wessex and early AS kings of England. W. Rufus, Emma of Normandy. As well as two young people not listed, one they think is Richard of Normandy as his skull has significant injuries which look hint related, and and another young man not identified.

        The Cathedral has an exposition explaining the project. The expo added to my pleasure at your episode of hunting and the New Forest.

        Thank you for the podcasts you have made available

  3. Your podcasts are wonderful distractions in these days of social distancing. Incidentally, while in Denmark, I discovered that not only is dyr the word for animal, but smaadyr (small deer) is the word for insect.

  4. Hi Kevin – Still loving your podcasts, although I’m semi-randomly picking topics rather than following sequentially after I finished the first third. I find that makes them less like taking a course (and feeling like I have to study for the exam) and I can just enjoy them.

    While recently searching an ancestral name (Bryant) I learned that a number of Bretons followed William the Conquerer to England and I wondered if they introduced any interesting words to English? You may have a podcast on this already, but with my random approach I may not find it soon.

    • Hi Dave. Outside of some names like ‘Alan’ and ‘Harvey,’ I am not aware of any specific Breton words that passed into English directly from the Breton settlers after the Norman Conquest. (That’s not to say there were none. I just can’t think of any off the top of my head.) There are some later French loanwords that probably have Breton origins (like “menhir” meaning a monumental stone), but they were not apparently borrowed from the Breton settlers.

      • It may be difficult to distinguish between words brought in from Breton and those from the insular Celtic languages like Cornish, Cymric and the main one, Welsh.

        Breton and Welsh are, I have been told, close enough to be mutually intelligible

  5. A fascinating episode, as always. The double meaning of “forest” (woodland generally versus a legally designated area) still exists in the UK, although forests are now nature reserves rather than hunting areas. An extreme example is the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, which is largely treeless.

    By the way, the earliest surviving ballads of Robin Hood are actually located in Barnsdale in southern Yorkshire, rather than Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire. The later move may have been prompted by his arch-enemy being the Sherriff of Nottingham, which would have seemed unexpected for a Yorkshire outlaw.

  6. Still loving your podcast. What I love about Britain (I’m in Canada), is that a place is still called the New Forest nearly a thousand years later.

  7. Another good podcast; I particularly enjoyed learning about falconry.
    If you’re ever in the New Forest, you can still visit the spot where William Rufus supposedly fell, marked by a small obelisk. Though today, “Rufus Stone” is better known as a rest area off the A31 road, with a pub (called ‘The Sir Walter Tyrell’, of course), picnic area and forest walks. It’s a lovely spot to break up a journey from the West Country to the South East/ London, and makes a change to the usual motorway services. No, I’m not paid by ‘Visit Hampshire’, why do you ask?

  8. In reference to the King’s ownership of forest land and all that lived/grew on it, I have always heard that the expression to get something “by hook or by crook” came from this time. You could not cut a tree, but you could take any wood that you could grab with a hook or a crook, pretty much another word for hook–like a shepherd’s crook.
    As always, an excellent episode. And just to nitpick, wild boar do not have horns. They have tusks–razor sharp ones.

  9. At least in Britain, “retriever” is still used to mean the dogs who fetch the game back for the hunter (although usually a gunman / -woman now).

  10. Re cadge (if that’s the right spelling), meaning to carry the falcon around – is there any connection with cadge as in ” to cadge a lift”, meaning “to ask someone to take you somewhere, perhaps in their car”?

    • The two words do not appear to be related. Here is what the OED says about the etymology of the noun “cadge” that I mentioned in the episode: “Apparently a variant of ‘cage’ (n.) perhaps confused with ‘cadge’ (v.) to carry about; but it does not appear what is the source of the earliest quotation, which the later merely follow.”

  11. For some reason, this episode and the previous one (70 and 71) aren’t showing up in the podcast RSS feed (at least for the app podcast addict)

    • It’s probably an issue with your podcast app. It apparently happens quite often. Try unsubscribing to the podcast in the app, and then resubscribe. That usually solves the problem.

  12. At 53:30 before speaking about Duke Robert II’s joining the first crusade (1096) you say “Jerusalem had recently fallen to Muslim invaders”. Byzantine Jerusalem was conquered by the Arab armies of Umar ibn al-Khattab in 638 CE. Would you say that 458 years was recent?

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