Episode 81: Love Songs and Troubadours

While civil war raged in England, a completely different culture was flourishing in southern France. In this episode, we explore the opulent court of Aquitaine and the rise of the troubadours. Love was in the air as a new type of poetry was created in the 12th century. We also examine words associated with Medieval entertainment and courtly life.

17 thoughts on “Episode 81: Love Songs and Troubadours

  1. Another fascinating episode! I just thought I’d share that in the North East of England where I grew up, the word “courting” is an everyday word in place of “dating” 🙂

    • Thanks. My grandparent’s generation used the word “courting” quite often, but I think most young people in the US consider it to be old-fashioned.

    • Thanks! I intend to conclude the Anarchy in the next episode. My intention is to bring the themes of the past three episodes together for the ultimate conclusion of the civil war and the transition into a new era.

  2. I was very interested to hear the etymology of ‘love’ in tennis. I looked it up to find out more about it, but according to the Oxford English Dictionary the derivation from ‘l’oeuf’ is a folk etymology and no longer widely accepted. Rather, it’s supposed to come from the phrase ‘for love’: if you don’t play for money, you’re playing ‘for love of the game’, i.e. for nothing.

    • Hi Kevin. Thanks for the note. My digital version of the OED doesn’t include a specific etymology for “love” as used in tennis. It includes the definition in the same section as “for love” which you referenced, but it designates a separate definition for “love” meaning “nothing.” So my version of the OED isn’t really definitive on the issue. Several of my other sources used the etymology I discussed in this episode, so perhaps there is some disagreement. Anyway, thanks for the note. If I come across any additional information, I will post it here or mention it in a future episode.

      • Whether or not this is true, it’s interesting that the word used in cricket for a zero score, duck, actually is short for “duck’s egg”.

  3. I should add to my previous post, above, that in no way do I wish for you, Mr. Stroud, to candy-coat history for the sake of anyone’s sensitive ears.

    On the contrary, I enjoyed the Anarchy episodes (for the Anarchy spills forward into succeeding episodes, being an epoch to severe to capsualize) as much as any other for, in their cases, their unflinching insight to the darkest tendencies of human hearts.

  4. Hello Kevin,
    Thanks very much for the episode. It was very enjoyable.

    Just a little note on the pronunciation of the linguistic divide in France. The Southern region known as the Langue d’oc is pronounced like dOCtor or awk. The AWK sound is quite stressed and I believe doesn’t vary.
    Also the term Occitain has the same sound and has a strong stress on the first syllable.

    The Langue d’oil is a little trickier to write out as their is no exact equivilant sound in English, so I won’t attempt that here.

    • Technically, Paul’s not wrong because that’s the traditional English pronunciation of “oc;” Kevin, however, pronounces it more closely to how it sounds in French or Occitan, so I wouldn’t fret. Some say “awk” and some say “oak;” truly, nam alii oc, alii si, alii vero dicunt oil.

      • I usually research the pronunciation of uncommon words before recording an episode. So I am sure I picked up that pronunciation from one of my sources. I may have looked up the French pronunciation of the term which is probably why I pronounced it that way.

  5. There is a specific German term for cortly love, Minne, which appears to be cognate with “to mean” or the nordic “minne” (memory), but might have taken this meaning of reverential love in connection to the term minstrel.

    There is a nice irony in the fact that Tannhäuser (the German troubadour who received an opera by Richard Wagner to his name) re-introduced the original bawdy style of Count William IX of Aquitaine’s verses to the German courts, and received considerable outrage for his offerings.

    • The German word “Minne” is often found in discussions about the troubadours because it reflects the German troubadour tradition. I didn’t really have time to explore that history, so I chose to focus on the troubadour tradition in France (which contributed to the Romance tradition in England). But you are correct that Medieval song and poetry in Germany was also heavily influenced by the troubadours of the 12th century and later.

  6. Does the word magister not come from the Latin word for teacher (magister, magistri)? The “j” in “major” is completely separate from the “g” in “magister”. It also comes from Latin, but from “maior” (Latin for “bigger”).

    • Hi Gavriel,

      I think you are correct, but my etymology sources indicate that Latin “magister” and Latin “maior” are both derived from the Latin word “magnus.” So ultimately, words like “master,” “magistrate,” “major” and “majesty” are cognate via that common Latin root. I hope that answers your question.

  7. The troubadours most certainly did not play violas, which were invented in the 1500s. The most popular string instrument at the time was called the vielle, from which the renaissance viols and modern violins violas, and violoncellos (commonly now shortened to “cello”) derived their names. There was also an instrument called the vidula, from which we get the modern word “fiddle”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.