Episode 103: Solitary Confinement

The early 13th century saw the rise of a monastic movement in which men and women locked themselves away in secluded cells to practice their religion.  These monks were known as anchorites, and an early Middle English text called the “Ancrene Wisse” was composed as a guide for female anchoresses who adopted this lifestyle.  The text is considered one of the most important works composed in early Middle English period.  It features a large number of common loanwords that were used in English for the first time. In this episode, we examine the historical context of the Ancrene Wisse and some of the common loanwords that were introduced in the manuscript.


17 thoughts on “Episode 103: Solitary Confinement

  1. Great as always! I have a question.

    You mention how “Save” and “salvation” are cognate, but I wondering where the “l” came from in “salvation”. Also is the word “salvo” related?

    Also I pronounce the “H” in history except when using a/an. I always say “an historic” or “an historical”. It sounds like stuttering if i force myself to say “a historic”. Strange…

    Thanks as always for your work on this podcast.

    • Hi Ken. The original Latin root of “save” and “salvation” had an ‘l’. The root was “salvare,” and it meant ‘to be in good health’ or ‘to make safe and secure.’ So “salvation” retains the original ‘l’, whereas “save” has lost it. In fact, the word “save” was rendered as “seoluen” in the Ancrene Wisse. So “save” was still being pronounced with a /l/ sound at that time, but the spelling had changed by the late 1200s to omit the ‘l.’

      With respect to a possible connection to “salvo,” the OED says that it is indeed cognate with “save” and “salvation.” “Salvo’ is ultimately derived from the same root, and more specifically, it is derived from the Roman salute “salve” which meant “Hail!” So in that sense, a “salvo” was a type of military greeting or introduction.

  2. Hi Kevin,
    You said that if you reached your Patreon goal we would get a guaranteed 20 hours per year of new content. Apparently the goal was reached, and the 16 episodes released in 2017 total 16 hours and 10 minutes. Do you plan on reaching that target of 20 hours?

    • Hi Bob. I intend to release one more regular episode before the end of the year. With respect to the 20 hours of new content, I am counting the bonus Patreon episodes as part of total. Ideally, I would like to produce 20 regular episodes each year, plus the Patreon episodes, but I think the regular content would suffer too much if I maintained that schedule. I would have to skimp on the research or cut the episode length back. So I am relying on the bonus episodes to fill in the time gap between regular episodes and also to satisfy the content promise. I hope that makes sense.

      • I found the episode where you said you’d reached your Patreon goal. It was episode 89 back in January. You said that this guaranteed you would release 20 episodes this year, and you specifically stated that this meant you would be up to episode 108 by the end of the year. So the promise was definitely for 20 MAINSTREAM episodes.

        • As I noted above, I would like to produce 20 ‘regular’ episodes each year. I begin each year with that goal, but over the past year, I elected to focus on providing more exclusive bonus content for patrons. I originally planned to produce a small number of bonus episodes during the year, but I eventually decided to produce a Patreon episode in between each regular episode. That ensured that the patrons received a lot more exclusive bonus content. With that shift in focus, I re-directed my goal towards 20 hours of content (rather than a specific number of episodes). That is what the official goal at Patreon says.

          Anyway, since there is an expectation of 20 ‘regular’ episodes for this year based on my earlier comments, I will try to reach that goal, but I will probably run over into the first week or two of January. The next episode should be ready next week, and I might be able to squeeze in another before the end of the year. The remaining two episodes will appear in early January. If that time frame is problem, I encourage you to contact me by email and we can discuss it further.

        • Bob, I’m with Thomas and Norman on this one.

          I’m having trouble catching up on the FREE regular episodes alone, let alone the FREE Bonus episodes. Let alone the FREE mentions/links to related FREE podcasts.

          Then on top of that, listening to Kevin’s educational tones forces me to go back and look up periods of history in my various history tomes.

          On top of that I am supposed to be programming computers, growing vegetables, bottling fruits.
          I could make a life out of Kevin’s FREE podcasts alone, if i didn’t already Have A Life!


  3. Another great episode. I wanted to add a footnote on the etymology of “journey”. French has a suffix that turns a “thing” into a “thingfull”. So we have the pairs jour / journée (day / day long) soir / soirée (evening / duration of an evening), poign / poignée (hand / handfull) and so on. Strangely, it converts the noun to feminine, if it was masculine. So un jour and une journée.

  4. Hi, Kevin–Thanks, great job! I have a doubt, though, about the word “diet. ” It derives from Greek δίαιτα (“way of life”), unrelated, as it seems, to Latin “dies.”

    • Hi Arkadi. You’re correct. It was a mistake on my part. The word “diet” as in ‘an assembly’ is derived from “dies,” but the word “diet” as in ‘food’ is derived from the root you mentioned. I got the two versions of “diet” mixed up. The word “diet” as in ‘food’ was used for the first time in the Ancrene Wissse, but that version of the word is unrelated to “journey.” I’ll try to make a correction in the next episode.

  5. Journey. I suspect “jury rigged” comes from that, meaning, a temporary fix of a sailing vessel to last just a day. This may have become “gerry rigged,” and my also have give us “gerry can,” that is, the extra five-gallon can of gas a military vehicle might carry. (I read somewhere that “gerry can” git its name because it was introduced by the Germans in North Africa. Seems unlikely. Your thoughts?

    • I can’t find any connection between “journey” and “jury rigged.” With respect to the “jury” part of “jury-rigged,”, the OED says the following: “Apparently either a corruption of some earlier name, or a jocular appellation invented by sailors.” Etymonline.com says: “Perhaps it is ultimately from Old French ajurie (help, relief), from Latin ‘adjutare’.” I can’t find anything on “gerry can.”

  6. From what I recall (and correct me if I am wrong), the use of “an” before “historical” is to avoid any confusion between “a historical” and “ahistorical”, which has almost the opposite meaning (with the negating “a-” prefix from Greek). I was wondering if there are any other forms of that.
    On a bit of a tangent from that, I was wondering if you are planning on making an episode on the impacts of rebracketing (at least that’s how I learned it) on words in English today such as “apron” and “adder” (as in the type of snake) among others. Any thoughts on the matter?

    • Hi Gavriel,

      The potential confusion between “a historical” and “ahistorical” is an interesting theory, but I am skeptical of that explanation. I have never encountered that theory in any of my research. Here is what the Oxford English Dictionary has to say on the matter:

      “The phonetic tendency to lose initial h- in inherited words, especially in unstressed syllables, and uncertainty about the pronunciation of initial h- in borrowed words led to a widespread, originally hypercorrect, practice of writing ‘an’ before initial h- even when it was not silent… .

      In current standard English, ‘an’ is used before a vowel (including words spelt with silent h, as an ‘hour’) and ‘a’ before a consonant (including h and eu-, u- with the sound of /ju(ː)/, as ‘a host,’ ‘a one,’ ‘a eunuch,’ ‘a unit’). But in unaccented syllables, many (perhaps most) writers down to the 19th cent. retained ‘an’ before sounded h and some even before eu, u, as ‘an historian,’ ‘an euphonic vowel,’ ‘an united appeal,’ though this was all but obsolete in speech, and in writing ‘a’ became increasingly common in this position (a tendency endorsed by most 20th-cent usage guides, although the use of ‘an’ before h in an unaccented syllable is still preferred by some writers…).”

      With respect to rebracketing (aka, matanalysis or misdivision), it has popped up in several episodes, including the most recent episode (#110) where I discussed French “napereon” which became English “apron” through that process. I actually dedicated an entire bonus episode at Patreon to rebracketing and many of the words affected by that process. I don’t know if I will dedicate an entire regular episode to the issue, but I will continue to explore words affected by this process as I move forward.

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