Snoter and smerciende


I’m off into Teach Yourself Old English, skimming briskly through the first few units to get my eye in before trying to do anything serious with the Exercises.  The language has a teasing half-familiarity on the page, which emerges sometimes into comprehension when I hear it read aloud.

How, for example, would one guess that gehalgod means ‘blessed’ until you realise that the ‘g’ gives an unstressed ‘yuh’ sound, and remember our word ‘hallowed’?  Equally, flod-græg suddenly becomes ‘flood-grey’ without any problem, and once you’ve identified the thorn, on þissum geare is quite plainly ‘in this year’.  (Small cheer for WordPress putting the thorn and eth in among their other special characters – how convenient.)

But snoter and smerciende, however delightful as words, are perfectly impenetrable, leaving me tantalised in anticipation of their meaning.


7 responses »

    • Yes, it’s one of that enormous Teach Yourself practically anything series – a book and a cd. It’s quite a nice presentation, snippets of historical context and practice exercises at various levels as well as formal language explanations.

  1. I think smerciende is Old Spanish for vodka. I might be wrong. But carry on, I think this is a wonderful project, so much so that it has prompted me to dust off the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf that I bought several years ago and have never got round to reading.

    • 🙂 Felt it was time I made an effort. Kevin Crossley-Holland’s translation of Beowulf was one of the very first bits of independent literary exploration I did when I was about 15 – and I still have it. And I still haven’t read it in its own language. I haven’t tried the Heaney translation, though I have heard good things.
      (PS ‘snoter and smerciende’ apparently means prudent and smiling.)

      • I remember reading a passage from Beowulf at school when I was about 12, which impressed me enough to buy the Penguin Classics version when I was a shipyard apprentice. I’d be 17 or 18. I used to sit on my toolbox reading it at break times. I’ve still got it – translation by Michael Alexander. I also bought the Exeter Book Riddles and loads of Arthurian and Celtic stuff that was out in Penguin at that time. So I’ll give the Heaney version a try. I’ve just been thumbing through it and the original language is on one page, the translation on the facing page – so I can appreciate what a challenge you’ve set yourself. I expect to see regular updates and progress reports.

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