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Tuesday 18 April 2023

History for our ex-colonial cousins

Hastings, where the French scored an "away" victory. The
word Rex (top right) means king; it is not an incomplete
reference to the act of national suicide now known as Brexit.

Colette questions my pronunciation of "schedule", alluded to in a comment to Speeking Sorta Bettuh. Time for a little history lesson. And I mean real history, a long time ago. Pedantic observations about unimportant historical points I've misread (or wilfully rearranged) will be deleted

For a thousand years after the birth of Christ Britain was inhabited by Saxons, a primitive lot, given to painting themselves with blue dye known as woad and fighting among themselves. True there were kings but their kingdoms tended to be limited and their names didn't sound particularly English, or perhaps TOO English. Finally, along came Egbert (his dates being 827 – 839; only THREE figures you'll notice, for goodness sake! So really, really old.)  the first monarch to establish a stable and extensive rule over the whole country. 

Then came came the diphthong kings Aethelwulf, Aethelbert and Aethelred (known as The Unready for reasons you may well guess at). Then someone we all recognise, Alfred the Great, who dropped the diphthong and later burnt the cakes. Then Edward The Elder, then Athelstan, (Coincidentally, one of my daughters, I forget which, was educated at King Athelstan's School but by then the king was long gone.), then Edmund who reigned till 946, bringing us almost up to the Start of Real Civilisation on our primitive island. I should add the Romans came earlier than the diphthongs, did their best to introduce us to central heaing but, pigheadly, we knew better and continued to set fires on the floors of our mud huts

As to the USA during this period, I believe the area was inhabited by buffaloes and they, foreseeing the democracy that would arrive in 2016, didn't go in for kings.

Being an inward-looking, fatheadedly patriotic and badly educated group of hairy men (I'm sorry to say, women didn't really get a look-in) the Saxo-Brits naturally ignored what was going on in the landmass to the south. Which served them bloody well right. In 1066 the Normans (Who were actually the French, the ones we've sneered at for centuries while being secretly terrified enough to organise Brexit to escape them) did what Hitler never managed, sailed across the Channel, landed at Hastings, kicked our collective arses and - among other things - introduced the French language at least into south-east England.

The outfought Saxons retreated to the extremities of our Jewel Set in a Silver Sea (Quote: WS), there to develop a deep-set suspicion of foreigners which lasts until this very day. Meanwhile, the buffaloes, 2000 miles to the west, munched grass unperturbed.

Thus, if the word "schedule" does have French roots these must date back about a thousand years as far as the UK is concerned. Not that it mattered. Had it been otherwise, in 1966 I was a Brit surrounded by millions of Pirates fans. I 'd have found some other way to keep up my end.


  1. Good stuff. Thank you for this, I very much enjoyed it. I'm a huge Anglophile, and loved your (and actually part of my) history.

    In fact, there were many civilizations living the North America back in the days of mud huts. They had specific languages which us old settlers from Scotland, England, Wales, France, and Germany took, used, and mispronounced as well. And we killed off all those buffaloes for no good reason. Americans are incorrigible. But we are, as you said in your previous post, your cousins. Take any group of humans, plunk them down in the middle of the wilderness for generations, and they will become quirky and defiant. When Noah Webster wrote the first American dictionary about 1806, with hopes to establish an American English language that reflected the idiom, pronunciation, and style our old settlers had been using for hundreds of years in this crazy wild place, he broke our dependence on the old world, for better or worse. And for schedule, he looked to the Greeks for the pronunciation, not the English or the French. Like I said, defiant, and a little unconcerned with convention. Americans are always making it up as we go along. Some of it has been good, some of it has been bad. But there are historical reasons for everything. Finding those reasons is a complicated joy. I know I can always count on your to make even a pronunciation interesting.

  2. Colette: Does it worry you when people say: there's nothing to write about? That it might be another way of saying: they're stopping thinking? It could, after all, be the start to a slippery path. A state that might well become permanent. What's it like, shoving thought to one side? How can one tell? One can't. Thought precedes articulation and thought has been renounced.

    In fact the possibilities are infinite. I, who have not renounced writing/thinking, am writing about stopping writing/thinking. And then I may write/think about that. Going on and on until I uncover figure eight lying on its side, the maths symbol for infinity. I'll be the first to admit what I've said isn't terribly interesting but then neither has it reached its final form. I could change it, polish it, stand its on its head. It could become blank verse, a haiku, or a painting. Anything's possible.

    What drove me to write a piece about the prelude to the Norman Conquest, an event I'm aware of but not transfixed by? I can't be absolutely sure but, once I'd started, my awareness grew and my tone of voice intervened. I needed to check those mildly weird names but it seemed vital that they become something other than Google cut-and-paste. Give 'em a twist in fact. And when I'd finished, what then?

    The hope that someone would read them, decide to respond, and give their own twist to that response. And, lo, it happened. A bit like a relay race where the baton becomes a modified idea and it's handed back, further modified. The essence of the blog. I'm lucky to have caught your eye, luckier still that you actually exist. Quite a nice thing to say, come to think about it. Even if for nothing other than selfish reasons we must all keep on thinking.