Monday, November 30, 2015

Maps of the Southeast: 1544, 1562, 1566, 1570, 1578, 1584 & 1590 From Robert Thornton


 Here is a batch of sixteenth century maps of the USA southeast.  all; are effectively navigation maps locating bays and river mouths..  Actual inland information was likely acqired by interviewing locals at the river mouth with perhaps some effort at confirmation.

At the same time we are getting ample indication that free lancers, often in substantial groups were breaking into the country and setting themselves up in some manner.  That after all usually meant having access to trade goods and a settlement agreement with a local tribe for shared protection.


Little of this had any semblance of Royal approval or consent  and thus scant record..

Maps of the Southeast: 1544, 1562, 1566, 1570, 1578, 1584 & 1590

We thought that readers would enjoy seeing the evolution of maps during the period when France, Spain and England were first exploring Southeastern North America.   These are the type of educational tools that we will be using when POOF University (or whatever it will be called) gets going in 2016.

Note that on all Spanish, French, English and Dutch Maps,  Fort Caroline is located on the south side of the mouth of the Altamaha River in Georgia.   France NEVER claimed any land south of the St. Marys River, which divides Florida and Georgia today.    Both the myth of Fort Caroline being located in Jacksonville and the myth of the Fountain Youth being located in St. Augustine, were created by a New York transplant, who had speculated in land near both of those towns in the 1840s.

Click maps to enlarge them to full size.


1544 - map accompanying report to King of Spain on the De Soto Expeditiion

1562 - Diego Gutierrez
 
1562 – Diego Gutierrez
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1566 - Geronimo Chaves
 
1566 – Geronimo Chaves
 
1566 - John? Longhurst
 
1566 – John? Longhurst
 


Engraver in Leyden, Holland - probably based on input from Jacques Le Moyne, the artist at Fort Caroline.
 
1570 -74  – Pieter Vander – Engraver in Leyden, Holland – probably based on input from  a survivor of Fort Caroline or a member of the 1568 Dominique de Gourgues Punitive Expedition.
 


1578 - Geronimo Chaves
 
1578 – Geronimo Chaves
 


1584-LaFlorida
 
1584 – Chaves Brothers – By a royally appointed cartographer of Spain. The identity of which Chaves is not certain.
 
1590 - Teodor de Bry (Dutch) for Queen Elizabeth
 
1590 – Teodor de Bry (Dutch) for Queen Elizabeth
 

The Dwayyo



Different name, same creature and more detail. The giant sloth shows up again.  Here is what we learned this time.

The hind legs are super powerful and tells us that from its gait and even its speed that these legs can grasp a tree or large limb and leverage the upper body into another tree or limb.  All this allows a fast run as well, sufficient to run down a deer or bear.  some of this is unexpected but understandable.


More surprising is that the upper arms do not lend themselves to an easy fight with a human.  I suspect that they grasp with the upper body and then rip the victim open with their lower limbs.  In the case mentioned the victim broke away fast enough.


There are now well over fifty separate reports in this blog and likely a couple of hundred out  there to be found once everyone understands that this is the Giant Sloth.  Confusion has hidden this creature that is surely the inspiration for the werewolf.


 The Dwayyo From Maryland



http://www.phantomsandmonsters.com/2015/11/update-dwayyo.html


Update: The Dwayyo
Posted: 14 Nov 2015 01:03 PM PST


In light of the Pennsylvania dogman encounters and incidents that our group is currently investigating, there is a legendary bi-pedal canine supposedly roaming the rolling uplands and mountains of neighboring Maryland. This post includes a few reports & updates I've collected over the years.

Back in May of 2011 I posted a narrative describing the Snallygaster, legendary beast from my neck of the woods in Maryland. Another cryptid from this region is the Dwayyo...not as well known as the Snallygaster, but just as terrifying to those who have encountered the creature.


In the late 18th century, the Pennsylvania Dutch started to settle on the other side of the Mason-Dixon Line in Carroll, Frederick & Washington Counties. Not long after setting down their new roots, tales of the Hexenwolf started to circulate. The description of this beast was similar to the Dwayyo...'a mammalian biped with features similar to a wolf, but the stance and stature of a human.' These farmers raised livestock for food and revenue, so it was important that their domestic animals be protected from the beast. Decorative five-pointed 'barn stars' may mean numerous things, such as a builder's mark or bringing luck, but I have been told that the real reason for these stars was the belief it was a talisman against baneful spirits or other dark entities...in particular, the Hexenwolf and Snallygaster. There is no reference as to the success of the 'barn stars'...but sometimes a bit of non-conventional intervention can go a long way in making someone feel more safe.

The first literary mention of the name ‘Dwayyo’ or 'Dewayo' officially known as Dwayosapientherapsida Australopithecus Rexus, comes from a sighting in 1944 in West Middleton, Frederick County, Maryland. Witnesses heard the creature make ‘frightful screams’ and there were footprints attesting to the claims of the sighting. I recently posted an first-person account of an encounter in Middletown, MD (Frederick County) in the early 1960's.

The creature then came to prominence after a story ran in the Fredrick News Post in November of 1965. Reporter George May wrote in the article, “Mysterious Dwayyo Loose in County” that a young man, named anonymously as ‘John Becker’ heard a strange noise in his backyard which was situated on the outskirts of Gambrill State Park. Upon going out to investigate the noise he initially saw nothing, so he headed back in. It was then that he caught site of the creature. Something was moving toward him in the dark, Becker was quoted that “It was as big as a bear, had long black hair, a bushy tail, and growled like a wolf or dog in anger.” The thing quickly moved toward him on its hind legs and began to attack him. He fought off the creature and drove it back into the woods, later calling police to report the incident.

The Frederick newspapers also reported other sightings. Several hunters saw a strange black beast roaming the woods. An Ellerton woman reported that residents of that area had heard something cry like a baby and scream like a woman for several months. A Jefferson woman said that she saw a strange dog-shaped animal about the size of a calf chasing some cows on a farm near her home.

An Adamstown, Maryland woman called the paper and insisted that "this trash about the Dwayyo be stopped." She said her daughter was being treated for a nervous condition because of all this talk about the Dwayyo.

In the summer of 1966, the creature was again sighted on the outskirts of Gambrill State Park. A man only referred to as ‘Jim A.’ encountered the Dwayyo as he was heading toward a camp site. It was described as a shaggy two legged creature the size of a deer that had a triangle shaped head with pointed ears and chin. It was dark brown in color and when approached it made a horrid scream and backed away from the man. Jim described it as having an odd walk as it retreated, it’s legs, “stuck out from the side of the trunk of the body making its movements appear almost spider-like as it backed away”.

In the Fall of 1976 another sighting of the Dwayyo took place in Fredrick County near Thurmont, between Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin Mountain National Park. Two men drove off route 77 and unto a private road so they could ‘spot deer’ by their headlights in order to see how thick the native population had become before deer season. To their surprise, they did not catch a deer in their lights but instead a large animal ran across the front of their car. They described the creature as, “at least 6 ft tall but inclined forward since it was moving quickly. Its head was fairly large and similar to the profile of a wolf. The body was covered in brown or brindle colored fur but the lower half had a striped pattern of noticeable darker and lighter banding. The forelegs (or arms) were slimmer and held out in front as it moved. The back legs were very muscled and thick similar to perhaps a kangaroo. This was not a hominid type creature; it did not have the characteristics of an ape. It was much more similar to a wolf or ferocious dog however it was definitely moving upright and appeared to be adapted for that type of mobility. I was particularly impressed by the size and strength of the back legs, the stripes on the lower half of the body and the canine-wolf-like head.” - from The Michigan Dogman: Werewolves and Other Unknown Canines Across the U.S.A. (Unexplained Presents)

Later in 1978 two park rangers were near the Cunningham Falls area when they encountered “a large hairy creature running on two legs”.


A witness rendition of the Dwayyo witnessed in West Middleton, Maryland

Paranormalist Robin Swope relates an anecdote from a witness who says she was driving on Coxey Brown Road near Myersville, Maryland late in the summer of 2009 when she had an strange feeling. It was as if she was being watched. The road was lined with trees, she was on the outer edge of Gambrill State Park, and the forest was beginning to grow thicker. According to her, as she turned on Hawbottom Road, where her friend lived, the feeling became overwhelming. The hairs on the back of her neck rose in terror as she sensed the unseen eyes upon her. She wanted to stop the car and take her breath, she was afraid that she would veer off the road and hit a tree because she her nerves were getting so unsteady that she began to shake. But she knew that whatever was watching her, and following her was out there, and she took what little comfort she had by being safer inside her rust rotted car. Still, to prevent a wreck, she slowed down as she headed south, and that was when she saw the creature.

At first it was a blur to the right of her periphery vision. Something that was moving through the trees, a shadow that flickered as it went in and out of sight on the edge of her vision. It was a brown smear of color that popped out in contrast to the dull dark grey trees that she passed.

Whatever it was, it bobbed through the underbrush and between the trees to keep pace with her car. She thinks at the time, she was going around 25 miles per hour. She then slowed down once more to take a good look to her right, and make sure that she was not seeing things. As her car slowed to a crawl, the brown blurry smear of color seemed to bound out of the woods closer to the road. With a massive leap the hazy color became flesh as a huge dog-like animal on two legs emerged from the foliage.

The fangs are burned into her memory. Huge fangs from a mouth grimaced in anger and hate. She could feel the fangs as if they were ripping her skin while the creature stood there panting on the side of the road. Drool dripped from its huge mouth as she heard a loud growl, and she looked into the dark eyes. Darkness took up its entire eye, there was no white at all. It was if she was staring death and hell head on in dizzying madness.

Then it leaped, arms outstretched with claws grasping the wind. Instinctively she stepped on her gas pedal with all her might. The squeal of her tires seemed as if her car too was screaming in horror at the thing that emerged from the dark looming forest.

[ dramatic bit of writing but it appears that her vagus nerve took charge and got her out of there. - arclein ]

She did not look back. She didn’t want to know if the thing was following her. She didn’t feel the eyes upon her anymore. She was too shaken to really feel anything at all. When she made it to her friends house, she sat in the driveway shaking as she looked around to make sure the creature had not followed her there. The house was also in the woods, at the opposite side of the State Park. When she felt safe, she made a mad dash for her friend’s door, and banged on it frantically.

He did not know what to make of her story. The witness knew he did not believe her. He had lived in the woods all his life, and had never encountered what she had seen. He assured her that it must have just been a dog, perhaps a rabid one at that. Her mind was playing tricks on her. But the young woman knew what she had seen that late summer day. It was no dog. It was something out of a horror movie come to life before her eyes. Though she told nobody what she felt it really was, she called it a werewolf. That is until after she did some research in the local college library and came up with the name that others had called it when they too saw the forest come alive. She had encountered the Dwayyo.

The Truth About Banking: Former Top Regulator Speaks Out







 
What amazes me most is just how profoundly that even bankers fail to understand their role.  It reminds me somewhat of asking for investment advice from an accountant.  He just happens to be utterly unequipped to actually do the job.

 Here my opinion is been amply confirmed.


We need a complete rewrite of economics education with ample practical illustrations to undo this blindness.
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The Truth About Banking: Former Top Regulator Speaks Out

Adair Turner, the Baron Turner of Ecchinswell is not your average regulator. First off, he steered the British banking system through the financial crisis in 2008 as the head of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), Britain’s former financial regulatory body. 

But how is that different from other regulators such as Timothy Geithner and Ben Bernanke?

He started to ask questions going beyond capital ratios and counterparty risk management. He questioned the whole financial system itself and came to the same conclusions previously reserved to rogue economists such as Hyman Minsky and Steve Keen.

Banks create credit money and purchasing power.
As one of the only senior decision makers in financial regulation he boldly states what these rogue economists have known for a long time: Banks manufacture money in the form of credit and it’s not always for the best of society. In his book “Between Debt and the Devil,” he describes the process in detail and also makes the case of printing money to finance government deficits.

Epoch Times: When did you realize bank credit was dangerous?

Adair Turner: I felt that we were not asking some fundamental questions that need to be asked. I remember a point in autumn 2008 where we were debating whether we should take measure to regulate the credit default swap market, which had played a role in the crisis.

Some of my staff experts at the FSA said to me, “If we regulate credit default swaps that will reduce the liquidity and that will make it more difficult to create credit in the economy.” Even at that stage I began to ask, “Are we confident that all credit in the economy is a good thing?”

So I began to ask those questions early on. Then I gave a speech in spring 2010 titled, “What Do Banks Do and What Should They Do?”

I did a lot of analysis then and it was at that stage I began to be struck by the huge difference between what our textbooks said they did, and what they actually do.

A lot of bankers themselves don’t understand that’s what they do.
Epoch Times: People think banks compete for deposits and then loan out that money. What do banks do in your opinion?

Mr. Turner: Banks create credit money and purchasing power. It’s mathematically the case that once a bank creates a loan, there is a bank liability and there is purchasing power.

The fact that banks create money, credit, and purchasing power is something very well understood by early 20th century economists such as Knut Wicksell or Friedrich von Hayek, but it went out of the way of thinking from about the 1960s onward.

I ask the question in the final chapter of my book, “Why did economics make so many fundamental mistakes?” I think it developed a desire to model the system in a highly mathematical fashion and it turns out it is much easier to do if you just ignore the banking system.

What you end up with is an economics that is mathematically very sophisticated, but totally unrealistic. One of the ways that it’s totally unrealistic is in its representation of the baking system.
Epoch Times: So banks basically print money. Why are you the first high-level official to delve into the topic?

Mr. Turner: Often in the worlds of financial regulation experts are very slightly detached from real economic theory as well as from reality. I find it a bit of a mystery because it has become very obvious that this is a fundamental understanding of the economic process. It’s the same mystery of why the insights of Hyman Minsky were ignored for so long?

There’s really something very odd about the resilience within economics of certain rather mechanical ways of looking at the world which are mathematically traceable but deeply untrue.

What you end up with is an economics that is mathematically very sophisticated but totally unrealistic.
Epoch Times: Do you think banks are actively engaged in protecting their monopoly of creating money?

Mr. Turner: Whether the banks directly influenced the academia on this particular issue of “let’s cover the fact that we create credit, money, and purchasing power,” I’m not so sure because I think the funny thing is a lot of bankers themselves don’t understand that’s what they do.

To them it feels like I’ve got to get a deposit in before I can lend. They fail to think through how the interaction of several banks together and the operation of the interbank market means the system in total can create new credit and money that didn’t previously exist.

So one of the things that struck me is how little many, very good, successful, practical bankers understand the totality of the system of which they are a particular cog.

Epoch Times: What about the political system?

Mr. Turner: At any one time there is a whole group who had a shared interest in there being more credit. So the banks wanted to grow their balance sheets and they wanted low capital requirements.


Then let’s take the United States: You had politicians which wanted the banking system or the capital market system to lend as much money as easily as possible to householders to enable people to feel like they were participating in the American Dream despite not receiving any increase in real wages.


The idea is that we’ve got to extend house ownership, and the way to extend house ownership is to extend easy mortgage credit. This was a belief shared across the political spectrum and interfaced with the banking system saying “Ah yes, and if you leave us alone and give us light capital standards and let us develop all these complicated new credit securities we’ll be able to provide that credit.”

After Paris, France Contemplates a Reckoning




I am loath to tackle all this simply because events are accelerating and anything written will be quickly out of date.

What is happening is that we are seeing a natural emergence of barbarism brought about by mostly the teachings of Islam.  In fact I am more impressed that the rest of the world almost completely refuses to join in any way.  Like Nazism, its child, the simple teachings are terribly seductive to the young in particular.


Yet the barbarians have merely taken the obvious lesson that it is possible to cause a lot of damage easily in the modern world no matter what is done.  It really is shooting fish in a barrel.  You merely collect an automatic weapon and get perhaps a few minutes of familiarization.  Then find a crowd and open fire.  Suddenly you are an important jihadi.


Having a friend or two or even a few allows for much more sophisticated operations but ultimately not so hard.  It cannot get any bigger than that because security becomes impossible.  Yet they can make us accept casualties of a hundred here or there to win great press.  In the end, we can accept these casualties.  We are just not used to them.


That is the first strategy available and that is to accept the losses.  It does not feel right but it is also the cheapest when it is impossible to stop it at all.  Recall that Paris still happened after billions spent in security that all failed.


Then there is select military action which means nothing except to punish the wrong guys.

 
To win this game we have to do it completely differently.  We have to think like them and communicate in actions they understand.  That at least means summary execution.  It may mean feeding their bodies to a herd of pigs.  Remember these are children in love with barbarism.  Show them a result that they cannot stand or even talk about.  What i am saying is that we must make their deaths ignominious and embarrassing for their families to talk about.   Bin Laden's death was a decent example of how to do it, but we need to go further.  


I have always felt that direct immediate action that is obviously supralegal was best and to ask for forgiveness after.  That means immediate aggressive interrogation including all the known wannabes who police have been watching.  Scare the hell out of them and then soften up slightly and let them go.  They are then in no doubt that they are known and second thoughts creep in..


.After Paris, France Contemplates a Reckoning

Analysis November 14, 2015 | 20:42


Parisians light candles and lay tributes Nov. 14 on the monument at Place de la Republique, a day after deadly terrorist attacks. (CHRISTOPHER FURLONG/Getty Images)


https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/after-paris-france-contemplates-reckoning?


Details are still emerging as to precisely who was responsible for the Nov. 13 Paris attacks. Sorting through the jumble of misinformation and disinformation will be challenging for French authorities, and for outside observers such as Stratfor.

While the Islamic State has claimed credit for the attack, it is still uncertain to what degree the Islamic State core organization was responsible for planning, funding or directing it. It is not clear whether the attackers were grassroots operatives encouraged by the organization like Paris Kosher Deli gunman Ahmed Coulibaly, if the operatives were professional terrorist cadres dispatched by the core group or if the attack was some combination of the two.
Analysis

French President Francois Hollande publicly placed responsibility for the Nov. 13 attack on the Islamic State, declaring it an act of war. This French response to the Paris attacks is markedly different from that of the Spanish Government following the March 2004 Madrid train bombings. Instead of pulling back from the global coalition working against jihadism, it appears that the French will renew and perhaps expand their efforts to pursue revenge for the most recent assault. The precise nature of this response will be determined by who is ultimately found to be the author of the Nov. 13 attack.

To date, there has been something akin to a division of labor in the anti-jihadist effort, with the French heavily focused on the Sahel region of Africa. The French have also supported coalition efforts in Iraq and Syria, stationing six Dassault Rafale jets in the United Arab Emirates and six Mirage jets in Jordan. On Nov. 4, Paris announced it was sending the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to enhance ongoing airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. To date, French aircraft have flown more than 1,285 missions against Islamic State targets in Iraq, and only two sorties in Syria.

France has numerous options for retaliation at its disposal, but its response will be conditioned by who was ultimately responsible. If it is found that the Islamic State core group was indeed behind the Nov. 13 attack, France will likely ramp up its Syrian air operations. The skies over Syria, however, are already congested with coalition and Russian aircraft. With this in mind, the French may choose to retaliate by focusing instead on the Islamic State in Iraq, or perhaps even other Islamic State provinces in places such as Libya. Another option would be to increase French programs to train and support anti-Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria, or even to conduct commando strikes against key leadership nodes. France also has the option of deploying an expeditionary force like it did in the Sahel, although that would probably require outside airlift capacity from NATO allies, especially the United States. 


European Ramifications


The Paris attacks occurred during a Europe-wide political crisis over migrant flows from the Middle East, Asia and Africa. A Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the Paris attackers, prompting a Greek official to say Nov. 14 that the name on the document belonged to a person who passed though Greece in October. This news means that a number of politicians critical of the European Union's response to the immigrant crisis will amplify their disapproval. In particular, advocates who want to end the Schengen agreement, which eliminated border controls in Europe, will use Paris to support their cause.

This has already begun. Poland became the first country to link the Paris attacks to the uptick in immigration. On Nov. 14, Polish Minister for European Affairs-designate Konrad Szymanski said the Paris attacks make impossible the implementation of an EU plan to distribute asylum seekers across the Continental bloc. As expected, France's National Front party also demanded the end of the Schengen agreement. In a televised speech, party leader Marine Le Pen said France has to "recapture control of its borders." 


In Germany, Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer said the Paris attack demonstrates that border controls are more necessary than ever. Seehofer has been very critical of the German government's handling of the refugee crisis, demanding permanent border controls as well as faster repatriation of asylum seekers. The Paris attack will likely strengthen his position and further weaken the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, which was already facing internal dissent because of the migration crisis. In recent weeks Germany has seen an increase in anti-immigrant violence, including arson attacks against refugee shelters. The Nov. 13 attacks may encourage more extremist groups across Europe to attack asylum seekers. 


The anti-Schengen camp will feel vindicated by a parallel event that took place in southern Germany last week, when a Montenegrin citizen was arrested while allegedly driving to Paris with several weapons. While German police have not established a direct connection between this incident and the Nov. 13 attacks, they have said that a link cannot be ruled out. The fact that this man was from Montenegro — a country in the Western Balkans — and made it to Germany in his car will strengthen the demands for stricter border controls along the so-called Balkan route of migration, which connects Greece to Northern Europe


The Paris attacks will therefore improve the popularity of anti-immigration parties in many European countries, and continue to weaken popular support for the Schengen agreement. Several countries, including Germany, Sweden, Slovenia and Hungary had already re-established border controls because of the immigration crisis. Hungary and Slovenia have gone as far as building fences along their borders. After the Nov. 13 attacks, most EU governments will find it hard to justify a policy of open borders.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

English is not Normal



 Neat essay on a favorite topic.  Just how peculiar is actually surprising as well.  Yet this language has become our global language effectively by default.  Others strive to compete but the sheer weight of numbers and commerce has made it the clear winner.


The problem is that we need a global language and the winner is really first past the post and that is English mostly because of trade history which was very much England's entree.  It was trade that led to real colonies that led to real introduction of English education to replace failed local efforts.


Much of Islam is continuing to make that same error of not modernizing education.  Today learning English is an important first step...


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English is not normal

No, English isn’t uniquely vibrant or mighty or adaptable. But it really is weirder than pretty much every other language



https://aeon.co/essays/why-is-english-so-weirdly-different-from-other-languages


English speakers know that their language is odd. So do people saddled with learning it non-natively. The oddity that we all perceive most readily is its spelling, which is indeed a nightmare. In countries where English isn’t spoken, there is no such thing as a ‘spelling bee’ competition. For a normal language, spelling at least pretends a basic correspondence to the way people pronounce the words. But English is not normal.


Spelling is a matter of writing, of course, whereas language is fundamentally about speaking. Speaking came long before writing, we speak much more, and all but a couple of hundred of the world’s thousands of languages are rarely or never written. Yet even in its spoken form, English is weird. It’s weird in ways that are easy to miss, especially since Anglophones in the United States and Britain are not exactly rabid to learn other languages. But our monolingual tendency leaves us like the proverbial fish not knowing that it is wet. Our language feels ‘normal’ only until you get a sense of what normal really is.


There is no other language, for example, that is close enough to English that we can get about half of what people are saying without training and the rest with only modest effort. German and Dutch are like that, as are Spanish and Portuguese, or Thai and Lao. The closest an Anglophone can get is with the obscure Northern European language called Frisian: if you know that tsiis is cheese and Frysk is Frisian, then it isn’t hard to figure out what this means: Brea, bûter, en griene tsiis is goed Ingelsk en goed Frysk. But that sentence is a cooked one, and overall, we tend to find that Frisian seems more like German, which it is.


We think it’s a nuisance that so many European languages assign gender to nouns for no reason, with French having female moons and male boats and such. But actually, it’s us who are odd: almost all European languages belong to one family – Indo-European – and of all of them, English is the only one that doesn’t assign genders that way.

More weirdness? OK. There is exactly one language on Earth whose present tense requires a special ending only in the third‑person singular. I’m writing in it. I talk, you talk, he/she talk-s – why just that? The present‑tense verbs of a normal language have either no endings or a bunch of different ones (Spanish: hablo, hablas, habla). And try naming another language where you have to slip do into sentences to negate or question something. Do you find that difficult? Unless you happen to be from Wales, Ireland or the north of France, probably.


Why is our language so eccentric? Just what is this thing we’re speaking, and what happened to make it this way?

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English started out as, essentially, a kind of German. Old English is so unlike the modern version that it feels like a stretch to think of them as the same language at all. Hwæt, we gardena in geardagum þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon – does that really mean ‘So, we Spear-Danes have heard of the tribe-kings’ glory in days of yore’? Icelanders can still read similar stories written in the Old Norse ancestor of their language 1,000 years ago, and yet, to the untrained eye, Beowulf might as well be in Turkish.


The first thing that got us from there to here was the fact that, when the Angles, Saxons and Jutes (and also Frisians) brought their language to England, the island was already inhabited by people who spoke very different tongues. Their languages were Celtic ones, today represented by Welsh, Irish and Breton across the Channel in France. The Celts were subjugated but survived, and since there were only about 250,000 Germanic invaders – roughly the population of a modest burg such as Jersey City – very quickly most of the people speaking Old English were Celts.

Forgotten songs and memories: Scottish folklore is on the brink of being lost

Crucially, their languages were quite unlike English. For one thing, the verb came first (came first the verb). But also, they had an odd construction with the verb do: they used it to form a question, to make a sentence negative, and even just as a kind of seasoning before any verb. Do you walk? I do not walk. I do walk. That looks familiar now because the Celts started doing it in their rendition of English. But before that, such sentences would have seemed bizarre to an English speaker – as they would today in just about any language other than our own and the surviving Celtic ones. Notice how even to dwell upon this queer usage of do is to realise something odd in oneself, like being made aware that there is always a tongue in your mouth.


At this date there is no documented language on earth beyond Celtic and English that uses do in just this way. Thus English’s weirdness began with its transformation in the mouths of people more at home with vastly different tongues. We’re still talking like them, and in ways we’d never think of. When saying ‘eeny, meeny, miny, moe’, have you ever felt like you were kind of counting? Well, you are – in Celtic numbers, chewed up over time but recognisably descended from the ones rural Britishers used when counting animals and playing games. ‘Hickory, dickory, dock’ – what in the world do those words mean? Well, here’s a clue: hovera, dovera, dick were eight, nine and ten in that same Celtic counting list.

pretty soon their bad Old English was real English, and here we are today: the Scandies made English easier


The second thing that happened was that yet more Germanic-speakers came across the sea meaning business. This wave began in the ninth century, and this time the invaders were speaking another Germanic offshoot, Old Norse. But they didn’t impose their language. Instead, they married local women and switched to English. However, they were adults and, as a rule, adults don’t pick up new languages easily, especially not in oral societies. There was no such thing as school, and no media. Learning a new language meant listening hard and trying your best. We can only imagine what kind of German most of us would speak if this was how we had to learn it, never seeing it written down, and with a great deal more on our plates (butchering animals, people and so on) than just working on our accents.


As long as the invaders got their meaning across, that was fine. But you can do that with a highly approximate rendition of a language – the legibility of the Frisian sentence you just read proves as much. So the Scandinavians did pretty much what we would expect: they spoke bad Old English. Their kids heard as much of that as they did real Old English. Life went on, and pretty soon their bad Old English was real English, and here we are today: the Scandies made English easier.


I should make a qualification here. In linguistics circles it’s risky to call one language ‘easier’ than another one, for there is no single metric by which we can determine objective rankings. But even if there is no bright line between day and night, we’d never pretend there’s no difference between life at 10am and life at 10pm. Likewise, some languages plainly jangle with more bells and whistles than others. If someone were told he had a year to get as good at either Russian or Hebrew as possible, and would lose a fingernail for every mistake he made during a three-minute test of his competence, only the masochist would choose Russian – unless he already happened to speak a language related to it. In that sense, English is ‘easier’ than other Germanic languages, and it’s because of those Vikings.


Old English had the crazy genders we would expect of a good European language – but the Scandies didn’t bother with those, and so now we have none. Chalk up one of English’s weirdnesses. What’s more, the Vikings mastered only that one shred of a once-lovely conjugation system: hence the lonely third‑person singular –s, hanging on like a dead bug on a windshield. Here and in other ways, they smoothed out the hard stuff.


They also followed the lead of the Celts, rendering the language in whatever way seemed most natural to them. It is amply documented that they left English with thousands of new words, including ones that seem very intimately ‘us’: sing the old song ‘Get Happy’ and the words in that title are from Norse. Sometimes they seemed to want to stake the language with ‘We’re here, too’ signs, matching our native words with the equivalent ones from Norse, leaving doublets such as dike (them) and ditch (us), scatter (them) and shatter (us), and ship (us) vs skipper (Norse for ship was skip, and so skipper is ‘shipper’).


But the words were just the beginning. They also left their mark on English grammar. Blissfully, it is becoming rare to be taught that it is wrong to say Which town do you come from?, ending with the preposition instead of laboriously squeezing it before the wh-word to make From which town do you come? In English, sentences with ‘dangling prepositions’ are perfectly natural and clear and harm no one. Yet there is a wet-fish issue with them, too: normal languages don’t dangle prepositions in this way. Spanish speakers: note that El hombre quien yo llegué con (‘The man whom I came with’) feels about as natural as wearing your pants inside out. Every now and then a language turns out to allow this: one indigenous one in Mexico, another one in Liberia. But that’s it. Overall, it’s an oddity. Yet, wouldn’t you know, it’s one that Old Norse also happened to permit (and which Danish retains).

as if all this wasn’t enough, English got hit by a firehose spray of words from yet more languages


We can display all these bizarre Norse influences in a single sentence. Say That’s the man you walk in with, and it’s odd because 1) the has no specifically masculine form to match man, 2) there’s no ending on walk, and 3) you don’t say ‘in with whom you walk’. All that strangeness is because of what Scandinavian Vikings did to good old English back in the day.


Finally, as if all this wasn’t enough, English got hit by a firehose spray of words from yet more languages. After the Norse came the French. The Normans – descended from the same Vikings, as it happens – conquered England, ruled for several centuries and, before long, English had picked up 10,000 new words. Then, starting in the 16th century, educated Anglophones developed a sense of English as a vehicle of sophisticated writing, and so it became fashionable to cherry-pick words from Latin to lend the language a more elevated tone.


It was thanks to this influx from French and Latin (it’s often hard to tell which was the original source of a given word) that English acquired the likes of crucified, fundamental, definition and conclusion. These words feel sufficiently English to us today, but when they were new, many persons of letters in the 1500s (and beyond) considered them irritatingly pretentious and intrusive, as indeed they would have found the phrase ‘irritatingly pretentious and intrusive’. (Think of how French pedants today turn up their noses at the flood of English words into their language.) There were even writerly sorts who proposed native English replacements for those lofty Latinates, and it’s hard not to yearn for some of these: in place of crucified, fundamental, definition and conclusion, how about crossed, groundwrought, saywhat, and endsay?


But language tends not to do what we want it to. The die was cast: English had thousands of new words competing with native English words for the same things. One result was triplets allowing us to express ideas with varying degrees of formality. Help is English, aid is French, assist is Latin. Or, kingly is English, royal is French, regal is Latin – note how one imagines posture improving with each level: kingly sounds almost mocking, regal is straight-backed like a throne, royal is somewhere in the middle, a worthy but fallible monarch.


Then there are doublets, less dramatic than triplets but fun nevertheless, such as the English/French pairs begin and commence, or want and desire. Especially noteworthy here are the culinary transformations: we kill a cow or a pig (English) to yield beef or pork (French). Why? Well, generally in Norman England, English-speaking labourers did the slaughtering for moneyed French speakers at table. The different ways of referring to meat depended on one’s place in the scheme of things, and those class distinctions have carried down to us in discreet form today.

Caveat lector, though: traditional accounts of English tend to oversell what these imported levels of formality in our vocabulary really mean. It is sometimes said that they alone make the vocabulary of English uniquely rich, which is what Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert MacNeil claim in the classic The Story of English (1986): that the first load of Latin words actually lent Old English speakers the ability to express abstract thought. But no one has ever quantified richness or abstractness in that sense (who are the people of any level of development who evidence no abstract thought, or even no ability to express it?), and there is no documented language that has only one word for each concept. Languages, like human cognition, are too nuanced, even messy, to be so elementary. Even unwritten languages have formal registers. What’s more, one way to connote formality is with substitute expressions: English has life as an ordinary word and existence as the fancy one, but in the Native American language Zuni, the fancy way to say life is ‘a breathing into’.




Even in English, native roots do more than we always recognise. We will only ever know so much about the richness of even Old English’s vocabulary because the amount of writing that has survived is very limited. It’s easy to say that comprehend in French gave us a new formal way to say understand – but then, in Old English itself, there were words that, when rendered in Modern English, would look something like ‘forstand’, ‘underget’, and ‘undergrasp’. They all appear to mean ‘understand’, but surely they had different connotations, and it is likely that those distinctions involved different degrees of formality.

Nevertheless, the Latinate invasion did leave genuine peculiarities in our language. For instance, it was here that the idea that ‘big words’ are more sophisticated got started. In most languages of the world, there is less of a sense that longer words are ‘higher’ or more specific. In Swahili, Tumtazame mbwa atakavyofanya simply means ‘Let’s see what the dog will do.’ If formal concepts required even longer words, then speaking Swahili would require superhuman feats of breath control. The English notion that big words are fancier is due to the fact that French and especially Latin words tend to be longer than Old English ones – end versus conclusion, walk versus ambulate.

The multiple influxes of foreign vocabulary also partly explain the striking fact that English words can trace to so many different sources – often several within the same sentence. The very idea of etymology being a polyglot smorgasbord, each word a fascinating story of migration and exchange, seems everyday to us. But the roots of a great many languages are much duller. The typical word comes from, well, an earlier version of that same word and there it is. The study of etymology holds little interest for, say, Arabic speakers.

this muttly vocabulary is a big part of why there’s no language so close to English that learning it is easy

To be fair, mongrel vocabularies are hardly uncommon worldwide, but English’s hybridity is high on the scale compared with most European languages. The previous sentence, for example, is a riot of words from Old English, Old Norse, French and Latin. Greek is another element: in an alternate universe, we would call photographs ‘lightwriting’. According to a fashion that reached its zenith in the 19th century, scientific things had to be given Greek names. Hence our undecipherable words for chemicals: why can’t we call monosodium glutamate ‘one-salt gluten acid’? It’s too late to ask. But this muttly vocabulary is one of the things that puts such a distance between English and its nearest linguistic neighbours.
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And finally, because of this firehose spray, we English speakers also have to contend with two different ways of accenting words. Clip on a suffix to the word wonder, and you get wonderful. But – clip on an ending to the word modern and the ending pulls the accent ahead with it: MO-dern, but mo-DERN-ity, not MO-dern-ity. That doesn’t happen with WON-der and WON-der-ful, or CHEER-y and CHEER-i-ly. But it does happen with PER-sonal, person-AL-ity.


What’s the difference? It’s that -ful and -ly are Germanic endings, while -ity came in with French. French and Latin endings pull the accent closer – TEM-pest, tem-PEST-uous – while Germanic ones leave the accent alone. One never notices such a thing, but it’s one way this ‘simple’ language is actually not so.


Thus the story of English, from when it hit British shores 1,600 years ago to today, is that of a language becoming delightfully odd. Much more has happened to it in that time than to any of its relatives, or to most languages on Earth. Here is Old Norse from the 900s CE, the first lines of a tale in the Poetic Edda called The Lay of Thrym. The lines mean ‘Angry was Ving-Thor/he woke up,’ as in: he was mad when he woke up. In Old Norse it was:


Vreiðr vas Ving-Þórr / es vaknaði.

The same two lines in Old Norse as spoken in modern Icelandic today are:

Reiður var þá Vingþórr / er hann vaknaði.

You don’t need to know Icelandic to see that the language hasn’t changed much. ‘Angry’ was once vreiðr; today’s reiður is the same word with the initial v worn off and a slightly different way of spelling the end. In Old Norse you said vas for was; today you say var – small potatoes.


In Old English, however, ‘Ving-Thor was mad when he woke up’ would have been Wraþmod wæs Ving-Þórr/he áwæcnede. We can just about wrap our heads around this as ‘English’, but we’re clearly a lot further from Beowulf than today’s Reykjavikers are from Ving-Thor.


Thus English is indeed an odd language, and its spelling is only the beginning of it. In the widely read Globish (2010), McCrum celebrates English as uniquely ‘vigorous’, ‘too sturdy to be obliterated’ by the Norman Conquest. He also treats English as laudably ‘flexible’ and ‘adaptable’, impressed by its mongrel vocabulary. McCrum is merely following in a long tradition of sunny, muscular boasts, which resemble the Russians’ idea that their language is ‘great and mighty’, as the 19th-century novelist Ivan Turgenev called it, or the French idea that their language is uniquely ‘clear’ (Ce qui n’est pas clair n’est pas français).


However, we might be reluctant to identify just which languages are not ‘mighty’, especially since obscure languages spoken by small numbers of people are typically majestically complex. The common idea that English dominates the world because it is ‘flexible’ implies that there have been languages that failed to catch on beyond their tribe because they were mysteriously rigid. I am not aware of any such languages.


What English does have on other tongues is that it is deeply peculiar in the structural sense. And it became peculiar because of the slings and arrows – as well as caprices – of outrageous history.

Gadget

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