Our linguistic heritage

I’ve been vainly searching for some of my papers about the development of the English language, but failing to find them (I’m not well-organized) I thought I would write about the subject here on the blog, rather than look for my missing work.

Obviously I think that  in historical accounts of Britain, the Normans are given short shrift, alluded to as rapacious and cruel people who invaded the island of Britain in 1066 and spoiled (in all senses of the word) the idyllic existence of the Saxons. They are often reduced to a “mocking and a byword”, seen as aliens even these centuries later. It seems most people either know little about the Normans at all, or they know them to be bad guys, of whom we are well rid. People do talk about the Normans, if at all, in a very negative way for the most part. Everyone seems to speak of them in the past tense, as if they are gone and left no progeny.

But just by surnames, it’s evident that there are many descendants of those Normans both in the British Isles and in all of the Anglosphere. I don’t know if DNA testing can differentiate Norman DNA from the other kindred peoples of the places where the Normans ruled. In my own extended family we all show some Norwegian descent though in our family tree we have scant documentation of recent Norwegian ancestry. But as we all know, the Normans, (‘Northmen’) came from Scandinavia, and mostly Norway and Denmark as far as British Isles ancestry is concerned.

Another evidence of the influence of the Normans is the presence of many words in our English vocabulary which had Norman origins. Since I can’t seem to find my own list of Norman words, I’ll refer to the website,The History of English:

“The Normans bequeathed over 10,000 words to English (about three-quarters of which are still in use today), including a huge number of abstract nouns ending in the suffixes “-age”, “-ance/-ence”, “-ant/-ent”, “-ment”, “-ity” and “-tion”, or starting with the prefixes “con-”, “de-”, “ex-”, “trans-” and “pre-”. Perhaps predictably, many of them related to matters of crown and nobility (e.g. crown, castle, prince, count, duke, viscount, baron, noble, sovereign, heraldry); of government and administration (e.g. parliament, government, governor, city); of court and law (e.g. court, judge, justice, accuse, arrest, sentence, appeal, condemn, plaintiff, bailiff, jury, felony, verdict, traitor, contract, damage, prison); of war and combat (e.g. army, armour, archer, battle, soldier, guard, courage, peace, enemy, destroy); of authority and control (e.g. authority, obedience, servant, peasant, vassal, serf, labourer, charity); of fashion and high living (e.g. mansion, money, gown, boot, beauty, mirror, jewel, appetite, banquet, herb, spice, sauce, roast, biscuit); and of art and literature (e.g. art, colour, language, literature, poet, chapter, question). Curiously, though, the Anglo-Saxon words cyning (king), cwene (queen), erl (earl), cniht (knight), ladi (lady) and lord persisted.

While humble trades retained their Anglo-Saxon names (e.g. baker, miller, shoemaker, etc), the more skilled trades adopted French names (e.g. mason, painter, tailor, merchant, etc). While the animals in the field generally kept their English names (e.g. sheep, cow, ox, calf, swine, deer), once cooked and served their names often became French (e.g. beef, mutton, pork, bacon, veal, venison, etc). Sometimes a French word completely replaced an Old English word (e.g. crime replaced firen, place replaced stow, people replaced leod, beautiful replaced wlitig, uncle replaced eam, etc). Sometimes French and Old English components combined to form a new word, such as the French gentle and the Germanic man combined to formed gentleman. Sometimes, both English and French words survived, but with significantly different senses (e.g. the Old English doom and French judgement, hearty and cordial, house and mansion, etc).

But, often, different words with roughly the same meaning survived, and a whole host of new, French-based synonyms entered the English language (e.g. the French maternity in addition to the Old English motherhood, infant to child, amity to friendship, battle to fight, liberty to freedom, labour to work, desire to wish, commence to start, conceal to hide, divide to cleave, close to shut, demand to ask, chamber to room, forest to wood, power to might, annual to yearly, odour to smell, pardon to forgive, aid to help, etc). Over time, many near synonyms acquired subtle differences in meaning (with the French alternative often suggesting a higher level of refinement than the Old English), adding to the precision and flexibility of the English language. Even today, phrases combining Anglo-Saxon and Norman French doublets are still in common use (e.g. law and order, lord and master, love and cherish, ways and means, etc). Bilingual word lists were being compiled as early as the 13th Century.”

The English language as it is today would not be what it is if not for the infusion of Norman-French words which are part of our daily usage. My personal belief is that the language would not be as complex and nuanced without the Norman influence. Some see that as a bad thing; some time ago I wrote here about the movement started by one scholar to de-Normanize (if there is such a word) the English language, and turn to the old Englisc tongue, which is more basic, using more one-syllable words and compound words to convey the message.

We can’t know how things would have happened had history taken a different course; had William and his knights failed in 1066, had the Normans never ruled, we can’t envision the result. To insist, as many do, that nothing but good would have befallen (there’s a good English word) England if the Norman Conquest never happened, is idle supposition.

The website which I quote above is a very interesting one if you are at all interested in the history of England or Britain and in the language we speak and the quite different language our ancestors spoke in the times of Chaucer, as the writer discusses. There are sound clips here and there on the web page so that you can listen to the Prologue to Canterbury Tales, for example, to hear the sound of the language of Chaucer.

I admit I love our language; I’m a partisan when it comes to the English language. Now, our cousins across the Atlantic may think our American version of the ‘tongue that Shakespeare spake’ is not very English at all but the language is a part of The Old Inheritance, and it’s very much a part of the English people and of our history and culture.

I expect I will probably have more to say of the Normans; they are a neglected part of the story of England/Britain, at least as it is told in our day.

‘Occupied’ Northern Ireland?

Something of a furor has apparently erupted around the BBC referring to Kashmir as being ‘Indian-occupied.’ The brouhaha resulted when a Hindu film director Shekhar Kapur, quoted in a RT article, posed an irate question to the BBC asking why, if they call Kashmir ‘Indian-occupied’, they don’t also refer to Northern Ireland, or Ulster, as ‘British-occupied.’

First of all, Mr. Kapur is simply trying to score a rhetorical point against the BBC or Britain itself, calling “hypocrisy”, because Kapur himself is a Hindu loyalist, though he is described in the RT article as a ‘British-Indian.’ There is no such thing; he is British or he is Indian. Choose one.

According to Kapur’s biographies (there are several online, with differing information) he was definitely born in India, and educated there, then went to London. Some sources say he lives in New York. Or he is reported to live, or have lived in the Philippines, or to be back in India. It appears to me he is one of those ‘world citizens’ who jets back and forth between various countries. Where are his allegiances? Judging by this controversy he identifies with is birthplace, India, as he is defending that country vs. Kashmir.

But Kapur is drawing parallels between the India-Kashmir question and the Northern Ireland/Ulster situation. Some online commenters say that Ulster is ‘under British occupation.’ Well, if that is so, then the United States is under European occupation, with its ‘Native American’ inhabitants lacking their rightful sovereignty. After all, the ancestors of the Ulster folk, (who are mainly descended from Scots and English border-county settlers), have been in Ulster for about 400 years — as long as those of us with early colonist ancestry have had a presence on this continent. So if Ulster is ‘under British occupation’ then so is this country ‘under occupation’. That’s a much closer parallel than the Kashmir-India situation.

I’ve often wondered why the Irish so insistently claim that the ‘Brits’ must get off their island because the Irish were there first. The American Indians could make the same claim, and some do. Are we prepared to renounce our claims and go back to Europe? Do you think Europe wants us all back?

The way of the world has always been that those who can hold and keep a place are the rightful owners, not just those whose ancestors were there first. Maybe an ideal world would not be thus, but this world has never been perfect and — news flash — it never can be.

The English, or more properly the Anglo-Normans have been in Ireland since the 12th century. The Twelfth Century. That’s what, nine centuries ago? Nearly a millennium. Nine hundred years.

And if four centuries is not enough to consider the Ulster folk as natives, then just how many centuries, or millennia, does it take? Stubbornness is one thing, but this goes beyond stubbornness.

There is an Irish Republic only because the British got tired of being harried by Irish uprisings and agreed to give them a Republic — which the Irish are now, ironically, willingly ceding to Third Worlders. Ironic in the extreme, and exasperating. How are the present colonizers of Ireland preferable to the Anglo-Normans or their English successors? Apparently their presence is more agreeable to the Irish, so I can’t waste many tears on the fate of Ireland since they are willing to be colonized and overwhelmed numerically, eventually.

The fact is, I happen to like the Irish as people but I fail to understand the mindset at work there.

In my opinion the Ulster folk have a long-established right to be in Ireland. Where would they go? They are much like the Boers; what country would take them in? Not the USA because we give preference to third worlders, as does Canada, and the rest of the Western World. The Ulster folk have a right to exist and Northern Ireland has been their home as long as this continent has been the home of my lineage out of Britain.

Americans for some reason — perhaps because of the very vocal presence of so many Irish-Americans — tend to have a knee-jerk reaction in favor of the Irish, with no regard for the actual history of the conflict there, with little awareness of what the issues are.

One more postscript:with all due respect, to me it’s almost as strange that so many English or British harbor a hatred for Normans and anyone of known Norman descent (which includes many Americans, if they only knew it). I say the same thing here: 1066 was a long, long, time ago, long enough to count the Normans and their descendants as belonging in Britain as much as anyone else. If people of Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Manx, Cornish, can be included, why not those of Norman descent? The Normans, after all, were close kindred genetically, and apparently there is no easy way to distinguish those of Norman descent based on DNA.

When one’s country is being inundated with very disparate peoples it would seem an inopportune time to ‘Other’ the people who have been part of the population for a thousand years.

If it’s still acceptable to hate the Normans for whatever reason, then I guess the Irish can go on hating Strongbow and those who followed him, after all these centuries. How long can these hatreds be kept going? Wouldn’t burying the hatchet be a good move in this troubled time?

I suppose, if millennia-long grudges are the thing, then the American Indians have a right to hate Whites and to demand the whole North American continent back because — it isn’t fair that the other guys won.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kapur, the ‘British-Indian’ director, in trying to make a point in favor of his actual countrymen in India has made a historical faux pas; if only people could learn some historical lessons by this silly controversy.

Wisdom From C. Chauncey Burr, dated 1863

In the following quote, Chauncey Burr, in his book A History of the Union and the Constitution, addresses the question of the Saxon and the Norman forms of government, a question which was disputed in the South during that time, just at the onset of the War Between the States.

Burr said:

“The man that does not love his country, turns his back upon himself.

Our country is ourselves; for we are all parts of the public system which constitutes the grand edifice of our social and political lives.

The man who even dies for his country, dies for himself, for his children, and for the honor of his forefathers.

It is a family interest that connects him with the glory of his country.

What are a few days added to a man’s life, compared to the progressive perpetuity of those institutions which are to be the abode of all the descending generations of his offspring? Only as a minute compared to a thousand years.

It is of little moment whether you and I go hence to-day or to-morrow. Every act of ours that bears upon our country’s weal or woe is something infinitely greater than our life.

When we come to investigate the origin of the principles of our Government, we must go a great ways back of our colonial period. […]

Principles which hold up the weight of states and kingdoms are not inventions. They are growths, good or bad, out of time and circumstances.

We who live now stand upon the topmost layer; but remove the one beneath us, and we must go down. Remove the lowest strata of all, and the whole pile would tumble in ruins.

One layer of time has Providence piled upon another for immemorial ages, every one of which is essential to the integrity of the whole system.

Had Greece been different from what it is, Rome would not have been what she was. Had Rome been different, Saxony and Normandy would not have been what they were. Had these been different, England would not be what she is.

Had England been different, we should not be what we are-we should not be here to-night. We are all parts of one stupendous whole, and are making future generations, just as past generations have made us.

Our fathers transmitted a priceless boon of government to us; and, by an eternal law of Providence, we must send it down to our posterity, a boon or a bane. As we act to-day, must our children curse or bless our memories. As we act to-day, shall we transmit to the generations of our offspring the sacred principles of self-government and liberty, or those of anarchy and despotism. The blood of our fathers was poured out like rain in defense of those principles.

And not only of our fathers, but of hundreds of thousands of Saxons in England, even before the time of feudalism. For old England, under her Saxon kings, was a kingly confederacy. That was the old Saxon idea of liberty, that the people should somehow rule.

In their institutions the name of “PEOPLE” was never lost, whether in their furtherest antiquity among the forests of Germany, or on the ancient plains of Britainy. [sic]

Our fathers, when they began the business of governing themselves, but expanded what the Saxons commenced more than a thousand years ago; before, indeed, the races of the North of Europe had a history of their own, or a place in the history of the more civilized Southern nations. […]

More than a thousand years ago this battle between the ideas of local self-government and of centralized despotism crimsoned every field in Britainy. The principle of local independence was the Saxon idea. That of centralization, or of all power proceeding from a great and irresponsible center, was the Norman idea.

Hence, “when the Saxons conquered Britain, its comparatively small territory was divided into several petty kingdoms or loosely-compacted commonwealths. And again, each of these was parceled out into various other divisions, such as counties, shires, tithings, and other partitions, the origin of which puzzles the antiquarian.”

This old Saxon spirit of state independence animated the local institutions and all the small divisions with an energy and general prosperity that never could have been developed under a strongly-controlling central power. Under the Saxon principle, the masses of the people flourish. They are free, and, therefore, the arbiters of their own destiny. Their very freedom imparts an ambition and an enterprise, which are never seen where the Norman principle of centralized power prevails.”

Jeff Sessions’ ancestry

This is delicious — for me, at least, though it probably interests few others. But it does fit in with my previous post.

In the wake of the posssible nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama as Attorney-General, a commenter (on the same blog I cited in the last post) quotes a Tweet that gives the origin of Sessions’ surname. It is apparently Norman.

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I say this information is ‘delicious’ because it comes in the wake of the earlier slams against Normans as in the comments I re-posted here from that blog. So where are the nasty comments now? Sessions, being a very conservative Senator, is popular on that blog; probably those who like him will be claiming that he is actually Scots-Irish. That’s the ‘in’ thing to be for many Southron Americans. Funny how these things have fads and fashions, often based on ephemeral things like popular ‘history’ books and cable TV documentaries.

But history can’t be rewritten at whim; truth is not determined by popular opinion at any given moment. As I said yesterday, the Normans are not just a historical relic; their descendants do exist in the United States, especially in the South, and it’s opportune that this information about Jeff Session’s lineage appeared to illustrate my point.

The Normans

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The above comments are not mine; they appeared on a pro-White blog (American) recently, and though at first glance the first one may seem to be just wry humor, they both express a viewpoint which is not at all uncommon, both on American blogs and on certain British nationalist blogs I visit.

Normans are very much out of favor even in the Anglosphere countries. I’ve often wondered why, because this viewpoint. wasn’t always so emphatic. It seems that the Normans are charged and convicted with basically the same “crimes” for which the British/English are said to be guilty: they were too successful at conquest and subjugation. Certainly I’m familiar with the narrative in which William the Conqueror was said to have ruthlessly harried and subdued the Anglo-Saxon populace. But such was life in those times; maybe the Anglo-Saxons were more of a pacific people than the Normans, who were after all descendants of Norsemen, Vikings. But medieval history was rife with such conflicts; conquering and being conquered.

Today few people of English or British descent want to claim descent from Normans; it seems to be popularly assumed that the Normans actually left few descendants except for the weakened aristocratic classes or the Windsors, but even the Windsors are of mixed European (aristocratic) lineage, with lots of German blood from the Hanovers. Remember that during WWI, the Russian Czar Nicholas II, King George V of England, and Kaiser Wilhelm were all first cousins. Not much Norman descent there.

Still, because of today’s levelling spirit, which at heart is Jacobin, it’s still fashionable for both ‘right’ and left to loathe aristocracies and to exalt the ‘average’ man. The Normans are on the wrong side of history as it played out in the 20th century.

I did encounter a rare honest person, a fellow blogger from Ireland, who volunteered that he was of Norman descent, being ‘Anglo-Irish’, and that he wasn’t ashamed to say so. He was an exception to the rule; maybe the Irish, or at least the Anglo-Irish, still take pride in their Norman forebears.

The Cavalier class in the old South identified themselves, generally, as Anglo-Norman, but then they were of a different time in which being of such a background was not thought to be something that one had to apologize for or deny. John Randolph of Roanoke, that great eccentric and public figure, said (as did fellow Virginian John Taylor of Caroline) “I am an aristocrat; I love liberty. I hate equality.”

I think that statement would meet with outrage from a lot of people in 21st century America. Too often we accept the idea that equality is a valid ideal, and that any decent person believes in equality. But there is no equality in nature. Equality and freedom can’t coexist, in fact, because equality requires perpetual coercion to maintain. Some will always excel or outdo or outcompete the rest. Always. Lifting people up by artificial means can never be successful; the cream will rise to the top.

It’s easier to cut the high-achieving people down than to raise the underachievers up.

The Normans are now low men on the totem pole by popular consensus. They were the ‘tall poppies’ so down they came in the post-French revolution mind.

But where are those Normans? Here, in America, and in Australia, and Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and even in England. And that’s not to mention the Normans who still live in Normandy. But wherever people of British descent are there are people with at least some Norman blood. The Normans are not extinct.

I will have more to say about Norman descendants in the future. It seems to be an area of history and genealogy that is not much talked about.