How does a Saxon Laugh?


This is a book in the British Library. It feels like touching a Saxon hand, and may be the closest I can get to Bera, since the Vikings left no written history. I can’t (won’t) write in cod-Saxon, so I use the words to inspire and then try to use modern dialectical equivalents, e.g. blather, from Old Norse blathra, ‘talk nonsense’. So many ON words have gone into our language that I need to be inventive to make it sound “other”, and dialect helps. And then there are the online rabbit holes ...

This manuscript is an Old English-Latin dictionary, made by John Joscelyn (b. 1529, d. 1603), an English clergyman and one of the first scholars of the Old English language, in collaboration with John Parker (b. 1548, d. 1619), son of Matthew Parker (b. 1504, d. 1575), archbishop of Canterbury. It was most likely made in the 1580s while Joscelyn was serving as the Latin secretary for the archbishop and had access to his huge library at Lambeth Palace, which included at least 40 Old English texts The whole dictionary contains around 22,500 entries. (This is A-L) Each entry in Old English is accompanied by a definition written in Latin or modern English, or sometimes in both.

I can hear their laughter, at their phonetic entry, and I love the link from Saxon, via the Tudors, right through to us (especially those of us who prefer hahaha to LOL) Can you see it in the header?



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