Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Taste The Living Language

Geoffery Chaucer is known as father of English. He wrote in the 14th century. Within a few hundred years the language was already changing.

I have extracted below from Wikipedia the language Chaucer used. Below that is the translation. The language used by Chaucer could be a bit ribald. So watch out before you read the translation aloud to your kids.


This frere bosteth that he knoweth helle,

And God it woot, that it is litel wonder;

Freres and feendes been but lyte asonder.

For, pardee, ye han ofte tyme herd telle

How that a frere ravyshed was to helle

In spirit ones by a visioun;

And as an angel ladde hym up and doun,

To shewen hym the peynes that the were,

In al the place saugh he nat a frere;

Of oother folk he saugh ynowe in wo.

Unto this angel spak the frere tho:

Now, sire, quod he, han freres swich a grace

That noon of hem shal come to this place?

Yis, quod this aungel, many a millioun!

And unto sathanas he ladde hym doun.

--And now hath sathanas,--seith he,--a tayl

Brodder than of a carryk is the sayl.

Hold up thy tayl, thou sathanas!--quod he;

--shewe forth thyn ers, and lat the frere se

Where is the nest of freres in this place!--

And er that half a furlong wey of space,

Right so as bees out swarmen from an hyve,

Out of the develes ers ther gonne dryve

Twenty thousand freres on a route,

And thurghout helle swarmed al aboute,

And comen agayn as faste as they may gon,

And in his ers they crepten everychon.

He clapte his tayl agayn and lay ful stille.

This friar boasts that he knows hell,
And God knows that it is little wonder;
Friars and fiends are seldom far apart.
For, by God, you have ofttimes heard tell
How a friar was taken to hell
In spirit, once by a vision;
And as an angel led him up and down,
To show him the pains that were there,
In the whole place he saw not one friar;
He saw enough of other folk in woe.
To the angel spoke the friar thus:
"Now sir", said he, "Do friars have such a grace
That none of them come to this place?"
"Yes", said the angel, "many a million!"
And the angel led him down to Satan.
He said, "And Satan has a tail,
Broader than a large ship's sail.
Hold up your tail, Satan!" said he.
"Show forth your arse, and let the friar see
Where the nest of friars is in this place!"
And before half a furlong of space,
Just as bees swarm from a hive,
Out of the devil's arse there were driven
Twenty thousand friars on a rout,
And throughout hell swarmed all about,
And came again as fast as they could go,
And every one crept back into his arse.
He shut his tail again and lay very still.

The original language has a delightful rhythm to it, won't you say?

Now sample this:
goin 2 gr8 moov 2moro r u comin pos g2g txt bck. <3

It took me some time to figure out what this means:

Going to a great movie tomorrow. Are you coming? Parents Over Shoulder. Got to go. Text Back.Love.

Do you think 100 years from now, people will look back at today's English with the same amusement that most of us feel when we read Chaucer's English?

I think I should start blogging in textese for posterity.

Note: The image used belongs to 'miamiamia' (see gallery)

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1 comment:


Very different and original blog. Nice - liked it.

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