aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Musings on old words

In early Anglo-Saxon military organization, the warriors owing fealty to a lord (drihten) were of three sorts: the gedriht, or companions, who were the personal bodyguard of the lord and pledged to die with him in battle; the duguth, or mature warriors, the veterans who held land tenure under the lord; and the geoguth, or young men in their late teens/early twenties, not yet established in the community and just learning the art of war. Then as now, the geoguth were the majority of the army, and they were on fire to establish their reputation and be numbered among the duguth. They were bold -- rash, even -- in all kinds of adventures.

Old English had a tendency to palatalize 'g' and 'h' -- especially in the middle of words -- to form growly sounds. 'G' could be sounded as a gutteral 'y'. In Middle English, when our spelling became mostly fixed, it was frequently written as 'gh', but that didn't stop the pronunciation from changing. By Early Modern English, 'gh' was pronounced (or not pronounced) in all kinds of ways, which is the reason we find funny Dr. Seuss's book title, The Tough Coughs As He Ploughs The Dough. At the same time, initial 'g' was often palatalized and tended to sound like 'y'.

This means we still have Modern English words based on duguth and geoguth, though you might not recognize them at first. Duguth survives in the related adjective "doughty," which describes a mature warrior's character: brave and hardy. Meanwhile, geoguth is the source of our English word "youth."

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 1 comment