Ignorant Scribe and Learned Editor: Patterns of Textual Error in Editions of Anglo-French Texts

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William Rothwell (2004)

[1]In 1943 the Anglo-Norman Text Society published an edition of two manuscripts of La Seinte Resureccion under the names of  four distinguished professors, with no less than six other prominent scholars being cited as having  helped in the work.[2] On three occasions in the edition the place of origin of Joseph of Arimathaea is printed as Arunachie from the Paris manuscript, whilst the Canterbury one carries the expected Arimathie. Conscious of  the difficulty here, Miss Pope, who played the principal role in completing the edition, confirms the Paris reading in a Note.[3] In terms of  theoretical medieval orthography she is no doubt correct, but in terms  both of overall orthographical practice as seen in scores of medieval texts written in Anglo-French and also as viewed from the standpoint of  medieval civilization in general, this is clearly a sacrifice of  common sense on the altar of  philological theory. To be chosen to copy precious documents concerning the faith must have been a considerable privilege for any religious, so to assume that a scribe entrusted by his community with copying a text dealing with such a fundamental article of Christian belief as the Resurrection would have been ignorant of the spelling of a key name as important as ‘Joseph of Arimathaea’ is beyond belief. Nor is it remotely credible that readers of the text, members of a small literate elite amongst a predominantly unlettered population, would have registered the incomprehensible Arunachie as anything other than Arimathie.


The reading Arunachie hangs on two highly dubious tenets of medieval French palaeography: firstly, that i is always distinguished from other minims (e.g. those that make up m/n/u/v) by having a dot above it and, secondly, that c and t are always distinguishable by the top of the t being visible above the cross-bar that so often joins it to a following letter. Would that it were so! Indeed, Miss Pope would appear to contradict herself when, after stating that ‘symbols such as c and t, n and u, m and iu, ui [are] clearly differentiated’ (p.xvi), she goes on to qualify this entirely positive assessment by a somewhat naïve statement to the contrary: ‘The reading is only uncertain when the letter is not made with the scribe’s customary precision […]’ (ibid.). It could hardly be otherwise. She maintains that such ‘scribal inadvertencies’ are, however, ‘very rare’ (p.xvi), but then introduces a purely hypothetical explanation to account for other, hitherto unmentioned, ‘errors’ in the text, claiming that: ‘More frequent are the instances in which the copyist appears to have been misled by a lack of differentiation of letter or symbol in the text he was copying’ (p.xvii). Amongst such failures of differentiation she includes Arunachie. So the text is not, in fact, as orthographically unblemished from the standpoint of the modern philologist as she made it out to be in her first statement. Unfortunately, the original that the scribe was copying and which is claimed to be responsible for his setting down Arunachie on three occasions is not available for examination, so the reader has no means of determining the degree of care or otherwise that the original author brought to his work in general, or, in particular, whether he led the later copyist astray in the matter of Arunachie/Arimathie.


As so often, hapless ‘ignorant scribes’, author or copyist long deceased, are saddled with the blame for any resulting difficulty experienced by modern scholars approaching the text from their own perspective rather than that of the medieval audience for whom it was written. In effect, the reader of the edition is being asked to accept on trust that the original author’s failure to separate beyond any possible confusion every case of c and t in combination with a following letter, a failure that cannot possibly be substantiated on account of a total lack of surviving evidence, led the later Paris scribe to write down an outlandish form for a very well-known religious personage. Furthermore, Miss Pope asserts that this negligent scribe’s version of the text shows a definite trace of continental Norman influence’ (p. xxxix), and another member of the editorial team writes:’ The scribe of P  […] imparts a distinctly continental colouring to his language. […] Turning to the language of C we are at once aware of a greater remoteness from strict continental standards’ (p. xxxix, Note 2). This would strongly suggest that the Paris scribe with his ‘distinctly continental influence’ and his leaning towards ‘strict continental standards’  would be the more likely of the two scribes to get ‘Arimathie’ right, but, perversely, it is the insular Canterbury scribe who sets down the correct form on each occasion. That the Paris scribe fails to do so can only mean either that he must have been slavishly wedded to his supposed carelessly drafted original, to the point of transcribing what both he and his readers knew to be nonsense, or else, more probably, that he was simply not concerned to follow to the letter the strict orthographical rules drawn up for him centuries after his death by modern philologists to bolster their view of  the evolution of  French. Miss Pope inadvertently confirms this latter interpretation on pp. xli-xlii, where she lists characteristics of the Paris scribe’s spelling in other texts, revealing that his ‘orthographical system’ in general left something to be desired as regards conformity to received twentieth-century wisdom in this department. A similar unruly attitude displayed by another admittedly well-qualified scribe, this time on the north-east border of France, will be commented upon later. On the other hand, for the Canterbury scribe, who, it is affirmed, was not just copying the Paris version, and who ‘was no great expert in Old French […]’ (p. xvii), to get the form right on all three occasions of its use would presumably imply that he corrected the supposedly faulty original as he copied it, despite his alleged handicap of a limited knowledge of Old French, a truly remarkable, but highly improbable feat. Alternatively, as far as the tangible evidence is concerned, the original may not have been corrupt at all, so that the Canterbury scribe may just  have copied it tel quel ‘with meticulous accuracy’ (p. xl) as, so we are told, was the case with the other texts attributed to him.


This apparently trifling question has been dealt with at length because it encapsulates an attitude of mind that has dominated the study of medieval French for many decades. Rather than accept textual reality as their touchstone, basing any conclusions regarding either continental or insular French of the period directly on the evidence that the sum of such textual reality provides, without any pre-judgements, philologists have judged the written legacy of their subject by reference to a model of what they thought it ought to have been in order to conform to phonological rules drawn up in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, consequently regarding as reprehensible blunders anything that did not fit into their construct. The fact that no less than ten specialists in Old French on both sides of the Atlantic were associated with this edition and must be considered to have been in agreement with the kind of gratuitous contortion illustrated above is an indication of the authority behind this approach to the editing of Anglo-French texts.


All such attempts to explain away what is no more than a commonplace scribal ‘failure’ to differentiate unequivocally between c/t and the minims in im/un/iv/vi are the product of a modern anachronistic preoccupation with form as against substance that goes back to the efforts of nineteenth-century philologists to trace the development of the individual Romance languages. Since first-hand evidence regarding pronunciation in the Middle Ages is in very short supply, in contrast to that provided by the unimpeachable tape-recordings now at the disposal of the researcher into present-day languages and their dialects, the philologists were thrown back on what evidence could be gleaned from a study of the writings of the period, establishing connections between the written forms they found in medieval verse texts and the sounds these forms were thought to have represented at the time the texts were written. This meant constructing a picture of phonetic changes occurring over centuries that had to be based ultimately on small marks made on parchment by generations of mostly unidentified scribes about whose place of origin, possible movements from one area to another in the course of  their careers, exposure to external linguistic influences, dates of activity and methods of training often little, if anything, is known. Interpreting this evidence from written forms in terms of sound, the philologists built up over decades a complicated apparatus of sound-values and sound-change over different periods and from different areas, the apparatus that lies behind the title of Miss Pope’s major work: ‘From Latin to Modern French: Phonology and Morphology’. The second part of this title is highly significant in that it makes no mention of lexis or semantics, without which essential ingredients no language can fulfil its primary purpose of communication.


Far from covering the whole spectrum of the surviving textual material in medieval French, phonological findings are based on evidence provided in very large measure by texts in verse, which are numerically far outweighed by those in prose. This imbalance may be readily appreciated by comparing the size of the List of Texts given in Miss Pope’s book (pp. xxi-xxvi, ranging from the earliest times up to the end of the seventeenth century, and pp. 483-5) with the vastly greater one of Tobler-Lommatzsch which does not go beyond the middle of fourteenth century, or even AND1. What is more, when the current work being carried out by M. Jean-Loup Ringenbach with the aim of  constructing Godefroy’s bibliography from the thousands of references in his vast dictionary is complete, this comparison will be even more striking.[4] A further limitation on the scope of  phonological enquiry is that, within those texts in verse, it concentrates overwhelmingly on the final syllables of words at the rhyme. This means that the proportion of the total written material surviving from the medieval period which actually contributes to the phonological history of French as found in the manuals is minute: a very small tail is wagging a very large dog.


More important than this quantitative factor, however, is the qualitative attitude that it engenders. For the purposes of  traditional phonology words are regarded as combinations of individual characters whose phonetic values vary according to their position in the arrangement of letters, together with the time and place of composition of the work in which they occur. The indispensable requirement for the success of such an attempt to deduce sounds from written characters is that the form of these letters made on parchment should be consistent  in the work of each individual scribe and consistent also from one scribe to another over time, so that, by extension, the words composed from them should similarly be spelled in a consistent manner. However, although the characters used in medieval French manuscripts may correspond to those in modern French books, this does not necessarily mean that the writers’ or their readers’ attitude to them was the same as that of the modern writer or reader. The revolution brought about by the printing press has endowed the modern individual printed character with a uniformity and an independence which cannot be taken for granted in medieval writings. The standardized orthography developed  in modern times as a result of this revolution posits an equally standardized form of instruction applied over the whole area in which the language is used, a state of affairs found in France and England only from the post-medieval age in which the early philologists themselves lived. Such a process of standardization may be seen at work today in the way in which children are gradually schooled through national systems of education to write in a standard script at the level of both individual letter and word, although their own untutored handwriting and spelling may be perfectly comprehensible, if somewhat idiosyncratic. This reflects the medieval position when the ability to read and write was not widespread and when there was no acknowledged central authority issuing prescriptive directives in respect of spelling and pronunciation.


The prime requisite for any centralized control over a language is a general availability of dictionaries which alone make possible the dissemination of both a standard spelling and, concomitantly, a generally accepted system of semantic values. In the absence of  such dictionaries the wide variety of equivalents found in the profusion of glosses surviving from the medieval period, especially in Britain where two foreign languages were in use alongside the native vernacular, [5] demonstrates the lack of uniformity in both spelling and meaning current amongst the many scribes who compiled them in different areas at different times, without, however, any necessary implication of backwardness or ignorance on their part. Consequently, any  philological approach to medieval French in general and Anglo-French in particular needs to be along the lines used by the writers of the period themselves, concentrating on the complete word rather than on the individual letters which go to make it up, treating the word not in isolation, but situating it in its context. Only by consideration of the full context surrounding a particular term can it be interpreted correctly. Medieval semantic fields differ from those current today no less than the variety of medieval spellings differs from the standard modern spelling. For example, the meaning of the Anglo-French chambre, in all its twelve different spellings so far attested, extends from its generic sense of ‘compartment, enclosed space’ to the different ways in which that generic sense was realized in the medieval world – ‘bed-chamber’, ‘privy’, ‘private quarters’, ‘judge’s quarters’, ‘private domain (of royalty or nobility)’, ‘private retinue’, ‘treasury (of king, noble or community)’, ‘treasure or fortune’, ‘hangings of a room’.[6] The precise sense to be attached to the word is not determined by its spelling, but by the context in which it is found. Nor can this linguistic feature be conveniently regarded as a characteristic applicable only to a ‘half-known’ semi-incoherent language, because the DMLBS entry for camera is along very comparable lines, proving that the same attitude to semantics was current even in Latin, the language of prestige in the Middle Ages. This is hardly to be wondered at, since the same scribal hands and brains were guiding the quill in both languages. A similar state of affairs may be seen in the medieval French astele, whose senses range from ‘stick (for fire-wood)’ through ‘hame’, ‘sheath of the scabbard’, ‘splint’, ‘shaft (of an arrow)’, to ‘cart-pole’ and  ‘wooden pillar’.[7] Here again, the DMLBS  is broadly in agreement. This need to allocate meaning by reference to context rather than spelling holds good for the lexis of medieval French in general, continental as well as insular. On occasion, it is virtually impossible to apportion correctly the role of scribe and editor respectively in a medley of forms found in a printed edition, as when the variants for seyns (=in this court) are given as follows: seins, feuz, feinz, seinz, leinz and seuz (Britton i 362). If correctly interpreted orthographically by the editor, something difficult to check, these variants would show an apparent confusion of  s/f, s/l and n/u, but the only certainty is that, however interpreted,  they must all have been correctly understood by students of the law for whom this text was fundamental, as witnessed by its twenty-six surviving manuscripts. In sum, the phonologist’s preoccupation with individual letters serves only to divert attention from the real purpose of  medieval texts – intelligible communication – and so is inimical to the promotion of a correct understanding of  the language he is studying, at the level of both word and text.


The detrimental effect of  focusing on the individual character as against the complete word is illustrated by the consequential wholesale dismissal of a mass of non-literary works written in later Anglo-French which fail to meet the phonologists’ cardinal requirement of consistency  in spelling and thus prevent  the connections between letter and sound from being established. When allied to a similar lack of consistency obtaining in matters of grammatical form this lack of  orthographical consistency prompted Miss Pope’s reference in her book to the ‘debasement’ of the language after the middle of the thirteenth century, describing it as ‘characterised by a more and more indiscriminate use of words, sounds and forms, but half-known’ (p.424). In contradiction of these strictures, however, incontrovertible evidence shows that Anglo-French lived on as a major language widely used in Britain well into the fifteenth century,[8] a survival difficult to explain if such sweeping condemnation were well founded. Leaving aside the thorny question of how anything can be known for certain about the ‘sounds’ of this later Anglo-French in the acknowledged absence of confirmatory rhymes, if, as alleged, neither its writers nor its readers had a native or even an adequate grasp of the ‘half-known’ language in which they were trying  to communicate, a language claimed to lack coherence also as regards its lexis and its syntactical markers, later Anglo-French could not have served  as the instrument of any meaningful exchange of information, public or private, or been used as  the linguistic tool of government at national and local level and the language of the law which relies implicitly on a stable system of semantics.[9] Yet abundant documentary evidence survives to show that it did, indeed, fulfil all these roles. Nor would it have been possible to compile, hundreds of years later, a dictionary of this insular French, illustrating coherent and often complex semantic patterns of words, together with  a mass of locutions that bear witness to a semantic continuity that lasted for generations over a wide area of Britain in specialized registers as well as in general vocabulary.[10]  In reality, the essence of Anglo-French lies not in sound-values deduced selectively from rhymes and considered in isolation, independently of meaning, but in complete words having widely accepted semantic content embedded in a recognizable syntactical framework so as to constitute a viable means of communication. Sound and form in Anglo-French may be variable, its syntactical system may  not conform to what philologists in the past would have us believe to have been a uniform form of French current throughout medieval France, a  credo now increasingly under threat, as will be shown, yet its consistent semantic structure nevertheless guaranteed its intelligibility for those who used it. The concern of those who compiled the voluminous body of documents of all kinds in later Anglo-French that are an anathema to the  traditional philologist was not to display their command of the minutiae of an imagined rigid orthographical conformity, but to communicate, and their work would be valued by their own and subsequent generations for its content, not its spelling. The modern philologist, driven by the requirements of his speciality, seeks the unattainable and blames the medieval writers and scribes for not providing it.


A few years after the appearance of the Seinte Resureccion the preoccupation with ‘authentic’ form and its concomitant disregard of meaning was taken to far greater lengths when the Early English Text Society published in 1958 an edition by W.H. Trethewey of a prose version of the Ancrene Riwle preserved in three insular manuscripts, all dating from around the end of the thirteenth century, roughly a hundred years and some four generations after the Seinte Resureccion. This later work is highly germane  to the study of Anglo-French, not because it is unique in its treatment of the text, but rather because, being of a literary nature yet set down in prose at the time when extensive administrative and legal works were being produced, likewise in prose, it straddles the two forms of writing, literary and non-literary, and would fall under the strictures of  Miss Pope as mentioned above. In general terms, it may be said that the editor approaches his task from the usual standpoint of traditional philology as found in most editions of literary texts in verse, but without being able to draw verifiable phonological conclusions from this approach owing to the absence of rhymes. He examines the manuscripts in close detail, finding their spelling defective in many places and assuming, as did the editors of La Seinte Resureccion, that his own readings are in every case correct and that the responsibility for the many perceived ‘deficiencies’ these readings reveal lies with the scribes who failed to copy correctly the now lost original. Again, as was the case with the earlier text, he gives no consideration to the purpose for which the manuscripts were written. Significantly, his edition has no glossary or Notes to assist comprehension, although the number of readers capable of using it profitably in its present form must be very small. Like the earlier text, however, the primary purpose of the Ancrene Riwle was, in fact, as an aid to salvation, so that intelligibility must have been a sine qua non. The didactic purpose behind the compilation is expressly stated: A ses duz chers freres e suers en deu hommes e femmes de religion e a tuz icels e celes [ki] cest escrit lirront ou de autre lire le orront, saluz […] (p. 159); later on the same page the scribe writes: E ke vus puissez tost trover en cest escrit ceo ke vus querrez […]. The text was indisputably meant to be read in private by individuals and also to be read aloud to groups of hearers (E atret le lisez ou deuant vus lire facez p. 160.26-7). Moreover, not only is there repeated and correct reference made to Biblical authority and that of the Fathers for the prescriptions being laid down, but the frequent quotations in Latin taken from such authorities are set down without any of the ‘errors’ found in the Anglo-French. This disparity between the scribes’ Latin and their French could be interpreted as meaning that they were better equipped to handle Latin than French, or, perhaps more plausibly, that the French of England at the end of the thirteenth century was not considered by those who used it to demand the same level of strict conformity to the niceties of an accepted system of orthography and grammar as was required for the hierarchical Latin. Like the scholars before him who produced the Seinte Resureccion, the editor is using an anachronistic criterion by which to judge his text.  This judgement is supported by an Anglo-French legal text of the period in the very area of language where rigid orthographical precision might be most expected –  the law: ‘qe nulle procés des pleez soit discontinué en nule place (i.e. court of law) pur defaute de une lettre ou de une sillable’ (Harriss 520).[11] The primacy of meaning over orthography and of substance over form in the minds of the small group of highly educated Englishmen who used Anglo-French to run the country’s legal system in the Middle Ages is clear from this statement and tallies with the non-standard language found in many legal and broadly administrative texts produced in the later thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.


During the four generations or so separating the Seinte Resureccion from the Ancrene Riwle the number of people in England who still preserved linguistic family ties with France must have been constantly diminishing, whilst the amount of non-literary writing in Anglo-French increased, so that it is perhaps not surprising to find a far more wayward form of French in the later Ancrene Riwle. This means that the editor of such a text might expect to experience even greater difficulty in squaring medieval textual reality with modern philological theory than his predecessors did when dealing with the twelfth-century Seinte Resureccion. Trethewey writes in his Introduction that: ‘The text here printed is that of Trinity College, Cambridge, MS.R.14.7, reproduced without emendation according to the plan being followed in the editing of the English manuscripts of the Ancrene Riwle. Consequently obvious errors and doubtful readings remain in the text and must be controlled by the variants given at the foot of the page. The orthography, word-division, and punctuation are strictly those of the base manuscript’ (p. xxvii: my emphasis). This attempt to recreate the original state of the manuscript may be seen as a reaction against the practice current in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when editors of French medieval texts, confident in their philological knowledge in general and in phonology in particular, felt no constraint in emending manuscripts to suit their own individual view regarding the original form of the work. One typical example of this confidence occurring in the Anglo-Norman Mystère d’Adam may serve to make the point. In the manuscript used as the basis for the Studer edition Adam says of the Devil that: Il volst traïr son seignor, E soposer (l. se poser: my correction) al des halzor vv.289-90. ‘He wished to betray his Lord and to plant himself at the high table’. One of the other manuscripts gives this same reading except that it has soi poser, and another reads al dois, a well-attested form of  deis ‘high table’. Yet Studer prints E sei poser al deu halçor, following an emendation suggested by Grass in 1891, which is claimed to mean, although without chapter and verse in support, ‘place himself with the very high God’. The base manuscript reading, backed by those from the other manuscripts, gives both better sense and better grammar than the nineteenth-century ‘emendation’, but is rejected. This is not an isolated case. Trethewey’s return to ‘authenticity’, then, is part of  a general movement in textual edition, but, whilst sedulously avoiding altering the text of the work as the editor interprets it, it reinforces the preoccupation with spelling as against meaning noted above in La Seinte Resureccion: no concessions are made to intelligibility, whatever ‘peculiarities’ the text may be judged to contain. Yet, on closer inspection, this ‘warts and all’ approach to the Ancrene Riwle turns out to be seriously flawed, as the editor proceeds to qualify his apparently categorical affirmation in a number of important regards.


In the first place, he admits that the abbreviations ‘have been silently expanded’, but does not specify what form they take even in the base manuscript, not to mention the two others, where they occur or how he has resolved them, thus leaving the reader with a text that definitely cannot be claimed to be ‘without emendation’, a text in which emendations are admittedly made, but are not signalled to the reader. He does, however, explain one category of his expansions, saying: ‘The abbreviation for re or er stands frequently for e final […] and has been so read in numerous instances when intrusive between u and r’: leuereres 93/23, couerir 190/29, ouerez 105/25, &c.’, but only these three out of  the ‘numerous instances’ of this editorial intervention are given, so any others, correctly identified and resolved or not, must join the rest of the scribe’s abbreviations that have been silently expanded and thus remain hidden from the reader. Moreover, the editor’s admission that er, re and final e can all be represented by the same abbreviation in the manuscript not only means that his intervention in such cases cannot be other than idiosyncratic, but raises the wider issue of the treatment of abbreviations in general.


This question has recently been explored in some depth by Laura Wright. In Sources of London English she uses a special font to replicate exactly the whole range of abbreviation and suspension signs occurring in her manuscripts. She writes of ‘the adaptability of the abbreviation and suspension signs’, showing how one small sign <9> ‘could signify a Latin morpheme when appended to the end of a word (port9, “portus”), another morpheme when appended to the beginning of a word (9gruo, “congruo”), and the letter graphs “us” when appended within a morpheme (Latin vni9, “unius”, English brigho9, “bridgehouse”. Further, signs could signify whole words […], or just indicate general suspensions […]. They could also be otiose. Scribes used the same abbreviation and suspension marks for all three languages […]’ (p.9). The three languages in question are, of course, Latin, Anglo-French and Middle English. She goes on to point out that, for example, “carpent” could be either Latin or English, or both at once. As a result, this kind of extensive abbreviation usage would have allowed concentration on the essential semantic, as opposed to the morphological, information in the material’ (ibid.). Returning to the subject more recently,[12] she addresses the perceived result of  the general editorial failure to take cognizance of this ‘adaptability’ of the medieval system of abbreviations: ‘Belonging as we now do to societies that favour a single, correct orthography, any expansion of signs is likely to be consistent […], regardless of the fact that medieval languages did not observe regular spelling conventions’ (p. 152). In her words, such modern expansion ‘serves to obscure the fundamental variation of medieval texts’ (ibid.); ‘expansion of the abbreviation and suspension signs allows the modern editor to impose a spurious uniformity (her emphasis) on a medieval text’ (ibid.).[13] This ‘spurious uniformity’ is called for by the phonologist’s anachronistic need to find in medieval texts a standard orthography if his conclusions concerning sound-values and sound-changes are to be generally valid. A plethora of differing spellings for one single word is difficult to reconcile with a single sound-value applicable to them all. Trethewey’s expansions in the Ancrene Riwle must be judged in that light.


The ‘adaptability’ of the medieval system of abbreviations referred to by Laura Wright may be appreciated, in particular with reference to Trethewey’s treatment of them as referred to above, and as regards Anglo-French in general, by examining the variety of meanings attaching to a modest selection of them in no more than a few pages of late Anglo-French taken from the authoritative Statutes of the Realm, which have been printed with the abbreviation signs still in place (vol. 2, pp. 278-287). At this point it must be stressed that the language in which these records are couched was not restricted to internal communications within the British Isles, but, as will be shown, is found in a wide range of  communications dealing with personalities and authorities abroad, for whom it can have presented no problems of intelligibility, so the Statutes may be regarded as broadly representative of the system of abbreviations used by later scribes in Anglo-French for compiling documents of national and international importance.


  1. The tilde over a written character can carry any of the following senses:
  2. a) over the final m in Westm it probably indicates the full form Westm[oster] (p. 278, 281, etc.);
  3. b) over n it makes tentz into ten[emen]tz (pp. 279, 281, etc.);
  4. c) over o it makes coe into co[mun]e, coes into co[mun]es or co[mmun]es (p. 278, etc.);
  5. d) over p i) it makes espuelx into esp[irit]uelx or esp[erit]uelx, espale into esp[eci] ale (p. 278); ii) on the other hand, over the p in drap (twice on p. 284) and in draps (seven times on p. 284 and again repeatedly on p. 285) it is otiose. The form draps is given without tilde on pp. 284 and 285, whilst drape occurs three times on p. 285;
  6. e) over q it indicates an expansion to q[e] or q[ue], either by itself or used in the body of a word such as queconq[e] or queconq[ue], adonq[es] or adonq[ue]s, and turns solonq into solonq[e] or solonq[ue];
  7. f) over r i) it indicates a missing ot or ost, making nre into n[ost]re or n[ot]re (pp. 279, 280, etc.) both forms being given in full elsewhere; ii) in br, brs or bris it denotes br[ ef] or br[ief ], br[efs], br[eifs]  or  br[ief]s, but the same result is obtained by the scribe writing brs with a stroke through the initial b, both forms being found on consecutive lines of p. 286 (but the stroke through a  b can  also represent er, as in robbies, to be read as robberies, and herbgiez, to be read as herbergiez, both on p. 278, or it can stand for ie as in sibn, to be  read probably as sibien, also on p. 278); iii) in Londrs it indicates a missing eLondr[e]s  (p. 283); iv) over the final r of  Surr  it probably indicates an expansion to Surré or Surrey  (twice on p. 278).


  1. The hook frequently found over a letter in a word usually indicates either er or re, e.g. for tsdissolute govnance with the hook over the first t, read t[re]sdissolute and gov[er]nance; similarly, read t[er]res for tres, aut[re]s for auts (all on p. 278), etc. Sometimes both meanings of the abbreviation are found in a single word, e.g. in pms on p.281 with a hook between p and m and again between m and s, in the first instance it is to be read as re and in the second case as er, hence p[re]m[er]s. In this role it is equivalent to the stroke through b referred to above. Over the initial letter of visemblabement, however, the same hook must indicate ra, i.e. v[ra]isemblablement (p. 286).


  1. The superscript a can represent ra, as in gaundes for g[ra]undes (p. 278, etc.), but it is also used in cases where it is either otiose or represents au, e.g. tesmoignance may be read as tesmoignance or tesmoignaunce, devant as devant or devaunt, enavant as enavant or enavaunt, etc. (p. 278, etc.).


This sketchy excursion into the various meanings represented by no more than a few of the abbreviations used in a very small piece of authoritative Anglo-French text demonstrates that they are capable of carrying more than one sense and that a particular sense may be rendered by more than one abbreviation. In many cases, the intended spelling behind the abbreviation cannot be determined with any certainty, so successive readers over the years must have interpreted it as they thought fit. Indeed, the wide range of spellings to be found not only all through the standard dictionaries of medieval French but also in the body of the texts themselves from one line to the next is proof that the medieval scribe was most unlikely to have had one particular spelling in mind. His motivation in writing was semantic, not etymological or phonological. In other words, as Laura Wright says, the system of abbreviations plays a semantic rather than a morphological role, allowing the scribe to move quickly over the page to convey his message without necessarily attending to every little detail of orthography. The other side of this coin is that the medieval reader must have been accustomed to carry out the process of abbreviation in reverse, automatically interpreting the symbols in a manner consonant with the sense of the text. This attitude would naturally carry over from the abbreviation into the other individual characters in the word, with the reader registering its overall sense rather than picking his way through it letter by letter and fretting over the presence or absence of a dot over an i or a bar across a  t. This latter approach has been brought in by the modern phonologist, dependent on such minutiae to validate his claims regarding the sounds represented by individual  characters set down long ago as he attempts to attach precise values to each one in order to establish a necessary connection between the spellings used by a scribe and his pronunciation. Although such a connection can only be even contemplated in relation to texts in verse, the assumption of a ‘correct’ orthography which it engenders has been unwarrantably carried over into medieval texts as a whole. To base overarching conclusions regarding the link between spelling and pronunciation on such flimsy evidence is to build on sand.


In this regard a pertinent, although unusual, example of the relationship between abbreviations and rhymes is provided by the opening verses of  a thirteenth-century Anglo-Norman sermon on shrift,[14] a text probably pre-dating the period of  ‘degeneracy’ and so not to be automatically dismissed as not counting for the purposes of phonology:


Or escutez lais e clers

Ceste romaunce qe vint apers,

Coment vous devietz estre confés […]


In the absence of any editorial explanatory comment on the pairing clers/apers, the reader is presented here with a printed couplet that rhymes but makes no sense. Although the editor does not explain his treatment of abbreviations or mark the places where they occur, simply referring the reader to his previous edition of a similar sermon, it is reasonable to assume that his manuscript would have used the same abbreviation at this point for er and re in what are transcribed as clers and apers. The form clers is undoubtedly correct, the stock phrase clers e lais being widely used, but apers would mean ‘open’ or ‘obvious’ and destroy any sense in this context. If, however, the apparent preterit vint is read as the present tense vent ‘comes’ (see AND sub venir) and apers read as aprés , the sense becomes: ‘Now listen lay and clerk (=cleric) to this tale which follows (literally, ‘comes after’), how you must go to confession […] ’. If this hypothesis is accepted, good sense is obtained, but the rhyme is lost. This would mean that the writer was creating a rhyme for the eye, not for the ear, a rhyme based on the reader’s visual, not aural, interpretation of an abbreviation sign. This is far removed from the modern belief in a consistent, ‘correct’ medieval orthography capable of reflecting details of pronunciation.


Just as the reader was expected to interpret the abbreviations in his text in accordance with the sense required, he was expected likewise to take in his stride variations in the spelling of words set out in full, because the principle of variability seen in abbreviations extended also to complete words. For example, endings such as –ance/-aunce could be rendered by –antz/-auntz without any loss of intelligibility.  In fact, this is a fairly common feature, especially in later administrative text . It is perhaps difficult for modern readers to accept that a variable orthography carries with it no necessary stigma or slur on those who use it, yet  if it was good enough for Chaucer and Shakespeare it can hardly be branded as a mark of ignorance or incompetence. As has been said above, for the medieval scribe meaning, not form, was paramount. This crucial fact seems to have escaped the modern phonologists, whose speciality has nothing to do with meaning or communication and contributes but little, if anything, to the understanding of medieval language and so of  the medieval civilization it reflected.


This question of variability arises yet again in respect of  Trethewey’s declared intention to produce a text ‘without emendation’ when he explains his treatment of the variant readings in the Ancrene Riwle offered by the two manuscripts that he does not print. On page xxxii of his Introduction he admits that the variants given in his edition are ‘selective’. Although he details the precise criteria which he has followed in deciding whether or not a variant is to be quoted (pp. xxxii-xxxiii), his list of  the categories to be ignored under this system contains grammatical ones, and any variant that fails to meet one or other of his tests for inclusion is simply omitted without any reference,[15] so the reader remains in ignorance of their very existence and cannot possibly judge for himself  where they occur, how numerous they are or whether they would have had any relevance to the form printed in the edition. They may well add nothing to the comprehension of the basic text, but, as in the case of the abbreviations, the editor is once again coming between the reader and the text of his manuscript: negative interference it may be, but interference nonetheless. In view of his stated aim to produce an ‘authentic’ text, the two manuscript versions not printed ought at least to be available to the reader through the medium of a fully comprehensive system of variants if the edition is to be regarded as an accurate reflection of the transmission of the Anglo-French  Ancrene Riwle in prose. The base manuscript belongs to Trinity College, Cambridge, with the others coming from the Bibliothèque Nationale and Bodley. Although the Bodley text, being incomplete, could not be considered for the role of  base manuscript, Trethewey admits that ‘the readings of BN (i.e. the Bibliothèque Nationale manuscript) have equal authority against those of TrBd’ (i.e. the Trinity and Bodley mss.) and that this manuscript is ‘not markedly inferior and its readings can usually be used to correct the rather numerous lapses in the text of Tr[inity]’ (p.xvii). Furthermore, he states that ‘both were carefully checked and corrected at the time of copying’ (ibid.). These editorial observations are significant, because they not only argue in favour of printing at least the BN ms. in full alongside the Trinity text (as was the case with the two mss. of  La Seinte Resureccion) but they remove any suggestion of careless errors of copying, although the editor’s reference to the ‘rather numerous lapses in the text of Tr[inity]’ is not easy to reconcile with this postulated careful checking. These ‘lapses’ are precisely the non-standard spellings which are the subject of the present study and examined in some detail below. Be that as it may, the scribes must have been satisfied that the finished texts would be intelligible to their readers or hearers. The logical inference from this in the present context is that any remaining lack of intelligibility in the printed edition may be the responsibility of the editor, not the scribe.


Regarding the c/t relationship discussed above in La Seinte Resureccion, Trethewey writes: ‘In principle, t and c are distinct in form, but the letter in the manuscript is often ambiguous. […] with cel or tel, for example, the choice has proved embarrassing […]. The situation is similar for n and u. When the form in the manuscript is clearly one or the other, I so transcribe, even though it is incorrect, cf. tront for trout 190/30 and Plesante for Plesance 255/14’ (pp. xxvii-xxviii). This is a candid affirmation of editorial superiority, but if the ‘letter in the manuscript is often ambiguous’, his alleged ‘principle’ must be regarded with some scepticism. In fact, his self-confidence turns out to be misplaced. The reading tront, reinforced by ‘sic’ at the foot of the page, makes no sense as it stands. The BN manuscript gives the very common tro, so the sense is not in any doubt: it means ‘hole’, in this context the hole in the privy. The manuscript form read by Trethewey as tront and corrected by him to trout makes sense only when read as trouc, with or without a cross-bar on the final letter. This form is listed in the AND as a variant of tro, and also in the entry traucum ‘loch’ in the FEW (13 ii 228b), amongst other forms ending in c (traouc, trauc, trawk), so the editor prints a form with two errors, corrects one of them but leaves the other unnoticed. If he had known the form trouc, it would have been better to give the scribe the benefit of the doubt and print it. After all, as a perceptive scholar once said of the medieval scribes: ‘leur ancien français était meilleur que le nôtre’, however unpalatable that may be to some scholars. The truth of this remark is, in fact,   demonstrated here, because earlier in his text (p. 2.10) the scribe had compared the human nose and the mouth to deus trous de une chambre foreine ‘two holes of a privy’, a clear indication that he was no stranger to the correct form, so why he should later be judged to have a sudden lapse of memory and write nonsense calls for an explanation on the part of the editor. As regards the Plesante/Plesance pair, it is safe to assume that Trethewey must have noticed that, despite using what he transcribes as plesante in the role of a noun on p. 255.9 and desplesante also as a noun at p. 255.9 and 10, the Trinity text has the correct substantival forms pleisance and desplesance on pp. 268.11 & 14. So, if the editor’s transcriptions are to be believed, the scribe must have known and used the correct form on p. 268 and nevertheless deliberately or carelessly written nonsense on p. 255, in contradiction of  the claim referred to above that the manuscripts were carefully checked.


Alternatively, in the light of Laura Wright’s work and as suggested above in respect of the Seinte Resureccion, perhaps the scribe was not ignorant at all, but simply not concerned to set down every jot and tittle as demanded by twentieth-century philologists guided by the ‘principles’ crucial to their phonological deductions, leaving his text ‘ambiguous’ in places, to use Trethewey’s term, confident that his readers would have enough intelligence to read the words correctly. We perform exactly the same operation today whenever we read a hand-written message in which the calligraphy is less than perfect: the mind registers the sense of the message without necessarily having regard to the shape of the letters. Only the gratuitous assumption by modern editors obsessed with phonology that c and t are ipso facto always distinguishable if the scribe is competent creates the ‘embarrassing’ problem. In Plesante foreine si est sancte de cors (sancte must obviously be read as sancté ‘health’) manger e boiuere (p. 255.14), the sense is clearly ‘exterior pleasure is bodily health, eating and drinking’, with Plesante understandable only as the noun Plesance. Were it not so, with plesante interpreted as an adjective, foreine would have to be regarded as the noun to which that adjective refers, thus giving the meaning ‘a pleasant privy …’, hardly what the scribe had in mind. In similar vein, to print pesance terre (p. 230.14), followed on the very same line by pesante char (p. 230.17), is to exalt this ‘ambiguous’ orthographical feature of c/t into an immutable dogma, overriding both semantics and elementary common sense, as Miss Pope did by maintaining her meaningless Arunachie. If correct, these discrepant readings on the very same line would make the scribe appear an utter fool, an unwarranted assumption to make. This is seen yet again when Trethewey prints: une poigne de uerges  tant come eles sunt liez en semble forces sunt adespescer. Only when the scribe is regarded as competent and his statement treated as coherent and intelligible, rather than as a succession of disparate written characters signifying nothing except, perhaps, individual sounds, does the perfectly sensible statement emerge: une poigné de verges tant come eles sunt liez ensemble fortes sunt a despescer (‘a handful of rods as long as they are tied together are hard to break’) (p. 26.17-18).


Another similar example in the Ancrene Riwle is that of enclinante for enclinance (Godefroy 3.106a) in the phrase […] sanz boce de tote conscience e de enclinante a pecché (p. 161.24), i.e. ‘inclination to sin’. In this case there is no variant given, so that, according to the method of edition as laid down in the Introduction, all three manuscripts must be assumed, rightly or wrongly, to carry exactly the same faulty enclinante at this point, thereby making all three scribes equally illiterate and unintelligent, unable to tell an adjective from a noun, a conclusion based on nothing more than, possibly, one tiny mark on a sheet of parchment. An alternative, although less than flattering, explanation might be that the apparatus of variants as provided in the edition is perhaps not totally infallible, but, as was pointed out above, the reader has no means of knowing. In similar vein, the presence of  a correct form with t in essartrer (p. 192.9) does not deter the editor from printing on the very next line the noun derived from it as essarceure, despite the variant essartreure, thereby adjudging the Trinity scribe to have known the correct form of the verb, but not that of the noun, although this verb and noun together represented an integral agricultural procedure of daily medieval life. On p. 168.31 the editor prints checun aucel com autre […], and so confident is he of the supremacy of form over substance that he puts in the footnotes: ‘aucel :sic: autiel’ (i.e. the variant autiel is given in the other two manuscripts, according to the rules set down on p. xxxiii). So again the Trinity scribe, apparently failing to cross his t, is deemed to be an ignorant fool who set down nonsense, thus baffling potential readers and hearers, whilst the other scribes presumably inserted the little cross-bar to make c into t and so provided an intelligible text for the modern editor. Elsewhere, again according to the editor, the scribe of this Trinity text ‘written throughout in a clear, even, miniscule book hand’ (p. xii) apparently did not even know the French for ‘mouth’, setting down on p. 42.19 the plural form louthes: les jugelours au dyable ke ne sevunt servir de nule autre chose fors de […] bestorner lour louthes et de (l. dé, my emendation) oiz roillier  (‘the Devil’s jugglers who are useful only for twisting their mouths and rolling their eyes’), although the variant bouche is common to the other two texts. This is reminiscent of the case of trou  referred to above. That a trained, responsible scribe, capable of understanding the Latin of the Bible and the Fathers, one who has at the beginning of the work written bouche quite correctly (p. 2.9), should be considered to have committed later in the same work not one but two gross errors of spelling in such an everyday French word in a  semantically transparent sentence calls into question either the competence of the medieval scribal class in general or the judgement of the modern editor. What is not in question is the fact that the readers and hearers of the day would not have shared the editor’s interpretation of the word. (Other cases of error in the reading of  b in other editions will be seen again below).


Without labouring the point further, a final example taken from the numerous similar c/t difficulties to be found in the Ancrene Riwle leads from Anglo-French into continental Old French and the modern Romance languages. With reference to the well-known Biblical quotation from Matthew ch.23, v.24: ‘Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel’ (King James version), the Trinity scribe writes, at least according to the editor: Mes meint homme […] eschieue la tincerele e transglout la musche’ (167.28-29). The BN text, again according to the editor, inverts the c and t, reading cinterele. Lest it be thought that this is just an illustration of the woeful lack of understanding of medieval French endemic in later medieval Britain, two Anglo-French manuscripts of the Commentarius of  John of Garland, roughly contemporary with the Ancrene Riwle, give cincerele as a gloss for the Latin zinzala (TLL i 227), and the correctness of the c form as against the t in both positions in the word may be traced without difficulty from Classical Latin into its medieval form and not only into medieval French but also into modern Spanish and Italian. The DMLBS has cincenella and Godefroy (2.136b) gives cincele, cincelle, cinciele, chinchielle, chincielle and sincelle as forms of the root word, with the diminutives cincenelle, chinchenelle (2.136c) and cincerele, cincerelle (2.137a), as used in a variety of  texts from different areas and different periods. The Tobler-Lommatzsch (2.436) adds scincenele to Godefroy’s list, quoting additional sources. Modern Spanish has cénzalo and zénzalo, whilst Italian has zanzara. In all this variety of attestations there is no trace anywhere of a form beginning with t, or of any with a t in the middle of the word. All the texts from continental Europe are ultimately based on spoken languages, and even the insular DMLBS (cincenella) and TLL (cincerele (BC) zinzala, i 227) are in line with them: the Ancrene Riwle edition alone is out of step, its forms representing merely the personal interpretation of its editor, either in ignorance or defiance of the dictionaries, and supported by nothing more than his conviction that he can distinguish infallibly between two written characters whose forms are separated by only a tiny stroke made by a quill and this, as he himself admits, by no means clearly in many cases.


A similar dogmatic approach is to be seen in the treatment of minims in the Ancrene Riwle. At p. 214.20 the text as printed says that for a nun to take her hands out of her habit unnecessarily est daunerie a avoir hontage e aceuerie de potein. The difficulty here is the noun aceuerie. This form is not found in the dictionaries and, since no variant is given, it must be assumed to be present in all the manuscripts, otherwise the apparatus of variants must be deemed to be faulty. In fact, the word is a noun derived from acener ‘to beckon’, so the correct form is acenerie, not attested in the dictionaries, which have only acenement. The meaning is that the showing of the nun’s hands is effrontery to be ashamed of and equivalent to the beckoning invitation of the prostitute. On p. 45.24 the editor prints nul doz en ceus, where the separation between en and ceus (the difficulty of determining in which of the numerous similar cases such gaps are intentional is referred to on p. xxviii of the Introduction) needs to be closed and ceus read as cens in order to arrive at the correct encens given in the variants as the BN reading, i.e. nul doz encens (‘no sweet incense’); yet again, the editor is so convinced of the correctness of his reading that he puts ‘sic’ after it. He repeats this just a few lines later: si vus ueez ore pour e lessez uostre errour (p. 45.32-46.1), where yet again the BN reading gives the correct form – si vus ore ne eez pour [] (‘if you are not now afraid  […] )’. In both these cases, on the strength of his belief in a theoretical distinction between the two, and in flat contradiction of his statement in the Introduction (p.xxvii) that: ‘The situation is similar for n and u’ (i.e. similar to that for c and t, with its ‘ambiguities’) he is saying, in effect, that the Trinity scribe was writing nonsense. If this were the case, either his medieval readers would make the necessary changes to the text in their heads or would not understand it, thus negating the whole purpose of his toil and casting doubt on his fitness to be entrusted with his important task. Elsewhere, the editorial reading: La contineure de justice ceo est de dreiturel-te si est silence. Cultus inquid iusticie: silencium. Car silence contiue dreiturelte (186.31-187.2) makes no sense as it stands, but it requires no more than a different reading of the minims to make it perfectly intelligible: contineure only needs to be read as coutiveure and contiue as coutive to produce the perfectly acceptable sense: the cultivation/furthering of  justice, that is of rightfulness, is silence. For silence fosters rightfulness’. (See CONCEVEURE/COUTEVEURE below). The Latin confirms this reading unequivocally, yet the editor’s fixation with the minutiae of what he believes is a ‘correct’ spelling is so great that it leads him not only to set down nonsense in Anglo-French but  even to set aside the clear evidence of the Latin which is the basis for the French.


The editor’s perceived ‘difficulty’ in interpreting minims is increased when other characters are also involved. For instance, des entres peines (p. 206.16) makes no sense, but the correct form des autres peines involves nothing more than the reading of a for e, the categorical separation of  n and u being, as Trethewey himself acknowledges, highly dubious. The same entre for autre occurs again at pp. 223.3, 252.2 and 257.30. On p. 253.9 mention is made of la maladie de la goute chauie, the reading ‘guaranteed’ by the editor’s ‘sic’ and with the BN manuscript said to give the variant chaine. Sadly, neither chauie nor chaine makes any kind of sense: we are dealing, of course, with the well-attested goute chaïve  ‘falling sickness’, where the alternation n/u/v is accompanied by the presence or absence of the dot on the i. To imagine that the medieval readers or hearers of either the Trinity or BN manuscripts would have  interpreted the texts as Trethewey does is perverse, but his failure to provide the correct form in a footnote suggests that he himself might not have shared their familiarity with the term. Even when the text as printed patently makes no sense and the editor knows the correct version, he still maintains his reading and attributes the error to the scribe or scribes: dealing with the Devil’s huffing and puffing harder to blow godly women off  the course of righteousness than evil ones, he prints: de tant sont les boffees au deable e les nerz de ses temptacions sur celes (sc. the godly women) plus forz […] (p. 254.8).  The form nerz is patently nonsensical here, and the correct venz is given in the footnotes, but the reading nerz is not questioned.


Similarly, on p. 255.16-17 the printed text runs:  Plesante denzeine si est si com aucune fause leesce ou beaute de avoir pris e loos e fame […]’). Louise Stone, who read the manuscript for the AND, indicated that the original correct reading Plesance had been ‘altered in later ink to t’, but Trethewey not only keeps this grammatically incorrect Plesante (even though the t turns out to be no more than a later mis-correction), but also the semantically incorrect beaute (l. beauté, my emendation), putting a footnote as follows: ‘beaute sic, both MSS (error for beance?)’. The sense is: ‘Interior pleasure is like some false joy or desire (beance) for reputation, praise or fame […]’. If Trethewey’s reading is to stand, the inference can only be that not one, but both scribes must have independently read u for n and t for c, both of them thus producing identical nonsense, neither of them knowing the familiar term beance. There could not be a clearer affirmation of the superiority of dubious calligraphy over grammar and semantics, of learned modern editor over ignorant medieval scribe. Again, the editor twice prints the incorrect form soudiuant/soudiuanz for souduiant: (the sacrament of the altar destroys completely all the wiles of the Devil) et ses soudiuanz turs (‘and his treacherous tricks’) p. 34.10; Car nule guise de daunoer si soudiuant ne est si coluerte (l. colverte) […]  (‘For no kind of lover is so deceitful nor devious’) p. 199.10-11, together with the associated adverb soudiuaument: (the wiles, deceits and shams) dont il (sc. the Devil) meintes genz soudiuaument engigne et deceit (p. 205.27). These words are derived from the verb suduire, sudoire, etc. and are correctly given as soduiant in Rom Chev ants 3250 and suzduiant in Proth ants 122 and 4050. The whole ‘family’ of words based on the verb souduire is set down in extenso in Godefroy 7.495b-496b.


Elsewhere Trethewey prints eschinel (p. 246.24), with a variant eschaniel, when the sense demands eschamel ‘stool’, where literally one mere dot on an i separates the readings. After printing baing (‘bath’) on p. 146.31 and the plural baingz on the following line, he then prints banig only three words later and gives ‘banig sic’ in the footnotes, although the BN manuscript also has baing. Yet again, this form banig hangs merely on the positioning of one tiny dot. The absence of  this dot leads elsewhere to the reading of a mythical demer (p. 206.19), with the footnote: ‘demer apparently, both MSS’ (italics as printed in the edition), showing that the editor’s determination to view a text as being no more than a long string of individual written characters completely blinds him to the semantically obvious. If he had allowed for the not unusual possibility of the minims in what he read as m in both manuscripts being in reality vi he would have arrived at the correct devier: (Christ) pur nos ordes enormitez forment deskes au devier penetrez, (‘Christ for our foul heinous transgressions pierced right unto death’), devier ‘to die’ being used as a substantivated infinitive. Again, on p. 180.5 the printed text reads: ensuiez nostre duce dame en tesant e ne mie la breante e-ue en ianglant. Leaving aside the ensuiez which could well be read as ensivez  (‘follow’), the reading e-ue clearly puzzles the editor, since he writes in the variants at the foot of the page ‘eue in inner mar[gin]  and also interl[inear] BN’ (his italics, my expansions), thus showing that the BN manuscript confirms the reading of Trinity, but he offers no explanation for this strange unanimity in scribal obscurity. Eue (or eve) is, in fact, a form of ive ‘mare/nag’, hence ‘follow our sweet lady (i.e. the Blessed Virgin) in keeping quiet and not the chattering of the braying nag’. Under equa (3.233a-b) the FEW lists a form igue from the Franche-Comté region, glossed as the pejorative “vieille jument”. So the ‘ignorant scribe’ is right yet again, his knowledge of medieval French being manifestly superior to that of the modern editor. Another clear case of this scribal superiority occurs in the following line (p.180.6): (when the hound of Hell comes rushing in) ne gisez mie en peis, ne ne seez nul dur  pur ueer  ke il ueut  fere […]. The variant for nul dur is given as ‘nudur (or midur)’, so when  ueer is correctly read as veer ‘to see’ and ueut as veut ‘wants/intends’ the sense becomes: ‘do not remain inactive, nor sit around for a moment to see what he intends to do’ (p.14.16). On p.xvii of the Introduction it is asserted that the variant form nudur of BN ‘is correct beyond doubt’, being based on the Middle English nouder, whilst ‘the reading nul dur of both Trinity and Bodley is a corruption’. The reality, however, is quite different: dur as an independent noun indicating a tiny space or amount is well attested in Godefroy (2.748c-749b), Tobler-Lommatzsch (2.2028-9) and FEW  (3.192b), all of these dictionaries  being readily available for consultation in 1958, so the Trinity and Bodley manuscripts  were right and the editor’s preferred Bibliothèque nationale version wrong. The term goes back into the middle of the twelfth century and is found also in Anglo-French from the end of the twelfth century: (The wood of the  idols) nul dur ne sent ne veit (‘does not feel or see anything at all’) and tresor Ne truvai, nul dur d’argent ne d’or (‘I found no treasure, not a scrap of  silver or gold’, Set Dorm vv. 350 and 1324 respectively); again, Queor e boche ad si adiré N’ad sur nul dorre poesté (‘his heart and mouth were so deranged, that he had not a whit of control over either’) Salemon v.10892. It also occurs later in a legal text from the early fourteenth century as nuldour  (Yearbooks of Edward I, 21-22, p. 529).  All this would suggest that Middle English took the word from Anglo-French, as so often happened, rather than the other way round. The editor’s reading of the variant midur is no more than an uninformed guess, based on nothing tangible, having the same number of minims as nudur, but with the editor presumably adding the ‘all-important’ dot on the misread i, thus creating a form without meaning.


Trethewey applies this pursuit of orthographical regularity more widely than Miss Pope did in the Seinte Resurreccion, positing a separation ‘in principle’, one honoured, however, more perhaps in the breach than in the observance, not only between n and u, whether correctly read or not, but also between u and v, the former being said to have a vocalic role, the latter a consonantal one. The result in the edition as printed is somewhat odd: Vne ueue ke vus ueez (p. 19.5); uaut in the base text, but vaut given in the variants at the foot of the page (p. 89.14); la ueu lei in the base text, with vars. veuz, veille (p. 92.23); une ueilie, vars. vielle, veille (p. 95.30), Les uns var. Les vns (p. 164.19); la temptation […] vus uout amener […] (p. 17.29); ysbosech dormi e si mist vne femme a garder la porte ke uenteit forment. e vindrent les fiz […] e trouerent la femme ke cesseit de venter en dormant (p. 35.27-29), with venter occurring again at p. 36.5. It would be strange indeed if the scribe deliberately wrote uenteit and then venter just a few words later, with venter again just over the page, or if he wrote vus (p. 84.2) followed by uus (p. 84.4), repeating the same alternation at pp. 181.2, 181.30 and 188.12-3. A similar fluctuation is found again: ieo ameroie mout mieuz ke ieo vus uoisse uus recluses e vus noneins […] pendre au gibet […] ke ieo ueisse une seule de vus doner un seul beiser a acun homme du secle uiuant (‘I would much prefer to see you recluses and you nuns hanged than to see any one of you give a single kiss to any living layman’ p. 214.15). This meaning, however, can only be obtained by ignoring the editor’s claimed distinction between u and v, and thus putting semantics before dogma.


Again, his distinction impedes understanding in the following clause: Car mout a ennuiz de parte li un de le autre (p. 147.21). As it stands, this makes no sense. However, in the context of the mutual love between body and soul, the variant reading depart i.e. present indicative third person singular of  departir ‘to separate, etc.’ instead of  the locution de parte,  i.e. ‘on the part of, in respect of’, provides the first clue to the correct sense, and then, if the editor’s a ennuiz, made up, apparently, of the noun ennui, and the third person singular present indicative of the verb aver, hence, ‘has trouble’, is read with the consonantal v to make the adverbial locution a enviz/ennviz (‘unwillingly’), an intelligible interpretation of the clause emerges: ‘For the one is reluctant to be separated from the other’. The exercise of elementary common sense obviates the necessity for the contortions called for by the editor’s reading of the text.


Elsewhere it is the insistence on reading i for t that gives rise to another difficult passage at p. 28.22-23, where the editor prints this: Si li diable entre vus venie nule ire […], in which the transitive verb venie cannot be construed to make good sense, although one of the variants has vente, thus giving: ‘If the Devil puffs/exhales amongst you any anger […]’. There is no doubt that this variant has the correct form, and the difference on parchment between an i and a t is not great enough to exclude the possibility of confusion, on the part of either scribe or editor. Either way, the concern of readers, then and now, must lie with the meaning of the text, not with the minutiae of its spelling.


A similar rigid editorial interpretation of another pair of ‘ambiguous’ characters elsewhere leads once more to both grammar and semantics being overridden. When the Trinity scribe writes: E la recluse […] ne vout pas fermer ses fenestres de ses euz, ne ses euz en serrez en countre la greve mort de l’alme (p. 177.15) no variant is given for either ses fenestres or en serrez (my emphasis) which would imply that the other scribe or scribes (the reader has no means of  knowing whether both the other manuscripts contain this passage, or only the BN one), are also in error. That at least two, if not three, scribes should make two identical grammatical mistakes in this one sentence (for ses read les; for en serrez read enserrer) is unlikely, to say the least. Later in the text we read: hommes e femmes sages ke se font (my emphasis) en serrez contre le leon de enfern (‘wise men and women who take up the life of seclusion against the lion of Hell’ p. 245.13). This time the BN text gives the correct reading se sont enserrez, but the editor prints the incorrect font in defiance of the grammar. The manuscript characters l/s and f/s are notoriously hard to distinguish (see below), but the guiding light of intelligibility based on semantics is not allowed by the editor to get in the way of  a highly dubious orthographical certitude.


Such ‘problems’ may not have worried the medieval reader, but the difficulties confronting the modern reader of this edition as a result of the editor’s devotion to theoretical orthography are not confined to the interpretation of individual characters. As was mentioned above, in his Introduction he remarks on numerous cases of separations occurring within individual words and equally strange agglutinations, noting the frequent separation of the prefixes ‘in, de, des, mes, for, and i (of icel, &c.)’ from the main body of the word and going on to comment on the difficulty of deciding whether the space left between the prefix and the following word was sufficient to warrant separating them in the transcription, admitting that ‘many instances were not easy to decide’ (p. xxiii). On the other hand: ‘Contrariwise, certain words, especially short forms, were frequently attached by the scribe to the following word, for instance, e (enoit 46/2, a (avendre) 39/22 […]. However, in a closely written hand many border-line cases inevitably occur and I do not claim to have been entirely consistent’ (p. xxiii). Yet, despite these admissions, ‘word-division’ figures amongst his list of variants that are discounted (see Note 11), and he proceeds to act as though the evidence for mangling the words were irrefutable. In the text as printed  the reader comes across le diable e nuai (var. enuai) deus  souers de religion: here the difficulty caused by the word-division is compounded by the u/v problem examined above, so that to obtain good sense the printed e nuai must be read as one word, the variant enuai, and the vocalic u read as the consonantal v, giving  envaï : ‘the Devil attacked two nuns’ (p. 107.4).  On p. 114.28 le vus en ion ieo must be read as le vus enjon jeo: ‘I enjoin you’; for li pot de uostre uentre est si pres a joint au de sa fete menbre (p. 129.12)  read […] ajoint au desafeté menbre:  ‘the pot of your belly is so closely linked to the unruly member’ i.e. genitals;  pers a gieus means pereçeus (‘idle, lazy’, p. 213.24), etc. All these artificial difficulties placed in the path of the reader not only do nothing to enhance the appeal of what the editor makes into a rebarbative text, but, when allied to the many exceptions to his declared desideratum of a totally faithful reproduction of the manuscript, as referred to above, show that the printed text cannot be accepted uncritically as conveying the intended message of the scribe(s), but must be seen rather as an exercise in palaeography based on the tenets of a theoretical orthographical orthodoxy.


This importance attached to the ideal of a uniform spelling which would facilitate the drawing of phonological conclusions from the scribe’s orthography extended, as might be expected, well beyond the editors of the Seinte Resureccion and the Ancrene Riwle. It may be illustrated again, for example, by McMillan’s La Chanson de Guillaume (SATF, 1949) from the mid-thirteenth century (vol.1, p. xi and vol.2, p. 116). Embarrassed by the lack of such a uniformity in his text, he writes: ‘nous espérons arriver à pouvoir faire abstraction du rôle d’un scribe qui, à maintes reprises, laisse entrevoir son embarras, ses hésitations, et même ses erreurs’ (vol. 2, p. 86). The problem for the editor lies in ‘les nombreux cas où le scribe représente un seul son par plusieurs graphies’, and he goes on to refer to ‘le maintien, même sporadique, de beaucoup de graphies françaises en face de graphies anglo-normandes bien caractérisées […]’ (ibid.).  It would be difficult to find a clearer instance of  the  way in which, as a result of  the traditional devotion to the ideal of a recognizable insular as opposed to an equally recognizable continental spelling, the unruly scribe is perceived as a nuisance whose orthographical vagaries come between the editor and what he thinks ought to be the true form of his text. Consequently, the editor’s expressed aim is to neutralize this pernicious scribal input (‘faire abstraction de’ is how he puts it), and he invokes the work of Miss Pope as one of his models in his efforts to do so (p.87. Note 3). Like Trethewey, he chooses to lay what he perceives to be difficulties at the door of the scribe, rather than accept variability for what it was, an inescapable fact of medieval reality. However, in the much later Chevalerie Vivien, published posthumously in 1997 (Senefiance 39), McMillan’s Introduction shows greater awareness of the unreliability of phonological and orthographical data.


In all this concern about the failings of the scribes in their recording of Anglo-French it is tacitly assumed that the prestige language of the Middle Ages, Latin, was free from blemish. Yet the scribes who dealt with the one dealt also with the other and could, on occasion, commit errors in both. In a fourteenth-century Anglo-French translation of a Latin medical text giving dietary advice for the different seasons of the year[16] reference is made to the desirability of eating in spring: un manere des oysels qe sunt dist conturnices. These are ‘quails’ (Latin: coturnix DMLBS; contornice Godefroy 2.267a). In summer, the same birds are again recommended, but this time they are given as: les oysels qe l’en appele cucurbites. Cucurbites , however, are ‘cucumbers’ (Latin: cucurbita DMLBS; cucurbite Godefroy 2.390c).  It would, perhaps, be tempting to attribute this error to the ‘ignorant scribe’ who made the translation into Anglo-French, were it not for the fact that the editor states that: ‘The Latin has simply “cucurbite” (Note 23). The difficulties facing scribes when dealing with registers outside their normal range – medicine, ornithology, etc. – must have been very considerable in both Latin and the vernacular, as a perusal of the DMLBS shows.


The customary and enduring condemnation of an orthographically wayward Anglo-French,  its wide variations in spelling attributable to the fact that those who wrote it did not know the ‘correct’, etymological forms, postulates, whether explicitly or implicitly, the existence of its opposite against which it can be measured, a far more consistent continental French, its regular spelling related to its etymological origins. Yet the validity of this model form of French on which the neat and tidy separation of insular from continental French is based has been seriously questioned on the continent for some time now, although there is little sign of  this being yet appreciated in Britain. It rests on the comfortable premise that the elusive francien developed in a direct line ‘From Latin to Modern French’ and was exempt from the various kinds of ‘error’ that made later Anglo-French so unpredictable.


However, over the last few decades a range of influential scholars such as Cerquiglini, Dees and Pfister have seriously challenged the long-held view of the prevalence in France as a whole from as early as the thirteenth century of a regular, widely accepted francien against which could be set the reprehensible insular variety.


More recently, Dominique Lagorgette has launched a powerful attack on the continued acceptance of the traditional view of the nature of medieval French as taught in the university system in France itself. [17] She writes: ‘A lire les études  de phonétique historique (mais aussi de morphosyntaxe, fondée sur un système d’édition des textes traquant et corrigeant les “fautes”), on repère que l’idéologie sous jacente est plus proche de celle des néo-grammairiens que de celle des sociolinguistes et phonologues modernes’ (p. 2). Again, ‘croyons-nous vraiment savoir comment les locuteurs de l’ancien français prononçaient  et articulaient les sons?’ (p. 3). Her conclusion as regards this question is stark: ‘Montrer qu’il existait un système phonétique national homogène au moyen âge alors que l’étude des manuscrits prouve que les différents traits dialectaux s’entremêlent constamment reléve de la gageure, de l’alliance des mots ou de l’aveuglement’ (p. 3). She goes on to describe the hallowed notion of francien as ‘un mythe’ and proceeds to lambast the denial of  the idea of variation in medieval French as a gommage (ibid).


So the issue is no longer a simple one of good continental French contrasted with a bad insular variety. Further evidence providing a pertinent parallel to the spelling situation in later Anglo-French dealt with above in the Ancrene Riwle has recently been provided for the border region lying to the north-east of France in an article by Günter Holtus and Anja Körner.[18] Dealing with a legal document in French drafted in Luxembourg concerning the payment of homage for land, they examine the spelling of the original, dated 1275, therefore roughly contemporaneous with the Ancrene Riwle, and four copies made of it up to the middle of the fourteenth century. The dialectal features noted in the copies are not germane to the present enquiry, but the writers comment on peculiarities in word-division – Auffälligkeiten bei der Worttrennung (p. 452) – which recall those found in the insular Ancrene Riwle, although they are not as numerous, and then turn to the u/v confusion and the n/u problem. The first of these involves merely the use of v by all the versions of the document in varont (=verront), whilst only the original and IV keep the u in Thio(n)uille, the others having Thionville. The n/u  problem, however,  is more interesting:


‘Einen komplizierten, wenn auch für die Entstehungsgeschichte der Abschriften  bedeutsamen Fall stellen die Graphien <n> und <u> dar: So wird im Original deutlich zwischen die beiden Graphien unterschieden, während der Schreiber von IV in seiner recht flüchtigen Kursivschrift <n> und <u> zu einem Allograph zusammenfasst (ähnlich wie in einer modernen, schnell geschriebenen Handschrift). Die Zuordnung bleibt in dieser Abschrift letzten Endes für den verstehenden Leser jedoch eindeutig, und man gewinnt den Eindruck eines des Französischen mächtigen Kopisten, der nachvollziehen konnte, was er abschrieb, und der es nicht für nötig befand, eine sorgfältige Trennung der beiden Buchstaben für spätere „Abschreiber“ vorzunehmen’ (p. 455).


So the earliest copyist (the number ‘IV’ does not indicate posteriority) made a perfectly intelligible transcription of the original without observing the ‘rules’ for n and u , whilst the three who made later copies of his work (‘I’, ‘II’ and ‘III’) were unable to separate the two in his ‘flüchtigen Kursivschrift’ and consequently made errors. In a footnote (no.19, p. 456) the authors emphasize that they are aware that the n/u question is not straightforward: ‘Uns ist bewusst, dass die Transkribierung von <n> und <u> im Falle von mittelalterischen Urkundenkursiven stets ein heikles Unterfangen darstellt’, but claim that they have carefully separated the two graphies in the faulty copies I, II and III. Significantly for the scribal practice as illustrated above in the Ancrene Riwle, they attribute the errors in these copies to the scribes’ lack of familiarity with French: ‘Die Fehlinterpretationen beruhen offensichtlich auf der Unkenntnis der französischen Sprache’ (p. 456), contrasting it with the mastery of French possessed by the scribe of  IV who did not find it necessary to make the clear distinctions in his spellings. The authors go on to state that: ‘[…] unterscheidet der Schreiber von IV […]  ebenfalls nicht eindeutig zwischen <c>, <e> und <t>’ (p. 456). So this scribe, who is thought to come from a Romance background and knew French better than his fellows whose background was apparently germanic, treats the text he is copying in much the same way as the Trinity scribe treated the Ancrene Riwle, confident that his readers would not be disconcerted by any lack of precision in his calligraphy and would read the text as a meaningful communication, making any ‘corrections’ automatically and unconsciously as they read. As the authors of the article rightly say, this is precisely what we all do today when reading a handwritten message. Yet this does not address the question of  the three scribes who set down erroneous forms of commonplace words such as tonz for touz, or the fact that two of them wrote chost for chose and one spelled the modern Trèves as Trienez (both cases on p. 456) even though the city lay almost on his own doorstep. In fact, the authors go further, stating that in the case of one scribe the level of discrepancies in his text: ‘verstärkt […] den Eindruck, dass der Schreiber die Vorlage weder beim ersten noch beim zweiten Abschreiben sprachlich verstand’ (p. 462). If such a profound ‘Unkenntnis der französischen Sprache’(p. 459) existed  in the ranks of  professional scribes working in a border zone which cannot have been monolingual at the higher administrative level in  those days, it is legitimate to wonder why they were entrusted with a task outside their competence, resulting in  faulty copies of important documents being preserved in the archives. The officials who read  and used these documents must have interpreted them intelligibly, regardless of the niceties of the spelling, just as many thousands of pages of  records of all kinds drafted in a similar Anglo-French were preserved and actively put to use over many generations in Britain.


Along similar lines, in a separate article in the same volume, ‘Kontinuität oder Variation? Die Sprache der Luxemburger Grafenurkunden des 13. Jahrhunderts in Original und Kartularabschrift’ (pp. 393-417), Anja Körner gives other examples of the kind of French that found its way into the archives, e.g. ‘fais cognisait au tous ceaus qui ces letres v(er)ront …’ (p. 403), commenting on ‘s/f- Abweichungen’ (p. 405, Note 39) and referring to ces for ses, ci for si, ce for se and ceroit for seroit (pp. 405-6). This is followed by a contribution by Marie-Guy Boutier, ‘Études sur des chartes luxembourgeoises’ (pp. 419-447), the first of which (11 June 1237) begins as follows: ‘Gie Maheus dus de Loheregne (et) Marchiz faiz conussant a touz ke …’(p. 420). The lengthy piece by Martina Pitz, ‘Volkssprachige Originalurkunden aus Metzer Archiven bis zum Jahr 1270’ (pp. 295-392) provides eleven documents (ten in French, one in Latin) with photographs, all of which French texts contain forms of language far removed from the norm. These scholars are continuing the earlier work of Jacques Monfrin in his Documents linguistiques de la France. To take just one example amongst many, in his volume dealing with the Haute-Marne (1972) not only are outlandish forms found on a regular basis in local documents (ataigtes  as p.p. of ateindre p. 2 ; eutoibre p. 24, but  otouvre p. 75, possibly to be read as otonvre = octobre, etc.), but also grammatical ‘errors’ like those mentioned above, conesant a toz ceaus […] p. 20; je metera, je porra p.31, etc.). Taken collectively, these studies provide a body of strong evidence pointing towards similarities between later insular French and that used in medieval French documents from France itself and its border regions not only from the orthographical, but also the grammatical point of view. In fact, much of this writing would qualify for Miss Pope’s condemnation of  later insular French as given above, but she could hardly apply her tag ‘but half-known’ to the language of similar official documents drafted by native French scribes.


The foregoing fleeting digression into continental French has been made in the present Anglo-French context simply to demonstrate that the ‘half-known’ French of Britain was, in fact, by no means the pariah that it has traditionally been made out to be. [19] All these different strands come together to show that Trethewey’s difficulties with the many ‘ambiguities’ in his text were in all probability not a mark of scribal ignorance and, in any case, were not the sole prerogative of insular scribes. As was maintained earlier, the root of the problem on both sides of the Channel lies in the preoccupation of scholars with spellings as potential indicators of sounds, leading to a predilection for the study of verse texts from the earlier period rather than the later ones in prose, an attitude which, by extension, is detrimental to research in the areas of lexis and semantics. This affirmation is now supported by Gleβgen in his article in the Trier volume referred to above[20] with reference to one of the foremost scholars in the field of French language studies during the second half of the twentieth century: ‘Für GOSSEN ist das “Verhältnis von Graphem zu Phonem” das “Zentralproblem der mittelalterlichen Spracherforschung” ohne weitere Betrachtung von Syntax oder Lexik’ (p. 259), an observation perfectly in line with the main thrust of the present paper. The inability of such a concentration on phonology to achieve the desired result emerges clearly from yet another paper by a scholar of repute in this important volume of conference papers. In  ‘Sind Schreibdialekte phonologisch interpretierbar?’[21] Jakob Wüest  writes of the recognition for some decades now that:’die Schrift nicht einfach ein Abbild des gesprochenen Wortes sei, sondern dass die schriftlche und die mündliche Sprache als zwei Systeme betrachtet werden müssen’ (p. 38). He concludes as follows:’ Es gilt deshalb abschliessend festzustellen, dass es keine unfehlbare Methode gibt, welche uns erlauben würde, von der Graphie direkt auf die Phonie eines Textes zu schliessen’ (p. 49). The extension of this stark conclusion from the domain of continental dialect to that of Anglo-French would transform the study of the latter. If there is no guaranteed correspondence between written form and sound in regions where the writers are using their own native form of French, there can be little prospect of establishing such a relationship between the spellings set down by English scribes using an acquired French and the  pronunciation of that French up and down a country lacking any unity in the spelling or pronunciation of its own language at that time. All these independent testimonies go to show that for many years in both France and England the concentration of scholarly attention on a small proportion of literary works in medieval French in search of phonological knowledge from rhymes to the neglect of the far greater body of non-literary material containing a far wider range of cultural evidence has distorted the perception of the respective value of the two and hindered enquiries into other areas of language.


Evidence demonstrating the fragility of the link between pronunciation and spelling on which phonology is based is not, however, confined to new research into French dialects, but has been  readily available in Godefroy for the past century, although the dictionary has been regarded solely as a mine of lexicological information, having no necessary connection with other aspects of linguistic study. To take just one example: Godefroy has two substantive entries, ERRANMENT (3.327a-b) and ERRAUMENT (3.328a-c), which are given identical glosses – ‘promptement, en courant, avec impétuosité, aussitôt’, so that these are unquestionably the same word.  In the light of  the frequent palaeographical hesitancy between n/u as seen above, it has to be accepted that some of the forms in Godefroy’s lists may well have been separated into their present entries on the basis of the readings attributed to them by editors of the texts in which they are found rather than by the hand of the relevant scribes. Short of going back to study for himself each of the manuscripts concerned, the reader can only take on trust the accuracy of the distribution of numerous forms between the two headwords. Mindful of this caveat, he will find that under ERRANMENT Godefroy lists sixteen different forms, under ERRAUMENT eighteen, almost all of them of continental origin. He also has another separate entry ERREEMENT (3.330b-c), with a further two quotations and the glosses vivement, promptement, clearly another variant of the same word. So, at least according to those who transcribed the texts quoted in these entries, medieval authors or scribes wrote this single word in no less than thirty-six spellings. Twelve forms have also been found in Anglo-French, but this ‘suspect’ insular material with its notoriously wayward spellings will not be taken into consideration in the present case, attention being concentrated on the ‘good’ French of Godefroy’s texts. If the ‘rules’ for the phonological development of words as laid down in the manuals of historical French grammar are to have any validity across the full sprectrum of surviving textual material in medieval French, as distinct from being a largely theoretical exercise based on a conveniently small sample, this abundance of diverse spellings can only be regarded as the product of ‘ignorant scribes’. Yet the great majority of them must have been natives of mainland France, who were therefore no less remiss in their spelling than their insular counterparts, although without being able to have recourse to the excuse that they were dealing with a foreign language. The Altfranzösisches Wörterbuch of Tobler-Lommatzsch confirms the variant spellings for erranment/ erraument, but, unlike Godefroy, groups all the ‘word family’ together under errer (3.775-779), going from the verb to its present participle errant and on to the adverb formed from that participle. Etymologically speaking, this means that all the eighteen forms under Godefroy’s ERRAUMENT and the two under ERREEMENT must be erroneous in that they are based on an incorrect u or e spelling instead of the etymologically correct n. (See the entry SACHAUMENT/SACHANMENT below). Whilst the n/u ‘confusion’ here might be construed as being the result of editorial errors of transcription, the forms with e in the body of the word cannot, neither can those in which the ‘erroneous’ u has been replaced by l (e.g. er(r)alment, er(r)alement, esralment, etc.). Furthermore, it is not just the –ant ending of the present participle that is subject to variability in these entries: Godefroy and Tobler-Lommatzsch give the following forms at the beginning of the word: her-, herr-, esr-, eir-, ierr-, air-, ar-, arr-, aur-, an-, en-. Yet, despite this welter of divergent forms, their semantic content does not vary in the examples given, therefore all the scribes knew the meaning of the term: they just were ‘unable’ to spell or, presumably, pronounce it ‘correctly’. In fact, it is impossible to explain by etymology and phonology the many forms that in practice represent erranment in written continental medieval French. In these circumstances it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that there was not one consistent pronunciation any more than there was one consistent spelling. The same question is raised by the dictionary entries in Godefroy under DONT (2.747b-c) and T-L under DONC (2.2005-10). Both entries cover the senses of the modern French donc only (not dont) and both have a mixture of forms ending in both c and t, yet intelligibility does not appear to have suffered in the slightest. (See DOUNC/DOUNT below).


These examples have links with the problem in Luxembourg referred to above and are matched by a similar difficulty found in the various manuscripts that provided Anglo-French glosses to the Exoticon of Alexander of Hales around the same time as the Ancrene Riwle and  which use a variety of spellings to gloss the Latin calopodium, itself spelt in different forms. The ‘standard’ vernacular French form that provides the headword in both Godefroy (3.586b-587a) and T-L (3.1330-1332) is estache, and, although Godefroy gives sixteen different spellings for the word and T-L about half this number, all the forms in their entries have t.  In contrast, the Anglo-French glosses to the Exoticon contain, along with the ‘correct’ kalopynda: gallice estache (TLL i 320), forms with c/ch/sc/sch and even asch: calopinda: gallice eschache, calobinda: eschace gallice, calopinda: echace (TLL i 320), calopodium: aschaxe and ka[l]opinda: scoche (TLL i 321). The escache form is also found in two collections of Anglo-French administrative documents, the Red Book of the Exchequer: les esaches des dites tailles (iii 964) ‘the sticks of the said tallies’,  and the Novae Narrationes, where variant readings give estages, lostages and stakes (p. 206), thus retaining the correct t, but  altering the ending -ac(h)e to -age. As in the case of erraument etc. these spellings could point towards a confusion or a variability in sound as well as in written form. The Gothic root word stakka, supported by the German noun Stecken and the English ‘stick’ indicate that, etymologically speaking, the t forms are the correct ones. The use of  the incorrect s sound as represented by c/ch/sc/sch in the insular texts might well be regarded as just another case demonstrating the ignorance of the insular scribes, were it not for the awkward fact that in Godefroy 1.391b under aressier the form eschaces occurs in an erotic context in the continental Roman de Renart referring to the erection of the penis. The same quotation, but from a different manuscript, is found again in Godefroy 4.630a, under jamberesce. So the absence from the main entries in both Godefroy and T-L of this spelling suggestive of a pronunciation with an s sound cannot be taken as conclusive proof that it did not exist in the ‘correct’ French of the continent, with consequential implications for the notion of ‘correctness’ now challenged by Dominique Lagorgette.  The ch for t here does not fall into the category of  the simple c/t error examined above, and it be would be difficult to claim that eschache in these two manuscripts is nothing more than a scribal or editorial error. The case of estache/eschace is hardly likely to be an isolated one, but, until it becomes possible to search the big dictionaries electronically, there is no sure means of finding others. We are left with the possibility that future research will uncover increasing evidence of such similarities between the insular and continental forms of French in their infractions of philological wisdom.


The foregoing examination of  ERRANMENT and ESTACHE serves to highlight the abiding dichotomy in real terms between the tiny area of the French language suitable to be put under the the phonologist’s microscope and the much wider sweep of medieval textual reality as represented by Godefroy and Tobler-Lommatzsch, which is excluded from his studies. Neither of the terms in question can be used to provide any phonological information in the traditional manner, even if situated at the rhyme, where only the endings –ment and –ache would count for rhyming purposes, yet  the abundance of their forms cannot legitimately be dismissed as irrelevant  to questions of the relationship between form and sound. Any progress towards a better understanding of the civilization of France and England in the Middle Ages to be derived from medieval French will have to come through study of the whole of its textual legacy, not from a concentration on individual written characters or syllables in no more than a handful of works that lend themselves to exercises in phonology.


Returning to the circumscribed area of later Anglo-French, its disparagement by the experts over many past decades has meant that it is not generally appreciated to what extent this faux français d’Angleterre, with its manifold imperfections and regrettable similarities to the non-literary French of mainland France, was used both at home and abroad. Edward I wrote to his falconer in Anglo-French[22] and his son, Edward II, has left  a volume of letters in French;[23] matters concerning Cornish tin-mines are set down in French;[24] royal scribes used French not only to record the proceedings of Parliament, but also to communicate with foreign diplomats and also with dignitaries and institutions, both English and foreign;[25] the Mayor of London wrote reams of letters in Anglo-French in support of his fellow-citizens in trade disputes, cases of piracy, etc. involving not only francophone authorities along the Channel coast but also those in Dordrecht in 1364 and even Dantzig in 1367,[26] as well as English nationals and municipalities; a large part of the records of medieval York kept in their York Memorandum Book are in French;[27] the port authorities at Southampton and London recorded the movement of shipping and goods originating in Europe or the Middle East in Anglo-French for well over a century;[28] the mercantile companies used it for their records;[29] the legal fraternity compiled numerous authoritative treatises in it; countless court cases[30] and the wills of nobles[31] and commoners alike were recorded in this ‘half-known’ language; the sheer volume of medical writing in Anglo-French points to its widespread use alongside Latin at all levels of the profession;[32] the religious of both sexes and differing ranks up and down the country used it to draft their rules and record the business of their houses as well as for their active correspondence, both official and private; even cookery recipes appeared early in Anglo-French.[33] The phonological value of this mass of writing is at best minimal, but semantically and lexicographically it is crucial to an understanding of the development of many aspects of the English language and hence to a correct understanding of English history: scripta manent.


The problems of intelligibility associated with a rigid interpretation of spelling forms which have been discussed above arise particularly in Anglo-French because editors of insular texts often fail to recognize the basic differences that separate the three languages in use in later medieval England. Of the three, only Middle English can be said to lend itself to the kind of orthographical/phonological exercise undertaken for the Ancrene Riwle, because Middle English alone is grounded in a living vernacular. This is not the case with the insular form of French from the later medieval period, which had become over many years increasingly a language for the eye rather than for the ear, being transmitted from one generation of native English scribes to another largely on parchment. Like Middle English and continental French, as has been shown above, Anglo-French had an abundance of different spellings, but these latter could be far more outlandish than the former, because the scribes who wrote them did not necessarily have any connection with France itself, their French being entirely derivative. On the other hand, Medieval Latin shows little appetite for variant forms. Like Anglo-French, it did not rest on a living vernacular, but, having been for centuries the chosen linguistic vessel of the Church, hence the primary repository of the wisdom and knowledge of a supranational elite, its forms were shielded from serious haphazard modification at national level. These differences are clearly reflected in the relevant dictionaries. Whilst the Middle English Dictionary and the Anglo-Norman Dictionary have extensive variant spellings for their entries, the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources has very few. A recent edition of trilingual medical texts written in England a little later than the Ancrene Riwle illustrates this point. In the Three Receptaria from Medieval England, [34] the spelling in the Middle English sections is certainly not ‘regular’, but the links with one specific regional dialect are so close that Michael Benskin is able to establish the precise area of its composition; no such localization, however, is possible for the Anglo-French element in the texts, although the range of spelling variants is broadly of  the same order as in the Middle English sections, being based, however, not on geographical differences, but on the training or social position of those who used it. In contrast, the Medieval Latin is far more ‘regular’ than the other two and presents few problems of interpretation, but, again, cannot be attributed to any particular location.


Another factor which makes the difficulties of comprehension in editions of Anglo-French texts more widespread than in continental ones is that they are produced by different categories of scholar. Whilst the problems in the Seinte Resureccion, the Ancrene Riwle and other similar literary texts result in large measure from the editors’ unswerving confidence in the correctness of  their readings based on their phonological training, in contrast, many of those found in editions of the non-literary works produced in Britain from the time of the Ancrene Riwle onwards stem in the main from their editors’ inadequate mastery of  French per se. Unlike those who edit literary texts, these editors are not usually specialists in French, medieval or modern, and so have often approached their task lacking the linguistic expertise necessary to deal correctly with the difficulties presented by their manuscripts.[35] Additionally, whilst the French editor of a later medieval prose text in continental French has to deal with only one foreign language, the ubiquitous Medieval Latin, the other language of his text being no more than an early version of his mother tongue and hence not usually totally hermetic, the British editor of a similar text in insular French is faced with two foreign languages, Medieval Latin and Anglo-French, in a country where monolingualism is the norm. Any specific help towards understanding the French found in British medieval documents not furnished with class-room aids such as glossaries or translations has largely been directed towards the solution of scribal  abbreviations, as in C.T. Martin, The Record Interpreter (2nd edition, 1910) and the more recent Introduction to J.H. Baker’s Manual of Law French (2nd edition,1990), which contains a useful table of common abbreviations and contractions (pp.20-23). However, although a missed or misinterpreted superscript abbreviation mark or a final contraction incorrectly expanded may hamper intelligibility, many of the textual difficulties that remain for the reader in  the eventual edition arise less from the editor’s inability to deal correctly with such curtailed forms than from the presence of words set down in full but not correctly identified orthographically or syntactically and which remain, therefore, semantically opaque. As far as the insular variety  of medieval French is concerned, the grammars have in the past tended to offer, at best, patterns of phonological and morphological development that did not take into consideration the variability dealt with above and which are, therefore, largely theoretical and of little use to a prospective editor whose speciality is history or the law when faced with a text  in Anglo-French.[36]  Nor can such an editor expect much help from those engaged in the teaching of  Medieval French, because the few who edit insular works usually choose verse texts from the earlier period and subscribe to the traditional view of  the development of the language. The result of this fundamental division between the editors of the two kinds of text is that each group goes its own way, with only minimal contact, if any, between them. Consequently, the editions they produce have little in common. The introductory matter provided for an edition of a literary text will in most cases describe the manuscript(s), deal with the date(s) of composition, with the phonology, morphology or syntax of the text, and mark any glossary as ‘selective’, an adjective that usefully covers a multitude of sins, primarily of omission: on the other hand, the introduction to a non-literary work will often take the language of the text completely for granted and focus all attention on its overall place in the history of Britain, despite the fact that, especially in legal documents, the number of surviving manuscripts often greatly exceeds those in literary texts, the inevitable variant readings they produce thus providing a fertile ground for lexicological and lexicographical study. For example, Nicols’ edition of the key legal text Britton lists no less than twenty-six manuscripts (Introduction pp. xlviii-liii), with the comment that this is ‘far from being a complete catalogue of existing manuscripts of this work’(p. xlviii). Collas used fifteen manuscripts in both of his editions of Year Books (Selden Society vols. 70 & 81). Such numbers are by no means unusual across the legal field and especially in the many volumes of the Selden Society that have been appearing on a regular basis for well over a century. When this often neglected factor is taken into consideration, the amount of non-literary Anglo-French will be seen to be seriously out of proportion to the attention, or rather lack of attention, it receives from specialists in medieval French. In neither literary nor non-literary editions is it usual for the lexis to be afforded much consideration, semantics being the weakest part of most editors’ armoury.  It invariably occupies the bottom rung on the ladder of importance, so that a considerable number of avoidable errors find their way into print. Despite the above differences, however, many of the errors found in editions of both literary and non-literary Anglo-French texts fall into the limited number of identifiable categories illustrated above in respect of the Seinte Resureccion and the Ancrene Riwle, so that  an understanding of  their nature may help editors to avoid them and readers to deal with them if the editor does not. The principal letters that cause difficulty, often when in combination with another letter or letters, are c/t, the groups of minims n/v/u and m/ui/vi and  f/l, f/s, l/s; the confusion r/n and ei with ie and e with r is also found, but less commonly.


Naturally, mistakes of a non-recurrent kind also occur in printed editions of both literary and non-literary texts, but their correction is usually possible by reference to context, provided that the reader is conversant with the whole range of Anglo-French, not merely with the well-trodden but narrow path of  the standard literary register, and that he is content for meaning to be his guide rather than mere form. For example, the Oxford Psalter reads: Kar tes sajetes entichedes sunt en mei (37.2), but the Latin: sagitae tuae infixae sunt mihi shows that entichedes is an error for enfichedes and the Cambridge Psalter at this point has the correct enfichees. In one of Bozon’s Sermons the printed text reads: Doun est dounk saunz nul fail De regarder le ray du solail (p.29.81-2), where Doun must be read as Boun to make sense (‘it is doubtless good to look at the ray of the sun’), or again, Hounte faut e chet en cendre, Pecché crest […] (ibid. p.53.33-4), where, in the context of  what the editor calls ‘the ominous triumph of evil’, it must be Bounté (‘goodness’) that ‘lies in the dust’, not Hounte (‘shame’). This latter misreading of  b and h is mirrored in another religious text from the thirteenth century: ceste desestance Ki entre mes suers est hastie in Robert Grosseteste’s Chasteau d’Amour (v.384). The editor’s hastie makes no sense in this context, the correct form being bastie: ‘this trouble that has been caused amongst my sisters’. In the Petit Bruit the waters are further muddied by a second error of transcription in the same sentence as hastoit: parmit (l. parunt) il hastoit (l. bastoit) cel enpoysonement (‘by which he set up/plotted that poisoning’  p. 7.12). The b/h error turns up again in an administrative text, The Affairs of Ireland,[37] where the printed text reads: appela le seint corps Dieu diablerie e hurdys (p. 133), where hurdys  must be read as burdys: ‘he called the body of Christ devilry and a fraud’. In the edition of the earlier part of the Anonimalle Chronicle (1991) the error is the other way round: for the jousting in London’s Cheapside: furent faites barures d’une part et d’autre (my word divisions) de bone meryn et fu graunt burdiz (l. hurdys) fait en haut en travers le rue (‘barriers of stout wood were set up on both sides and a great palisade built high across the street’ p. 146). ‘B’, ‘D’ and ‘H’ are not always clearly differentiated on the page, especially when used as initial capitals, but recourse to semantics instead of reliance on a dubious spelling seldom fails to sort them out. The same applies to words in the body of a sentence. In one of the earliest pillars of English jurisprudence the editor, a lawyer, transcribes: chiminage, murage, cariage ou reles autres custumes (Mir Just p. 17). The first three words are well-known as taxes for the use of roads, building of walls or cartage, but reles makes no sense in this context. It obviously ought to read teles ‘such’. Likewise, in the Rotuli Parliamentorum the reading: prient pavage & murage a dorer pur vii aunz (i 423) the infinitive should be understood as a form of durer ‘to last/endure’, rather than ‘to gild’. In the edition of the early part of the Anonimalle Chronicle referred to above it is recorded that John Crabbe equipped ten boats from Flanders: et mist leinz tut l’estor qe li estoit bosoigne pur guerre, et des mellours in venceux de Berewyk (p. 150). The final part of this sentence is gibberish as it stands and totally defeats the editors, but all that is needed to produce good sense is for the three minims in to be read as iu (hence ju) and to be attached to venceux to form one word – juvenceux, producing the reading: ‘and put in them all the equipment he needed for war and the best young men in Berwick’. Elsewhere in this text the editors make a blind guess at an unknown word which they transcribe as desoltisance and translate as ‘devastation’ (p. 94). Again, the correction is not dfficult: their desoltisance is really desobeisance,  not very different from the English ‘disobedience’. In the Rotuli Parliamentorum (i 423) is an incomprehensible statement: ke le Roi voil assigner une trone a Scardeburge, a poiser lez  leyns, et qu’ illoms de sa coustome, pur son profit al d’ese du pays. The commas inserted by the editor are a clear indication that he has no idea of the meaning of his sentence. The king is being asked to authorize a weighing-machine to be installed at Scarborough to weigh the wool brought in from the surrounding area for the purpose of assessing the duty payable on it, but the second part of the sentence makes no sense until the scribe’s thought is followed through logically. The et after leyns (‘wools’) leads naturally to another noun connected with trone, not to a conjunction que followed by an apparently first person plural present subjunctive (?) of an unknown verb taking the preposition de. The unrecognized noun is disguised by the editor’s faulty division of qu’ illoms: the reading ought to be quillours, an attested form of  coillours  ‘collectors’ (of the king’s customs as determined by the weighing-machine). The final error arises again from a failure to follow through the scribe’s thought. The installation of the new weighing-machine is to be for the profit of the king and the well-being of the region, so the Anglo-French ought to read  pur son (i.e. the king’s) profit et a l’ese du pays , a stock phrase in these records. The precise form of the original reading at this point is impossible to determine without the manuscript, but it is highly unlikely to be what is set down in the edition, given  the frequency of the standard formula in question. An equally incomprehensible passage is printed in the ants edition of Les Enfances Jesu. During the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt the child Jesus commands a tree to provide his mother with shade, water and fruit. In return, he says: E jo voil e si comand Ke vus seiez desornavant En paraïs per partant A mon pouier a remenant (vv.269-272).  The editor’s note to per partant in v.271 reads: ‘The meaning is clearly “participant”, […]. Partant might also represent par tant ‘thereby’. The form pouier is glossed as ‘power’, the Note to v. 272 stating that ‘pouier is a spelling that probably reflects an A-N intervocalic glide’. The correct translation of this passage would be: ‘It is my wish and command that, on account of this (par tant, i.e. help given), you should be henceforth in Paradise on an equal footing (per, i.e. ‘peer’, ‘equal’) with my apple-tree (pomer, i.e. the tree of forbidden fruit) for ever more’.  The editor’s crucial error is to turn in her difficulty to phonology in the shape of the ‘intervocalic glide’ to explain what she reads as pouier instead of  to semantics, reading the three minims as m, not ui and thus pomer, not pouier.  She wrongly dismisses as ‘imaginative’ the correct reading of the earlier editor, Gast, which fits perfectly into the Biblical context. A few verses further on in the text the writer says that this act on the part of Jesus pleased Joseph greatly: Plui li plout iceste geste Ke nule char, salé u reste (vv.287-88). The editor’s lengthy Note to v.288 indicates that here again she is a loss. However, if char, salé is read as one word charsale it can be construed as a form of the attested chassale, casal, casel, casele ‘hut, shelter’(cf. modern  Spanish casal, Italian casale, Portuguese caselejo), and areste is then to be read as the medieval French arest, modern French arrêt ‘halt’, rather than the ‘rancid’ conjectured in the Note.[38] The sense is that Joseph appreciated the water more than shelter or rest. As so often, context, not phonology, provides the correct answer to the problem.


This is not to say that the medieval scribe is invariably correct, particularly when he is dealing with a specialized register in a language other than his own, as was mentioned earlier. For instance, it is not surprising to find that Tony Hunt has abundant notes on virtually every page of his Teaching and Learning Latin where the glossators have to cope with all manner of Latin terms from a wide range of registers, and similarly in the critical apparatus to his editions of medical treatises. The wonder is not that the scribes made errors, but rather that, in the absence of dictionaries, they made so few in such difficult areas of language. Instead of dwelling on such scribal lapses, it is more useful to illustrate some of the many cases where errors remaining in editions of Anglo-French texts impair intelligibility and yet can be corrected without much trouble. The following modest selection is taken from the revision of the early letters of the new edition of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary, largely, but by no means exclusively, from non-literary texts, and illustrates the patterns discussed above in respect of  La Seinte Resureccion and the Ancrene Riwle.





F[emme] se abote (l. abece) e estent

W[oman] bowith and bent hir Nom 285


Despite the help of the Middle English, the editor, an Anglicist, has not recognized abecer, a form of  abesser, which calls for a c instead of a t and also an e instead of an o, and so he reads a form of abouter which (together with other meanings) is found in the prose Ancrene Riwle in the sense of  ‘to peep out’ (the nun must avoid the reputation of being recluse aboutant, i.e. peeping out at the outside world from behind her curtains) (p. 171.20). This error was not picked up when the first edition of the AND was printed and so will have to be corrected in the forthcoming second edition.



en accreaunt (l. attreaunt) a eux roial poer Rot Parl1 ii 16

‘taking to themselves royal power’


Accreire means ‘to borrow’ or ‘to increase’, whilst attraire  means basically ‘to attract’.



rente naturelment accret (l. attret) a li fealté et auxi escuage accret (l. attret) a ly homage YBB Ed II xi 94

‘rent naturally attracts fealty and likewise scutage attracts homage’



cum qi attornast soen tenaunt de achater (l. atacher: vars. chever, chevir, eschever, tenir) a un autre estraunge persone de ses services  britt i 269

‘as when someone attorns his tenant to become subject to a stranger regarding his services’



soient les purveances fetes e les acrez (l. atrez) en les maners ou nos bioms a sorjorner Westm 241

‘let provisions and stocks be laid down in the manors where we intend to stay’



mult est forte cele actie (l. attie) Que maufez unt vers nus enpris S Jean ants 5948

‘ this attack that the devils have mounted against us is very strong’



(the soldiers waved cloths steeped in blood and the juice of mulberries and black grapes in front of the elephants) pur les atticer (var. acuter) a felonie triv 95.15

‘[…] to incite them to wickedness’


The variant acuter means ‘to stand beside, support’, a derivative of coude ‘elbow’, not suitable in the present context, but, if it is not an error for aticer with the c and t misplaced, it may well be aciter,  with  the a- prefix instead of the attested en- in enciter.



Richesse e Volentee sount ateiclez (var. atitlez) as grauntz seignours boz Cont 29;

‘riches and power are the attributes of the great lords’

La piece qe porta la figale si est atieclé (var. atitlé) au nees boz Cont 39;

‘the piece (sc. of the patched-up garment) that carried the [?] is designated for the nose’

La dame ad ses clers ou chapellyns atytrez (vars. atythez, acyclez) boz Char 477

‘The lady has her designated clerks or chaplains’

(The servant-boy) porte la bource au taverne atteiclee boz Char 416


There is no variant given here, but the sense would appear to be that the servant takes the purse to the designated tavern, i.e. the sense of atitré.

The copyists were evidently at a loss to interpret parts of these difficult Bozon texts.



performyr la dit toure et toute laforcement (l. l’afforcement) q’il purra sur le dit pounte Ireland 235

‘to complete the tower and all the strengthening of the said bridge’

performyre la toure et toute laffortement […] ibid.



si il soit maundé de venir plus affortement (l. afforcément) Private Indentures 65

‘if he is asked to come more forcefully’



lenones romanice sunt ‘amacheurs’ (l. amatheurs) Gloss Sidon 140.

‘bawds are “amateurs” in French’


Although Medieval Latin has this term, it does not carry the same derogatory sense[39]



Et pur ceo qe ne dever[e]it estre oi en ces (l. ses) anguites (l. anguices), le dit moigne & altres ly mistrunt frein en buche Rot Parl1  ii 186

(a friar is being tortured): ‘And so that he might not be heard in his anguish, the said monk and others stuffed a bridle into his mouth’



auntienes dues et droitureles Rot Parl1 i 282

‘ancient and rightful dues’

Cf. solunc ce que auncienement soleient faire ibid. i 282

‘according to what they were accustomed to do in the past’



E ore poent justices […] forger brefs […] sanz apertenaunce (l. apercevaunce) ou peyne Mir Just 123

‘And now Justices […] can forge writs […] without detection or penalty’


Apertenance/apartenance/apurtenance are derived from apartenir ‘to belong’ and mean ‘belonging’, ‘appurtenance’, ‘appendage’, etc. The sense here is that the Justices are not found out, hence apercevance from apercevoir ‘to see’, etc. The editor has misread t for c and n for v.



[…] ne soient deherités de fraunchises ne des autres choses appourtenaunces (l. appourtenauntes) au dit heritage Rot Parl2 245

‘[…] should not be disinherited from the franchises nor from other things belonging to the said inheritance’


The sense here calls for a present participle, not a noun.


uyn mesuage ou les apertenauntes (l. apertenaunces) Sel Bills Eyre 53

‘a messuage with the appurtenances’


This error is the reverse of the one above and is repeated later in the Sel Bills Eyre with ‘les apurtinauntes’ (l. apurtinances) on p. 132.


tenementes ové les appurtenantz/ tenementes ové les appurtenancz Ireland p.1 58



une garce ke feu mun aqueince (l. aqueinte) Plac Cor 21

‘A girl who used to be an acquaintance of mine’


The English ‘acquaint’ ought to have preserved the editor from error here.



pur la mort R.C. dont il fust aretté (vars. arescue, etc.) Nov Narr 251

‘for the death of R.C. for which he was arrested’



Assensu (l. Assentu) est par le graunt counseil Rot Parl2 169

‘It is agreed by the King’s Council’

The English ‘Royal assent’, etc. offers an obvious point of reference.



por ce que les deux girfauks sont assentuz (l. assensez) a voler ensemble a heiron Lett Ed I 12.11.7

‘Because the two hawks are trained to fly together at heron’


The verb makes no sense as coming from assentir ‘to agree’. To link it to assenser ‘to instruct, teach’ requires a change of conjugation, but that is not an unusual phenomenon in Anglo-French.



essomauntes (vars. essoinauntes, essoynantes, assoignauntes, assoinances) et concubines britt ii 241

‘kept women and conbubines’


The usual form of  this word is assoignante, so the variants show a range of  error: the confusion of  in and m, the very common alternation of  a and e at the beginning of a word and the confusion of c and t.



pur atcreance (l. attreance) A sa honoraunce Tousjuris avera Lyric 202.10

‘ he (sc. Christ) will always have this in his honour as a means of drawing attention to his wounds’)



en ceo cas yl ne atempra (l. acompra)  nent le tort sun pere YBB 20-21 Ed I 303

‘in that case he will not pay for his father’s wrongdoing’


Atemprer means ‘to temper, moderate’ etc., whilst acomprer means to ‘pay for’ etc. (cf. Spanish comprar and Italian comprare).



le merin […] de sa mayson atravanteront (l. acravanteront) Sel Bills Eyre 97

‘they destroyed the woodwork of his house’



il fust autrefoicz (l. autrefoitz) exile (l. exilé) de la terre Anon Ch 2 84.

‘he was again exiled from the country’



non mye eaux destourber pur moi avancer, mes le (l.lé) autres avanter (var. avanser) pur moy plus avanter (var. avanser) Sz Med 73.1-2

[ I ought to be most anxious:] ‘not at all to inconvenience them in order to advance myself, but to advance others in order to advance myself’)


The unshakeable faith of the editor in the orthographical minutiae of his text leads him to ignore both the correct first example of avancer and the presence of the correct avanser as a variant twice, thus printing nonsense when the sense could not be clearer.



Ja ne verrez orgoilus Ke il ne seit dedeingnus, Avanceur (l. Avanteur), malicius Set Pechez 133

‘You will never find a proud man who is not scornful, boastful, malicious’


An avanceur is a ‘promoter, ‘one who facilitates’, inappropriate in this context.



De bertiz ver cervoyse (M.E. fro wort to ale) Bibbesworth (A) p.158 (ms. f.302ra)


Other mss. have berzize ants v. 489 (G) f.286ra; bersise (O) f.335va; bercise (B) f.99v, etc. Berzize also occurs in Popular Medicine p.285. The Bibbesworth (A) ms. form with t stands alone.



cespes, cespitis, gallice blece (l. blete) Gloss Nequam 259


This means ‘sod, turf’, ‘lump of earth’. See DMLBS caespes, Godefroy 1.665a.sub bloste and AND bleste.



Urine carcive et blanche […] signefie mal des reins Popular Medicine 109.

‘Urine that is whitish and corrosive […] indicates kidney disease’


Another medical manuscript reads cartive in this context: Urine cartive e blaunche […] Anglo-Norman Medicine ii 259.



ceo fu pur sun pecchié demeine Ke le people seoffre icele peine, Ke il morreit trestut a cas (l. tas) Mir N-D 238.39.

‘it was on account of their very own sin that the people are suffering this affliction, that they will die like flies’, literally, ‘in heaps’.


This interpretation is supported by evidence in T-L. Under caz ‘Sturz, schmetternder Fall’ (2.78) all the quotations given, both of the single word and also of the locution a cas/quas carry this sense of a ‘shattering fall’. The noun belongs with the verb casser/quasser and is distinct from the cas/case etc. (T-L 2.61-2) derived from the Latin casus. The locution a tas  is well documented in T-L  10.128 in the sense of  haufenweise.



Cacapucia: .i. semen spurge, g[allice] catepuse Bot Gloss 54;

gallice cacapuce .i. la semence de spurge Plant Names 72;

‘(seed of) caper spurge’.


The Latin form is given as catapota in the DMLBS, but examples with both c and th are given there alongside those with t, so it would appear that even the prestigious Latin did not always practise the rigid separation of c and t as claimed above for Anglo-French.



an tesant (l. cesant) les services avaunditz par ij auns […] YBB Ed II i 158;


The sense requires the verb ‘to cease, discontinue’, Latin cessare.

In contrast:

le cesyr (l. tesyr= O.F. taisir, Modern French taire) de nul homme ne put larger le g[a]raunt dez justices YBB Ed II xviii 14;

‘The silence of any man cannot extend the warrant of the Justices’

par son ceer (l. teer=taire) ne poetz dire qe nous sumes osté de ceste assise YBB Ed II xviii 7.

‘By his silence you cannot say that we are  removed from this assise’.


In these cases, the Latin root is obviously tacere.



celuy J. aveyt a covenant a cestuy W. .xxviij. s. a celes (l. teles ) ke il preyt Alice sa file a femme Sel Bills Eyre 50

‘J. had an agreement with this W. to the effect that he would take Alice, his daughter to wife’.


Cf. modern French à telle(s) enseigne(s) que.



Trai fors de la charcre la meie aume (Latin: Educ de carcere animam meam) Cambridge Psalter 141.7.

‘deliver my soul from prison’,


Despite the Latin c, medieval French knows only the form with t.



Lur soudlers […] De bon cordiwan, Les chauceus (ms. chauteus) de saie Sermon1 1360.

‘Their shoes of good cordwain, The leggings of silk’



Depescent les caveaus, font issir les chaveres (=caveres) Rom Chev ants 6223.

‘They demolish the caves, and make the diggers come out’.


The editor gives a variant reading taneres for chaveres, in which the initial t ought to be read as c and the n as v. The link between caveau and chaveres (caveres) is clear, where the ending –ier (frequently –er in insular French) is commonly used to denote an occupation – e.g. banquier, charpentier, etc. in continental French,  ‘banker’, ‘carpenter’, etc. in English, from Anglo-French.



E une nate de junc aveit […] E un petit chevetail (l. cheveçail) desuz sa teste aveit Vitas 3397.

‘He had a reed mat […] and a little pillow/head-rest beneath his head’.


Cheveçail is an attested diminutive of chevés, chevez, chevesce. Anglo-French has numerous examples of cheveçail, cheveçaile, etc. (See AND)



Item pur gravel e mal de flanc: Pernés chites ruges […] Receptaria 127.443

‘Item for gravel and pain in the side : Take red chick-peas […]’.

mettez un quilieré de argent de ceste puder en pot ouveke lez chites ibid. 128.443.

‘put  a silver spoonful of this powder in a pot with the chick-peas’.


The Latin cicer, medieval French chiche (Godefroy 9.79a, T-L 2.382) and modern French pois chiches, plus the English ‘chick peas’ all confirm the necessity for c here rather than t. Other attested Anglo-French forms are chiche and scices.



Tankes ke veynoum a vert choral (cerail in margin: M.E. a grene balk) Bibbesworth (A) p.159, (the correct manuscript form in the margin is, in fact, cerayl f.302rb).

‘Until we come to a green bank’


The reading with c in choral and cerail  is not without ‘ambiguity’, but readings in other Bibbesworth mss. with t – ants  v.548, (T) f.127r, etc. and the derivation from terre make the reading terail imperative on grounds of intelligibility.



il prist discepline de verges ben tillantes (l. cillantes) Reis Engl 234

‘he punished himself with stinging rods’


Cf. De cillantes verges derumpre sa char tendre St. Marg1 108; la force d’un cillant vent S Modw 5903.


Cillant is the present participle of the verb ciller/cisler used as an adjective. The verb means ‘to rage’ (of the wind). See S Brend mup 94 and Godefroy 2.135b.



[Haematitis] as oilz dune clarece (var. clarté) Lapid 55.654.

‘The stone haematitis clears the eyes’.


Clarece  rhymes with the well-attested asprece (Godefroy aspresse 1.420b-c) in the printed text, but this example is isolated (Godefroy 2.146c), so clarece may owe its existence to the rhyme in which, of course, asprece could be read as the well-attested aspreté (Godefroy 8 Comp.208b-c).



mon clothe (l. cloche) furroré de blew Test Ebor i 199.

‘my cloak lined with blue cloth’


See Godefroy cloche 2.156b.



qe les ditz executours ne soient coarcez d’amender […] Northumb 103

‘that the said executors should not be coerced/forced to put right […]’

Cf. enpanellent gentz […] et les coartont a jurer […] par extorcioun Rot Parl1 iii 377


Godefroy cohercer 2.169c, but DMBLScoartare (coarct-)’and coartabilis, coartatio, coartus. The influence of the spelling in the major language of documentation, Medieval Latin, on scribes who were working in a trilingual environment cannot be ignored in such cases. Whether these modern transcriptions conform to scribal reality or not, phonology plays no role here: scribal practice is the determining factor.



Si vos pecchez averount estee si com coccine (Latin: coccinum; DMLBS coccinus) il serrount blaunchez si com neif Isaiah (A) 219va;

‘If your sins have been as dark as red dye, they shall be white as snow’

lequel conust overer en or, […] en purpre, en coctine (l. coccine) et en jacinte Bible2 287va.

‘who was skilled in working gold, purple, red dye and jacinth’



Et en la fin del coccioun metez […] Med Rec 182;

‘At the end of the cooking put […]’

le signe de parfite coctiun est itele […] Pop Med 108.2

‘the mark of finished cooking is this’



que toillage (var. cueillage) ne soit paié par la coste d’Angleterre, mais ancorage Bl Bk 74.

‘that keelage should not be paid on the coast of England, but anchorage’


The variant reading supports the sense ‘keelage’, against the unattested toillage’.



A cel temps encrust la conceveure (vars. coutevure, cotiveourie) de terre triv 19.25

‘At that time the cultivation of the land increased’


This text was transcribed for a doctoral thesis in 1932, when Miss Pope’s influential book was about to go to press. That the meaningless reading conceveure should not have been corrected here by either the thesis supervisor or the examiner(s), even when the correct form coutevure was present in the variants, is a mark of the triumph of  theory over common sense, of form over semantics. The same error has been noted above in the Ancrene Riwle.



li un grayn regard lui autre si com confel (l. coufle) fait poucin Rom 11.574

‘one grape looks at the other like a kite does a chicken’


The point of this statement is not immediately apparent.



le dit T.R. humblement pur sa contrarionsce (l. contrariousté) toremous (l. torcenous) meintenance et pur ceo q’il fist a contrarie de son serment il soi myst humblement en grace des gardeinz Goldsmiths’ Minute Book A + a 35.

‘the said T.R. threw himself on the mercy of the guardians (sc. of the Goldsmiths’ guild) on account of his recalcitrance, wrongful aiding of a litigant and for having gone against his oath’



Des autres qi furent al dit contrariantz (=contrariance) de lour mal fine vous eit (l. ert) dit par ordre’ Anon Chr2 112.

‘The bad end of the others who were involved in the said opposition to the king will be told to you in due course’.


The editors’ failure to recognize the substantival ending –ance here under the apparent  present participle ending –ant illustrates the danger of  assuming that spelling in medieval French was consistent and explains their incorrect translation ‘the said contrariants’, even though the singular al renders such a plural interpretation grammatically impossible and the sense is impaired. See COVEITANCE below.



si ascun homme […] soit conventu (l. convencu) ou trové feisaunt disloialté […] YMB i 94

‘if any man should be convicted or discovered acting against the rules (sc. of the guild)’


Convencu/cunvencu are well-attested forms of the past participle of convencre ‘to convict’.



Et le bover le (l. ne) teigne a gas Pur bien ffroter sez bestez  ové cordas (l. torchas) Fem 68.2.

‘And the cowherd should not take lightly the need to wipe down his animals with a wisp of hay/straw’.


The Middle English gloss is ‘waüe’and the correct Anglo-French form is found in Walter of Henley: E qe les beofs seent conreez d’un torcaz (p. 332)

‘And let the oxen be curried/rubbed down with a wisp of hay/straw’



(The saints) N’orent pur mort coroz ne ire Salemon 894

‘The saints were not angry or vexed in the face of death’


Coroz rhymes with proz at v.9557, whilst at v.2929 corot rhymes with ot and at v.5956 with dot; vv.3396 &10281 have corot in the middle of the verse.

The dictionaries have no examples of forms ending in t, so the rhymes corot: ot/dot are for the eye, not to be interpreted as phonetic realities.



[…] busshe, maerisme, cortes, carbons & autres choses pur les vendre Rot Parl1 iii 295.


This is a single example with t amongst numerous forms with c or s – corce, corche, corse, scorce and escorce, escorche, escors, escorse, eschorche, etc. All these various forms denote the outer layer of different objects, hence ‘bark’, ‘shell’, ‘skin’ etc. There is no identification of a particular form with a particular sense.



mult sumes coveitance (=coveitanz) de vous avoir  samps2  (H1) 14r.

‘We are very keen to have you /lit. desirous of having you’.


A similar ‘confusion’ or scribal licence has been noted above with contrariantz/contrariance.



les jurours de l’assise ne ount nule manere de conisaunce ne presumpcion des covenaunces (vars. covenantes, covenaunt, covenaunce) […] britt i 340

‘the jurors of the assise have no kind of knowledge or presumption as to the agreements […]’


Godefroy has columns of quotations with feminine forms based on COVENANCE  (2.346a-c) and a similar quantity with masculine forms based on COVENANT (2.347a-c) His glosses for both sets are semantically the same. It is not surprising, therefore, that Anglo-French, lacking the innate sense of gender behind the continental forms, should not separate the two. The situation here is not dissimilar to that of ERRANMENT/ERRAUMENT examined above, with the same implications for the value of the phonological approach.



sy home seyt destorbé par crecine ke yl ne put venyr YBB 20-21 Ed I 119

‘if a man is prevented from coming on account of flooding’

le pré fu surundé par crecyn YBB 32-33 Ed I 331

‘the meadow was covered with flood-water’

enporté par crecyn de ewe YBB 30-31 Ed I 449

‘carried off by the flood’

fut neyé […] en Saverne […] par crecyn de eawe Rot Parl1 ii 91;

‘he was drowned in the Severn as a result of flooding’

aucunes noz molynes […] sont empeirez par crecye de eaue gaunt1 ii 338; [40]

‘some of our mills […] have been damaged by flood-water’


Continental French, Anglo-French and Anglo-Latin all have the form cretine/cretina from around 1180 (Godefroy 2.369a sub crestine, although this form is both rare and late; Tobler-Lommatzsch 2.1043; DMLBS 2.517a). If genuinely scribal, the use of the form with c in these non-literary texts would suggest that this is another case of the scribes following each other’s written practice, without knowing – or respecting – the correct spoken or written form in continental French.



ne pur amour, ne pur tremour Anon Chron 8.27

‘neither for love nor fear’


Literary texts have the correct form cremour, but here the editor is presumably influenced by the Latin verb tremere, although Anglo-French follows France (both langue d’oïl and langue d’oc) in replacing the initial t by c.



[Christ’s hard bed] si poverement estoit parez come de tapites ou de cortynes, forsqe celles, sire, […] qe crestoient (var. cressoient) en le courtel  Sz Med 204.5.

‘[…] was so poorly adorned with carpets or curtains, except those, my Lord, (Henry of Lancaster was addressing God) which grew in the courtyard’.


The ss of the variant indicates the correct sound.



qe le blé sit en teu manere […] atirez […] qe nus le croissom (l. troissom) bon e freis Crisis 60.20

‘that the corn should be treated in such a way that we may find it (troissom = pr. subj.4 of  trover) good and fresh’



Reneward tent le grant fest de cele bordel; En halt le porte, e en bas le fait avaler; Quil consiut, en sum le chef li crote Ch Guill 3442-4

(Having demolished a hut – vv. 3410-13) ‘R. holds the top of the hut, Carries it aloft and crashes it down on anyone he can reach’


Croter is placed in brackets in the glossary, an unattested form, but it should be read as crocer, a form of croissir  a verb frequently used in the context of battle to mean ‘smash, shatter’.[41]



Tut  cist sunt traitur e crutifiur Eluc 42.185

‘All these are traitors and crucifiers’


Later in the same text homecide is followed on the next line by homitides (p.49.5), the editor referring the reader to his p. XCVI and on to M.K. Pope From Latin to Modern French (Manchester University Press, 1934), p.276, where it is said that in the earliest period of French ‘ti and ci had the value of ts and were interchangeable’.



de un frute ke l’em apele dace (l. date) se pout Vitas 5979

‘he fed on a fruit called “date”.


Dace means ‘urine’.



Car as desceuz eyde dreiture et ne mie as deceivauntz (var. Car a de teus e de dreiz e ne mie as desceivance) britt ii 242.

‘For the law assists the deceived rather than the deceivers’.


The base text is clear, and the ungrammatical variant desceivance is explained by the overall corruption of the sentence: as desceuz is corrupted to a de teus and eyde dreiture to e de dreiz.



yl avoit depesté (l. depescé) et debrusé ses portes  YBB 30-31 Ed I 457

ces (=ses) hayes debrusseront (= pret.6; vars. depesseront, depesterent, l. depescerent) et ces (=ses) mesons Nov Narr 123;

ferrer ses chivax et affermier ensi qe les bleez ne soyent perduz  ne lur piez depestiez (l. depesciez) ne empireez henley2  302

‘to shoe his horses and strengthen them so that the wheat is not lost nor their feet torn nor damaged’



si le pleyntif die […] qe il ne veut […] detrier (vars. descrier, trier) soen estat […] par la assise britt i 326

‘if the plaintiff pleads […] that he will not […] have his condition tried […] by the assise’

Quaunt la garraunte (l. garraunté ?) est trié (var. decrier in 3 mss.) YBB Ed II xxi 53



Sire R. fist la suyte et ore sunt les tenemencz (l. tenementz)   en la mayn sire K. de T. et sire W. […] et la destreste (l. destresce) est evité Durham2 i 263

‘Sir R. brought the action and now the tenements are in the hands of Sir K. de T. and Sir W. […] and the distress (= legal seizure and detention of chattels) is avoided’



Freynez la covenant de deteynance [deceyvance ?]  Nom 610.

‘Break the agreement of deceit’


Deteynance is unattested.



come ascuns franchises soient granteez par Vous & vos devantiers (l. devanciers) a Dieu […] Rot Parl1 ii 195

‘since some franchises are granted by yourself and your predecessors to the Church’



due interp[re]tacion  des d[i]ces p[ar]oles  Rot Parl1 iii 51;

destruction des d[i]ces mesfeisours Rot Parl1 iii 63;

en la d[i]ce ville Rot Parl1 iii 68;

construccion del d[i]ce tour Rot Parl1 iv 365, etc.



toutz autrez oseux savage et domastez

‘all other wild and tame birds’



me deyt .xxiii. sols dount il fust a ma table en Irlande, dount il i ad une taylle par entre nos Eastry Letters 362.

‘he owes me 23 shillings from the time when he was my guest in Ireland, of which [debt] there is a tally between us’


This quotation uses dount in the first instance in the sense of the modern donc (Latin tunc) and then in the sense of the modern dont ‘of which’.

Godefroy DONT (2.747b-c) and T-L DONC (2.2005-10), both in the sense of modern French donc, have a mixture of  forms ending in both c and t. That they should choose different forms as headword and provide numerous forms of both confirms the point made above regarding ERRANMENT/ERRAUMENT.



Latin has forms with both c and t for the frequently attested botanical ‘dragonwort’  – dragancea/draguncea and drachontea, so it is not surprising to find a similar alternation set down by Anglo-French scribes in medical works, e.g. dragance Orn dames 384, dragaunce Alphita 48, dragonce TLL i 427, but dragant  Pop Med 74/267/334, dragante Pop Med 284, dragunt A-N Med i 49, etc. It is unlikely that any of the scribes would ever have heard this term, in either French or Latin, so their varying forms are not based on remembered pronunciation, but on writing. Yet again, phonological ‘laws’ are inoperative here.



les avantditz conspiraturs se ducerent (l. duterent) qe la protection eust delayé le bref de jugement LANGETON 285

‘the above-mentioned conspirators were afraid that the protection might have delayed the writ of judgment’



De sa bunté et de sa dutz (l. ducz) ris Art 72

‘(when I remember) her kindness and her sweet smile’



ki la (sc. stone) portera n’avera ja fevre echike Lapid 279

‘whoever carries the stone will never have hectic fever’


Correct forms with t, as both adjective and noun, are found as follows: ethique A-N Med i 204, A-N Med i 205, Med Rec 222.10, etc., etik and ethike A-N Med ii 161. See DMLBS  hecticus.



De Echite. Echites (var. Ecites) est numbré entre les bones peres Lapid 131

‘Aetites est numbered amongst the good stones’

Aetites. Etites (var. Echites) est nom d’une pere Lapid 229.


The Latin and the form Etites indicate clearly that the form with t is the correct one.



Ly home de cel isle sunt de grant effacion (var. estacion) Rom Chev ants 5446


The editor does not comment on this line, apart from glossing effacion as ‘size, stature’, but neither word is attested elsewhere. However, Godefroy (3.7c) has a verb effaitier ‘façonner’, which would suggest ‘sort, kind’ rather than ‘size, stature’for effacion. He also has a noun 2. estaçon (3.588b) in a quotation: Bochers, foulons, cordouanniers, Et puis aveuques les maçons, Mestiers de toutes estaçons […], which he conjectures  is for ‘estraçons, extractions’.

At first sight it might appear that effacion and estacion are different readings of the same word, another example of  the s/f and c/t  confusion noted so often, but, in the light of Godefroy’s evidence it might be more appropriate to view them as independent words meaning ‘sort, kind’. Either way, phonology is of no use in determining the issue.



[…] autre eisemencz (l. eisementz) que faire lui poez Durham2  i 174

‘other benefits that you can provide for him’


There is no trace of a c in the base word eisement.



Although the DMLBS gives no example of a form with c in its many quotations under hemitritaeus (‘hemitertian fever’), the Latin form emitriceis is found in Anglo-Norman Medicine i 169, along with two examples of emitrices in Anglo-French  – iii diversetez de emitrices ibid. i 169 and la quel chose nuit mult as emitrices ibid. i 170. In view of the unanimity of the Latin in favour of t and the existence of nearly twenty examples of the t in Anglo-French, greatly outweighing the two cases of c given above, it must be doubtful whether the c forms are really intended by the scribes.



qe chescun marchant qi vende ses leines a l’Estaple soit tenuz de garantir la empatture (l. empaccure/empackure) de meismes les leines  Rot Parl1 ii 247

‘that every merchant […] should be obliged to guarantee the packing of the said wool’


The correct forms empackure and enpackure are found in Stats i 334 iii and Rot Parl1 ii 251.  Additionally, the verb enpacker is found in Rot Parl1 iii 626.



(Pilate) entremoit (l. encremoit) plus lour (sc. the Jews’) felonye qe la venjance Dieux Plaintes Vge p.152.

‘(Pilate) feared the wickedness of the Jews more than the vengeance of God’.


The verb is a compound of criendre.



treis vaissels de vin e de encrement bele flur Liv Reis 50;

‘three vessels of wine and of exceedingly fine flour’

Sunam, une encrement bele pucele ibid. 110.

‘Sunan, an exceedingly beautiful maiden’


Encrement  is, in fact, a form of entierement, often found as enterement in Anglo-French and here used as a superlative ‘exceedingly’. See entremaunt.



(When giving a child an egg to eat) Outest […] L’entruyt (ed. encruyt: M.E. the rime) & le aubume (M.E. the quyte=white) W. de Bibbesworth (A) f.300va, ed. p.150)

‘take out the inner vesicule /skin inside the egg and the white’

This word appears to be unknown elsewhere.



Un enfantunet (l. enfançunet) nus est nez, Chast 509.

‘A child is born to us’


All the other Anglo-French attestations of this word have ç, ch or s (enfançunet, enfancenet, enfanchunet, enfansonet). No forms with t are given in Godefroy 3.139b-c.



The notorious fluidity of prefixes in Anglo-French means that all four of these forms (as well as internal variations of them) are found in insular texts. Yet in Godefroy’s and Tobler-Lommatzsch’s pages of examples of enforcier etc. (G. 154a-155c, T-L 3.352-3) there are none of enforter/afforter. The modern English ‘to enforce’ confirms the primacy of the c forms, but forms with t are common in Anglo-French.

e.g. soient […] tieux p[re]sentementz […] affortiez Rot Parl1 i 283, aforcé Rot Parl1 ii 226, etc.

In addition to the fact that the forms c and t are barely separable on the parchment, another factor in play here may well be the presence of the adjective fort. In any case, the ‘confusion’ has nothing whatever to do with sound changes: this is again a visual, not a phonetic phenomenon.



si ascun enhaute (l. enhauce) le prix de sa meson Grocers’ p.86

‘if anyone raises the price of his house’


The modern French hausser used in exactly this context shows the correctness of the c form.



vous pristes vij vaches qe furent enprenceus YBB Ed II xvii197.

‘you took 7 cows that were pregnant’


This a past participle of empreindre/enpreindre (from Latin imprimere or impraegnare ‘to press, hence ‘to make pregnant’.



E ceo ert si apertement Que ne iert plus mestier de pruvance pur vus faire entendance S Clem 3592;

‘And this will be so obvious that no further proof will be required to make you understand’.

Pur nient averat en Deu fiance Que il lui face entendance S Clem 4552

‘In vain he will trust in God to give him understanding’


The orthographical imperative of the rhymes (pruvance/entendance and fiance/entendance) leads the writer to make an apparent locution faire entendance with the noun in place of the usual faire entendant with the adjectival present participle, but  the alternation -antz/-ance  when the sound is the same has been noted earlier, so this is purely a rhyme for the eye.

des ministres […] queux sount marchauntz des vyns […] tant comme eux furent entendauncz a tiel office King’s Bench iv 134

‘officials […] who are wine merchants […] at the same time as they are aspiring to/seeking such office’

est a l’admiral d’avoir lettres de nostre seignur le roy des entendantes (=entendances) directees aux mayres Blk Bk 18

‘the admiral should have letters of instruction from our lord the king to the mayors’




Anel est tote rount e entier […] Et l’enteresce moustre bien Corset ants 379


The editor’s note to this line (p.113) reads: ‘Concerning enteresce, Marshall (216) writes: “There is no reference to this noun in the Old French dictionaries”’. The reading enteresce is, however, recorded in AND1 from Linda Marshall’s transcription, but will be corrected in the forthcoming new edition to entere(s)té and located amongst the numerous forms of entereté.



Il (sc. Pilate) entremoit (l. encremoit) plus lour (sc. the Jews’) felonye qe la venjance Dieux Plaintes Vge p.152.

‘Pilate feared the wickedness of the Jews more than the vengeance of God’.


The manuscript variant entremaunt should read encremaunt. The root verb is creindre/criendre, etc. Modern French craindre ‘to fear’. See ENCREMENT/ENTREMENT



doné m’est a entendre par vos compaignons entrevenance (l. entrevenants)[…] SAMPS1 361.

‘I am given to understand by your companions who pass through/call […] ’


This is another example of the alternation of the endings –ance and -antz/-ants which have the same sound but different grammatical roles.



qe le dyt chastel […] ne soit entru (l. encru) ne amenusé de vivres Ann Lond 205

‘that the said castle should not have its food supplies increased nor diminished’


The verb to which the past participle belongs is encreistre.



diverses servauntz […] ount departiz hors del service de lour maistres […] enveisaunce (l. enveisauntz) par lez rues […] Bristol ii 107.

‘various servants […] have left the service of their masters […] larking about in the streets’





The botanical Latin eruca ‘rocket’ is regularly found, as expected, with a c or k  ending – eruc, eruk, erukes (Plant Names, p.110), but the Glasgow Glossary has erut (TLL i 402) and the Douce Glossary follows with erue (TLL i 427). As was mentioned above, such a botanical term is unlikely to have been heard by the scribes who would be working from a written text.



cesti J. ne put sa meson tenir estaunche (vars, estange, eschaunche) Nov Narr 202

‘the said J. could not keep his house water-tight’


Modern French étanche, Italian stagno and Spanish estanco all have the expected t, but the sch  of the Anglo-French variant would suggest the possibility of a different pronunciation.



les ditz Comunes […] priount remedie, qe […] ils ne soient issi esthorchés (l. esçhorcés) ne maumys Rot Parl1 ii 411

‘the said Commons […] beg remedy, that they should not be so fleeced and maltreated’


The Commons are asking the king to stop his officers from commandeering provisions and maltreating  people at markets and fairs.

A very similar example is found in one of the compilations that go to make up the Three Receptaria:

Pernez un chat savage e le fettus etscorchier […] (p.149).

There is no t sound in the verb, so it would be preferable to read eçscorcier. The unetymological t is found in this First Corpus Compendium in no less than 24 verb-forms normally beginning with es- e.g. etsquager, etstancher, etscorchier, etstopper etc. (See p. 87 for the full list). The reading eç- instead of et-   is preferable in all cases.



[…] voillez faire mander a l’Estluse en Seland […] Rot Parl1 ii 122.


The mention of Zeeland and the presence in modern French of écluse as both common noun and place-name would have made this error highly improbable on the part of the scribe. It is scarcely credible that the medieval scribe writing in 1340, the very year of the English naval victory there, would not have known the name, so the error may well be attributable to those who produced the edition in the late eighteenth century.



Et voilés savoire que homme est arbre bestorné, c’est a dire l’estok (var. l’escot) – ou le trunc – et lez racinez quelez sount versé contremount Man lang ants 3.23.


The c and t are here simply inverted in the variant form, evidently a copying error.



cueller escouble (l. estouble) pur couvrir les loges de la fayre pontissara ii 686.13 ‘to gather stubble to roof the stands at the fair’

The fact that the English ‘stubble’ is taken from the French casts doubt on the alleged escouble as being a genuine form set down by an English scribe and points to a probable editorial errror.



In his edition of La Vie Seint Edmund le Rei Kjellman prints:

tant espés sunt i dart […] Ke l’un estoche l’autre en cors (vv. 2421-23).

‘so thickly came the arrows […] that the one ‘nocks/nicks’ the other into the body’


The manuscript reading, however, is given as escoche, and the Rylands version of the text reads eschoche (f.29r.).  Kjellman’s glossary omits the term, but it is used here with the meaning of encocher, attested in La Vie Seinte Audree (encochié v.3089) and the Roman de Waldef (enchochent v.20243). Godefroy (3.410a) has a single example of escocher in Marco Polo glossed as ‘décocher’, and Tobler-Lommatzsch simply give the gloss ‘abschiessen’ and refer to Godefroy. The prefix es- used here instead of the expected en- may cause difficulty, but that is no reason for creating a ‘ghost’ form estocher.



doigne estout (l. escout) coment les ditz grantz […] se portent C&B 45

‘let him listen how the said nobles behave’


To read estout here can only be an unintelligent blunder.



des rues, des venelles a garder nettez saunz coumble des fiens et de ordure, et destourbances des truncs (l. d’estrunts) et des chalers Lib Alb 288.

‘the streets, the ginnels are to be kept clean without heaps of excreta and filth and without the inconvenience of turds and rubbish’


The editor has obviously understood estrunts as meaning ‘tree-trunks’ and so divided his words incorrectly, making nonsense in the process. Estrunts are pieces of excrement, the term being recorded in medieval continental French from the 13th century (see Godefroy 9.568a, Petit Robert, B/W, FEW) and also in the Anglo-Norman Glasgow and Douce Glossaries (Hec bocerda: estront de boef, Hec muscerda: estront de soris, Hec suscerda: estront de porc TLL i 418 and hec boculla: estront de beof TLL i 425). It occurs also in Rot Parl1 ii 186 with reference to the torturing of a Dominican by an abbot and monks, one of the accusations being that they filled a glove with excrement, wrapped it in a towel and tied it to his head:

[…] un altr[e] torm[e]nt trop horrible, c’est assavoir un gaunt plein de estrun envolupé en une touaille […].

The derivative estronterye is found in Bozon’s Contes Moralisés:

vile purchace de terrien aver qe est appellé en seint Escripture estronterye (p. 123).





la febleté de la vertu retentive

‘the weakness of the retentive quality’ A-N Med i 224.

Anglo-French, like continental medieval French, has numerous examples of both these terms with a variety of spellings. The modern French faiblesse guarantees the authenticity of the second, whilst that of febleté etc. is proved by rhymes. As in the case of aspreté/asprece, however, the two are separated on parchment only by the tittle that is supposed to be the special attribute of the character t.



[…] pour la fesaunte (l. fesaunce) illoqs de pree et pasture Ripon ii 144.

‘[…] for the making there of meadow and pasture’.


The confusion of the nominal ending -aunce with the present participle ending –ante  is not uncommon.



Edward son ficz Anon Chr2 80 (also on pp.86 & 90).

The common ‘Fitz’ in names (e.g. Fitzpatrick, Fitzwilliam) ought to have helped the editors to avoid this error.



Lur chastels e lur forcelés (l. fortelés) […] Joshua i 9.17

‘Their castles and strongholds […]’


Städtler picks up this point in his review of the edition in ZrP 117 (2001), 318, but does not mention the variants given as forcelesz and forcelesces, which ought similarly to read fortelesz and fortelesces.



troyes genites (l. genices) les meins teysantes Westm 84;

‘the three most noisy heifers’


This error stems from a lack of knowledge of French, modern as well as medieval. It is the modern génisse ‘heifer’, found in Anglo-French as genice and jenice:  Hec juvenca, Hec bucula: genice (TLL i 418); hec  juvenca: jenice (TLL i 425). The chances of the scribe being unfamiliar with such a common term of everyday life and ignorant of its correct spelling are remote.



In Anglo-Norman Lapidaries the phrase Grisolite est semblante a ewe, has variants Grisolice and semblance (p.99). Grisolite is an unusual spelling for crisolite (‘chrysolite’), but, whilst the alternation of c and g is an undeniable fact and found elsewhere in Anglo-French (e.g. cardin/gardin), all the examples of chrysolithus in the DMLBS and all nine other cases of crisolite in the published lapidaries maintain the t, suggesting that the c form on p.99 may well not be intended as such, being no more than the ‘failure’ of the copyist to make clear the tiny stem above the cross-bar that theoretically links t to the following letter. This suspicion is strengthened by the variant for semblante given as semblance, a grammatical error confusing adjective and noun already commented upon above.



rienz jectre deinz Thamise London English 141.

‘to throw nothing into the Thames’



La lectre ke oi avums Mirur 64ra25.

‘The letter that we have heard read’


In such cases it is very difficult to distinguish between ct and tt , since the first letter is always attached to the second.



Quides tu que filz naistra a bier (=ber, ‘man’) centener et que Sarra enfauntera de nonaunce (l. nonaunte) anz ? Bible2 14ra.

‘Do you think that a son will be born to a man a hundred years old and that Sara will give birth at ninety years of age?’


The modern ‘quarante’, ‘cinquante’, ‘soixante’ show the correctness of the ‘t’ form here, pointing towards an error in transcription rather than a scribal one. The form ‘nonante’ is still used in Belgium, Switzerland and Canada to mean ‘ninety’.



En oustur lu la trovay a l’anutere

‘I found it in a dark place at nightfall’ Digby 42


Oustur would have to be a form of ostur ‘(gos)hawk’and so inappropriate here where ouscur is clearly intended.



[…] en prejudice des autres parceners tenauntz Britton ii 84

‘to the detriment of the other partners in the tenancy’


There are four other examples of the c form on the same page and another three on page 85 of this text.

The editor’s translation keeps the legal ‘parceners’, because modern English has both ‘parcener’ and ‘partner’, the former now meaning ‘coheir’ in law, with the latter being used for more general senses of ‘one who shares’. The move in the general language from the original form with ‘c’ to that with ‘t’ was no doubt aided by the proximity of ‘part’. The modern French partenaire appears to be a late eighteenth-century borrowing from English.



caseles […] a herberger pestors (l. pesçors) venaunz de la mer soulement pur tempestye  Northumb 233

‘huts […] to shelter fishermen coming from the sea only on account of stormy weather’


The maritime context would have warned any half-competent editor that bakers (pestors) were highly unlikely to be involved here.



As late as 1995 this confusion of c and t produces nonsense in an edition of La Vie Seint Richard Evesque de Cycestre[42] dating from about the time of the Ancrene Riwle. The medieval writer tells of the saint’s banishment:

[…] E a chef de pieté, de son pais Propre esteit en exil mis (vv.699-700).


In the editor’s Notes this verse is translated as: ‘because of his piety, he was forced to go into exile from his own country’ (p.128), thereby inventing a meaning for a chef de which it never had, making it synonymous with à cause de, which it never was. In this case t is read for c, which may well have been joined to the following e in the manuscript. This is all that distinguishes pieté (the final accent is, of course, editorial, not scribal) from  piece, yet the well-attested locution a chef de piece[43] was not recognized either by the editor or the publisher’s assessor(s). It means literally ‘at the end of a piece (=span) of time’, hence, ‘after a while’. In fact, the editor himself lists piece in his glossary as ‘short time’ in relation to a different passage in his text – E la une piece demura (M587, p.99), but fails to make the link with the locution a chef de piece. In medieval French, both continental and insular, chef in the senses of  ‘end’ or ‘beginning’ forms part of many locutions, both spatial and temporal. Godefroy (6.146b) cites a ch(i)ef de piece from no less than seven different texts. See also Tobler-Lommatzsch 2.388 & 7.911 and AND2 . Yet again, intelligibility based on semantics is sacrificed to a supposed orthographical orthodoxy that totally fails to deliver a satisfactory meaning.



e pur les purteaus (l. purceaus) fetes tayle acountre J. de O. de drache  Westm 100

‘and for the piglets make a tally against J. de O. for swill’.


As in the case of genice above, this term can hardly have been unfamiliar to the scribe, so the error is probably editorial.



vous ne saviet autrement avenir a vostre chatel mes par tele quoncise (l. quontise)  Brev Plac 101

‘you did not know how to get your chattels except by such a ruse’


Cointise, etc. is the noun made from the adjective cointe: the c has no place here. Again, this error is unlikely to be scribal in origin.



il a son fiuz et son heir meime cele serjancie (l. serjantie) ad rendu Affairs of Ireland 33



la royne de Siche (l. Sithe) Rom Chev ants 6137rubric

la royne de Sichis (l. Sithis) ibid. 6141


Although the editor glosses this as the well-attested ‘Scythia’ going back to Greek times, merely on the strength of his reading he nevertheless prints the form with c, not found elsewhere. See sychien[e]s below.



La signifiauntez vous voil mostrer  Des fleurs […] Art 756

‘I wish to show you the meaning of the flowers’



 qe tant dementers hom sursiete (l. sursiece) de la vente) Crisis 43.16

‘that in the meantime the sale should be suspended’


Sursiece is the normal third person singular of the present subjunctive of surseer.



E tote la Mort Mier e les ewes sychien[e]s Rom Chev ants  6593

‘And all the Dead Sea and the Sythian waters’


The OED does not record this word in English before the later 16c., but it was clearly in England centuries before that.



venger le (sc. treachery) volent, en venaunz sunt taundrayt (l. çaundrait) Langtoft i 114. Rolls edition.

‘… they are coming here, to this very place’



de memes tele (l. cele) espeie […] le ferit Plac Cor 5

‘he struck him with that spear’



le dit T.R. humblement pur sa contrarionsce (l. contrariousté) toremous (l. torcenous) meintenance et pur ceo q’il fist a contrarie de son serment il soi myst humblement en grace des gardeinz Goldsmiths’ Minute Book A + a 35.

‘the said T.R. threw himself on the mercy of the guardians (sc. of the Goldsmiths’ gild) on account of his recalcitrance, wrongful aiding of a litigant and for having gone against his oath’



Et garçuns et putains unt saint Thomas hué

E derochié de torges Becket 1942-3


Torges poses a problem. It is not attested in either Godefroy or Tobler-Lommatzsch. Not unexpectedly, the editor supplies no explanatory note, the word is absent from the glossary, and surprisingly or suspiciously, no variant readings are given in the edition, even though there are five manuscripts. Saint Thomas is being booed by rascals and whores and beaten, but the object with which the beating is carried out is not clear.

Two possible solutions may be suggested. Torges could be a form of Torches (cf. cardin/gardin) which can mean not only ‘Poignée de paille tortillée, bouchon de paille’(Godefroy 10.778a), but aso ‘brin d’osier roulé’ (ibid.). Being beaten with straw would not be much of an ordeal, but a beating with ‘withies/willow-branches’ would be a different matter. The use of torcher to mean ‘hit’ would support this suggestion: il te torcheroit tresbien sur la teste Man lang ants 21.29. Alternatively, Godefroy lists a form CORGE (2.302c) with a late quotation in which it means ‘sorte de bâton’, and under CORGIE (2.302c-303a) gives a number of  quotations with the word glossed as ‘courroie, lanière, escourgée’, and in which it is usually linked with the verb ‘battre’. The issue is further complicated by the presence of the diminutive torgeluns in v. 1934. Again, there is neither explanatory note, glossary entry nor variant reading, but these torgeluns which are thrown after Saint Thomas are d’estraim  ‘of straw’. The use of straw as a missile is unusual, to say the least.



par continuele & torteuouse (l. torcenouse) rebellion de plusurs gentz Rot Scot i 795

‘by the continual and wrongful rebellion of  several people’

As already illustrated earlier, one misreading leads to another.





qe graunt auuncie (l. ava[u]ncie) e grand pru serreit au pays si le pount fut redressé Northumb 8

‘that it would be a great advance and benefit to the country if the bridge were re-built.’



ses .ii. aimiez fitz Petit Bruit 6.13

‘his two eldest sons’.

Cf. sez .ii. ainiz feiz (l. filz) ibid. 6.11


The frequency of outlandish forms in this edition points to the error being editorial, rather than scribal.



Sire, […] les amez (l. aviez) promis […] Rot Parl1 i 438

‘Lord, you had promised them’



(On Judgement Day) Nul n’ert estaché, Angeole (l. Aveogle), esmancé, Ne cuntreit ne nu […] Serm11683.

‘No one will be crippled, blind, one-armed, disfigured or naked’


The editor has misread n for v and failed to put g in its correct position. The unusual form estaché is a past participle used adjectivally: see Godefroy 3. 252a-253a sub ENTECHIER.



Des balance, annes (l. aunes) et mesures Petit Bruit 19.35

‘Concerning balances, cubits/ells & measures’



quant a la sauve garde des armages (l. arivages) sur la meere […] Rot Parl1 ii 105

‘As regards the protection of the landing-places on the sea’

Et qe le dit T. dust aver fait un chemyn sour une faleyse pres de le armayl (l. arivayl) de la meer a recevre aliens […] Rot Parl1 ii 415


Thomas is accused of making a path on a cliff near to the landing from the sea to facilitate the disembarkation of foreigners. The unknown forms armage and armayl (i.e. arivage and arivail) both mean ‘landing-place’.



[The Scots]  en (l. ou/ov) asseut (l. assent) de tout la communalté […] Petit Bruit 24.6

‘The Scots, with the assent of all the community […]’


The editor’s misreading of  u for n in assent is coupled with the opposite failure in the preposition, reading n for u/v and probably e for o.  As stated above, numerous readings in this text are unreliable.



drescer vous, braulez (l. branlez) vous levez sus  en haut les eols […] Ancren1 203.28

‘arise, bestir yourself, raise your eyes […]’


The editor, not a specialist in French, failed to recognize the modern French verb branler.



paié a A.D. carnauner (l. carvanuer) le Roi pernant garde as chivaux carnauners (l. carvanuers) Chamber 678.


The carvanuer is the stud-keeper and the chivaux carvanuers are the stud-horses. Although the OED’s first attestation of the term comes from the very end of the sixteenth century, the DMLBS records it for Anglo-Latin over three hundred years earlier. The Anglo-French text dates from the early fourteenth century.



L’enzné fille des oils fu casquise (l. casqiuse), Pur ceo la refusa Jacob Anc Test 782

‘The eldest daughter had weak/rheumy eyes, so Jacob refused her’


This is a spelling variant of the more usual chacius, as seen in: chacius devint (Latin: caligavit) en desverie li miens oilz Camb Ps 30.9.  



Par le bras l’ad saké […]; Mes le bras estret de la cavole (l. canole) Man Pechez 6972.

‘He pulled him by the arm; But he pulled the arm out of the collar-bone’/ or ‘But the arm came away from the collar-bone’

Brusez los qavole: M.E. Breke the bon Nom 606.


The writer does not translate his qavole into Middle English, so the editor failed to recognize it as canole and also failed to separate los into l’os.

l’os qanole is the ‘collar-bone’.

The root noun can(e) means the spinal column.



paié a dit J. pur un chafuet (l. chafnet) Chamber 675.

A ‘chafnet’ is a Middle English term – ‘shove-net’. See L.C. Wright Sources of London English p.75.



ces chapeus (l. chapons), gelyns et poucyns […] Reg Fees 477.

‘those capons, hens and chickens […]’


The form chapeus would mean ‘hats’, being the plural of chapel.



desuz la pere dedenz le chastun (var. chastim) icest signe Lapid 280

‘on the stone, inside the bezel, this sign’


The chastun is a bezel that holds the gem (la pere) in its setting, the variant given as chastim erroneously reads im for the similarly formed un. Whether the scribe really wrote the meaningless chastim is doubtful.



trais charvos (l charués) de terre Rot Parl1 i 435

‘three carucates of land’



pur lour costes all chenache dell (l. dels) viscounts Grocers 67

‘for their expenses at the parade/procession (on horseback) of the sheriffs’


The correct term is chevaché, a derivative of cheval, followed here by the obvious error of a singular dell referring to a plural noun.



il voucherent sauf en nostre Seignur le Roi MMD saks, pur ent faire hastive chevauce (l. chevance) Rot Par11 ii 108.

‘They vouchsafed/promised our Lord the King 2500 sacks, as a quick loan (literally ‘in order to make a quick loan of them)’


The correct chevance is used only a few lines above on the same page, so the editors had little excuse for their mistaken transcription which cannot be laid at the door of the scribes.



A commencement, la ou vous estes governor de la terre et a ceo juree a meintenir pees en vostre terre, vous estes par noun covenable consail et malveis issint menee, qe vous estes mys et cheyn en grant esclaundre en totez terres C&B 9.

‘To begin with, since you are governor of the land and thereby sworn to maintain peace in your land, you have been guided by unsuitable and bad advice, so that you have been put and fallen into great disrepute everywhere’


The past participle of the verb chair/choir (Latin cadere) is regularly found as cheu. The erroneous form cheyn with a final n instead of u was first printed by Stubbs in his edition of this passage in the Annales Londonienses p.168.14 and uncritically copied by Chrimes and Brown when they included the document in their compilation. It shows an ignorance on the part of all concerned not only of medieval French, both continental and insular, but also of the modern French déchu.



arbutus: gallice cireneres, anglice sirne-tre, eglenter, aube espine TLL ii 15; arbutus: une cirevere, glenter TLL ii 21.


The Middle English sirne-tre is to be read as sirve-tre, i.e. ‘service-tree’, and the Anglo-French cirenere as cirevere.



de peyvre […], de asser e de feer, de clonnes (l. clouues) henley2 434.

‘from pepper […], from steel, iron, nails’.

Clonnes is meaningless.



triremes: snages, cogkes, coggis, cognes (l. cogues) TLL ii 144

‘snacks, cogs (small boats)’



Et puis le coilon fert le fusille

And after flynt smyteþ þe spyndelle Fem 36.6


In the context of using a flint to strike a spark, the fusille is the steel of the tinder-box, not the spindle. Walter de Bibbesworth, whom the writer of Femina is copying, albeit inaccurately, has the correct Anglo-French text:

E le fu de cailloun (M.E. flint) fert le fusil (M.E. virhirne=fire-iron) ANTS edition v.441.



auscuns qe ne veullient raunsoner a eux ils lour colleront les coliousez (l. colionsez), & les files de vous liges ravissont Rot Parl1 iii 42

‘some who are not prepared to pay ransom to them they castrate and ravish the daughters of your lieges’


The common coillons has not been recognized.



(King Edmund) fuit enpoisonez a Canterbers […], pour ce q’il commença (l. covenança) malement vers son barnage Petit Bruit 15.3

‘King Edmund was poisoned at Canterbury, because he disagreed with his barons’


Covenancer is ‘to come to an agreement/arrangement’



[…] kar ele ne fut unques a ly par leal matrimoine couplee (vars. comple l. couplé, acuple l. acuplé Fet 165


The sense here requires the verb to ‘join, couple’: compler means ‘to complete, finish’.



les condiuz sont estrescez A-N Med i 198

‘the passages are narrowed’


The correct forms conduis and conduiz are found on the same page.



li un grayn […] regard les autres si com confel (l. coufel= escoufle) fait pucin Rom 11.574.

‘one grape looks at the others as a kite does its chicks’


It is most unlikely that the scribe wrote confel here. There is no trace of a form with n elsewhere. See Godefroy 3.410b escofle, escoufle, etc.



.i. poi de orpiment et la flor de la meure soient bien conficés de vin egre A-N Med i 250

‘Mix a little orpiment and the flower of the mulberry/blackberry with vinegar’ Pop Med 293.235

Fetez tut en pudre, si commovez e conficez od les autres choses

‘Powder it all up, stir and mix with the other things .’


Being a compound of faire, confire has forms with both c/s and t, so that, although the ‘correct’ form of the imperative ought to have t, the scribe might well have written c.



pensant de (l. dé) grandez constagez (l. coustagez) qe me covient faire a Oxenforde samps1 375.

‘thinking of all the big expenses I have to meet at Oxford’


Even if the scribe were foolish enough to write a clear, but meaningless, constagez, the editor ought to have corrected automatically such a common term.



le transescript est consu a ceste peticion Rot Parl1 ii 17; la bref consu a ceste bille Rot Parl1 ii 18

‘the transcript is sewn onto this petition’; ‘the brief sewn onto this bill’


Over twenty examples of the past participle of the verb coustre ‘to sew’ using n  – consu, consue, consuit, consuete, consuite, consute, consutz – instead of the continental u –are to be found in the Rotuli Parliamentorum, whilst Godefroy under coudre, etc. 2.330c and cosdre 9.210a-b has not a single example with n; Tobler-Lommatzsch 2.924-6 under cosdre have just one example of an n form amongst their three columns of quotations. If  the repeated  error in this particular Anglo-French text is scribal rather than editorial, it would be an illustration of the fundamental difference between the written forms of a language based on the spoken vernacular of continental France, despite all its dialectal divergences, and the Anglo-French variety passed from one generation to another by scribes nurtured on Latin (consuere in the present instance), who spent their days with pen and parchment and might well have never heard the word in question spoken by a native speaker of French. Whether scribal or editorial, it remains an indictment of the editors who ought not to have printed it.



plusours de la Co[mun]e de lour dite ville ont esté ore tard moelt grantemont contrarions (l. contrarious) Rot Parl1 iii 41

‘several common members of their said town have lately been very contentious/awkward’;


pur destreindre celuy qe seroit […] contrarions (l. contrarious) de paier […] Grocers 1

‘to distrain anyone who might be unwilling to pay’



qe corneisers (l. corveisers) ne suours ne vendent botes, soulers, […] Rot Parl1 ii 234

‘that cordwainers nor shoemakers shall not sell, boots, shoes […]’


The Statutes of the Realm i 312 iv have the correct form corvoisers  in the same context (the two works often overlap), thus showing that the error is attributable to the editors of the Rotuli Parliamentorum, rather than to the original scribe. This would tend to point towards editorial, rather than scribal, error in the cases of consuit etc. referred to above.



le quynt an de son coronument (l. coronnment) entraunt y  avoy (sic) entre eus un emparlaunce de mariage […] Petit Bruit 18.25

‘at the beginning of the fifth year since his coronation there was held a discussion between them concerning the marriage […]’


Setting aside the unexplained avoy for avoyt, the form coronnement is printed no more than seven lines above the editor’s corunment, with coronne on p .19.13.



le dit J. est si fort & si creinez (l. cremez) en le pays Rot Parl1 iii 130

‘the said J. is so powerful and so feared in the region’


Cremez is one of the attested past participle forms of the verb ‘to fear’ which has infinitive forms criendre/cremer/cremeir/cremir and past participle forms cremé, cremeu and cremu.



le blee q’est germy (var. creun l. creuu) et tendre henley2 322

‘the wheat that has germinated (var. fully-grown) and tender’


As in the case of cheyu above, this shows that, like so many editors of historical texts in Anglo-French, the editor had little grasp of the morphology of the verb in medieval French.



Et si rien soit trovez erroigne (l. erroigné) ou demaudre (l. d’emandre) Rot Parl1 ii 131

‘And if anything should be found wrong or in need of correction’


The editors have failed to recognize de + passive infinitive, literally ‘to be amended’, as well as transcribing u for n, the only character that makes sense. Bearing in mind Trethewey’s remark mentioned earlier to the effect that the same abbreviation was used in the prose Ancren Riwle for both -er and –re, and Laura Wright’s work, it is possible that there is a third error here, with the ending of the infinitive given as -re when it is normally –er. In view of the failure of many editors to explain fully how they have expanded the abbreviations in their texts, this hidden hesitation could well be more common than the reader of Anglo-French texts generally realizes.



Ceste salme demeniement (l. demeinement; Latin: proprie) est escrite […]  Camb Ps p.292

‘This psalm in particular is written […]’


The correct in in the middle of the word has been read as ni, the only difference being the position of the dot on the i.



Si com les serpens dessous la tour Denerent et maugnent la fleure Art 815

‘Just as the serpents under the tower devour and eat the flower’


Neither denerent nor maugnent makes sense. (See MAUGNENT/MANGUENT)



en cas qe le conte denie (l. devie) en ce viage, qe Dieux defende, qe […] aprés sa mort […] Affairs of Ireland 212;

‘in case the count dies during this journey, which God forfend, then, after his death […]’

en cas que la dite Elizabeth denye (l. devye) duraunt soun noun age […] Affairs of Ireland 215.

‘in case the said Elizabeth dies before her coming of age […]’


A similar editorial error was noted in the Ancrene Riwle above.



n’est par (l. pas) resun cele rascaylle Ne deraume (l. derai(s)ne) la communaylle Amis p. 158.32.

‘It is not right that that rabble should challenge the community’.


Deraume makes no sense, but deraisner (it has numerous forms) is still present in the legal English ‘to deraign’.



Lur arcs gettent e funt descendre (l. destendre) Desiré 477

‘They shoot off their bows and let fly’


Descendre in this context makes no sense.



pellacis :desonable TLL ii 117

Cf. pellacis: decewable TLL ii 80.


The Latin means ‘deceitful’, so the meaningless desonable is to be read as desevable.



par ponz brisez ou euues desruees (l. desrivees)  Mir Just  85

‘on account of broken bridges or flooded rivers’


The medieval French de(s)river carried the meaning of the modern déborder.



Tu voies en combien (l. combien en) eux destordent (l. descordent) juste rudesce  et justice enseignee (Latin: Vides, quantum distent inter se justa rusticitas et docta justitia) S Jer 1vb

‘You see what a difference there is between a just simplicity and learned justice’


This is like Arunacie, but the other way round. Here the overriding demands of intelligibility impose the reading with c, because destordre means ‘to twist’, etc.



irus, desué (l  desvé), desmesuré Joshua i 15

‘angry, mad, violent (persons)’



il n’avoit unqes de li deuer (l. dener) ne darré LANGETON 259

‘he never had from him a penny or a pennyworth’

See DIVERS below.



Item des ministres qe par colour de lour offices pernent lez gent queux sount sanz coupe et esparnient ceux qe sount coupables pur de lour devant Rough 291


The editor is at a loss here as to the meaning of what he wrongly reads as devant, simply translating: ‘Concerning those who attach the innocent and spare the guilty’. The correct phrase is par/pur (de) leur (etc.) donant, meaning ‘in return for money/bribes’. It is found in various forms in Rot Parl1 i 400, Rot Parl2 233, boz Cont 31, King’s Bench iv 155, Durham2 iii 43.



Ceux ne devient capir, fuir ne adirer de lur seignurs Mir Just 79;

‘These people must not escape, flee or run away from their masters’

n’est mie exprés (sc. in the charter) qi devient estre gardeinz des fieus vacanz Mir Just 176

‘it is not set out in the charter who should be in charge of the vacant fiefs’

nous avoms esté depieza desceuz d’auscunes choses que devient (l. deivent) de droit apurtenir a nous Durham2 iii 9

‘we have for a long time been cheated out of things that rightly belong to us’

(a debt) qe il devient a gentz par la resun de creaunce ke se feserent al avauntdit Roy de payn et chars Rot Parl1 i 1.

‘a debt that they owe to other people on account of the loan of bread and meat which they made to the aforesaid king’.


In all four cases the printed devient would have to be understood as a third person plural form of the present tense, but that would mean deriving it from the verb devier ‘to die’, inadmissible in this context. If it came from devenir ‘to become’ it would have to be singular and would, therefore, again make no sense. In fact, vi needs simply to be read as iv, distinguished, if at all, by no more than the dot on the ‘i’, to give deivent, a very common form of the third person plural form of the present tense of deveir/devoir.

The presence of this same error in a variety of editions calls into question their editors’ grasp of Anglo-French.



il prendra les cc mars en leyne & le remanent en divers (l. deners) countantz Rot Parl1 ii 108.

‘he will take the 200 marks in wool and the remainder in cash’


The dener, from the Latin denarius, was the ‘penny’, and in the plural ‘money’ or ‘cash’. See DEUER above.



par ses grauntz donuz (l. donnz) purchasa commissioun a ses priveez Rot Parl1 i 416.

‘by his large gifts he obtained a commission for his close friends’



tut soit qe totes creatures diussent estre franches solom lei de nature Mir Just 77

‘in spite of the fact that all creatures ought to be free according to natural law’


The three minims need only to be read as ui instead of iu to produce a well-attested imperfect subjunctive form of deveir/devoir.



les chefs asseours facent les duzemes (l. duzeines) des hundreds […] jurer devant eus […] Rot Parl1 i 269

‘the chief assessors should make the twelve men chosen from the hundreds […] swear before them […]’


Again, the presence or absence of one tiny dot is sufficient to make the editors print nonsense.



a paier deinz le duzun (l. duzim) jour de Noel Durham2 i 113

‘to be paid before the 12th day of Christmas’


The same error is repeated two lines lower down on the same page.



par l’avys dez mestres de Dynyinte (l. Dyvynité) Test Ebor i 159.


The frequency of the phrase mestre de Divinité ought to have prevented this error.



[…] encontre reson, e encontre vostre dreit, damage et deseritaunce [qe] vos purrait avenir par ubliaunce e par eloviaunce (l. eloinaunce) de leus […] Rot Parl1 i 6.


One of the King’s clerks, presented by the King to the church of Roubery, cannot take up his benefice because the Bishop of Carlisle, supported by the Bishop of Durham, has installed his own nominee.The clerk fears that forgetfulness and the distance (eloinaunce) from London will allow the matter to go by default. The editor has misread in as vi.



[…] a grant empov[er]issemeut (l. empoverissement) des avauntditz R. & J. Rot Parl1 ii 82.

The editors’ elementary failure to recognize the very frequent –ment ending in these records must cast serious doubt on their overall competence.



touz ceux qe ont en (l. eu) la cayage cea en arere Rot Parl1 i 423.

‘all those who have had ‘quayage’ hitherto’


Cayage is the tax paid for use of the quay.



katarrus  morbus proveniens cum superfluitate humorum a cerebro

capitis fluentium ad exteriores partes ad nares et ad quos quod gallice dicitur enceruure TLL i 297

catarrh a disease stemming with a superfluity of humours from the brain in the head running to the outer parts to the nostrils and to the bone that in French is called ‘encernure’

Cf. catarrus: gallice le cernu, s[n] evil vel pose, encernure TLL ii 26


The editor refers in Note 121 to T-L 3.179 (encerné), FEW 2,i 701a , OED ‘snivel’ and  ‘pose1’, a now obsolete word glossed as ‘ A cold in the head, catarrh’. The form with n is certainly the correct one.



convict de l’enditemeut (l. enditement) ou accusement dont il est endité Rot Parl1 iii 642

‘convicted as regards the indictment or accusation of which he is indicted’


This error reinforces the observation above concerning the competence of the editors.



si avums certeins ordinaunces e enjunxious (l. enjunxions) fetz Lett AF 150


The presence of ordinaunces points unmistakably to ‘injunctions’ rather than an unknown, unattested enjunxious.



ont ens (l. eus) lurs terres […] quites de tote manyre d’occasion de forest […] pontissara ii 668

‘they have held their lands […] free from all manner of forest tax […]



[…] ensuit (l. ensint) qe nus leur baillissioms […] Bordeux Rot Parl2 96.

‘so that we would give them […] Bordeaux’





Avint ke envertist (l. ennercist) li eirs S Edm (Rich) 691.

‘It happened that the air darkened’


The supposed verb envertir is not attested.



il dist apertement q’il ne le eschant (l. eschaut) de quaunt k’il fait Rot Parl1 i 422

‘he said openly that he did not care what he did’


The root here is an impersonal verb chaler ‘to be of importance, to matter’, which had an Anglo-French prefixed form enchaler/eschaler. The 3rd person present indicative was chaut or enchaut/eschaut.



Es vus un diable  […] Les oiles ardant mut roelant E de la buche eschivout (l. eschumout) Rom 15.304

‘Behold a devil […], rolling his very fiery eyes and foaming at the mouth (‘escumout’).


Eschiver means to ‘avoid’, which makes no sense in this context, but might be considered as the full, prefixed form of the modern English ‘to skive’, although this is not mentioned by the authorities, who know it only as modern Army slang.



un payr des esporous (l. esporons) dorrez Rot Parl1 ii 217

‘a pair of golden spurs’



les esquunes de la ville de Brugg en Flanders Rot Parl1  i 275


The six minims transcribed as uun must be read as ivin to give esquivines, a form of  eskevin ‘a municipal magistrate or alderman’.


essomauntes (vars. essoinauntes, essoynantes, assoignauntes, assoinances) et concubines BRITT ii 241

‘kept women and conbubines’


The accepted form of this word is assoignante, so the range of variants shows the confusion of in and m, also of c and t. See ASSOIGNANCE above.



com nous esteuncs (l. esteumes) a Londres Durham2 i 191

‘when we were in London’



(A church presented by a lord) L’estoet il estre molt chier estomé (l. estoré) Rom rom 528.

‘it needs to be very expensively supplied’


Estomer is an attested form of estoner ‘to surprise, stun,’ etc. and therefore incongruous in this context. Estorer/estorrer means ‘to furnish, supply, provide for’



Plusurs unt arbres deramé, Si unt le chemin estrainé (l. estramé) Rom 15.303

‘Several of them stripped trees and strewed them on the path’



E chescun altre estreveit De acun dun ki li feseit ‘rauf 523

‘And each one presented the other with a gift that he gave him’


Estriver means ‘to compete (with), argue’, etc. What is intended here is the ancestor of the modern French étrennes, ‘Christmas present’, etc.

Cf. TLL i 237 inicio: estrener inicia: estrene; i 241, i 389, 390, 393



[…] de eux qe eusint sont enpoveretz Rot Parl1 i 293 (also Rot Parl1 i 301)

‘of those who are thus impoverished’.





[…] ont fanchez (l. fauchez) […] nostre pree gaunt1 ii 85

‘they have mown our meadow’.



stercorare: composter, feiner (l. femer) Gloss Nequam 254

‘to manure’


Femer is a normal, attested form (Godefroy 9.673) from the Latin fimare (DMLBS)



li kachevels (l. kacheneles; var: carquenels) al chair esquacha e li cerviaux li espandi Liv Reis 11

‘the back of the skull shattered as he fell and his brains spilled out’


The form kachenel stands for the more usual cakenole, cakenol, kaquenole etc. in Anglo-French. The evidence is mixed. Godefroy (2.30a) prints chachevel from the old  Leroux de Lincy edition of the Quatre Livre des Reis , with a variant quequevel from a manuscript of  the Dialogues of  St  Gregory, but T-L (2.154) has both chachenole Teil des Kopfes, des Ohres  with a Bibbesworth quotation and also one from Romania 32.56, which is  Paul Meyer’s version of a Maniere de Langage, now Manières de Langage ANTS 53 (1995), ed . A.M. Kristol (kakenel ) p.4.3 and (cakenole) p.77.24 , and, immediately below, chachevel Hinterschädel.  The two words are clearly the same. All T-L’s references are, in fact, Anglo-French. Tony Hunt’s Popular Medicine   has kakenele on p.322.80, but without Note or gloss. The etymology of T-L’s second  word is given as *caccabellus, taken from the REW 1444 and this hypothetical form is perhaps  reinforced by a form in the DMLBS caccabus  ‘metal pot, cauldron’. This would mean that cachevel would be a jocular name for the skull.



[…] mesure de terre arable, cum de karué, bovee, […] kont (l. kout), doye, Petit Bruit 19.34

‘measure of arable land, as carucate, bovate […] cubit, finger-length’



lom (l. lou=la ou) nous avoms droit en le realme d’Escoce Ann Lond 121.

‘Since we have rights in the kingdom of Scotland’



Gelousie, Qe Dieux confounde et maundie!

‘Jealousy, may God’s curse be on it!’


The verb maudire is frequently found in this stock phrase, whilst ma(u)nder ‘to send’ makes no sense.



Si com les serpens dessous la tour Denerent et maugnent la fleure Art 815

‘Just as the serpents under the tower devour and eat the flower’


Neither denerent nor maugnent  makes sense. When the u and the n are reversed, the attested manguent ‘they eat’ appears.




[…] par mavit (l. maint) perilous chemynes […] Ireland 187

‘by many dangerous roads’



qe nulle Burgeys de la ville soit mys a Monkkenbrugge, et a nulle aultre prisoun, si il est mein paruable (l. meinparnable), si il ne soit laroun, […] Bristol i 111.


The editor translates: ‘[…] if it be not manifest’, which makes little sense. There are not two words here but one – mainpernable/meinparnable, etc. ‘mainpernable, capable of being mainprised’, i.e. ‘capable of being released by finding a surety to guarantee his appearance in court later’.



les quatre ordres de freres mendinantz (l. mendivantz ?) RotParl1 ii 290’

‘the four orders of mendicant friars’

il sont come mendinances (l. mendivantes)  Northumb 196

‘they are as good as begging’


The editor’s incorrect reading of  c for t in this second quotation, thus creating a noun where the context requires a present participle used adjectivally, is easy to correct, but the possible readings n or v in both quotations again raise the question of the relationship between sound and form. Godefroy has the adjective/noun mendi, mendic, mendicquemendit (5.233a-c), and the verbs mendiener, mendienner, mendiner (5.234a) and mendiquer (5.234b), but his entry mendif (5.234b) is made up exclusively of Anglo-French examples, although this fact is not mentioned. Additionally, in 10.139b he has a present participle/adjective menduiaunt which could be read as mendivaunt and is now printed as such in T. Hunt’s Le Livre de Catun (ANTS Plain Texts Series 11, 1994, 19.305). The new edition of the Manières de Langage  (ANTS 53, 1995) also prints mendivant (31.27), and all the examples under mendivant, mendiver and mendiveté  in AND (414) are printed with v rather than n, but no rhymes are involved. The only positive indication of pronunciation comes from T-L (5.1398) which gives a quotation from the Anglo-Norman Lai de Haveloc in which mendive rhymes with cheitive. So perhaps the wayward Anglo-Norman holds the key to pronunciation on the continent in this instance.



son milieu (l.miluein) fitz Morgan Petit Bruit 13.2

‘his middle son Morgan’



Thom[as] fu guiltez de tieus trespas dunt mis (l. nus) fumes carkés a dire suz ley Rot Parl1 i 7


The four minims here have been wrongly separated into m and i to make mis, which, either as a possessive adjective, the plural of mon/mun, etc., or as the past participle of mettre, is acceptable neither syntactically nor semantically. The verb form fumes calls for the personal pronoun – nus. As in the examples given above, the distinguishing dot above the i, if present, cannot have been performing its supposed role. This is clearly an editorial error, not a scribal one.



Quant jeo l’ay a la playe mys,

Ja ne soit il si namoys (l. navroys) Art 617

‘When I have wounded him, No matter how severe his wound may be’


The editor’s suggested maumys would mean reading the word as a past participle of maumettre rather than of navrer.


Et de sa meismes concience Encontre li dorra sentence.

Si une pecché demene, il encoupera (ed. en coupera)

Et il meismes se nigera (l. jugera) Serm5 154-157

‘(At the Last Judgement all things will accuse the sinner:) And pronounce sentence on him through his own conscience. If he commits a sin, he will be accused and will judge/condemn himself’



(clerics) soy aloygnent de lour cure par ascune colour on (l. ou) feynte cause Rot Parl1 iii 645

‘clerics leave their cures under some pretence or false reason’

nous leur ottroiasmes respit et delacion de noun paier le dit franc on (l. ou) guyoneys gaunt1 i 100

‘we granted them respite and delay to withhold payment of the franc or toll for safe passage’



un cheste one (l. ové) deux claves Grocers 66.

‘a chest with two keys’



Sire J. de L., ke en cele bosoyne rien ne dust onerer (l. overer) […] Rot Parl1 i 6.

‘Sir J. de L., who ought not to act in this matter […]’.


Overer literally means ‘to work, busy oneself’.



e le dit tresorier apercevaunt q’ele ont (l. out) ensi fait […] LANGETON 278.2



[…] valissant a l’eure qant il en fu depostiis ouse (l. onse) vins livr’ d’ersterlins Rot Parl1 i 359

‘[…] to the value, at the time when he was dispossessed, of 2200 (11 score) pounds sterling’



parmit (l. parunt) il hastoit (l. bastoit) cel enpoysonement Petit Bruit 7.12

‘therefore he planned/plotted that poisoning’


The nonsensical parmit occurs several times in this text (pp. 13.30,17.25,18.13, etc.).



que nul mestre taillour ne covere nulles cotoures ne servantz en chaumbres en peine (l. privé) ne appert YMB i 98

‘that no master taylor shall shelter any sewers in work-rooms secretly or openly’


Like piece/pieté above, this is a case of a multiple editorial error. The minims in and iv are confused and e is read instead of the correct r after the initial p, whist the final e is not recognized as é.  The grammatical need for an adjective in this context to match apert, coupled with the frequent use of the  locution en privé n’en apert, ought to have warned the editor that a noun could not possibly be correct.



les jufnes (sc. bees) qe sunt coveez en esté ne sevent pas si byen porneer (l. porveer) […] en hyver henley2 432

‘the young bees that are hatched in the summer cannot look after themselves as well (sc. as those hatched earlier) in the winter’



qe eux ne alassent pount (l. point) a l’assise prendre Rot Parl1 ii 23

‘that they should not go to take the assize’



la grossure del bastoun avantdit enviroun […] trois pounz (l. pouuz) de home Nov Narr 338

‘the size of the aforesaid stick about […] three thumb-lengths of a man’





les Seignurs des niefs qe recetteront sachaument (l. sachanment) les trespassours […] Rot Parl1 i 358

‘the masters of the ships who knowingly harbour the trespassers’


The present participle of saveir/savoir used adjectively is sachant, so the adverb formed from it should become sachantment  > sachanment.(Cf. erranment/erraument above)



(the defaulter must be summoned to attend on another day, and) si il viegne et ne puse saner (vars. saner in two mss and sauver in another three) la defaute, soit jugé […] britt ii 105-106


The MLWL gives sanare diem as a legal phrase for ‘to remedy default’ in 1194 and 1199, but also salvare diem in the same sense in 1169, and salvare defaltam with the same sense in 1230. The Statutes of the Realm i 38 have sauver and the Year Books  show a similar dichotomy – Edward II vi 132, xxii 229 and xxv all having saver/sauver, but  the editor’s variants in the latter give sau’ for two mss and san’ for two others. This is an indication of the point made earlier, that the transmission of Anglo-French (and also, obviously of Medieval Latin) was largely through the eye, not the ear.



Chescun jor après manger Tot sauz respit et sauns danger

De lange drap bien les frotés Pop Med 161.392

‘Every day after eating, Without delay and without holding back (i.e. vigorously) brush them (i.e. the teeth) with a linen cloth’


The form sauns shows incontrovertibly that sauz must be read either as sanz or sau[n]z to make sense.



le bernage soncha (l.soucha) q’il eut esté traytres Petit Bruit 16.38

‘the barons suspected that he had been a traitor’



le bref de ael ne poet jammés estre counté par resort, mes tut teus (l.  tens; vars. veys, veirs, ceus) par descente en descente envalant jekes al neveu Fet 99

‘the writ of aiel (=grandfather) can never be pleaded by resort (i.e. passing upwards from a later to an earlier generation), but always from one descent to another going down to the nephew’



a tien (l. tieu) case que les Communes furent en point d’estre perduz Ireland 192

‘in such a case where the Commons were in danger of being defeated’.


The possessive adjective tien ‘thine’ makes no sense here. Tieu is a form of the adjective tel ‘such’.



Harpe e estive e timpaus (l. timpans) Chev Dé 565

‘Harp and pipe and drums’



s’il pledast de altre coste (l. costé) […] il nous tondreit (l. toudreit) l’assise YBB 32-33 Ed I 107

‘if he pleaded the other way, he would take the assize from us’


This is an elementary confusion of tondre ‘to shear’ (Latin: tondere) and toudre ‘to take away, remove (Latin: tollere)



ly leverunt anguisses et traines (l. traveus) jekis en l’aun de son regne .xxxv. Petit Bruit 24.8.

‘they created troubles and difficulties for him until the 35th year of his reign’



(vain ladies) Teignent lur uis (l. vis) […] Pur  aver fresche la culur adgar1 145.153.

‘paint their faces […] to have a fresh complexion’)


The editor does not distinguish between u and v in his transcription, but here the differentiation between uis ‘doors’ and vis ‘face’ is essential to the understanding of the text.



a les utanes (l. utaves) de Pasqes Anon Chr2 112


This is the ‘octave’ of Easter. No ecclesiastically trained scribe would have thought of setting down the unintelligible form utanes.



Donc ne ert pas temps de penance,

Mes de pecché dure veivance (l. venjance) Serm5 234-5



(At the Day of Judgement the great and the good) averunt grant hunte, Ne lur vendra (l. vaudra) cuntur ne cunte boz Serm 81.41

‘neither advocate nor legal plea will be of any avail to them’



Li frere li curt sure ki le vent (l. veut) esmanker S Aub 1345

‘The brother attacks him, wanting/ intending to maim him’


In the context of battle this makes better sense than ‘comes to’.



ceux dedenz vient (l. veient) le mal, et ceux dehors le seyvent par oye dire T&S 236

‘those inside (the kingdom) see the evil and those outside know of it through hearsay’


The editors’ linking of a plural subject with a singular verb and reading ‘come’ instead of ‘see’ demonstrates the gross inadequacy of their knowledge of Anglo-French.



[…] par certain tesmoniage de vinue (l. vinné) Winchester 48.63 (14)

‘by certain testimony of the neighbourhood’


 Vinné  is one of numerous forms of visné, none of which has a u.



(Solomon) Par cez douz sens de doctriner Velt de tant amonester Que ne vos (l. nos) sofise a aveir Solement terrien saveir Si de devin coltivement N’avons en nos doctrinement Salemon 371.

‘(Solomon) By these two senses of ‘to teach’ wishes to point out thereby that it is not sufficient for us to have only earthly knowledge if we do not have in us the teaching of divine wisdom’


The presence of avons, and nos both here and again two verses later shows that the first person of the pronoun is intended, not the second.


noz (l. voz) ministres ont […] fanchez (l. fauchez) […] nostre pree gaunt1 ii 85

‘your men have mown our meadow’


The distinguished historians who edited this important Register ought to have seen that to read this complaint as ‘our men […]’ gives nonsense.



noma les maners contenuz en les chartres e vous lettres convencionale YBB Ed II vi 14.

‘he named the manors contained in the charters and a letter of agreement’


A personal pronoun immediately in front of a plural noun makes no sense grammatically or semantically. The frequently attested unes lettres re-establishes intelligibility.



[…] le pais de Whernedale (l. Whervedale=Wharfedale), qe se joynt e (l.a)  la dite foreste de Knaresburgh […] Rot Parl1 ii 24.


This obvious geographical error is repeated several times on the same page, despite the confirmatory ‘Forest of Knaresborough’.




All these characters are very similar in form and are easy to confuse as long as orthography is preferred to elementary semantics.



puis se (l. le) fist tut vif escorcher Legendary 105.299

‘then he had him flayed alive’) To flay himself alive would be rather difficult.


jeo devise as (l. al) dist W. […] Test Ebor i 62.

‘I bequeath to the said W. […]’


faire resteaunce et rescus al (l. as) ministres […] King’s Bench iii 194.

‘to provide help and succour to the ministers’


endangerer al div[e r]ses bones gentz  […] Rot Parl1 iii 129

‘to endanger various good folk’



taxare, estimare: afferer, afforer, aferer, asferer TLL i 241


The meaning is ‘to assess, evaluate’, the form asferer being aberrant.



il entent qe, saunz asserement (l. afferement) solonc sa estimacion il le purra lever  YBB 20 i Ed III 533

‘he considers that, without assessment of amercement, he can raise it (= the sum) according to his estimation



Puis furent les chivalers demandez qe furent asseriours (l. afferiours) de vitails et assarerent (l. affarerent) furment etc. YBB Ed II v 51.

‘Then the knights who were assessors of victuals and assessed wheat etc. were summoned’


afferer is a form of affoerer ‘to assess, value’ and the afferiours are affoerours, assessors, valuers.



a tort prist ii astrers (l. affrers) de sa charrette et ii boefs de sa carue Casus Plac lxxxvii

‘he wrongfully took two draught-horses from his cart and two oxen from his plough’


Affrer is a form of affre a ‘draught-horse’, whilst astrer is a legal term haeres astrarius.



Et cel .iii. demaundauntz […] Petit Bruit 22.29.

‘And these three plaintiffs […]’


The singular adjective cel cannot refer to a plural noun.



Item qe nul meistre du dit artefice cocera (l. colera) ne procurera autrein servant YMB i 72

‘That no master of the said guild shall take on/employ nor take over the employee of another’


There is no verb cocer, but choser is found as a variant of choisir ‘to choose’. The root sense of coillir is ‘to gather’, hence ‘to use in employment, take on’.



come il mesmes concessa devaunt n[ost]re dit S[i]r le Roy Rot Parl1 iii 630

‘as he himself confesse before our said lord the king’


Since there is little chance of a direct confusion between c and f, this seems to imply an intermediary form consessa.



ma nice chare me voldroit […] confreindre d’estre dolent Lett & Pet 110.12

‘my weak flesh would constrain me to be sorrowful’


Confreindre is a compound of freindre ‘to break’.



Si les (sc. little birds) prenés coiement et les metés en un corbison (l. corbilon) Glan lex 135.

‘Take the little birds gently and put them in a basket’,


corbilon being a diminutive of corbeille, etc.



Anagallicum […]. Gallice [et anglice] confirie vel cornsilie Alph 9.17-18.


This is the English ‘comfrey’ and it illustrates the difficulties of medieval scribes faced with botanical names probably quite outside their normal range of vocabulary. The form cornsilie seems to be nothing more than the result of  two scribal confusions –rn for m and s for f – i.e. merely a misreading of the standard forms confire/confirie, etc., which are well attested in Anglo-French from the thirteenth century onwards in AND2. The Alphita itself has comfilie at p.45.9-10. The alternation l/r found here is not confined to this text. Lacking botanical evidence available only in recent years, the OED says that ‘comfrey’ is adapted from Old (i.e. continental) French, but its earliest attestation goes back to Medieval British Latin in c1000, with a Middle English example from 1265. Under CONSIRE (2.255a) Godefroy has ‘consolide, pasquette, grande consoude’ with quotations from 1567 onwards, but, not appreciating the possibility of the confusion of characters, he does not link this with his CONFIRE (2.234a) which he glosses as ‘sorte de plante’. The first two of his three quotations given here and used as one of the OED’s examples are from insular texts (in fact, they appear to be the same quotation in manuscript and then in published form), and the third is from a later franco-flemish book of dialogues. All clearly mean ‘comfrey’. The OED is turning to Godefroy to find its own quotation. T-L (2.679) adds further examples of the word, one of which is insular, although not flagged as such. Both Classical and British Medieval Latin record CONFERVA as a species of water-plant, so the term would appear to belong to the general botanical/medical vocabulary current on both sides of the Channel.



Corn[e]s aveit el chef cum tor de custure (var. culture) Rom Chev ants 4057,

‘(The horse Bucifal) had horns on his head like a plough-ox’


The glossary has custure, with no mention of  the correct culture.

une custure (l. culture) de terre deit estre qarante perches de lung henley2 314

‘a strip of ploughland ought to be forty perches long’


Nous avoms un culture (var. une cousture l. coulture) joynant a cel pree YBB Ed II iii 104

‘We have an arable field adjoining that meadow’



La reine esteit mut veisduse, Une parole dist custuse (var. quitouse) Ipom bfr 6961-2

‘The queen was very deceitful, She said a cutting, sarcastic thing’

Cf. ditz quitus (var. custus) e malveis gas ibid. 1206

‘cutting, sarcastic words and bad jokes’


These examples show that for both the writer of the base manuscript and the scribe of the variant one the adjectives custus and quitus were synonymous. Whether they derive from different roots or are the result of of a confusion between i and s it is impossible to say. The dictionaries are not helpful.



Avisez mon esku cum est deberdisé (l. deberdilé ?) langt ii 436

‘See my shield how slashed it is’


The correct verb form is found in Romania 37.230:

ses jaumbes e ses braz Nafrez […] E tot le corps deberdillez

‘his legs and his arms wounded […] and all his body slashed’



et vous ne pusset nient vous defavoluper (l. desavoluper) del execucion YBB Ed II viii 84

‘and you cannot extricate yourself from carrying it out’ (cf. DESOBLIR)


The verb defavoluper does not exist: desavoluper is a negative of  envoluper (prefixation in Anglo-French is always fluid) ‘to wrap up’, hence, figuratively in  reflexive form, ‘to involve oneself, be involved’.



[…] all chevaché (ed. chenache) dell (l. dels) viscounts Grocers 67

‘at the procession of the sheriffs’


The editor of this text had little knowledge of French.



punir les contrevenantz solonc l’effect des (l.del) estatut Rot Parl1 iii 499.

‘to punish the offenders according to the statute’

une measone […] qe fuist en mayns del frows de Flaundres Anon Chr 140.37

‘a house that was in the possession of the nuns of Flanders’


The plural ‘Frows’ calls for the plural article ‘des’



Hier de par Alisandre fust terre desolé (l. defulé);

E huy de la terre est il craventé (sc. in his tomb) Rom Chev ants 8005

‘Yesterday the earth was trampled down by Alexander; And today he is crushed by earth’

le assaillerent, nafrerent et desolerent (l. defolerent) […] Corr Lond 334

‘they attacked, wounded and battered him […]’

le batirent, naufrerent et desolerent (l. defolerent) encontre la pees ibid. 361

‘they beat, wounded and battered him’

le bati e le desola (l. defola) issi qe le sang esperi de totes pars Sel Bills Eyre 34

‘he beat him and battered him so that the blood spurted out from everywhere’

desolerent (l. defolerent) ses draps Sel Bills Eyre 134

‘they ruined his clothes’


See also pp.6,30,56 of this text, where the same error is made, whilst the editor sets down the correct form elsewhere:

l’erbe […] gasterount e defulerount p. 97

‘they ruined the grass and trampled it down’

The frequency of this error indicates a general editorial unfamiliarity with the Anglo-French lexis; he does not know when he is transcribing correctly.



en  deseale (l. deleale) manere Rot Parl1 ii 14

‘in an illegal fashion’



ceo fut un delay, e par taunt si ad yl desele (l. desesé) la court  YBB  20-21 Ed I  441

‘It was a delay, and therefore inconvenienced the court’


The correct form desesé is the negative of eser etc. ‘to ease’; deselé would have to be the past participle of  deseler ‘to break the seal of’ or ‘to unfasten’.



demandom jugement si vous poez desoblir (l. defoblir = desfubler) de la garantie Casus Plac 49

‘we demand judgment if you can strip away the guarantee’, or, if  read as:

si vous poez vous desoblir […] (i.e. as a reflexive verb), ‘if you can free yourself from the guarantee’ (cf. DEFAVOLUPER)



ele vad desuaunt (l. defuauant) a large YBB Ed II xx 25

‘she goes running off /making her escape’


The phrase a large remains in English as ‘at large’


Sire, il vus va desuaunt (l. defuaunt) et ad vus (=vos) deners vers ly YBB Ed II xxi 139

‘My lord, he is running away from you and he has your money’



en le an de rengne Edward dissenesyme (l. dissenefyme) Sel Bills Eyre 23

‘in the nineteenth year of the reign of Edward’


The modern dix-neuf ought to have preserved the editor from this error.



thecis, de ecoles, hosis, cotellis, chocheles TLL ii 78


The Latin theca is a covering of any sort, from a thimble to a coat or a greave, as glosses in TLL show. Forms such as escos, escose and eschoce are used to mean a pod or husk (cf. modern French écosser and cosse), so the error here consists in a long ‘s’ being read as an ‘l’.



La veie de feit je eslif (Latin: Viam fidei elegi) Camb Ps 118.30

‘I chose the way of faith’

None of the attested forms of the verb eslire ends in f.



pur ousteer et anientiser toutz maners faulymes (l. fausymes) et disceites Bristol ii 76

‘in order to eliminate and abolish all manner of frauds and deceptions (sc. in the fulling of cloth’)



(my wife is ugly) pour nule chose de monde il ne fera (l. sera) copulacion entre nous Anleitungsschriften 14

‘not for anything in the world will there be copulation between us’



punier et justifier (l. justisier) toutz les cuntrevenauntz et trespassantz encountre l’ordinance Rot Parl1 iii 571

‘to punish and bring to justice all who contravene and offend against the statute’


Similar confusions are recorded earlier elsewhere. In Nichols’ edition of the Britton (i 2), variant readings give the following:

nous sumus vicare Dieu a justifeer les orgoyllous par redour de dreyt e les humbles par mercy (‘we are the Vicar of God  to judge the proud with the rigour of the law and the humble with mercy’), where two mss. have the incorrect justifeer and  one the correct justiser. Again, the Oxford Psalter has: Jugez al besuignus e al orfenin; l’umele e le povre justifiez.

‘’Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy’ (King Kames 82.3)

Not only does justifier mean to ‘to justify’, but the pairings of the corrected justisier  with verbs of similar sense – punier and jugez corroborate the sense to ‘mete out justice’.



si il troefsent qe sire J. se (l. le) eit chargé en son aconte, qe eux facent dreit a H. Northumb 161

‘if they find that Sir J. has charged it to his account, let them do right by H.’

nul homme ne le (l. se) corocera a celuy qui la (sc. stone) portera Lapid  281 (var.)

‘no one will get angry with the man who carries it’



le dit R. […] la soula (l. foula) ensi qe ele fust desesperé de sa vie YBB Ed II xxvi 90;

‘the said R. […] battered her so that her life was despaired of’





  1. & J. joyntement p[ri]sterent […] une assait en la foreste de R. […]. R. de H. […] et R.F. […] ousterent les avaun ditz R. & J. de l’esseit avaunt dite Rot Parl1 ii 414.

‘R. & J. took jointly a clearing in the forest of R. […]. R. de H. […] and R.F. [..] ejected them from the aforesaid clearing’.


Both assait and esseit are incorrect forms of assart , forest land converted into arable.



carcois de moton […], carkers ( l. carceis) de vele YBB Ed II v 51.

‘carcasses of mutton […] carcasses of veal’




Test Ebor i198



cardinibus: carreres (l. carneres, i.e. ‘hinges’) TLL ii 94


This error is scribal, corrected by the editor.



iij copes […], ij contins (l. cortins), ij touailles Test Ebor i 227.

‘three copes, two curtains, two towels’



saunz coungre (l. coungié) preindre u mote dire a ses compaignouns Anon Chr 52.18

‘without asking leave or saying a word to his companions’



[…] grantement endettee as diverses creansees (l. creansers)    Rot Parl1 i 470

‘heavily indebted to the various creditors’



Des autres qi furent al dit contrariantz (l. contrariance) de lour mal fine vous eit (l. ert) dit par ordre’ Anon Chr2 112.

‘The bad end of the others who were involved in the said opposition to the king will be told to you in due order’.


The failure to recognize the future tense of estre here, printing instead the present subjunctive of avoir, displays an ignorance of both the basic grammar and lexis of French.



les queux bekenes sount tout dis enfeblez & empanez (l. empairez) Rot Parl1 iv 405’

‘which beacons are always weakened and damaged’



paer a la forz (l. foiz) la tierce partie, a la fortz  (l. foitz) la quarte partie langeton 139.31

‘to pay sometimes a third, sometimes a quarter’


a la fois is a common locution: for(t)z  makes no sense in this context.



sans […] assent expresse del greindee (l. greindre) partie des executours Test Ebor i 234.32

‘without the express assent of the greater part of the executors’.



facez abatre une piece q’est deffective de la haute parere (l. pareie) gaunt2 i 126.

‘let them knock down a piece of the high wall that is damaged’.



encriaunt sur eux qe la ville perderent (l. perdereit) pur lour graunt covertise et noun sachauntie Northern Pet 66.

‘shouting at them that the town would lose as a result of their baseness and lack of understanding’


The form perderent cannot stand, being a plural form referring to a singular subject and a preterit instead of a conditional tense. The alternative to the reading perdereit would be to read perdereient, thus making the meaning ‘they would lose the town’.



Et si lacent les elms par les bons quirerz Dest Rome 712.

‘And they fasten their helmets with the good straps’.


This is a form of coreie, etc., the modern French courroie



issi ses memes desmenbre pur ceo ke il ne veut (ed. ueut) suer Ancren2 124.22

‘thus he dismembers himself because he is not prepared to sweat (i.e. suffer).


The variant se confirms the sense, so the attested form of the reflexive pronoun sei is preferable to the plural possessive adjective ses.


Il ou ele ke issi le fet, de ronge e de manie ses memes Ancren2 258.25

‘He or she who acts thus eats away and erodes himself’


Again, the variant sememes confirms the correct interpretation.



mout de gent […] sont (l. font) entendant a vus […] autre chose ke verité Affairs of Ireland 13.



Par cointise, par grant verdie (l. veidie = veisdie) Fist saint W. la departie de la dame et de son espous S Audree 1071.

‘With great skill, with great subtlety Saint W. brought about the separation of the lady from her husband’


Veisdie and cointise are close semantically and often paired in medieval French.


  1. Rothwell

[1]  The abbreviated references attached to textual quotations are those used in the new edition of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary. I am indebted to Professor D.A. Trotter for a number of helpful comments on the draft of this study and for supplying  new relevant material that was not otherwise available to me.

[2] Editors: Professors T.A. Jenkins, J.M. Manly, Mildred K. Pope and Jean G. Wright; helpers Professors A. Ewert and E. Vinaver, along with Miss Francis, Miss J. Bloomfield, Mrs Phillips, Miss O. Rhys and Mr  T.B.W. Reid.

[3]  ‘This spelling […] is undoubtedly that written here and elsewhere in this manuscript’ p. 43 Note to P16.


[4]  See Actes du  Xe Congrès international sur le Moyen Français: Colloque Godefroy, Metz, June 2002, éd. F. Duval.

[5] See Tony Hunt, Teaching and Learning Latin in Thirteenth-Century England, 3 vols.  (Cambridge, 1991).

[6]  See AND2.

[7] See W. Rothwell, ‘The semantic field of Old French Astele: the pitfalls of the medieval gloss in lexicography’, French Language Studies 12 (2002), 203-220.

[8] See W. Rothwell, ‘English and French in England after 1362’, English Studies 82 (2001), pp. 539-559.

[9]  See W. Rothwell, ‘The Problem of Law French’,  French Studies 46 (1992), pp. 257.271.

[10] See, for example, the entries a, de, en or commun in the new version of the AND, which, like many others in the dictionary, are richer than the corresponding entries in either Godefroy or Tobler-Lommatzsch. 

[11] Professor Trotter reminds me that in a Yearbook dated a few years later than the Ancrene Riwle (Edward I, 32.129: 1304) a judge refused to allow an objection by one of the parties in a dispute over land who claimed that the locality referred to as Hersam did not exist, the charter having  the form Ersam. The judge stated: ‘H  n’est pas lettre’.  The considerable fluctuations in the spelling of place-names over time in both France and England may readily be appreciated by comparing maps of the same region  dating from different periods.

[12] ‘Bills, Accounts, Inventories: Everyday Trilingual Activities in the Business World of Late Medieval England’, Multilingualism in Later Medieval Britain, ed. D.A. Trotter, (Cambridge, 2000), 149-156.

[13]  See Bernard Cerquiglini’s Éloge de la variante  (Paris, 1989).

[14] Robin F. Jones, ‘An Anglo-Norman Rhymed Sermon on Shrift’, Modern Philology 1982, pp.347-358.

[15] ‘Variants of the following types have been disregarded unless interpretation of the text was involved: capitalization, punctuation, word-division, elision, hiatus, confusion of case forms and flexional endings, lack of agreement in adjectives and participles, confusion in the forms of the definite article and demonstrative pronouns, interchange of tonic and atonic pronominal forms and of cist as against icist &, and corrections in BNBd made by the copyists’ (p.xxxii).’

[16] T. Hunt, ‘Old French Translations of Medical Texts’, Forum for Modern Language Studies 35 (1999), 250-357, p.352.

[17] ‘Quel ancien français pour quels étudiants’,  a paper read at the Atelier Médiévales/Paris 8  in November 2002.

[18] ‘Sprachvariation und Sprachwandel in statu nascendi: Zur Analyse der Kopialüberlieferung einer altfranzösischen Urkunde (1275) in den ‘Balduineen’. In Skripta, Schreiblandschaften und Standardisierungstendenzen. Urkundensprachen im Grenzbereich von Germania und Romania im 13. und 14. Jahrhundert.  Trier, 2001, pp.449-473.

[19] See now ‘Not as eccentric as it looks: Anglo-French and French French’, by David Trotter to appear in Forum for Modern Language Studies in 2003, and his ‘L’anglo-normand: variété insulaire, ou variété isolée?’ to appear in Médiévales 45  (2003)..

[20] Das altfranzösische Geschäftsschrifttum in Oberlothringen: Quellenlage und Deutungsansätze (pp.257-294).

[21] pp. 37-49.

[22] Lettres du roi Edward I à Robert de Bavent, King’s Yeoman, sur des questions de Vénerie, ed. F.J. Tanquerey, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, xxiii (1939), 487-503.

[23] Letters of Edward Prince of Wales 1304-5, ed H. Johnstone, Roxburghe Club, London, 1931

[24]  Recueil de Lettres Anglo-Françaises 1265-1399, ed. F.J. Tanquerey, Paris, 1916. For numerous other collections of letters see A List of Works Quoted in the Dictionary  at the end of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary.

[25] E.g. a treaty between Edward III and Alfonso of Castille and Leon is couched in Anglo-French,  Anglo-Norman Letters and Petitions, ed. M.D. Legge, ANTS 3 (1941) p.196-7; Philippa of Portugal writes to the Archbishop of Canterbury in Anglo-French (ibid.) p.347-348); she writes likewise to the Bishop of Norwich, thanking him for gifts sent to her (ibid. p.372); her Treasurer and one of the bearers of the gifts is a Thomas Payn; the bishop replies in the same language (ibid. pp. 360-362); the Duke of Milan writes to one his relations in England in Anglo-French (ibid. p.287); Henry IV writes to his son, Prince of Wales, in Anglo-French (ibid. p.286-7).

[26] Corr Lond. pp. 512 & 538 respectively.

[27] Surtees Society 120

[28] See W. Rothwell, ‘Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice: from Oriental Bazar to English Cloister in Anglo-French’, Modern Language Review 94 (1999),

[29] See Lisa Jefferson & W. Rothwell, ‘Society and Lexis: A Study of the Anglo-French Vocabulary in the Fifteenth-Century Accounts of the Merchant Taylors’ Company, Zeitschrift für französische Sprache und Literatur 107 (1997), 273-301.

[30]  See the extensive range of such works published by the Selden Society and the Rolls Series.

[31] E.g. The will of the Black Prince is drawn up in Anglo-French. See J. Moisant, Le Prince Noir en Aquitaine  (Paris, 1894), pp. 225-232. I am indebted to Professor Trotter for drawing my attention to this work.

[32] See the publications of Tony Hunt in the AND List of Works … referred to above.

[33] C.B. Heiatt & R. Jones, ‘Culinary Collections […] ‘ Speculum LXI (1986), 859-82.

[34]  ed. T. Hunt, with the collaboration of Michael Benskin, Medium Aevum Monographs New Series XXI (Oxford, 2001).

[35] See W. Rothwell, ‘The French Text of the Rotuli Parliamentorum: Some Corrections, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 65 (1983), pp. 230-258, and ‘Two Verderers and Fractured French’, French Studies Bulletin (2000), 1-2.

[36] Not many modern editors of historical or legal works achieve the mastery of the subject and the language in which it is couched that is displayed by Nicols in his edition of Britton nearly a century and a half ago, long before any of the modern dictionaries was available for consultation.

[37] G.O. Sayles, Documents on the Affairs of Ireland before the King’s Council, Dublin 1979.

[38] I am indebted to Dr. A. Lindström for drawing my attention to these cases in a private communication some years ago.

[39] In his article ‘Les Néologismes de l’anglo-français et le FEW’’, Le Moyen Français 39-40-41 (1997), 577-635, Professor Trotter shows (p.611) that this sense is not attested in continental French by the FEW until the 19c. and that T-L  (1.320) invent a mythical form amacheor for their sole quotation.

[40] The distinguished editor of the Quatre Livres des Reis has the correct form on p.178, but translates it as ‘Korb’ (basket), confusing it with cretin. See Godefroy 2.370a and  Tobler-Lommatzsch 2.1042.

[41]  I am particularly indebted to Professor D.A. Trotter for this insight which had escaped me.

[42] ed. D.W. Russell, Anglo-Norman Text Society 51 (London, 1995).

[43] E.g. A chief de piece, quant revint Cume desvee crie e breit. Le Roman de Waldef, ed. A. J Holden (Geneva, 1984), v. 19488.