Introducing the Anglo-Norman Dictionary

Seignurs, Dames, bien viengez vus!

All the members of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary team bid you a warm welcome and invite you to take a look on these pages at some of the things we do and why we do them.

If you are, or are soon to become, a taxpayer in the UK or any other EU country, you will probably be interested to know how we spend your cash, because it is taxation, channelled our way both through the general Higher Education budget and the specific allocations made to us by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the United Kingdom, that pays for everything we do. When we say that our Dictionary, unlike a number of other similar on-line undertakings, is ‘free’, we mean that we don’t charge users to access it, hence anyone can consult it wherever there is an Internet connection without needing registration, passwords or a library or credit card. But of course nothing is ever truly ‘free of charge’. We don’t see why taxpayers who have already funded our work should pay once again to read it, but they have indeed already paid to have it created, maintained and distributed, and we are very grateful to them for that. We hope they will also be happy that what they have paid for is also made freely available to users worldwide, if only because that way people all over the globe can see and benefit from what is internationally regarded as an outstanding example of world-class UK-based research.

But if you can read this, you also plainly know at least some English, so there’s another reason why you might like to know more about Anglo-Norman and our work to increase its understanding. As we attempt to sketch out in some of the following pages, Anglo-Norman has contributed massively to the present-day English language. No matter what you say or read in English, however ‘modern’, the legacy of Anglo-Norman is everywhere. And everywhere on the globe where the English language has gone, it has taken Anglo-Norman influences with it. You can’t escape these influences, so maybe you will enjoy learning a little more about them.

In the following pages, we start by explaining why an Anglo-Norman Dictionary is needed, then we provide an overview of how the Dictionary came into being, and how it is developed, maintained and extended. We next show some of the maybe unexpected ways and places that Anglo-Norman has survived in vulgarities and dialect expressions, before moving on to look at perhaps the most famous and important document in Anglo-Norman: the Magna Carta. Then we look at the abiding Anglo-Norman presence in the present day language of food and cooking, and some of the ways Chaucer brought Anglo-Norman words into the mainstream of English literature and language. Finally, we illustrate from a documented complaint about offensive stenches in the City of London what we mean by saying that medieval England was ‘multilingual’, and show the place of Anglo-Norman in the multilingual mix.

We hope you enjoy this quick tour of our corner of the world, and hope at least some of you will be led to explore our main site in more detail at your leisure.