The French Vocabulary in the Archive of the London Grocers’ Company
William Rothwell (1992)
When the wholesale merchants of London banded together in the early years of the fourteenth century to form a trade association, they recognized the need for a record of their corporate activities to which reference could be made – rules for members, lists of officers, annual financial outlay for livery, dinners and so forth, as well as details of commercial transactions. These records as printed run from the second decade of the fourteenth century well into the fifteenth and are set down in Latin, French and – later in the series – English1. The French element is very considerable, covering much of the period, but has so far received no attention from scholars studying the development of either French or English2. Yet these records in Anglo-French contain material of prime concern to historians of both languages, some of it not found elsewhere up to the present time.
The period covered by the Grocers’ Archive had far-reaching consequences for the linguistic development of England. During the later decades of the fourteenth century the form of French that had been used as the most generally accessible language of record for centuries by the literate classes in England merged into Middle English. This merger marks the beginning of modern English and was a determinant factor in the subsequent development of that language3. p24
That this process was indeed one of merger and not a simple, outright replacement of a Romance language by a Germanic one will be illustrated below from the direct textual evidence provided by the archive, but may also be clearly seen elsewhere in the extensive body of administrative writings in Anglo-French surviving from the fourteenth century. For example, whilst the grammatical basis of official records such as the Statutes of the Realm or the Rotuli Parliamentorum – the articles, prepositions, verbal and substantival endings etc. – become obviously English when the change-over of languages takes place from Anglo-French to Middle English as the fourteenth century gives way to the fifteenth, the bulk of the vocabulary remains no less obviously Anglo-French. In the new linguistic climate developing in later fourteenth- century England the administrators who drafted the documents through which the country was governed continued – quite naturally and sensibly – to use the old, universally accepted Anglo-French lexis of their profession, together with its well-recognized semantic content, rather than attempt to coin a new lexis made up of Germanic elements whose semantic content would have to be defined from scratch. This traditional lexis was intrinsically a register of concepts, not just a list of tangible objects. Anglo-French legal and administrative terminology had been handed down from one generation of practitioners to another since the Conquest, its original semantic content and any later developments being commonly accepted and understood by all who used it. Similarly, trade relations between England and the continent had been conducted to a large extent in French, as the surviving French texts of the Port Books, the Oak Book and the Black Book bear witness for Southampton, along with the Register of Daniel Rough for Romney and many hundreds of business letters couched in Anglo-French to be found up and down the numerous extant collections dating back to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. As in the legal and administrative fields, the transition from Anglo-French to Middle English as the language of commercial record did not break this continuity, hence the French character of much of the vocabulary of modern English commerce as well as that of law, administration and education4. This whole field of non-literary vocabulary in later Anglo-French and its passage into Middle English is in need of serious attention from the few scholars who are equipped to deal with both languages: the present small-scale essay confined to the Grocers’ archive may point the way in which future research might advance.
Without attempting to widen the scope of the enquiry by entering the domain of Middle English, then, it must be emphasized that the lasting importance of the Anglo-French inheritance for the subsequent development of modern English was considerable. One of the easiest places to find evidence of this is in the work of the most famous writer of the Middle English period – Geoffrey Chaucer. A study of his vocabulary will reveal time and again that its extensive and very obvious French component5 may be traced back not solely to p25 continental French, as commentators have invariably done up to the present time, being in the main ignorant of insular French, but at least in part to the Anglo-French in which he must have been thoroughly steeped. For Chaucer was not only a much-travelled diplomat entrusted with missions abroad that brought him into contact with the culture based on continental French, as both the artistic and linguistic content of his work reveals: he was also a highly-placed home civil servant who occupied a number of important official posts in London and elsewhere in southern England during the last quarter of the fourteenth century and also enjoyed social contacts with the highest in the land. Both these aspects of his life would inevitably have involved a close and lasting acquaintance with Anglo-French, the language of administration and also of social intercourse used by all the influential classes in England in Chaucer’s time6. The validity of this claim may be assessed very simply by attempting to find the meaning of the French terms used in Chaucer’s work by reference to Godefroy or Tobler-Lommatzsch. Many are indeed to be found in the pages of these dictionaries, but a good number will be sought there in vain7: they come from insular French, not the continental variety.
For the purposes of the present enquiry brief mention of just two such cases may suffice to make the point. To take first the Old French bachel(i)er, modern English ‘bachelor’. On two occasions in his work Chaucer uses this word to indicate an unmarried man, a sense not found in standard Old French, but attested in Anglo-French from the twelfth century8. This simple case may also serve as an illustration of the unique importance of the insular dialect of French in the later Middle Ages, for the history not only of English, but also of French. Although the FEW under *baccalaris (1.198b) gives the English meaning of ‘unmarried man’ to an undated dialectal form bachel(i)é from Poitou, the historical importance of this is minimal, since this dialect did not penetrate into the written language of France and p26 consequently had no influence on standard modern French. The sense ‘unmarried man’ was therefore lost on the continent as far as standard French is concerned, and so the Poitevin form remains an isolated curiosity in the overall development of the French language. In England, however, the sense of ‘unmarried man’ was the only one passed on from Anglo-French to the general vocabulary of modern English (the academic ‘Bachelor of Arts’ etc. and ‘knight bachelor’ do not really form part of the general vocabulary), and so has not only marked modern English9 but at the same time has provided historians of French with written evidence of a semantic development that did not come to fruition in France. Anglo-French was the only variety of medieval French apart from francien itself to become a widely-used language of record in a powerful independent kingdom. As such, its long-term influence was far greater than that of the other forms of French that were eventually absorbed into what has become the standard language, even if that influence is now to be found in English rather than French.
The second case is that of ‘termes’. When Chaucer describes his ‘Sergeant of the Lawe’ in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, he tells us that: ‘In termes hadde he cas and doomes alle That from the tyme of kyng William were falle’ 10. The meaning of ‘termes’ in this context is ‘Year Books’, the written record of cases tried in the king’s courts during the Law Terms of each regnal year. The semantic field of ‘terme’ developed in Anglo-French from ‘period of time’ to ‘period of time in which the courts of law were in session’ and hence to ‘record of the proceedings of the courts during such a period’ 11. The word is indisputably French in origin, but this particular sense will be sought in vain in the standard dictionaries of medieval French12. As with ‘bachelor’, its semantic development took place not in Paris, but on English soil in Anglo-French of the fourteenth century and so passed quite normally into Middle English13. p27
Mention of Chaucer in the present context is neither adventitious nor gratuitous. All through the period when Chaucer was writing in English, but in a cultural atmosphere pervaded by both insular and continental French, the English grocers of London were keeping their records largely in Anglo-French, although lapsing on more than one occasion into the coining of hybrid forms, as will be seen below. Chaucer and the grocers were part of the same culture, a culture of which Anglo-French and English were both integral components, with each influencing the other. Nor is the interpenetration of French and English in that culture purely a matter of words. In the early fourteenth century a scribe copying the late thirteenth-century treatise on agriculture compiled by Walter of Henley uses measurements for the capacity of a ploughing-team that are based on the French league rather than the English league favoured by Walter himself. That this is no isolated instance is shown by evidence from Canterbury pointing to the use of a similar system of measurement on the estates of the Cathedral Priory at about the same time14.
Such is the background to the Grocers’ Archive, and it is only when set against this background that the true value of the document for the external history of French in the medieval period may be seen. In this neglected commercial record are to be found a number of terms either completely unknown to continental Old French or recorded there only at a later date, as well as some that have not infrequently a bearing on the development of both French and English. In view of this dual interest, items of vocabulary will be treated below in alphabetical order without any attempt to separate out the often overlapping strands of concern to the linguistic history of English and French.
G. (1.4c) records only the literal meaning of this verb – s’approcher, s’avancer, with neither T-L nor the FEW having anything to add. The sense in which acceder is used in the Grocers’ text is the same as in the modern English ‘to accede (to a request, etc.)’, and is recorded by the OED for Middle English in the 15th c., although the MED does not give this sense under acceden. The OED derives the word from Latin, with the addition of ‘Cf. Fr. accéder (14c.)’ – even though the meaning given in Godefroy is quite different15 – but with no mention of Anglo-French. Since the DMLBS does not list ‘to accede, assent to’ amongst its meanings of accedere, the modern English word must be either a direct learned borrowing from Classical Latin into 15c. English, or else have passed, like so many other terms, from Anglo-French into Middle English and thence into modern English. This example typifies the all too frequent failure of dictionaries of English to take account of Anglo-French in their etymological sections.
(A)DOBBER : qe nul homme ne adobbera nule manere de avoir, c’est assavoir de engettre la chose q’est en une bale et peus reparailler le en une autre manere qe ele n’est adeprimes p28 achaté, a faire lé boutz ( ed. bontz) de la bale de meillour chose qe ne est le remenant deynz la bale (I, ii, 1316)
This sense is not recorded in G.. His nearest meaning for adouber is déguiser (1. 110c) and he gives only one quotation under douber, from the Englishman Alexander Neckham (2.755b). The FEW (3.167) under *dubban gives arranger, apprêter; T-Lunder adober gives ‘iron. (übel) zurichten, zurechtmachen.’ The MED, under dubben, gives ‘to disguise (sth.) fraudulently, adulterate (wine)’, but not until 1457, nearly a century and a half after the Grocers’ example, and with no mention of Anglo-French. The AND (sub adubber) supports the Grocers’ text with an ideally explicit quotation from the French Correspondence of London in 1354: (fishmongers are forbidden to) ‘adobber lours paners, c’est assavoir, de mettre dessus le paner une demoustrance de covenable pesshoun et desouth … mettre pesshioun descovenable’ (no. 203, p.477). The man responsible for the deceit is a dobbour (p.477), the deceit itself a dubbure (p.478).
G. (1.287b) does not record the use of anientir to mean ‘to ruin/bankrupt’, but under aneantiser (1.287c) gives a quotation from a late Anglo-French statute of Henry VI which ought to be glossed ruiner, faire faire banqueroute rather than anéantir, since it is a question of the financial ruin of merchants. The AND has no example of this sense under anienter, but under anientiser gives a quotation from the late 14c. referring to financial ruin, thus confirming the sense of the Grocers’ example. Neither T-L nor the FEW (7.86b) has any example of a financial meaning for the verb.
G. does not record as(s)eler, only enseler. The FEW (11. 596b) gives enseler from as early as the 12c. in the Anglo-Norman Estoire des Engleis by Gaimar, and assaieller as ‘fixer, enclore dans qch.’. T-L does not record the form at all. The A.N.D.’s examples under asseler are earlier than 1386, but do not refer to the authentication of weights used in commerce. The Grocers’ text is therefore unique in this respect. p29
asselyng occurs again in a similar context on p. 95, with the unprefixed form selyng being used on p. 80. Given that the basic verb here is found only in Anglo-French, this hybrid form shows that Anglo-French and not continental French must have been the conduit through which French passed on its way to becoming Middle English. (Cf. pavynge p.104, 1408) The MED lists asselyng from 1430, together with the verb as(s)elen, which it says came ‘Prob[ably] from AF *anseler ‘. The present quotation serves to remove the asterisk from anseler and to reinforce the probable derivation.
The editor of the Grocers’ Archives is in error in reading assynge and translating it as ‘assignement’. The form is to be read as assigné and translated as ‘agent’, ‘assignee’ – i.e. ‘paid to W.C. – by the agent/assignee of the auditours’. None of the standard French authorities records this sense for continental Old French, but the AND lists it in the Anglo-French administrative and legal registers before the end of the 13c. 16. This is another case where the influence of Anglo-French on modern English may be clearly seen, although unacknowledged by the authorities on the etymology of English. The MED‘s first attestation of the word actually comes from the Anglo-French of the Rotuli Parliamentorum in 1325 (vol.I, p. 436). The OED has no example of the word in English before the 15c. and attributes it to O.F., not A.F.
G. (1.98c) does not list this form, but gives a verb adererer, which he incorrectly glosses as reculer. In reality, his quotation: ‘Et si ladite rente … soit a dereré …’ should be read as a derere and glossed en arrière, en retard. Neither T-L nor the FEW has anything to contribute here.
G. (8. Comp.279a) has a quotation under bale from the 13th c. Livre des Mestiers. The FEW (1.216b sub *balla) gives the sense ,corbeille d’osier’ for balla in a text from Lyon and an Old French form balete, glossed as ‘ballot de marchandises’, but does not list bale itself. T-L quotes one of the mss. of the late 13c. Anglo-French Tretiz of Walter of Bibbesworth and a Romance-Flemish gloss. The MED has no attestation in English before c.1380, but the OED‘s first attestation of ‘bale’ in English is given as 1325, with the tentative suggestions that it may have been adapted from OF bale or have come ‘immediately from Flemish bale‘. The role played by Anglo-French is not mentioned at all, although several of the Bibbesworth mss. from the late 13 or early 14c. have the form bale, glossed as ‘bagge’ (ms. G 283rb; ms. C 5va; ms. O 333vb) or ‘chaffare’ (ms. A 301ra), thus showing clearly the role played by Anglo-French.
Only T-L cites this form. Its tentative translation ‘Fass’, based on a British-Latin glossary, is supported by the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources under cadus 1. It is probably an abbreviation of baril.
T-L gives ‘Handel, Markt, Marktverkehr’ for this term and it is recorded elsewhere for Anglo-French about this time. The extension of meaning that has given the modern English sense ‘goods bought cheaply, for less than their real value’ is already present in Anglo-French in the late 14c. (see AND), but is not recorded for continental French by the FEW (1.441b sub *borganjan)17. The MED has this sense for the mid 15c., but, like the OED, derives ‘bargain’ from Old French, with no mention of Anglo-French, thus missing the essential role played by the French of medieval England in forming the semantic content of the term in Middle and, consequently, modern English.
G. (1. 650b) glosses this as ‘ordonnance, requête, le bill anglais’. However, the English ‘bill’ has several quite distinct senses, and Godefroy has chosen the wrong one. His quotation from the Chroniques de St Denis giving la bille ou cedule would indicate the sense ‘inventory, list’, as here in the Grocers’ text, not the legal ‘bill’ that is the equivalent of ordonnance 18 The FEW (1.614a) uncritically copies Godefroy ‘ “Afr. bille, ordonnance, bill anglais”(14.jh.)’. T-L does not record this sense. The word is attested in Anglo-French with this precise meaning early in the 14th c. (AND sub bille1 ). The MED and OED rightly note the Anglo-French origin of the modern English senses.
G. (1.658a) and T-L have examples of this term from the 13c., and the MED, in the absence of published Anglo-French evidence, derives the Middle English blaund(e)rel from Old French, with its first attestation in English being c.1390. The numerous references to this kind of apple in the Grocers’ records show that the term must have been current in Anglo-French in the 14c., from where it would normally be taken into Middle English.
G. (2.47b-c & 9.34a-b) and the AND do not record this sense. T-L notes the use of champ in the register of heraldry, but not in the general sense of ‘background’. The FEW (2,i.160b) similarly gives the heraldic sense, but only ‘seit Pom 1671’, with “nfr. champ ‘fond sur lequel on représente qch.’ (seit Rich 1680)”. Earlier examples of this sense are to be found in John of Gaunt’s Register for 138019. If the sense of ‘background’ was in use in insular French by the late 14c., it is unlikely that it was not similarly in use on the continent at that time, if not before. The MED, under chaump(e), complicates the issue, giving the word as p31 deriving from ‘O.F.’ (i.e. continental Old French), although going on to state that it was recorded in British Latin in the sense of ‘background’ as early as 1341. Its first Middle English attestation is given as c.1390. The DMLBS now takes the first use of this sense in British Latin back to 1235. All these pieces of contradictory evidence added together would suggest that the history of campus/champ is in need of serious attention from etymologists. Once again, the Grocers’ Archive serves as a reminder of the trilingual situation obtaining in medieval England and of the need to take account of all three elements – Latin, French and English – when dealing with the history of words in both English and French.
Neither G. (2.150-151 & 9.107-8) nor T-L has an example of the sense ‘free of debt/financial claim’. The FEW (2,i.739) gives “mfr. cler, ‘ce qui est sans dette, net, assuré (d#un bien)’ (seit 15.jh., Chastell)”. The MED dates this sense in Middle English as 1420, deriving it from ‘O.F.’ with no mention of Anglo-French. Once again, the well-attested trade links across the Channel must have ensured that cler in this financial sense was known and used by the merchants of England as well as their trading-partners in France. The principal language in which this trade was conducted was French, and Anglo-French was the conduit through which much of the vocabulary of trade passed on its way from continental French to English.
G. ‘s first example of this meaning (9.147-8) is strangely late, coming from the Heptameron (1559), and T-L does not have it at all, but the FEW (2, ii.1020a) lists it from 1342 in the sense of ‘manière d’être …, tempérament, caractère, moeurs’. The MED gives it as being derived in English from Old French and Latin before the end of the 14c., without any mention of Anglo-French. The Grocers’ Archive shows that the term is attested at virtually the same date on both sides of the Channel.
The French authorities have no example of the sense ‘to strengthen, support (an institution, a body of people)’. The MED gives the meaning ‘to lend support, promote’ for the mid 14c., but derives the term from Old French and Latin, without any mention of Anglo-French.
G. (2. 261), T-L (2.767 sub content) and the FEW (2,ii.1102a) all date this as 1346. The MED gives a quotation in Anglo-French from the Rotuli Parliamentorum(vol. II, p. 154), dated 1344, yet still persists in attributing the derivation of the word to Latin and Old French. The use of the term elsewhere in the French of England at this time is confirmed by the AND, so it is unlikely to have been a borrowing from continental Old French directly into Middle English.
G. ‘s sole example of the noun refers to the unfavourable nature of a wind and is, in any case, clearly Anglo-French. T-L adds nothing of significance. The FEW (2,ii.1122a) gives only ” contrariouseté ,’contrariété’ (1372)”. The MED claims that contrariouseté is derived from Old French and Medieval Latin, yet it is found in legal Anglo-French at the very beginning of the 14c. (see AND).
G. (3.328a-c) has no example of this term in a commercial sense and T-L gives only Kutte, Obergewand (für Männer u. Frauen). The FEW (2,ii.1248b) does not list this precise sense, but (1249b-1250b) gives various forms relating to the sides of a basket etc. The word is not listed in the MED
Under encresse G. (3.122a) gives no continental quotations, only Anglo-French ones from 1342 and 1404, and the meaning accroissement. T-L does not list the word. The FEW (2,ii.1328a) gives ‘mfr. accrest profit’, but does not provide a date, simply a source – ‘Sotties’, which would indicate a time near the date of the Grocers’ example. In fact, acreis (the alternation of prefixes in Anglo-French is endemic) in the sense of ‘added, increased value’ was already current in England in the legal register before the end of the 13c. referring to land, not to money20.
This is not given for continental French by any of the French authorities and would seem to be a purely Anglo-French use of the verb, where it is found in the late 13c21. The FEW (4.774a) confirms this by listing it as “agn. entrer ‘inscrire dans le cadastre’ “, but adding “nfr.’inscrire sur le registre des entrees (1864)’ “. The MED under entren records this sense from 1389.
G. under espendre (3.520b) has only one quotation in this sense; T-L refers to G. ; the FEW (3.308a) gives it as ‘selten’. It is found in Anglo-French in 1376-77 (AND sub expendre), although the OED makes no mention of any French involvement in its etymology.
G. under espense (3.521c) gives examples of this in the 14 and 15c., but four of his six cases are Anglo-French; T-L refers to G. ; the FEW (3.308a-b) puts the dates as ’14.-16.jh.’ and adds: ‘Daraus mengl. spense, engl. expense ‘. The Grocers’ example, together with the earlier ones from the mid 14c. given in the AND, shows yet again that the channel of linguistic borrowing from France to England in medieval times must have passed through Anglo-French.
This word is not unique to Anglo-French (see FEW 3.359a ‘action de faire’), but G. has two errors in his treatment of it. His original entry (3.694a-b) does not record the sense ‘action de faire, fabriquer’, although two of his examples – from 1377 and 1392-1400 – clearly have this meaning. In the Complément under faccion (9.590a) his example containing faction ‘action de faire une chose’ should be moved to façon. The form facioun is found in a similar sense on p. 99 of the Grocers’ archive.
G. (4.15c) knows this only as ‘petit flacon, poire à poudre’. T-L under flaschet similarly gives only ‘kl. Flasche’. The FEW (3.606b flaska) concurs with this, adding (608a) a p34 Norman dialect form flagon, with the comment: ‘Daraus e. flagon.’ The most interesting information, however, is provided by the DMLBS as to the date of first attestation and by the MED as to meaning. The earliest mention of the word is found under flaskettus in the DMLBS – 1219 – in a document from London, whilst only the MED gets away from the diminutive idea suggested by the ending of the word and correctly glosses it as: ‘A container, such as a case’ (‘case’ here is probably a misprint for ‘cask’). The AND (sub flasqet) is misled by the diminutive ending and, in addition, erroneously attributes its quotation from the Dialogues of St Gregory to f. 5rb instead of f. 49rb22. Furthermore, its quotation under flaske should probably read ‘arbres, cordes et flaskés’ rather than ‘flaskes’, the form given in the glossary to the text quoted23. In this context a bridge is being constructed to transport an army across a river using these materials, so the diminutive sense ‘little cask’ would be almost as inappropriate here as the ‘flask’ given by the editor in her glossary. The bridge-builders would surely be using the biggest casks they could find in order to improve buoyancy. The first non-Latin example of the term given in the MED is taken from the Grocers’ archive.
Further examples: garbellage again and garbelage (p. 74, 1394); garbellez (pp. 74 & 75, 1394); garbellour again p. 74; garbelour p. 73; garbelatour p. 126); garbelure again (p. 125, 1419) and gabulere (l. garbelure) same page.
This whole family of terms is unknown to G. , T-L and the AND The FEW (2,ii.1332a-1333a sub cribellum) has forms related to those found in the Grocers’ Archive, but only at a much later date: “Mfr. nfr. grabeler ‘passer (des épices) au crible’ (16jh. – 1653)”; “Nfr. grabeaux ‘morceaux rompus des drogues, poussière ….’ (seit 1640)”; “Nfr. grabeleur ‘celui qui est chargé de grabeler une substance’; grabelage ‘action de grabeler’ (beide seit 1866)”. The MED lists only the Middle English forms from the Grocers’ text, without mentioning that they were used in Anglo-French in the same records some time earlier. The DMLBS has examples of latinized forms of the terms used in England in roughly the same period as those in the Grocers’ records, but gives one isolated example of garbel[ore] for 1303 p35 (under granum 4) that would point to a much earlier use. This Anglo-French and Latin evidence from England not only makes necessary a drastic revision of the dates given in the FEW, but casts serious doubt on the validity of its Note 4 on p. 1333b: ‘Auch e. garble aus dem it., vielleicht über das fr. entlehnt.’
Although both G. (4.367c) and the FEW (4.277b) list this word from the later 13c. in the sense of ‘wholesaler’ (T-L simply refers to G. ), the FEW puts: ‘Daraus e. grocer ‘ (283a), without any mention of the important change in meaning in English from ‘wholesaler’ to the modern ‘grocer’, who is often a retailer. The MED shows the influence of Anglo-French by setting the first attestation in Middle English as late as 1418, much later than the quotations given in the AND
T-L does not list this at all. The FEW (4.277b) gives it as “Nfr. grosserie ‘commerce en gros’ ” with a reference to Cotgrave in 1611 and the mention ‘selten’. The quotation from the Grocers’ archive shows how the word was taken up by Anglo-French and was well on the way to having its modern English sense before the end of the 14c. This is confirmed by the AND‘s quotation from the Liber Albus dated 1353-75.
This is unknown to the French authorities, being a verb coined in England from the noun lin, and the present quotation antedates those given in the AND It is not recorded in Middle English until 1440. The MED (under linen) derives it from the noun lin, but without any mention of its use in Anglo-French a century earlier. This is a good illustration of the deficiencies in our knowledge of English etymology caused by the neglect of Anglo-French.
This is not found in any of the standard authorities, but would appear to be related to the form manaungerie ‘administration, organization, running’ used in Bibesworth’s Tretiz 24.
The French authorities have no knowledge of this legal term. It is confirmed by a quotation of uncertain date in the AND taken from the Liber Albus. The MED has mainpernour, given as Anglo-French, but not mainpernance. This is an example of the creativity of Anglo-French, arising from the development of institutions in medieval England that were not merely replicas of those across the Channel. p36
The French authorities and the AND have nothing comparable to this. The MED gives a quotation from 1387-95 from the General Prologue to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (v.381) containing the expression poudre marchaunt and attributes its origin to Anglo-French. The meaning appears to be ‘a mixture of spices’ used for flavouring.
Whilst all the French authorities have forms of this as ‘sweepings, objects swept up, rubbish’ (G. 5.491b, T-L 6.622, FEW 7.146a), none records this meaning. The gloss in the AND ought to read ‘cleanliness’, rather than ‘integrity, purity’. The word is not listed in the MED.
Although all the French authorities and the MED list pap(i)er with entries earlier than this in the sense of ‘register’, they do not have the phrase paper comun. That this was the standard expression in England for ‘public register’ is confirmed by its presence at roughly the same time as the Grocers’ example in the Register of Daniel Rough 25.
G. (5.744b & 10.272c-273a) provides only the glosses ‘partie, portion, petite partie d’un tout’ for his entries, but his late example in 10.273a, placed before a much earlier Anglo-French one from 1162, refers clearly to ‘items’. The FEW (7.675b-76a) has ‘compte partiel’ from Montauban in the 14c. and ‘compte détaillé; état de frais’ from the Basses-Alpes but without a date. T-L (7.203) erroneously glosses parcel as ‘Posten, Teilbetrag’in the following quotation: mettre en sommes toutes lez debtes de parcel a parcel, where the sense is ‘add up all p37 the debts item by item’. Parcel in the sense of ‘item’, ‘itemized account’ had been common in Anglo-French from the early part of the fourteenth century26, so the MED‘s attribution of the word to ‘OF’ is incorrect. Once again, it must be recognized that the ties of trade that bound England to France in the later Middle Ages would ensure that the semantic development of words on the continent would usually be replicated in insular French.
None of the authorities on French gives exactly this sense, the nearest being the FEW under platea (9.37b): ‘terrain où se trouvait une maison’ (1340) and ‘ensemble de bâtiments d’une ferme’ (from Percy without date). The sense of ‘house’ is attested in Anglo-French as early as 138127, with the first attestation in Middle English coming hard on its heels in 1387. Another semantic development of place in Anglo-French brought the meaning ‘court (of law)’ 28.
None of the authorities on French records this verb, so it is difficult to see how the MED can derive polishen from ‘OF & L’, unless the editors have been misled by the forms policier and policer in G. (6.263b). These are quite different in origin and meaning (‘gouverner, administrer, contrôler’). The form pollicer (continental French polir) in the Grocers’ archive is on a par with the modern English ‘cherish’ (continental French chérir), ‘finish’ (continental French finir) etc. Confirmation of pollicer in this sense is provided by the AND with an earlier example from the 14c. Oxford scholar Trivet or Trevet.
G. (10.372a, polissure) records this noun as a state, not an action (cf. netture above) ‘éclat d’une chose polie’. His date of 1539 for this is much later than the present examples. The FEW (9.127a) has ‘action de polir’, but only from 1530. Neither T-L nor the AND records this form.
This provides confirmation for G.’s tentative translation ‘Redevance payée sur les marchandises apportées?’ (6.318c) and might also be relevant to his quotation immediately preceding this, although the context given is insufficient to make this possibility into a certainty. T-L is of no help here. The AND (sub porture1 ) gives an earlier example from the 13c.
Neither G. (6.284b), T-L (7.1483), nor the FEW (2,i.324) has this sense. The MED recognizes that the M.E. ‘purchas’ has its origin in A-F29.
G. (10.466a-b) has rabattre in this sense from the second half of the 13c., but the MED is in error in giving ‘OF’ as the origin of rebaten in Middle English. The fact that its quotation is taken from the Rotuli Parliamentorum (4.257, dated 1425) ought to have signalled to the editors of the dictionary an Anglo-French connection, since the vocabulary of the Middle English continuation of this text is strikingly similar to that of the earlier Anglo-French section. In fact, the verb is found in Anglo-French in 1321-22 in the first volume of the Rotuli Parliamentorum (AND sub rebatre).
G. (10.577a) does not record this term in the sense of ‘curtain’ until 1471, but the MED (ridel) nonetheless derives it from ‘OF’, although it is found in Middle English as early as 1356. It occurs in Anglo-French in Bibbesworth’s 13c. Tretiz, with the meaning ‘rail (of a cart)’ 30 and, as ‘curtain’, in John of Gaunt’s Register about the same time as the Grocers’ example31. The FEW (16.705a) gives rideau ‘seit 1347’, with Note 8 reading: ‘Zuerst mit bezug auf betten, seit Miege 1677 auch für fenster’. The Grocers’ quotation shows that the use of rideau in the fourteenth century was not confined to beds.
G. (7.41a & 10.544b) and T-L (8.838-41) have many examples of rente as a form of income, but not as a regular, fixed payment made in return for the possession/use of a house, farm etc. over a fixed period of time. The FEW (10.173b) does list it as fermage, loyer, but only in dialect, not in standard French. The MED records this sense from c.1330, but gives the derivation of the word as ‘OF’ and ‘ML’. In fact, rent(e) had been current in Anglo-French since the 12c., acquiring its modern meaning no later than c.1275, when it is found in the Seneschaucy (AND sub rente). This is yet another example of the importance of later Anglo-French being a language of record and not just a spoken dialect. As a result of its role as a language preserved in a vast array of administrative and legal records much of its lexis has been passed on to modern English.
G. (7.133b & 10.562b resumer) has no example of the sense ‘reprendre’ before Oresme (1370). Neither T-L (8.1101) nor the FEW (10.326b) gives an earlier attestation, but the AND shows it in use in Anglo-French as early as 1305-7. Therefore, the origin of MED resumen ‘to recommence a practice’, given as ‘OF’ for c.1450, should be altered to read ‘AF’. Incidentally, G. ‘s gloss ‘p.-ê. résumé’ for his entry resumons (7.133b) is quite wrong: the word is a form of the Anglo-French legal term resommons ‘re-summons’, found from the late 13c.
G. (7.136c-137c) and T-L (8.1109-11) have no commercial examples of this verb and no examples of it used intransitively. The FEW (13,i.46b-48a) has nothing pertinent in verbal form, only the locution en gros et a retaill (47b), noting the Anglo-French a retail ‘(agn. ca. 1300)’. Since the sense shown in the example from the Grocers’ archive was unknown on the continent, the MED is in error when it gives the origin of the term as ‘OF’, with 1419 as the first attestation of it with the meaning ‘to sell goods in small quantities’. It clearly comes from Anglo-French and is, in fact, found decades before the present Grocers’ example – see AND
These are good examples of the way in which French and English forms were mixed in late medieval England. The French past participial ending -é and the French substantival ending p40 -ure have been tacked on to an English verb in the same way that an English substantival ending could be attached to a French verb – cf. ASSELYNG/PAVYNGabove.
The FEW (17.54a) gives schoppe as a Middle English term first found in French in 1358 in Bordeaux. The historical connection between England and Gascony is obviously the reason for the adoption into French of an English word, and this once again illustrates the role of Anglo-French as the conduit between English and French, in both directions. The MED attests the word from c.1325, but it is found in Anglo-French in 129232. The Revised Medieval Latin Word-List, ed. R.E. Latham (London, 1965) under *shopa attests it from the beginning of the 12c. This does not mean that it was genuine Latin, but simply that it was in common use in England and could be adapted orthographically to fit the particular language of record – Latin or Anglo-French – being used for any specific document. In the trilingual situation obtaining in medieval England, at first only Latin was used to preserve documents, then French and finally, in the later Middle Ages, English, so attestations tend to appear in that order. This cannot, however, be taken as proof of origin.
‘Tare’ is used in modern English with exactly this meaning, i.e. the weight of a wrapper, container etc. deducted from the gross weight of a package in order to ascertain the net weight. The OED states that ‘tare’ came into English from French in the late 15c. The MED may well bring forward this date when the ‘T’ fascicle of the dictionary appears shortly. G. (10.744), whilst recording the word from 1318, gives the meaning as ‘déchet survenu dans le poids ou la qualité d’une marchandise’. The FEW (19.182b) copies G. in respect both of the earliest date and meaning, going on (183a) to give the modern meaning ‘poids … qu’on déduit pour obtenir le poids net (seit SavBr 1723) ‘. It is clear that tare was a current Anglo-French term in England and used in its modern sense well before the dates given in the OED Since the native language of the merchants who used tare in their Anglo-French was English, it is highly probable that the word was used in English as well as in French. Furthermore, given the close trading links between England and France and the need for uniformity of meaning attaching especially to terms of measurement, weight etc. used in such trade, it would appear likely that tare had its modern meaning in France itself long before 1723.
G. (8.217c-218c vesteure) does not record this sense. On p. 218c his gloss ‘honoraire, salaire’ applied to vesture in an Anglo-French letter of 1421 from the English king is erroneous: the sense is ‘livery’, as here in the Grocers’ text. The FEW (14.352b) does not pick up Godefroy’s error and so fails to record this sense. The present Anglo-French quotation p41 is supported by evidence from the records of the King’s Council and the Rotuli Parliamentorum 33.
|1.||All the abundant documentary evidence in French and Latin surrounding Chaucer’s life and work as a government servant is set out in full in Chaucer Life-Records, eds. M.M. Crow & C.C. Olson (Oxford, 1966). [back]|
|2.||The English vocabulary of the archives was treated in isolation by A.S.C. Ross in English and Germanic Quarterly in 1947-8. [back]|
|3.||See W. Rothwell, ‘The Missing Link in English Etymology: Anglo-French’ Medium Aevum 60 ,1991 pp.173-196. [back]|
|4.||The fact that the men responsible for all the most important aspects of English life throughout the 14c. – government, law, trade and business in general – chose to communicate in Anglo-French on a very large scale provides a clear refutation of Miss Pope’s claim that French in England after the early 13c. was no more than a degenerate dialect ‘but half-known’ (From Latin to Modern French, Manchester, 1934, p. 424). In circumstances involving power, money and even survival no one in his right mind chooses to communicate in an unintelligible jargon. See W Rothwell, ‘From Latin to modern French: Fifty Years on’, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 68 (1985), pp. 179-209. [back]|
|5.||J. Mersand, Chaucer’s Romance Vocabulary (Port Washington, New York 1939, reissued 1968) gives the percentage of Romance words in Chaucer as 53.9% (p. 43). [back]|
|6.||J. Mersand, Chaucer’s Romance Vocabulary (Port Washington, New York 1939, reissued 1968) gives the percentage of Romance words in Chaucer as 53.9% (p. 43). [back]|
|7.||References in this article are to the standard works: for French – F. Godefroy, Dictionnaire de l’ancienne langue française (Paris, 1881-1902), (G); Tobler-Lommatzsch, Altfranzösisches Wörterbuch (Berlin, 1925-), (T-L); W. von Wartburg, Französisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch (Leipzig, 1928-), (FEW); for English – Middle English Dictionary (eds. H. Kurath, S.M. Kuhn, etc., Ann Arbor, 1956-), (MED; Oxford English Dictionary (new edition, 1989), (OED); for Anglo-French – Anglo-Norman Dictionary (eds. W. Rothwell, etc., London, 1977-), (AND). For Medieval Latin – Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources, ed. R.E. Latham, etc. (Oxford, 1975-), (DMLBS). Both the MED and OED differentiate in their abbreviations between Old French (OF) and Anglo-French (AF), therefore the repeated failure of both dictionaries to mention Anglo-French in their etymological references must be taken as implying a failure to recognize its role in the passage of lexical items from French into English during the medieval period, or as a failure to appreciate the true nature of the distinction between the two forms of medieval French. [back]|
|8.||‘bacheler’ The Romaunt of the Rose vv. 873 and 876 and ‘bacheleris’ The Merchant’s Tale vv. 1274 and 1278. The meaning at these points is ‘unmarried man’, as in modern English: elsewhere Chaucer uses the term in the continental sense of ‘young knight’. Anglo-French evidence for the modern English meaning is as follows: (in trial for murder) li encupez poet bien avoir aveke soi bachelers ou veduers (i.e. ‘bachelors or widowers’) Borough Customs, ed. M. Bateson (Selden Society 18, 1904), p. 48 (12th c.); Li quens al hore iert bacheler, Femme n’aveit ne mullier Song of Dermot and the Earl ed. G. H. Orpen (Oxford, 1892), v. 346 (c.1225); une femme voudra volunters aver un bacheler a baron pur sa beauté e pur sa bunté Casus Placitorum … ed. W.H. Dunham (Selden Society 69, 1952), p. 30 (c.1300). [back]|
|9.||This still leaves the etymologist with a problem, however: if standard medieval French did not use bachelier in the sense of ‘unmarried man’, and the modern célibatdid not enter the language until 1549, with célibataire not being attested until 1711 (FEW 2,i. 34), and with garçon not being found in this sense before 1636 (FEW 17.617a, sub *wrakkjo), what was the word commonly used to designate an unmarried man in medieval France? Gorog (Lexique français moderne – ancien français, University of Georgia Press, 1973) under célibataire gives only deslié, solu, neither of which is an everyday term in medieval French, the former being found only once in the late Remedes d’Amour of Jacques d’Amiens (G. 2.605c), the latter being attested no earlier than 1433 (G. 7.452c). In addition to bacheler Anglo-French used desmarié (see AND), using the peculiarly insular sense of the prefix de(s)-, but the continental desmarier (G. 9.345c) could apparently only mean ‘séparer des époux en rompant le mariage’. [back]|
|10.||The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson (3rd ed. Oxford, 1989), vv. 323-4. The sense is that in his legal Year Books the sergeant had all the cases and judgements dating from the time of William the Conqueror, i.e. that he knew all the legal precedents by which cases were judged. [back]|
|11.||Evidence for this semantic development may be seen in Fascicle 7 of the AND [back]|
|12.||Another development of the semantic field of terme peculiar to insular French is to be seen in the modern English ‘school term’, where French uses trimestre. [back]|
|13.||E.g. En termes avoums veu le revers (‘In the Year Books we have seen the opposite’) Year Books of Edward II, (Selden Society 86, 1969), p. 244 (1321); il est ajuggé en termes q’en accion ancestrale … (‘There is a decision in [the Books of] Terms (i.e Year Books) involving an ancestral action …’), Year Books of Richard II (Ames Foundation, Harvard University), Year 2, p. 87 (1379). None of the French authorities gives this sense for termes. [back]|
|14.||See D. Oschinsky, Walter of Henley and other Treatises on Estate Management … (Oxford, 1971), pp. 133 and 354. [back]|
|15.||It is matter for regret that the original compilers of the OED, not being versed in Medieval French, did not always interpret Godefroy’s material correctly. [back]|
|16.||Earlier examples in Anglo-French are as follows: al honurable Gilbert le Clare … et a ses heyrs e a ses assignez , Select Pleas, Starrs … ed. J.M. Rigg (Selden Society 15, 1901), p. 48 (1268);… a tener al purchaceour et a ses heyrs et a ses assignez Britton, ed. F.M. Nichols (Oxford, 1865), vol. I, p. 244 (1292). [back]|
|17.||The FEW‘s reference to a form barguin in the Lettres anglo-françaises, ed. F.J. Tanquerey (Paris, 1916) is incorrect in both form and meaning. The form (p.116) should read bargain, the sense is not ‘bon marché’; tenir bargain means ‘to make a deal/transaction’. [back]|
|18.||Cf. modern English ‘bill of lading’, ‘bill of fare’ etc. [back]|
|19.||troys baldekyns d’or de Cipre le campe bloy … John of Gaunt’s Register (1379-83), ed. E.C. Lodge & R. Somerville (Camden Society, Third Series 56, 1937), p. 110; … camp rouge ibid. [back]|
|20.||Et si ad une manere de title, qe est aukes semblable a successioun, sicum par accrés (‘And there is also a title, similar to succession, namely, title by increment/accumulation’ – in legal parlance – ‘by accruer’) Britton, ed. F.M. Nichols (Oxford, 1865), vol. I, p. 219. [back]|
|21.||qe le roule del hostel soit clos … deks a son revenir, … denz quel tens soient entrez les despens del hostel Documents illustrating the Rule of Walter de Wenlok, Abbot of Westminster, 1283-1307, ed. B.F. Harvey (Camden Society, Fourth Series, 2, 1965), p. 241 (1295-98). [back]|
|22.||The Dialogues contain two examples of the word, on ff. 5rb and 49rb: Del flasqet muscié par espirt aperceu (f. 5rb); nostre convers … Tramis de son seingnor eroit Jesq’a la celle seint Venoit Od pleins de vins deus veisselez De fust qui clamez sont flasqez (f. 49rb). [back]|
|23.||Anglo-Norman Letters and Petitions, ed. M.D. Legge (ANTS 3, 1941), p. 208. [back]|
|24.||… puis tut le fraunceis cum il ( sc. a man) encurt en age e en estate de husbondrie e manaungerie, com pur arer, rebingner, waretter … Walter de Bibbesworth: Le Tretiz, ed. W. Rothwell, ANTS Plain Text Series 6, 1990, Prologue, line 4. [back]|
|25.||ed. K.M.E. Murray, Kent Records, 16 (Canterbury, 1945) p. 14 (1353). [back]|
|26.||E.g. (The clerk of the king’s spicery) Abbrevera chescun jour lez parcelx dez toutz maners dez chosez liverees et dispendues en son office ‘The Household Ordinance of York’ (1318) in T.F. Tout, The Place of the Reign of Edward II in English History (Manchester, 1936), p. 274; … escrivera lez parcelx del office ibid. p. 291. [back]|
|27.||alerount al place del evesqe de Chestre … Anonimalle Chronicle, ed. V.H. Galbraith (Manchester, 1926), p. 141. [back]|
|28.||See AND and W. Rothwell, ‘ Faux Amis in French and English’ ZRP 109, 1993 pp.16-46.. [back]|
|29.||For a fuller treatment of this see ‘ Faux Amis in French and English’. [back]|
|30.||E chescune charet ki mene blez Deit aver rideles (M.E. ronges) au costez. En les rideles vount roilouns Par les trus (vv. 859-62) [back]|
|31.||deux ridels de soy ovesque les cordes John of Gaunt’s Register (1371-75), ed. S. Armitage-Smith (Camden Society Third Series 21, 1911), p. 189. The ridels in question form part of a gift to a chapel and are clearly meant for the altar. [back]|
|32.||… purchacer du Rey … de meyté de un scrop ( sic: = schop) en Slobirs (‘… to purchase writs of the King … in respect of the moiety of a shop in Shrewsbury’), Select Bills in Eyre, ed. W.C. Bolland (Selden Society 30, 1914), p. 3. [back]|
|33.||plusours ministres, officers, baillifs … sont de sa vesture, retenuz, covyn ou affinitee … Rotuli Parliamentorum vol. III, p. 288 (1391); firent un enquest de lour affinité, covyne et vesture passer encontre nostre dit seignour le Roy S elect Cases before the King’s Council, eds. I.S. Leadam &J.F. Baldwin (Selden Society 35, 1918), p. 85 (1394). [back]|
Originally published in Zeitschrift für französische Sprache und Literatur Vol 102 1992 pp.23-41 © Franz Steiner Verlag 1992. Reproduced with permission