Ure rumheortan freondas – Our magnanimous friends
The Dictionary of Old English relies heavily on philanthropic support in its decades-long effort to uncover the early history of the English language. In the past year, a number of supporters have stepped up with cystigum giefum (generous gifts) through the dictionary’s Adopt-a-Word campaign.
Here’s why some of them chose the word they did.
drēam – spiritual joy, bliss
In Old English, the word dream is not what it looks like, for it means ‘joy.’ This word often refers to spiritual bliss. In a poem called ‘The Phoenix,’ for instance, dream is what this legendary bird experiences after it comes back to life again. Dream is a perfect word for Nan Shuttleworth, because her unbounded warmth and profound kindness have brought so much spiritual joy to the DOE.
– Anonymous donor
fæger, glēaw – beautiful, wise
We dedicated these words to Prof. Roberta Frank, one of the founders of the DOE, on her retirement from Yale University, as she is renowned for her fierce critical acumen and gorgeous prose—i.e., for scholarship that is both wise and beautiful.
– Prof. Frank’s admirers
folc-cwēn – queen of the people
The word folc-cwen (‘queen of the people’) occurs only once in Old English, coined by the poet who wrote Beowulf. The word occurs in a passage where the Danish queen Wealhtheow has just exchanged words with Beowulf for the first time. Afterwards, “she went, the gold-adorned and courteous queen of the people, to sit beside her lord. Then it was like old times in the echoing hall, proud talk and the people happy.” We believe that this image of a magnificent and nurturing queen is perfect for Maruja Jackman, who has been such a great friend to the DOE for such a long time.
– Anonymous donor
helm – head covering
As a 90th birthday present for Prof. Helmut Gneuss, one of the original members of the DOE’s International Advisory Committee, I chose the Old English word helm. First, in addition to the concrete sense—‘headcovering’—this word develops the abstract sense ‘protection.’ Prof. Gneuss has offered protection to the project through his belief in the value of its scholarship. I also chose this word because of its close relationship with Prof. Gneuss’s first name, Helmut. This was an easy association, as English and German are cognate languages. And finally, I thought the gift of an Old English word was the perfect birthday present for the former head of the Department of English at Munich.
– Prof. Toni Healey
hræfn – raven
Our family adopted hræfn in honour of our daughter. The word sounds martial and mysterious: ‘Raven, the name of the Danish banner (with a raven figure).’ We are glad to contribute to the DOE because it will be a work of enduring value.
– Timothy Mark
hwæt – interjection
I chose hwaet because it is the first word of my favourite poem, Beowulf. Its true meaning is one of the biggest mysteries in our field. I prefer to interpret it as the imperative ‘Listen!’—drawing people’s attention—rather than as just an interjection.
– Prof. Hironori Suzuki
ides – woman
I decided to adopt the word for ‘woman’ because it absolutely tickled my fancy to think that with a relatively small contribution, I could be linked to the word forever, and that my donation would help further the work of the team that is writing the DOE. As a document for the ages, the dictionary captures the past accurately, so that hundreds of years hence scholars will still refer to it for their work. It brings together the language of English-speaking people of the past with scholars of the present—and will make it possible for scholars of the future to learn still more about our marvellous English language and the people who spoke it so long ago. Sponsoring a word in the DOE is an act of pure delight—and value!
– Wendy Cecil
īg, īge, īg-būend – island, island-dweller
I chose to sponsor the words ig, ige and ig-buend for my husband’s 70th birthday, as he is a lover of islands and we often go on holiday to small islands.
– Anne Graystone
inblawan – to inspire
I was struck by the great dedication of the scholars working on this massive undertaking. I was delighted to be able to support their efforts and at the same time honour my wife, who embodies a similar commitment and dedication to scholarship. I find such dedication inspiring.
– Stephen Bowman