The Wordhord: Daily Life in Old English

Princeton Univ. Apr. 2022. 296p. retold by . ISBN 9780691232744. $19.95. REF
Ye Olde Englishe this is not: Videen, who has been sharing actual Anglo-Saxon words via Twitter (@OEWordhord) for almost 10 years, devotes her first chapter of this collection of Old English to distinguishing the real from the signboard version. She also offers a concise history of the origins of today’s English, from the Romans’ departure to the first Plantagenet, ca. 450–1150 CE. Subsequent chapters explore the lives of the earliest English speakers, creators of Beowulf: their diet, leisure, education, work, beliefs, social relations, and more. This early medieval world contains etymological glimpses of later periods. At the end of each chapter, Videen lists the words encountered, their meaning, and (probable) pronunciation. Despite the esoteric content, the prose is engaging, conversational, humorous, and full of surprising revelations: Who would have guessed that the word “lady” derives from “bread-maker”? The source list will inspire further research.
VERDICT A specialized but delightful book that is essential for undergraduate students of linguistics, literature, and history and will appeal to anyone with a yen for history or language.
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