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10.1093/nq/38.2.151

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1

The Author of the Manuel des Péchés

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1991
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10.1093/nq/38.1.38

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June 1991

NOTES AND QUERIES

Chair', the bard who wrote it must have known
what the place-name signified, so well does it
suit his meaning.
Finally, one may note that ffranc must be one
of the very oldest attested English loanwords in
Welsh, predated in this perhaps only by the
gloss punt (from OE pund, 'pound') of about
820 found in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS
Auct. F.4.32.9
ANDREW BREEZE10

University of Navarre, Pamplona, Spain
* The English Element in Welsh, 12, 30, and cf. Saint
Dunstan's Classbook from Glastonbury, ed. R. W. Hunt
(Amsterdam, 1961). I wish to thank Professor David Ellis
Evans and Dr Richard Sharpe for their advice on linguistic
points.
10
A shorter version of this note, in Welsh, will appear in
The Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies.

MIDDLE ENGLISH forthey,
'RECEIVED LAND'
IN Middle English there existed a topographical term forthey which is of frequent occurrence
in Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, and
Oxfordshire, and turns up in some other
counties, for instance Essex and Wiltshire.1 The
English Place-Name Society takes the term to
be from OE forp 'in front, before' and leg, eg
'island', and to mean 'island in marshland'.
Lofvenberg,2 however, rightly states that it
seems 'strange that such a compound should be
so common'. He therefore (at the suggestion of
Eilert Ekwall) derives forthey from OE forp
and teag 'enclosure'.
The etymology and meaning of ME forthey
comes into new light with the emergence of ME
-they in the local bynames [Johne) atte Neuthey
(or Nonthey), [Robto] atte Nunthey and [Johne]
atte Nunthey, all in Essex. These forms demonstrate the existence of a ME they, and in Notes
and Queries ccxxxiv (1989), 7-8, it is suggested
that this they goes back to OE pegu 'received
land', identical with the abstract OE -pegu
'accepting, receiving'. Formally ME forthey
could then be a compound of OE fore 'in front
of, before' or forp 'in front, before' and *pegu

and mean 'fore part of the received land'. It is
conspicuous, however, that ME forthey is very
frequent and that; , so far, they (except in
forthey) is only attested in the above three
bynames (and as a first element of the placename Theydon in Essex). It would be curious if
a compound meaning 'fore part of the received
land' was so frequent whereas the corresponding simplex with the meaning 'received land'
was extremely rare.
The prefix in ME forthey appears as for(with the one exception of (Robto Atte] Forethey in Huntingdonshire),3 and there is actually
no reason to suppose that for- represents
earlier fore- 'in front of, before' (or forp 'in
front, before'). It is preferable to start from the
forms actually recorded. The prefix for- is used
in Old English nouns like forbyrd 'abstention',
forliger 'fornication', forsceap 'crime', forwyrd
'destruction'. These nouns belong to verbs with
the prefix for-: forberan, forlicgan, forscieppan, forweorpan. In the same way we may
reckon with an old derivative verb "forpicgan
'to beg (eagerly)', analogous to OE forcwepan
'to rebuke', fordeman 'to condemn', forhergian
'to ravage', forleosan 'to lose'. In these cases
for- seems to have denoted an intensive action,4
and seeing that OE picgan meant 'beg', we may
assume that an OE *forpicgan meant 'beg
eagerly'. I think that just as there was an OE
*pegu formed on the verb picgan, there may
have existed an OE *forpegu (ME forthey)
formed on a hypothetical *forpicgan.s The
exact meaning of OE *forpegu, ME forthey,
cannot be established but the basic meaning
would be something like 'received land', 'land
received as a result of (eager) begging'. It could
be a piece of land received under a will, or as a
donation, or as payment for some service, etc.
OE *pegu and *forpegu must be of long
standing. It is noteworthy that ME forthey is
mainly found in the neighbouring counties of
Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, and Oxfordshire. Worcestershire and Gloucestershire
belonged to the old territory of the Hwicce, and
it is possible that OE "forpegu was a word
1

See N&Q, ccxxxiv (1989), 426.
See OED s.v. For-, pref.1 8.
!
On nouns with a prefix by the side of verbs with the same
prefix, see T. Johannisson, Verbal och postverbal partikelkomposition i de germanska sprdken (Lund, 1939).
4

• See MSQ, ccxxxiv (1989), 8.
M. T. Lofvenberg, Studies on Middle English Local
Surnames (Lund, 1942), 70.
!

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151

NOTES AND QUERIES

152

peculiar to the Hwicce and that it subsequently
spread to other parts.
GILLIS KRISTENSSON

Stockholm University

THE OWL AND THE NIGHTINGALE
1335: '\>u liest iwis, \>u fule J>ing!'

June 1991

The line is part of the Nightingale's speech
abusing the Owl. Here the Nightingale seems
truly colloquial, though, of course, in a rhyming
poem with fairly regular scansion, any feeling of
colloquialism is the result of the poet's literary
skill:
Ah 3et bu, fule bing, me chist,
An wel grimliche me atwist
bat ich singe bi manne huse
An teche wiP breke spuse.
bu licst iwis, bu fule bing,
b[urh] me nas neauer ischend spusing.

J. H. G. GRATTAN and G. F. H. Sykes, in their
edition of The Owl and the Nightingale,1 at line
367 give the manuscript reading of Cotton
Caligula A.ix as licst for the form of the second 'But further, you rotten thing, you revile me and
person singular present indicative of the Middle reproach me fiercely for singing next to people's
English verb for 'to tell a lie', and MED s.v. lien houses and teaching wives to commit adultery.
v. (2), la (a) accepts that reading. The other Indeed you lie, you rotten thing, wedlock was
editions all read liest, which is certainly the never broken through me.'
reading of MS Jesus College Oxford 29.2 The
The abusive tone is paralleled in Ancrene
Caligula reading is not entirely clear, no more Riwie:6
than is the facsimile.3 When a manuscript read& bigon to greden, 'Sare bu hauest ouercumen me.' & heo
ing is not clear it is unwise to think the majority
him onswere & seide: 'bu liest,' cweo heo, 'fule bing. Nout
of editors is right: in such matters editors are
ich, auh haueS Iesu Crist, mi Louerd.'
influenced by their predecessors, by the reading [and (the accursed spirit) began to cry, 'You
of the other manuscript, and by the reading of have prevailed over me grievously.' And she
the same part of the verb at line 1335 in both answered and said to him, 'You lie,' said she,
manuscripts, even if they do not accept the 'you rotten thing. Not I, but Jesus Christ, my
validity of Breier's generalization that the Lord, has.']
syncopated or, as the case may be, unsynE. G. STANLEY
copated forms of the present indicative singular
Pembroke College, Oxford
in the two manuscripts show such unanimity
that they must go back to the common arches
After wif a t subpuncted, as if the scribe was inclined to
type.4 The listing of forms in MED confirms
write
tobreke or to breke, but thought better of it, though it
Grattan and Sykes's reading licst, so that it
would have improved the scansion.
6
seems better than liest of the other editors.
I have added modern punctuation tothetextoftheNero
At line 1335 the readings are clearer. version, M. Day (ed.), The English Text oftheAncrene Riwie
from Cotton MS. Nero A. XV, EETS, o.s. 225 (1952),
Caligula has almost certainly liest not licst, and edited
105. The other versions are similar, none has licst.
liest is what all the editors give. Jesus has lyest.
Except for letter forms, the Jesus reading differs
from that of Caligula only in lyest.
CORNWALL AND THE AUTHORSHIP
OF THE OLD ENGLISH OROSIUS
' EETS.cs. 119(1935).
ALTHOUGH
King Alfred's translation of
2
The editions are listed in the bibliography to my edition,
Boethius renders 'Hercules' as Erculus, the Old
The Owl andlhe Nightingale (London and Edinburgh, 1960;
2nd edn, Manchester, 1972), 41-2: Stevenson 1838, Wright
English Orosius uses the form Ercol, as pointed
1843, Wells 1907,Gadow 1909, Atkins 1922.Tothese must
out in Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Reader, ed.
now be added Hans Sauer (ed.), The Owl and the
Dorothy Whitelock (Oxford, 1967), 233. This
Nightingale, (Stuttgart, 1983). F. H. Stratmann 1868, howdetail is one of many suggesting that the transever, has licst and a footnote indicating that he would have
preferred liest.
lator of Orosius cannot have been King Alfred.
' N.R.Ker(ed.), The Owl and the Nightingale, EETS 251
However, the point that Ercol resembles a
(1963), fo. 235™ col. 1 line 9 from bottom.
Welsh form for 'Hercules', Erkwl, seems not to
4
E. Breier, Eule und Nachtigall ..., Studien zur
have been noticed. If Ercol is a Brittonic nameenglischen Philologie, xxxix (1910), 134.
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