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We Looked It Up. Brayn Wende Fuzzy.

, , , , , , | Learning | May 19, 2021

I am taking a course on Middle English. It is very different from modern English, especially in its pronunciation. Seriously, nearly every letter in the alphabet was pronounced differently than now. Look up Chaucer or “Sir Gawain And The Green Knight” in its original form if you’re curious, especially an audio version, and prepare to not understand a word of it.

I am preparing for a written test later this week, for which we have to learn a long list of Middle English pronouns and verb tenses. (Another fun fact: these varied depending on the region, so there were a LOT more of them than nowadays.) For me, the easiest way to learn lists like this is to repeat them out loud until I can recite the entire thing without looking at the paper. Pacing or walking in circles also helps, and if I can find a sort of rhythm to the list, it becomes even easier.

So, there I am, walking circles around my room, repeating Middle English words in an almost chanting sort of way. I’m home alone and it’s warm, so I’ve left the door to my room open. I’m so in the studying zone, I don’t hear the front door open, nor the footsteps on the stairs nearing my door.

Me: “He, heo, theo, tho, thei…”

Suddenly, my housemate appears in my doorway, looking bewildered.

Housemate: “What are you doing?”

I’m thrown out of my rhythm, and the adjustment is difficult enough that my reaction isn’t the most helpful.

Me: “What does it look like?”

My housemate looks at the paper in my hand and the space I’ve cleared for pacing.

Housemate: “Summoning demons?”

Everything finally clicks in my mind. I realize how odd I must’ve looked to him, walking in circles and chanting in a strange language, and I burst out laughing. [Housemate] joins in, and when we’re done, I wave the paper at him.

Me: “Summoning demons is Latin; this is Middle English.”

I then explained that this was my way of studying. He seemed reassured that he did not share living space with a demon-worshipper, and I even aced that test. But I did try to study a little quieter after that, especially after I started studying Old English.

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