CHWP B.16 McCarren, "Editing the Medulla Grammatice"

Perhaps two examples in a bit more detail. Agrammatus, a word of considerable interest to any glossator, is mistreated by both scribe and editor. The entry seems far from accurately grasped. Witness the variations in spelling: Pepys, Canterbury, and Harley 1000 read aggraminatus; Add. 33534 has agranimatus; St. John's (Cambridge) has agronamatus; and Stonyhurst and Add. 24640 have agramiatus. The only manuscript which allays our compounded doubts and supports the spelling as we know it is Harley 2270 Agrammatus. I stress this final point because amidst these phonetic shifts there is not only a scribal but an editorial problem: the MED has the entry "Agraminatus (read: Agrammatus)". Possibly the editor was influenced by the correct spelling of the Greek word and interpreted the i flourish for a nasal abbreviation, thereby coming away with the reading agraminatus instead of the accurate, if unexpected agramiatus. And yet, just so that I don't give a lasting impression that any of us who deal with the subject of scribal comprehension of Greek really know the full extent of the problem, consider an entry which apparently caused no difficulty to the scribes but did to some editors. We have little problem with the term Acheron, one of the great rivers of the Underworld. But interest is aroused when one realizes that only two manuscripts -- Canterbury and Pepys -- refer to the expected "palus infernalis" and "Infernus". The others offer the initially puzzling "salue vel gaude"; and Harley 1000 adds "Aue". Whether their source had it or they emended it, what probably lies behind the word is what the sound of the word suggested: a chairon, the participle used as imperative, in Greek meaning 'fare thee well', common in the New Testament as a form of greeting. Note that under C in most manuscripts Chere is glossed "Aue salue gaude".

Perhaps the most noticeably welcome and delightfully engaging technique of glossographical language is etymology. The Medullan scribes do not disabuse us of thinking that the Isidorean principles are in full and unremitting vogue. Just a few examples to carry you through the conference. Stultus a um is derived from extollo, from which comes stulticia, although stultus means 'foolish' and extollo means 'to raise up, exalt, praise'. Was the scribe confusing the fourth part of the verb sublatum with stultum, as if the principal parts were tollo, ere, sustuli, stultum?

Our etymologist (Harley 2257) continues with "costa, a ribbe", from custodio, because the ribs guard the inner organs. Just a slight oversight: costa comes from the old Slavic kosti; or if you prefer Dens, dentis, from demo because they do away with (demant) and carry off (auferant) anything, "anglice a tothe". And on the subject of appendages, we find digito, 'to fingere', which comes from decem because there are ten fingers, five on each hand. He's right there. However, the root is deik -- 'to point' (as in the Greek deiknumi). And perhaps to bring the teeth and the fingers to the proper place, the table, we are given the entry Cenobates glossed generally throughout the tradition as "qui propter cenam super funem ambulat" 'he who because of dinner walks upon a rope'. The problem is that Cenobates is a misbegotten attempt at a phonetic variation upon the Greek word schoinobates 'a rope walker', which, incidentally, does appear within the s section of the manuscripts. A mistaken etymology based upon a misspelled entry word in Greek.

By way of relief from the burdens of his work, the Stonyhurst scribe, for one, offers us a glimpse of his wit (perhaps a glimpse is all there should have been). We find Anologia glossed as 'euene speche'; also there is the oxymoronic Anelus 'ful of swenke'; then we are offered a comparative form of a preposition, anterior 'more by fore'. The legitimate aufero surfaces as 'to do awey', yet add another r and you have auferro 'to do awey yren'. Accretion favors the nimble! Also note the charming verbal play upon amabo. Its gloss is supported by most manuscripts as 'a loueli worde'. In fact it means 'please'.

Over all, however, so-called shortcomings are gently indulged when one realizes the considerable novelty in this masterful glossary. New senses and new words abound. For example, Astronomicus, glossed consistently in the Medulla manuscripts as 'plenus astris', does not appear with this meaning in the lexica. Arieto, common enough in the sense of 'butting (like a ram)', as well as 'attacking' and 'destroying', appears only in Stonyhurst and Harley 1738 with the gloss 'to bleten; -- yn', respectively. It was not included in the MED. Misclepen appears for the first time. It glosses agnomino (only in Stonyhurst), generally meaning 'to call by nickname'. The MED provides the participial and gerund uses of the word but the finite form of the verb is not recorded. Consider the Latin agnominacio (Add. 33534), glossed as eknemnyng, perhaps with the meaning 'the act of employing a surname', and hitherto unattested. The MED lists only ekename.

Acumen, in Stonyhurst, is glossed by 'sharphede', which is a hapax. Upon further looking into, 'sharphede' is found in two other Medulla manuscripts: Harley 2181 and Add. 24640, the only difference being sch- instead of the sh- of Stonyhurst. So it appears at least three times in the Medulla. Yet it doesn't appear anywhere else in the literature. The past participle avenyd, unattested, corresponds to the Latin aristatus (witnessed as a verbal form only in the St. John's [Cambridge] manuscript of the Medulla). This, in turn, suggests a new verb for the MED, aveinen, meaning perhaps 'to gather or collect grain'. Cibositas is glossed in the Bristol frag. as plenitudo ciborum; no lexicon has picked up this word, and yet how legitimately formed! There is the equally new Rawlinson entry crustositas 'plenitudo cruste'. Also consider the St. John's (Cambridge) segment cumulosus 'fful of heepys' -- a perfectly well-formed adjective, but never before (or after) seen.

Although not found in the lexica, the above-mentioned cibositas does appear in the manuscripts of the Medulla, whereas cubilo, glossed 'to cowche', is found only in the Bristol fragment, i.e., nowhere else in the language (something fascinating about that). And what about the Pepys' contribution to the language, in which 'elbowly' (not seen before) is the gloss upon cubitalis -- or to sustain the adverbial discharge, consider the gloss upon the word Cesarius in the Pepys manuscript, 'emperowrely', not known until now (and perhaps a good thing too!).

Perhaps we might even have examples of a 'bronze' Latinity (or is it 'lead' by now?) in five words hitherto unknown: Aqueuomus, read only in St. John's (Cambridge) and glossed 'qui vomit aquam'; the entry adulteratorius meaning 'qui adulterat' in Stonyhurst, supported by Harley 2270 and Add. 33534, and Allmitudo, glossed as 'holiness and beauty', and well attested in the Medulla, appear nowhere else in the language. Also unattested before this is the noun adorsus 'bygyninge', and the compound verb adegeo 'to nede'.

Note the gloss given to Abrogo in Harley 2270: 'forprayen .i. destruo, deleo'. The word does not appear in the MED. In light of the simplex preien v.(2), meaning 'plunder, ravage', and the notion of destruction in the Medieval Latin sense of abrogo, namely abolere, forpreien seems a legitimate contribution to the language as a hapax in its compound form. Perhaps its meaning might be: 'to rescind, renounce'. And to conclude, had the St. John's (Cambridge) manuscript been used, the Medulla would have been able to scoop the rest of the language by about seven years by providing the earliest date for the existence of forsenden in Middle English. The MED has the word supported by two quotations from the same text, Guy of Warwick, circa 1475. The incontrovertible date of the St. John's (Cambridge) manuscript of the Medulla is 1468.

And as the Pepys scribe would write when on so many occasions he thought the gloss too long and unwieldy ... "et cetera".

[CHWP Titles]