Friday, July 23, 2010


I have made a poem about rail putters either raling or otherwise.

In French rail is rail but rale is râler. Translating râler as "rail" is really a reason to rale (at least for a philologer)./HGL


Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

One more, on a more humorous note.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Actually, I could begin to insist in cloaths or cloathes as opposed to modern spelling clothes.

Defoe uses cloathes.

A real clothes would in German correspond to **Kloden, but the German word is Kleider, which corresponds to cloathes. Just as Eiche corresponds to oak.

BUT: it is not a loan word, Geman is not the source language. AND it would now be unphonetical to spell cloth like maybe earlier form *cloath.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Oh, since German is not the source language, why do I bring it up, anyway? Because German and English are sister languages, whatever be true or not about ancestry of the peoples at present speaking them.

Belloc thinks the English descend mainly from Romanised Britons, though they imported Englisce ende Seaxne Cyninge from the Angle between Jutland and Frisia. He says English spread through Latin or Roman mission as court language of Kings supporting it, and British receded as court language of Kings supporting Celtic Church.

True or not, it does not affect the fact that English has much more words - excepting loans from Latin - in common with German than with British, and nearly all the grammar except keeping of both thorn and w sounds and the circumlocutions of present continuous in common with German rather than with Welsh.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Very sorry:

I seems that rail, though originally meaning railler - jest, down to jeer, mock - took on the meaning of râler - loose one's temper:

I just looked up OED Second Edition. A funny thing is it seems to have been shortened in a clumsy way exactly at "rail", two of the "different words" i e entries. They first give some older spellings and say that "rale" is one in sense 6-7 of noun and in sense 8 of verb, or something, and then does not give all the senses, precisely those with spelling "rale" (when not Sc=ots) are missing.

There certainly was one old verb "rail" that ought to be spelled "rail", because it means "railler" - mock, jeer, or less seriously tease, banter - and not "râler" at all. It still existed back when Pope wrote:

Dread not the railer's laugh nor ruffian's rage.

Or when people mocking Our Lord in the Passion story are said to "rail at" Him - quite as French "railler".

Examples do give to examples of the compound phrase "rail and rage" - which originally then seems to have been not at all tautological.

I wonder when "rail" got the sense I would have spelled "rale" (=râler), and if it was due to Fr "râler" or due to misunderstanding of phrase "rail and rage" (or if it was worded other way round "rage and rail").

I do suspect the religious quarrels of the sixteenth and early seventeenth C. look worse - as in odium theologicum being more fanatic, less reasonable - in retrospective, precisely for this older sense being lost.

Hans-Georg: When the verb "to rail" was, um, adopted into English from Old French, it was spelled--in both languages--with an "ai." That its meaning is no longer precisely that of the French word that was adopted, or the English word as then constituted, is pretty much irrelevant--even the most cursory review of the English vocabulary would yield a daunting number of examples of words that no longer mean what they did some years ago--"some" in that usage meaning anything from "a couple of decades" to "multiple centuries." Your point--that French now includes a different word, with a similar but not identical spelling and a meaning close to the changed meaning of the English word--is interesting, and might even be of interest to the professional linguist. It is, however, irrelevant in determining the proper spelling of the English word. There is no evidence that English made a /further/ borrowing of what you assert is an entirely different French word, at a much later date.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

To the latter, I answered:

"There is no evidence that English made a /further/ borrowing of what you assert is an entirely different French word, at a much later date."

First of all, the spelling close to râler does exist - in senses of vb4 not specified any longer in second edition of OED.

Second, it seems the limit between sense "railler" and "râler" are about mid-18th. C. That is some eighty to hundred years after the Restoration of 1660. About time enough for a usage to filter through and contaminate an older word which in English, though not French, is pronounced the same.

When Pope wrote:

"Dread not the railer's laugh nor ruffian's rage,"

he might simply have tried to arrest a development that was going towards linguistic confusion already in his time. And therein he failed, if so.

I am not only asserting râler is an entirely different word from railler (ralhar), and with the closer meaning to Mn usage of English rail, I was quoting it from English Wiktionary. Do look it up.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Debate should be accessible on

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

You may need, on top, to click "show previous entries".