Tuesday, November 16, 2010

the legacy of 1066

A while back we saw the very good movie "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo." The English subtitles had all sorts of weird translation issues, which is strange because Swedish is so close to English. For much of the first part of the movie, Catherine and I had trouble understanding exactly what the "guardian" was.

It all clicked when we realized he was the girl's parole officer. I mentioned that that right there is a legacy of 1066. All those sturdy old Germanic words still in use in the Germanic languages don't necessarily stay in English after 1066, particularly in the area of law enforcement, for obvious reasons.

So, whereas we might ordinarily have a Germanic word like "guardian," we use the two Latin words "parole officer" instead. This is why cops, even average ones, have a peculiar patois that leans heavily on French and Latin words. It just sounds more official to us.

To Catherine's great credit, she was interested in that exploration.


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