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1st of August, 2005 POST·MERIDIEM 09:35

For the German-speakers among my readers; this is from William Caxton, quoted in Otto Jespersen, Growth and structure of the English language  (which is, by the by, heavily leavened by some of the craziest sexism I’ve seen, but is still an excellent book for all that):

“And certaynly our langage now used varyeth ferre from that whiche was used and spoken when I was borne. For we englysshe men ben borne under the domynacyon of the mone, whiche is never stedfaste, but ever waverynge, wexynge one season, and waneth and dyscreaseth another season. And that comyn englysshe that is spoken in one shyre varyeth from a nother. In so moche that in my dayes happened that certayn marchauntes were in a shippe in tamyse, for to have sayled over the see into zelande. And for lacke of wynde, thei taryed atte forlond, and wente to lande for to refreshe them. And one of theym named sheffelde, a mercer, cam in-to an hows and axed for mete; and specyally he axyd after eggys. And the goode wyf answerde, that she coude speke no frenshe. And the marchaunt was angry, for he also coude speke no frenshe, but would have hadde egges, and he understode hym not. And thenne at laste a nother sayd that he wolde have eyren. Then the good wyf sayd that she understod hym wel. Loo, what sholde a man in thyse dayes now wryte, egges or eyren. Certaynly it is harde to playse every man, by case of dyversite and chaunge of langage.”

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