Lograh (lograh) wrote,

can anyone elaborate? // linguistic thoughts

So, I was reading a discussion over in denglish about the way US citizens view France vs. how we view Germany. One person suggested the following point, which I find quite interesting:

Modern Englsh grew out of a period where the upper class (Normans) spoke French while the lower class (Anglo-Saxons) spoke a Germanic language. One example of this in modern English is in the names of meats vs. the names of the corresponding animals. Where they differ, the name of the meat is descended from Norman French (beef, mutton, pork, poultry) and the name of the animal is descended from Anglo-Saxon (cattle, sheep, swine, chicken), possibly a relict of the hard-working Anglo-Saxons raising the animals while the effete Normans simply dined on them.

So, I've done a little shearching through m-w.com looking at the derivations of the particular examples he gave and found the the names of the meats did come from french, where the names of the animals came mostly from german (with the exceptions of "cattle", which was french but "cow" is from german, and "chicken" didn't seem to have any pre-english roots). So, I'm wondering if anyone reading this has some linguistic (or historical english) knowledge they could share that would elaborate on this class-based split of the origins of english words. It's definately something I'm going to be looking a bit further into, spending some time with a dictionary and drawing a chart of which words are french and which are german and trying to see if there's some posisble class-based relation among them.

If there is such a relation, I think it would go a long way to explaining why so many people (myself included) have this prejudice of the french as being high-society and snobbish and the germans are percieved as being more working-class types.

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