Tag Archives: English

Bonny and buxom? The answer to yesterday’s trivia

Yesterday I asked what the possible meaning of the marital contract promise, “to be bonny and buxom in bed and at board.” This was a phrase found in a 1085 marriage contract overseen by the bishop of Salisbury, per the report of David Instone-Brewer in Divorce & Remarriage in the Church.

As I said yesterday, I would have gone with an interpretation similar to Jess’ offering. But here is his interpretation:

Bonny: french for good. Buxom: German for obedient or compliant. “In bed and at board” means in the evening and in meals. Board apparently refers to sideboard where food would be kept. So, he suggests it is a promise to be good all day long and to feed the husband well.

Actually, buxom could be flexible…maybe there was another connotation after all.

Seriously, this ought to remind us that when we read the Scriptures (and this is Instone-Brewer’s point) if we are unaware of the common meanings of words at that time, we’re likely to mis-interpret their meaning.


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“To boldly go…” into a split infinitive?

I’m attempting to finish several writing projects this week before I break for Christmas. I have numerous edits to a scripture and counseling article that I expect will be published sometime next year. I’ve got a couple of shorter essays as well. As I edit my work I am confronted, repeatedly, with the sad fact that I haven’t a clue about good grammar. I’m a fan of contractions. I, love, commas, and, parenthetical comments (don’t you?). Apparently, editors do not. They also eschew dangling participles (“When counselors give in to the temptation…, it leads to…” Doesn’t everyone know who the “it refers to?”) 

But, I’m taking solace in Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue. He tells me that it’s not a sin to split infinitives. Some wacko in the 1800s decided it was a bad idea and now we’re stuck with it. And since Star Trek writers realized that it was stupid to say, “To go boldly where no man…”, I’m going to confidently split an infinitive today. Um, besides that one.

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Reading about the English language for fun?

Its end of the semester time so I’m back to reading fun things instead of grading papers. Actually, I already finished my grading–I’m just avoiding other important work like prepping for next semester and administrative tasks. On my nightstand is this book by Bill Bryson: The Mother Tongue: English and how it got that way (HarperCollins). Believe it or not, this book is interesting. Maybe I’m only interested because I have two children trying to learn spelling and pronunciation, but Bryson gives ample evidence of the insanity of the English language (e.g., how bough and though and tough are pronounced so differently; why we use teller as in bank teller; how words like brave now mean something opposite of what it used to, etc). He also helps explain how the English language developed and its connections to other languages. This may be his most interesting point: that it is clear that most European languages have the same parent as seemingly strange languages such as Sanscrit. Though he does not defend this point, it seems that linguistic study supports the idea of all languages coming from the same parent.

One interesting chapter details how English words get formed (adopted from another language as English is noted for, made up, adapted from other words, mistakenly written and carried on, etc.). He tells the reader that Shakespeare gave us 1500 plus new words–that 1:10 words he used in his writings were created new by him (or first appeared in his writings). That got me thinking of my 7 year old. He is nuts about football. Each week, he asks me who the Eagles are “versing.” Maybe a new word on the way?

I’m hoping this book will help expand my vocabulary and even help my poor understanding of grammer. But, if it doesn’t, please treat me with ruth. (look it up in the dictionary) 


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