The most interesting words are those that have survived from Middle English or from Tudor English times. Examples are aigre, sour, tart, which is Shakespeare’s eagre, Hamlet, I, v 69; ambry, aumbry, cupboard, spelt almarie in Piers the Plowman, B XIV 246; arain, a spider, spelt yreyn in Wyclif’s translation of Psalm XC 10, which, after all, is less correct; arles, money paid on striking a bargain, a highly interesting word, spelt erles in the former half of the thirteenth century; arris, the angular edge of a cut block of stone, etc., from the O.F. areste, L. arista, which has been revived by our Swiss mountain-climbers in the form arete; a-sew, dry, said of cows that give no milk (cf. F. essuyer, to dry); assoilyie, to absolve, acquit, and assith, to compensate, both used by Sir W. Scott; astre, aistre, a hearth, a Norman word found in 1292; aunsel, a steelyard, of which the etymology is given in the E.D.D.; aunter, an adventure, from the A.F. aventure; aver, a beast of burden, horse, used by Burns, from the A.F. aveir, property, cattle; averous, A.F. averous, avaricious, in Wyclif’s translation of 1 Cor. vi 10.
Here is ample proof of the survival of Anglo-French in our dialects. Indeed, their chief philological use consists in the great antiquity of many of the terms, which often preserve Old English and Anglo-French forms with much fidelity. The charge often brought against dialect speakers of using “corrupt” forms is only occasionally and exceptionally true. Much worse “corruptions” have been made by antiquaries, in order to suit their false etymologies.
LATER HISTORY OF THE DIALECTS
With the ascendancy of East Midland, and its acceptance as the chief literary language, the other dialects practically ceased to be recorded, with the exception (noted above) of the Scottish Northumbrian. Of English Northumbrian, the sixteenth century tells us nothing beyond what we can glean from belated copies of Northern ballads or such traces of a Northern (apparently a Lancashire) dialect as appear in Spenser’s Shepherd’s Calendar. Fitzherbert’s Boke of Husbandry (1534) was reprinted for the E.D.S. in 1882. It was written, not by Sir Anthony Fitzherbert, as I erroneously said in the Preface, but by his brother, John Fitzherbert, as has been subsequently shown. It contains a considerable number of dialectal words. Thomas Tusser (1525-1580), born in Essex, wrote A Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandrie (1557), and Fiue Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie (1573); see the edition by Payne and Herrtage, E.D.S., 1878. He employs many country words, presumably Essex. The dialect assumed by Edgar in Shakespeare’s King Lear is not to be taken as being very accurate; he talks somewhat like a Somersetshire peasant, but I suppose his speech to be in a conventional stage dialect, such as we find also in The London Prodigall, Act II, Sc. 4, where Olyver, “a Devonshire Clothier,” uses similar expressions, viz. chill for Ich will, I will; and chy vor thee, I warn thee.