The old english origin of the word 'cripple' revised - ke…


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Discusses the creation and use of the word 'cripple' from its Anglo-Saxon origin in the Lindisfarne Gospels to the present.

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The old english origin of the word 'cripple' revised - ke…

  1. 1. The Old English Origin of the Word 'Cripple'. by Keith Armstrong Key Words: Linguistics, Etymology, Anglo-Saxon, Bible Studies, Disability Studies, Latin, Lindisfarne Gospels, Old English.
  2. 2. Evening Standard placard - 23rd December 2003
  3. 3. Contents Acknowledgements The Old English Origin of the Word 'Cripple'. Appendix
  4. 4. Acknowledgements I am grateful to Dr. Michelle P. Brown, Dr. Michael Boggan and Mr Peter Hogg of the British Library, Dr. Adriano Elia and Dr. G. R. Simpson (for suggestions leading to avenues of research), Ms Julie Bowles and Miss Weiyan Zhou for transcribing from the original text. I would also like to thank the many people who have helped me to live and given me the energy and encouragement to complete this article. This includes the people of Camden and my late mother Mrs. Nina Armstrong. I am particularly grateful to the kind members of staff at all levels within the British Library in Euston Road London. Forthcoming: a comparison between the work of A.S. Cook, William Skeat and a copy of a microfilm of the original manuscript, held at the British Library. ----------- I must point out that any factual errors or sentiment unwittingly suggested are my responsibility alone. The punctuation and typeface of the authors quoted have at times been modified. This text is part of a larger project provisionally titled 'Crippled Words and Crypplegates' which will be completed at a later date. I look forward to any comments, suggestions or corrections that you might be able to give. All rights are reserved. The author's moral rights are asserted. No part of this paper may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without written permission from the author. © Copyright 2013 Keith Armstrong, London.
  5. 5. On the 23rd of December, 2003, I was traveling through Paddington, a mainline railway station in London. I glanced up at a stall selling London's Evening Standard. It had a typical headline: it shouted out 'Power fault cripples tube...' (See Photo). London's Underground system had failed yet again, perhaps a sad legacy of its long-term underfunding. So what is the history and meaning of this word cripple? A quick search in Google on the 30th of May, 2003, it revealed a large number of contemporary web sites that mention the word 'cripple' in their headlines, including:     The site was briefly hijacked by US hackers . . . . <>     <>      [...] Bill Gates yesterday warned that the tougher settlement demanded by nine US states in the long-running antitrust case would be crippling for the firm,. . . . <,2763,689152,00.html> 'Cripple' is an expression that many primary English users learn in the playground.The word features on newspaper headlines, TV News bulletins and the Internet. So where does the word cripple actually come from? And what did it originally mean? A simple interpretation of these headlines indicates that in current practice the word is almost always used as a negative metaphor, suggesting presumed disaster of one kind or another. I feel sure that every reader of the English language will know plenty of other examples. Its history, however, is a long and complex one. Naturally, I first turned to the current Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and then to the Anglo- Saxon Dictionary Supplement (ASD) edited by T. Northcote Toller and published in 1921. Both dictionaries give their earliest recorded reference as: crypel; es; m. A cripple :—He cuoe æm cryple (paralytico). The Gospel of St. Luke. Chapter V. v. 24. Both dictionaries are correct as far as it goes. Their source or authority comes from the Lindisfarne Gospels of the eighth-century. The story and beauty of the Lindisfarne Gospels (BL: Cotton Nero D. IV) is without question. The text is both written in the Vulgate Latin and the Northumbrian Anglo-Saxon. Vulgate ('vulgÐris'); literally means 'common' or 'ordinary' Latin. The text came from the St. Jerome version of 405 AD/CE. All of the artwork and Vulgate script in the Lindisfarne Gospels was the work of one person, Bishop 'Eadfrith. 'Eadfrith was Bishop of the church of Lindisfarne, until 721. He penned the book in honour of God and St. Cuthbert . His opus was brought to an end by his death in that same year.
  6. 6. The long story of this book is well known, it was nearly lost to Viking raiders in 875 and saved by monks devoted to Saint Cuthbert. Later on, when an understanding of Latin was beginning to decline, a glossary was transcribed above the Latin text by a monk named Aldred. It represents a word by word translation into the Old English of the Anglo-Saxons of Northumbria in 950/970. King Alfred [The Great] had already commented in the previous century about the loss of an understanding of Latin and a need for books in English. In his rendition of Pope Gregory's Pastoral Care into the Anglo-Saxon/Old English of his time. Alfred wrote in his own introduction that: Swæ clæne hio wæs oðfeallenu ón Angelcynne ðæt swiðe feawa wæron behionan Humbre ðe hiora ðeninga cuðen understondan ón Englisc, oððe furðum án ærendgewrit óf Lædene ón Englisc areccean; & ic wene ðæt[te] noht monige begiondan Humbre næren. So general was its decay in England that there were few on this side of the Humber who could understand their rituals in English, or translate a letter from Latin into English; and I believe that there were not many beyond the Humber. [Hatton MS.] West Saxon Version of Gregory's Pastoral Care translated by Dr. Henry Sweet A slightly different translation can be found in Alfred the Great by Keynes and Lapidge. Aldred's glossary of the Gospels represents a major key to an understanding of the Old-English vocabulary. Its interesting history is best conveyed by Dr. Michelle P. Brown in her book The Lindisfarne Gospels - Society, Spirituality and the Scribe. However, this is not the whole story. On a careful rereading of the Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Supplement, I found another reference: v. eorþ-crypel Unfortunately, this reference led nowhere. Sometimes it pays to read nineteenth-century publications, even though many have inaccuracies that might not be tolerated by some modern university language departments. I came across A.S. Cook's A Glossary of the Old Northumbrian Gospels-Lindisfarne Gospels or Durham Book of 1894 in the British Library. The Yale Professor had given thirteen references for the Northumbrian eorð erypel (e/c) and the Vulgate/Greek paralyticus and both of their variants. I first tested Professor Cook's references against the first printing from the original manuscripts edited by Joseph Stevenson of 1854, and then with William W. Skeat's Holy Gospels in Anglo- Saxon, Northumbrian, and Old Mercian of 1887.
  7. 7. The first supported reference is St. Matthew Gospel Chapter 4. v. 24 - eorðcryppel. while the equivalent passage in the Rushworth Gospels (Bodley: Rushworth 3946) written by Owun and Farman (a priest at Harewood) uses the term Loman. The Rushworth Gospels also uses 'lama' and 'lam' as variants. The second supported reference (St. Matthew Ch. 8. v. 6) is _ Old English  cuoeð ðus driht cnæht min liges in Vulgate et dicens domine puer meus iacet in Old English hus eorð-cryppel  mið yfle is gecunned ɫ gecosted Vulgate domo paralyticus et male torquetur. The King James Authorised Version published in 1611, constantly uses the phrase 'sick of the palsy' or just 'palsy'. And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. King James Authorised Version. (St. Matthew Ch. 8. v. 6) While the blander, although more accurate version translated into 20th-century English New English Bible and published in 1961, uses the word 'paralysed' throughout. "Help. Sir," he said, "a boy of mine lies at home paralysed and racked with pain." New English Bible. (St. Matthew Ch. 8. v. 6) Chapter 2 of the Gospel of St. Mark contains five references. Unfortunately two of Cook's references were not supported by the published text of William Walter Skeat (1835-1912). Skeat's Holy Gospels in Anglo-Saxon, Northumbrian, and Old Mercian Versions represents a very good reproduction of the Lindisfarne Gospels for its time in 1871 - 1887. In total there are eleven e/c's and one example of the word: crypel. The general meaning is eorð-cryp(p)el - i.e. paralyticus// Cook's references were then tested against perhaps the definitive (black and white) facsimile edition of the Lindisfarne Gospels: Evangeliorum Quattuor Codex Lindisfarnensis from with a microfilm of the original manuscript held at the British Library. Overall eleven additional supported references were found prior to the initial St. Luke's dictionary entry in both dictionaries. Skeat's translation of eorð-cryppel is closer to the manuscript than Toller's eorþ- crypel. Toller does not give any reference to Skeats' transcription. Elsewhere I have found Toller's ASD to be invaluable. The OED gives no reference to the earlier word. eorð translates as land or earth. For example, in the Old English saga Beowulf the term eorð-cyning is used for king of the land and eorð-weal is used for earth-wall, mound; barrow. So the term eorð-cryppel could literally mean earth or land-crypel.
  8. 8. The last use of the word crypel (as quoted by both OED and ASD) in St. Luke does not have eorð as a prefix, yet it is accompanied by the Vulgate paralytico. Therefore the basic meaning appears to be the same. Clearly with a word by word translation, Aldred copied his text consecutively. The single use of crypel in the last reference could represent a historical abbreviation, not present at the outset of his project, e.g. telephone - phone. It could also be a simple human error. Peter Hogg considers that it is most likely that crypel by itself is the oldest form. As vocabulary tends to evolve by embellishment and increasing specificity, the compound words are likely to be later. The term eorð-crypel may have had the 'poetic' significance of someone who could only move themselves along at ground level on their hands and knees. It appears that the use of eorð-cryppel might only have been in Northumbria, although it is conceivable that it existed elsewhere. Hogg reckons that eorð-crypel seems to be unique to Britain. If it was a very ancient compound one would expect to find it in other Germanic languages, but I know of no other examples. [Cf: on the other hand, German Erd-beeren, strawberries, 'earth- berries'; or Swedish (18th-century!) jord-päron, potatoes, 'earth-pears; or the Afrikaans aard-vark, 'earth pig'.] One might ask does this give reference to a pre-Christian healing ritual related to Mother Earth' (Eorð) contained within these Gospels. Hogg states that as Northumbria was predominantly Celtic in population and language aroud AD/CE 700, the belief may have been 'Celtic' rather than 'Germanic', perhaps we will never know. Until a century ago in Scandinavia sick children (infants) would be passed through holes in trees or rocks, perhaps to symbolise a 're-birth'. However, the word cripple and its variants have a long and broad linguistic history. In other parts of Europe the letter c is mainly replaced by a k. Hence the Anglo-Saxon root is crip(p)el. Contemporary cognates appear in nearly all Germanic and Old Nordic languages. A translation from the Etymologisches Woerterbuch der Deutschen Sprache suggests that the linguistic family includes : "Middle-High-German" while krüpel, krup(p)el, via "Middle-German" from the "North- German": "Middle-North-German" krop(p)el, krep(p)el. "Anglo-Saxon" crupel, cropel, croepel, crepel. "Old Friesian" kreppel, cryp(p)el, crepel. "Old-Nordic" kryppill, krypplinger. "High-German" kruepfel, "Bavarian" kropf, krapf. The OED entry supports these references and adds further examples. The Old Frisian Etymological Dictionary gives the linguistic root as the strong Germanic verb kriapa which translates into English as 'creep'. It is considered by linguists to be Proto-Frisian (early Dutch) or Proto-Germanic, i.e. it existed prior to written language because of its wide spead early distribution throught northern Europe.
  9. 9. The Frisian Etymological Dictionary gives us many examples. Old Norse krjúpa, Old English crēopan, Old Dutch. criepan also * krūp-: Middle High German krūfen, Middle Low German krūpen, Middle Dutch crūpen, cruypen; * krupp-i-: Old English cryppan, Modern High German krüpfen 'bend'; * krupp-: Middle Low German kroppen 'bend'; * kraup-: Old English crȳpan, Middle Low German krēpen 'creep', Old Frisian krēpa 'creep, be humble', Modern Norwegian krøypa 'bend'; * krup-il-: Old English cryp(p)el, crepel 'mutilated, lame', Old Saxon crupel 'contractus', Middle High German krüp(p)el, Middle Low German krōpel, krēpel, kroppel, kreppel, Old Frisian. kreppel 'lame', Middle Dutch cropel, cru(e)pel, crepel 'mutilated'; in addition: * kreuk-: Old High German kriohhan, Middle High German kriechen 'creep'; *krauk-: Modern High German krauchen 'id.'; perhaps also: * kruk-: Middle Dutch croke, crueke, also crokel 'fold', Modern Dutch. kreuk 'id.' etc., but semantically different from 'creep, bend'. •Proto-Germanic: *kreupanaN Apart from the Baltic form, similar words appear in Greek, viz. Gr. grūpós 'crooked, curved' < *grūp-, etc., with a long vowel and yet another root final consonant. I doubt that these words are to be compared with the above forms, because the semantics do not fit exactly and Gr. usually does not share A2-words with North-European. Then there is the Old Frisian krus It actually seems possible to me that krus represents a direct loan from Latin cruc-, whereas kriose (........) is the borrowing through an intermediate Middle Low German krǖz(e) or Middle Dutch stage. The sound /ǖ/ - no longer existing in Frisian after the unrounding of i-mutated *ū to /ē/ - was substituted by the diphthong /iu/ which had an allophone [io] before dentals, hence kriose. Proto-Frisian: *kriosi, *krūs; From Middle Low German krǖz(e) (or Middle Dutch cruys(e), cruus, cruse, cruce), French krus Latin. crux, cruc-. Also in: Old English crūc, Old Saxon krūci, Old High German krūzi 'price, value', Middle High German kriuz(e), Middle Low German krǖz(e), Middle Dutch cruys(e), cruus, cruse, cruce.
  10. 10. Then there is the Germanic krumb an adjective meaning: 'crooked, curved' The word eorð-cryppel is reminiscent of two illustrations in Giraldus Cambrensis [Gerald of Wales] (1146-1223) The History and Topography of Ireland [Topographia Hiberniæ] (c.1187). Characters from the Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel's (1525?-1569) drawing, whose title has been translated as titled Cripples, Fools and Beggars, (although created much later) depicts poor disabled people who could have easily been described as eorðcryppels. I doubt that technology had changed for the majority of poor disabled people in Bruegel's time. The technology of tenth-century people with physical impairments is not likely to survive because of the durability of the materials used. In order to understand the word eorð-cryppel in the context of the twenty first-century, it is necessary to have an understanding of the history of a technology that has moved humanity forwards with a greater efficiency and of course dignity. The existence of word eorð-cryppel reveals something about the situation of people with physical impairments in the Anglo-Saxon era long before the technology of the wheelbarrow arrived in the West. The wheelbarrow, first used as a means to carry wounded soldiers, came to Europe at a much later date during the Crusade Wars of the eleventh-century. The earliest known Western visual representation of a wheelbarrow is from a stained glass window at Chartres Cathedral (96 km from Paris), dated around 1220. The oldest surviving picture of a wheelbarrow dates from about 100 CE. It is a frieze relief from a tomb-shrine excavated near Hsüchow, China. The image depicts a wheelbarrow with a person sitting on it. In the English language of the eighteenth-century the term 'cripple' was first recorded as a term of abuse in 1785. A sixpenny coin was referred to as a "cripple" because it was ‘commonly much bent and distorted’ . The modern self propelled or electrically powered wheelchair has given many people with walking impairments dignity they could not otherwise have and had not had access to before. However the historic use of the word eorð-cryppel enables us to have a greater understanding of the history of people with physical impairments. It's important to know your past in order to understand the future. These days the word "cripple" is more commonly used as a metaphor against members of disability communities. However the Anglo-Saxons used the term merely as a practical description. The words and its variants discovered are: eorð-cryp(p)il ni(s)s(e,-ne(s)s i.e. paralyticus// cryp(p)el- (cryp(p)il-) ni(s)s(e,-ne(s)s i.e. paralysis//
  11. 11. As far as I am aware there were no twentieth-century discussions or references to the word eorð-cryppel or its variants. The word eorð-cryppel does however appear in at least five publications in the nineteenth-century. Recently I discovered two entries on the excellent web site of Old English Made Easy at: Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the word entries have not been referenced. Copyright © Keith Armstrong 2013.
  12. 12. References Brown, Michelle P., (2003: 4, 87), The Lindisfarne Gospels - Society, Spirituality and the Scribe, (London: The British Library). Brown, Michelle P., (2001: 10, 23), In the beginning was the Word: books and faith in the Age of Bede. Jarrow Lecture 26 May, 2000, (Jarrow : McCall). Boutkan,Dirk and Siebinga, Sjoerd Michiel, (Eds.), (2005: 222 – 223), Old Frisian Etymological Dictionary, (Leiden and Boston: Brill). Cook, Albert Stanburrough, (1894: 31, 52), A Glossary of the Old Northumbrian Gospels- Lindisfarne Gospels or Durham Book, (New York: Max Niemeyer: Halle). Daniell, David, (2003:25), The Bible in English, (New Haven & London :Yale University Press). De Beer, Esmond Samuel (Ed.), (1955: 310), The Diary of John Evelyn, Vol. III, (Oxford: Clarendon Press). Farmer, John S. and Henley, W.E. (Eds.), (1966: 213), Slang and its Analogues Past and Present, 1890-1904, (New York: University Books). Gibson, Walter S, (1977: fig 136, 184-5), Bruegel, (London: Thames and Hudson). Giraldus Cambrensis [Gerald of Wales], (1982: 88, 117-118), The History and Topography of Ireland, [Topographia Hiberniæ] O'Meara. (Portlaoise, Dolmen, North America, Humanities, John J. and John Joseph). Kendrick, T.D. et al (Ed.), (1956-60) Evangeliorum Quattuor Codex Lindisfarnensis, Oltun et Lausanna, (Microfilm). Keynes, Simon and Lapidge, Michael, (1983: 125-126, note 4 294-5), Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources, (London: Penguin). BIBLE: (1611,1998: 11), King James Authorised Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). BIBLE (1961: 14), New English Bible, etc. (Popular ed.), (UK: Oxford University Press; Cambridge University Press). Kamenetz, Herman L., (1969: 10-12), The Wheelchair Book: Mobility for the Disabled, (Springfield, Illinois, USA, Charles C. Thomas). Kluge, Friedrich, (1963: 408), Etymologisches Woerterbuch der Deutschen Sprache, (Berlin, Germany). BIBLE (1961: 14), New English Bible, etc. (Popular ed.), (UK: Oxford University Press; Cambridge University Press).
  13. 13. Partridge, Eric, (1950, 1995: 161-162), The Wordsworth Dictionary of the Underworld, (Wordsworth Reference). Northcote Toller, T., (Ed.), (1921: 135), Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Supplement, (Oxford: Clarendon Press). Simpson, D .P., (1959, 1968: 649), Cassell's Latin-English English-Latin Dictionary, (London: Cassell press). Simpson, John Andrew and Weiner, Edmund S., (Eds.), (1988: Vol. XX , 203), The Oxford English Dictionary, (2nd Ed.), (Oxford: Clarendon Press). Simpson, John Andrew and Weiner, Edmund S., (Eds.), (1989, 2001: Vol. IV, 26), The Oxford English Dictionary, (2nd Ed.), (Oxford: Clarendon Press). Skeat, Rev. William Walter, (1871-87: iii, xiv, 67 ), The Holy Gospels in Anglo-Saxon, Northumbrian, and Old Mercian Versions, (Cambridge: University Press: Cambridge). Stapleton, Michael, (1983: 813), The Cambridge Guide to English Literature, (Cambridge University: Cambridge). Stevenson, Joseph (Ed.), (1854: Vol 28, 56), The Lindisfarne and Rushworth Gospels, Now first printed from the original manuscripts, (Durham: Publications of the Surtees Society). Sweet, Henry (Ed.), (1871, 1958: 1-2), Regula Pastoralis: King Alfred's West-Saxon Version of Gregory's Pastoral Care, (Oxford: Early English Text Society). Temple, Robert K. G., (1986: 84-86), China, Land of Discovery and Invention, (Wellingborough: Stephens). Wrenn, C.L., (1953, 1980: 232), Beowulf, (revised by W.F.Bolton), (Exeter: University of Exeter Press).
  14. 14. Appendix Bishop Eadfrith's Insular majuscule script in the Lindisfarne Gospel is arranged into two columns. The left column will be referred to as the letter A while the right column will be referred to as the letter B. Aldred wrote his Anglo-Saxon Glossary above Eadfrith's Latin script. Word references are as below: eorðcryppel: St. Matthew 4:24, 8:6, 9:6,* 18:7,* St. Mark 2:3,* 2:5, St. Luke 5:18, 4:20.* eorðcryple St. Mark 2:9, * 2:14. * eorðcrypple St. Matthew 9:2,* 9:6, * St. Mark 2:3, 2:9, 2:10. eorðcrypel St. Mark 2:4. cryple St. Luke 5:24 crypelnise St. Luke 5:1.* Underline and * = Found by Cook and not currently by the author Found by author 14 not by Cook 6 Found by A. S. Cook: 13 not found by author 4
  15. 15. Folio 20 V Col. B. Line 11 St. Matthew 4:24 eorðcryppel ___________________________________________________________________________ Folio 40 V Col. A. Line 8 St. Matthew 8:6 eorðcryppel ___________________________________________________________________________ Folio 42 R Col. B. Line 20 St. Matthew 9:2 eorðcrypel eorðcrypple __________________________________________________________________________ Folio 42 R Col. B. Line 24 St. Matthew 9:6 eorðcrypple ___________________________________________________________________________ Folio 42 V Col. A. Line 22 St. Mark 2:3 eorðcrypple ___________________________________________________________________________ Folio 97 V Col. B. Line 5 St. Mark 2:4 eorðcrypel ___________________________________________________________________________ Folio 97 V Col. B. Line 15 St. Mark 2:5 eorðcryppel ___________________________________________________________________________ Folio 97 V Col. B. Line 19 St. Mark 2:9 eorðcrypple _________________________________________________________________________ Folio 98 R Col. A. Line 12 St. Mark 2:9 eorðcryple __________________________________________________________________________ Folio 98 R Col. A. Line 22 St. Mark 2:10 eorðcrypple ___________________________________________________________________________ Folio 151 V Col. B. Line 17 St. Luke 5:18 eorðcrypel ___________________________________________________________________________ Folio 152 R Col. B. Line 5 St. Luke 5:24 cryple © Copyright Keith Armstrong, 2013