OT Norman French and Old English

Robyn Starkey rohina at shaw.ca
Wed Sep 25 18:18:10 EDT 2002

>(1)  Could you tell me how much difference there is between Norman French
>and modern French? I have a made-up word "aide ami" which means, roughly,
>"helper and friend" but that's made up of modern dictionary components. How
>would it be in Norman French? Or, failing that, in Latin?

There's a lot less difference between Norman and modern French than there 
is in English, that's for sure.
One of the main differences between Old and modern French is that spelling 
was pretty much optional in Old French. Vocab and stuff like that have 
changed comparatively little.
You can probably use it as is. Or you could make the vowels a little more 
My only query would be that aidier is a verb, and you are using a kind of 
anglicised noun form. The other option is to use the adjective aidif which 
means helpful and then ami. But that might change the meaning too much.

Unlike Old English, there doesn't seem to be an Old French online dictionary.
If you want more info, try 

>(2)   The name Aelfthryth is given as an alternative to Elfrida. Does that
>imply it is pronounced the same? My talking computer programme says
>EEL-thrith, but I think that's just picking up phonetics.

There's an "f" in there, for goodness sake! Old English vowels are 
pronounced quite differently from Modern (purer sounds, basically, fewer 
diphthongs, which means Aussies have a terrible time pronouncing it); but 
the consonants are, well, consonant. The only exception is that sometimes 
eths, which have a "th" sound are changed to "d"s because they look the 
same. An eth looks like a small d with a cross through it, while a thorn, 
also a "th" sound, looks like a p with a little ponytaily sticking up from 
it. The eth to d thing is common with words that come from old norse, too. 
That d in Elfrida may well have been an eth at some point.

'Ae' is a short 'e' as in elf or the original Elfrida. Keep the f sound, 
follow it with thryth pronounced with a short "i" as in "thrift". Elf-thrith.

So in answer to your question, is it the same name, the answer is, it is a 
variant. Like is Eliza the same name as Elisabeth. Depending on who is 
asking, and the context of the question, the answer can be yes or no.

I'm not a linguistic medievalist, but if you need more info, I can consult 
with some people who know more than I do. I can probably find someone to do 
your Latin for you - not me.


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