First Published September 2014
Occasionally, I believe, one comes across a book that proves invaluable or useful in some wonderful way. Some such books are not exceptionally well know or appreciated, one such is the A Dictionary of Medieval Terms and Phrases by Christoper Coredon and Ann Williams.
I picked up my rather battered copy over four years ago on Amazon after spotting and exploring it amongst the collection of someone I worked with. It seemed a great idea and resource, and although its not exactly the Medievalists equivalent of the Oxford English Dictionary with every word one could ever conceive of, its still informative and useful. Yet its one of those books I unfortunately often leave on my shelf, perhaps sadly and undeservedly neglected.
So why the sudden attention? Well, whilst wading the the murky waters of late Medieval English Feudalism, some definition was necessary in the midst of ploughing through a weighty tome on The Decline of English Feudalism. Okay, so I know about the workings of feudalism to some degree, I know about alienation, land disputes and the legal complexities, but what actually is the definition of ‘Enfeoffment to Use’, ‘Disseisin’ and ‘Distraint’ ? The Dictionary provides short, sharp, concise definitions, ideal for the scholar in a hurry (and one who wishes to get their information for something other than Google).
Exploring and flicking through the book provides some more wonderful gems, with words I certainly never knew existed.Like:
Estrif – ‘A form of poem, popular in the 13c. particularly, which took the form of a debate, often between unlikely pairings. For example, The Owl and the Nightingale, The Thrush and the Nightingale, The Fox and the Wolf.’
Hushe – ‘A fifteenth century hunter’s term for a group of hares’.
Alright, so knowing such words is not going to be amazingly useful in everyday life, but for scholars and history geeks who might be delving in depth into obscure and specialized subjects of all shapes and forms. Personally, I think a Medieval Dictionary if a cracking good idea. Well worth buying or borrowing if you can get it, and a delight just to look though for fun…maybe?