Saturday, December 02, 2006

More about Nursery Rhymes

Children's songs and nursery rhymes are a great way to discover the history and culture of a country. They are easy to find on the internet and some sites even have midi files so you can hear the melody.

Going back to one of my favourite subjects - that of the influence of Norman French on the English language, I discovered some interesting words in my daughter's book of Nursery Rhymes.

One had two words that rhyme nicely : to apprise and assizes. Both these words have the sound /ai/ that sounds like "eye".

the first word means "to make something known, give information". If you are French speaker you will see that it is derived from the past participle of the verb "apprendre" - to learn/teach.

The second word is still in use in Scotland, and is a legal term that comes from French "assise" which means "seated" or "sitting" and refers to a court of law. The English equivalent, "a sitting" is slightly more general, it can be a legal hearing, but also what someone does when they are posing for a portrait or photograph.

I also found the word "comfit". If I pronounce it, you would find it hard to find its French root. But the context of the nursery rhyme would help you - it talks about different types of food found on board a ship, and is immediately followed by "apples". So it is the anglicised version of "confit" which is a kind caramelised fruit or other sweet. In French it can also be used for meat, in the South West "confit de canard" (duck) is a traditional dish.

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