No, wait, I can’t not blog this. Welcome to Humourous Translation Mistakes 101, or Idioms You Really Wish Your Dead Language Had.
Misreading of the day: þurh hæmedþing wife gemanan– through sexy things to man (a) wife. Gentlemen, man your wives!
Anglo-Saxon regular verbs end in –an or –ian. So gemanan being the last word I copied out, I instinctively went to treat it as the verb, and wife as the object. What sort of verb would it be? A cognate of the modern ‘to man’, I assumed (“Man the guns!”). Sadly, gemanan is not a verb at all, but a weak noun of some kind (genitive? doesn’t matter, they all look the same…)
The law code V Æþelred says, of priests, þæt hy nagon mid rihte þurh hæmedþing wife gemanan: ‘That they may not have (nagon) with/in justice, through sexual intercourse (hæmedþing), the company (gemanan) of a wife.’
Or possibly through marriage. The definition is a bit circular- hæmed is ‘sexual intercourse, marriage’, and hæmedþing would be… ‘marital activities’? I quite like ‘through sexy things’, myself.
So, these priests aren’t allowed to boink their wives, basically. Which is exactly what my Humourous Translation Mistake said, but said in a much more amusing fashion. (No one bothered to write down what the wives thought about all this…)