Gentlemen, man your wives!

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…)


5 Responses to “Gentlemen, man your wives!”

  1. daiskmeliadorn Says:

    hey! icon from the cartoon version of robin hood! i watched that sooooooooooooo many times that i can remember the exact sound of that giggle…

    oh, yeah, and good post too 🙂

  2. daiskmeliadorn Says:

    p.s. i am TOTALLY working on my thesis right now.

  3. highlyeccentric Says:

    and I”m working on mine… snort.

  4. kishnevi Says:

    Layman’s questions: is the modern word “horny” derived from haerned? (Being a layman, I don’t know how to get my computer to do that kinky a-e bondage thing.)

  5. highlyeccentric Says:

    The OED says no, it’s not. I think it’s derived from the whole phallic symbolism involved in ‘horn’.

    Also, the word in question is ‘haemed’, rather than ‘haerned’, although the italic font blurs the distinction. 😉

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