Watching the news of a pretty amazing Saxon hoard in Staffordshire, England (or, in earlier days, Mercia) has made Ety think of some other Saxon heritage.

One fun thing that the Saxons did was to pronounce the letters ‘sc‘ the way we would pronounce ‘sh‘.

So, for a start, from the Greek word episkopos (a sort of elder or supervisor, which was how early Christians described the church leaders in cities like Ephesus or Rome) we get the Late Latin episcupus. Take off the ‘e‘ and the ‘us‘ and you’re close to the Old English word bisceop. And of course, if you were a Saxon, how would you have pronounced bisceop? See what they did there?

But that’s not where the fun ends. We’ve also got our own Saxon hoard of words which have interchanged ‘sc‘ and ‘sh‘. Ask yourself this:

What do you call a bunch of fish together? A shoal or a school?

Why is a ship run by a skipper?

Why is the land’s shape described as a landscape?

Is it possible to look both scabby and shabby?

You won’t see that lot stuck in an exhibit.



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2 responses to “Saxonics

  1. “Skipper” is the Dutch word for shipowner, which means more than “shipper” does. The skipper is even above the captain–though underway the captain can usually overrule the owner, and in harbor a pilot can overrule them both.

    • etymol

      Hi Roger. Very interesting – thanks. Do you happen to know where the Dutch ‘skipper’ came from? Given Saxon roots in and around that part of Europe, perhaps there’s a common origin?

      Let me know? Thanks,


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