Chapter 3: English 101
“And the man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky and to every beast in the field”
- Genesis 2:20
The English language, according to traditional theory, is a witch’s brew of Celtic, Frisian, Danish, Norse, French, Latin and Greek into which were blended a countless number of loan words from Slavic, Arabic, Native American and other sources. The spelling of English words is notoriously difficult with many words having spellings that seem starkly at odds with their pronunciation; a state of affairs routinely blamed on the language’s mongrel heritage and the persistent meddling of Nordic and English scribes.
Strangely, Modern English seems to have appeared almost out of the blue. Its appearance largely coincided with the advent of the printing press and with an event now known as the Great Vowel Shift. Modern English reflects the standardization of spellings (and pronunciations) promoted by the mass distribution of materials printed by highly educated, increasingly meticulous publishers. Authors in the era of the printing press were no longer free to spell words according to local custom or how the words sounded to the author; if the author’s words were to be disseminated, they would have to conform to the strict spelling and grammar rules dictated by those who were unofficially (or possibly even officially) entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the language from "corruption": the publishers, who fulfilled their duty, as they do today, with great zeal. And so, within an incredibly short time, proper spelling and grammar became the hallmark of the educated elite and a commodity that would eventually be codified and disseminated to the masses.
Modern English of the 14th and 15th century AD, however, stands in stark contrast to 10th century Old English, a language so removed from Modern English as to appear to be a foreign tongue, virtually unrecognizable as English and completely unintelligible to the modern reader. It seems difficult to imagine—even given the dramatic events of the intervening years and the unavailability of the printing press during that interval—that such a radical transformation of a language could have taken place in so short a time. Old English, in fact, appears not to have simply been influenced by other languages and cultures; rather it appears to have been completely supplanted by an entirely new language, a language characterized, not by fluidic adaptability, but by staunch rigidity.
The traditional theory concerning the origin of Modern English, however, is founded on conjecture, not scientific fact. The etymologies one finds in dictionaries amount to best guesses and often little more. No rigorous record, after all, was ever maintained through the ages for the express purpose of tracking the evolution of each and every word, and a scarcity of written text before the advent of the printing press provides little in the way of concrete evidence for the evolution of the language or any word within it.
This is not to say that the theories concerning the rise of Modern English are necessarily wrong. Rather, it merely serves to paint a more honest picture of the so-called “science” that forms the basis for the traditional theory and its related etymologies. The etymologies we read are largely the result of generally accepted conclusions based on:
(1) generally accepted facts concerning the history of England,
(2) similarities observed between English words and various seemingly-related foreign words, and
(3) generally accepted theories of how individual sounds within a language tend to evolve or degrade over time.
Consequently, the reliability of current traditional theory rests entirely on the Delphi principle, the idea that a large number of relatively intelligent, relatively well-educated minds in general agreement will typically not err in their conclusions. And so, as long as the body of knowledge that is developed remains logically coherent, where no conclusions run afoul of other conclusions, there would seem little reason to ever reject the body of knowledge as invalid.
So how likely is it that a body of knowledge so developed and so logically coherent could ever be wrong? Is not coherency within a body of knowledge and universal acceptance of its postulates proof of its validity?
The answer to that question comes from the world of physics, a science where—unlike the daunting task of reconstructing the history of a language through extremely limited resources—scientific proof through controlled experimentation on ongoing phenomena is possible. And it is there, in the world of physics, that we find that the universally accepted Newtonian model of the physical universe was suddenly superseded by the radical new model proposed by Albert Einstein. In other words, it is more than possible that such a body of knowledge could be in error; it is almost certain, and a whole branch of mathematics has actually been devoted to such proofs, to prove for example that, for any given body of knowledge, statement coherence does not necessarily imply completeness or correctness.
What is needed therefore is openness to the possibility that the traditional body of knowledge may in fact be wrong. For what should soon become apparent is that Modern English, like many other languages, is not a first order language. Rather, it is a second order language composed of a set of nomena derived from a much older, first order language. It will also become very apparent that, while the derivation of many English words were strongly influenced by externally developed (i.e., foreign) words, such English words were generally not mere accoustic corruptions of their foreign counterparts, as has been generally supposed. In other words, the English language is not the mongrel bastard traditional theory makes it out to be; rather, it is a home-grown thoroughbred of exquisite precision, worthy of marvel and the dogged preservationist efforts of its guardians.
By clicking on the links to the above right, you will gain access to Olin translations for over 4000 common English words (and growing every day). The set of words provided is obviously not exhaustive of every word in the English language, and, in some cases, the meaning of the Olin decipherments provided are unclear. However, there are a sufficiently large number of decipherments with unambiguous meanings, and they should provide more than ample proof that the Olin translations are not at all coincidental. Therefore, approximately 450 have been included in a special data section that can be accessed by clicking on the Selected button above.
Note also that, while a better understanding of the letter meanings has been developing for some time, many of the translations provided herein have not been updated to reflect those changes. For the most recently updated translations, you should check out the translations provided for words beginning with the letters s, i and e.