Blōstmfrēols and Blōstmgield

A few weeks ago Marc wrote about Blōstmfrēols, which appears in Old English as a gloss for Latin Floralia, in “Blōstmfrēols: A Distinct Fyrnsidu Holiday” (archive). It’s a good post. Do read it.

It’s awkward to admit that I’ve encountered the name before and found it interesting, only to leave it buried in my old notes and then forgetting about it entirely. Good job, past me; you dropped the ball.

Nonetheless, I don’t have anything particularly insightful to add about Marc’s post, as he did a thorough job. But let’s once again dive into the language itself because why not?

In both Blōstmfrēols and its apparent alternative Blōstmgield1This actually appears as Blōstmgeld and Blōstmgild in extant texts, but in standardised West Saxon it would be –gield. the lead word is plainly blōstma or blōstm “blossom”.2Ultimately which form appears in the compound means exactly nothing. And, one way or another, either becomes blossom through regular sound changes down the line.

In Blōstmfrēols, the second word in the compound, frēols, is actually really interesting. It is a contracted compound of frēo “free” and heals “neck”. Specifically as a masculine noun, it has various meanings3David A. E. Pelteret, Slavery in Early Mediaeval England pp. 282–283:

  1. Freedom, that is, the legal condition of personal freedom from slavery. This meaning only appears in two extant texts: the Laws of Wihtred and a manumission document.
  2. Freedom from dues payable to an overlord and/or freedom to exercise rights without being subject to the control of another.
  3. A charter granting the freedom described in 2.
  4. A feast day. “Whereas the Latin diēs fēstīvālis drew on the concept of feasting, the Old English word employed that of freedom, presumably freedom from labour.” This meaning is very active in compounds.

This word has no modern descendant, though we still have both its components in free and halse “neck, throat”4Compare with Modern High German Hals “neck, throat”., the latter of which is archaic today.

In Blōstmgield, the second word in the compound, gield, is fairly common. It may also appear as gildgeld, and gyld. It means “service, offering, worship, sacrifice; tax, tribute, compensation; guild, brotherhood; Heathen god, idol”. This becomes yield and, with influence from Old Norse, guild in Modern English.

Like Marc, I feel that this is an important name to use in place of, say, May Day, which is both rather generic and partially foreign in its name.5Or shall I call it instead fremd or literally outlandish? Linguistic purity is an interesting topic to me and something that I support, but obviously there are limits in my public postings. But we have our issues in bringing it into Modern English. Sure, we could use the Old English forms, as is all too common already, but how many people will actually pronounce the words correctly? Few at best, I would venture. We run into difficulty, though.

Frēols is a problem in itself. It does not survive into Modern English one way or another. Through regular sound change this would become *freels, but a modern speaker cannot parse this at all. Perhaps that’s not an issue. Religious terminology is naturally conservative, after all.

Gieldyield is convenient, but the exact meaning is lacking nowadays. In its obsolete modern sense, it does mean “payment, tribute.” This is not precisely the same meaning used in Old English, but it is still appropriate in its own way. Do ut des, after all. It does bring about an interesting idea regarding a quantity of something, a high yield of blossoms. This is appropriate and something in our interest, especially in these days of dying bee colonies.

Having a modern holiday of Blossom Freels or Blossomfreels is possible, but I find the lack of comprehension an issue. I propose that Blossomyield is an entirely worthwhile form for the modern holiday that can be parsed by modern speakers to some degree. It is definitely something that I should start using, especially with the appropriate time being so soon.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. This actually appears as Blōstmgeld and Blōstmgild in extant texts, but in standardised West Saxon it would be –gield.
2. Ultimately which form appears in the compound means exactly nothing. And, one way or another, either becomes blossom through regular sound changes down the line.
3. David A. E. Pelteret, Slavery in Early Mediaeval England pp. 282–283
4. Compare with Modern High German Hals “neck, throat”.
5. Or shall I call it instead fremd or literally outlandish? Linguistic purity is an interesting topic to me and something that I support, but obviously there are limits in my public postings.

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