Speakeasy forum

General discussion

Utterly non-political post about language and how far back

by Ziks511 / November 2, 2008 7:44 PM PST

it can go.

Thanks to the J.K.Rowling Harry Potter books and movies the American audience has been introduced to the word "git", a noun, meaning a worthless person, or someone one doesn't like, or even in a friendly fashion like "You stupid git, why did you do that?" This has been quite common in lower class speech in Britain for decades, and as Estuarine English comes to dominate England "git" has spread. Now Estuarine English is English derived from the Thames Estuary area, specifically the East End of London and adjoining parts of Essex and Kent. It is rapidly becoming the dominant dialect and source of new words.
But "git" is not a new word. It's been around for not just centuries but for a millenium and a half. It appears in Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon poem where some character is referred to as a "geat" and in this case it means a Goth, someone from the area of Sweden around Gothenburg (pronounced Yuttaburra just to show how obscure some of this stuff can get). Beowulf was composed in the 7th century ACE, and the Norse, Scandinavians and northern Germans wandered all over northern and central Europe building cities and organizing kingdoms as they went. The Rus were Vikings that settled near Moscow creating the Russians. Rus means Red haired or Red bearded. the Vikings sailed all the way down the Dnieper and founded Kiev, they also organized (insofar as that is possible) Ireland and founded Dublin. They ran the Hebrides for centuries, and controlled the central part of Britain as a kingdom called the Danelaw, which means exactly what it says.
They also were the first people to hold Parliaments or moot-courts, the oldest of these in Iceland, but a common occurrence in Britain from the 8th Century on. As I suppose everybody here knows many of the shire or county names in Britain come from North German or Scandinavian origins. The East Saxons (Essex) the Middle Saxons (Middlesex) and the South Saxons (Sussex) are fairly obvious, but the North Folk and the South Folk (Norfolk and Suffolk, and the generic area of East Anglia (from the Angles) are from Germanic and Danish tribal groupings and York, the heart of the Danelaw was once Jorvik, and much of it can be seen today as the archaeology has been exposed and is being kept preserved showing the plank roads and the building outlines having been built on a marsh and thus having been preserved. For those like Jonah who came from there he will have learned about King Canute (actually Knut which is still a Scandinavian first name) who in order to rebuke an overly flattering courtier walked into the sea and told the tide to stop. It didn't and something unpleasant happened to the courtier who said it would. Knut was a wise old bird, and kept his kingdom together, but in doing so contributed to the complications that attended 1066 and the Viking/Norman (viz. North man or Viking) invasions. Sweyn Forkbeard (think Sven) sounds like he's straight out of J.R.R.Tolkein, who was a specialist in Northern European languages and Icelandic, lost to Harold Godwinson in the north, but Harold then had to march his army all the way from Yorkshire to Hastings on the south coast, and couldn't quite hold it all together against Willie the Conk (William the Conqueror).

So the next time you watch Harry Potter with the kids, you can pause on the word "git" and bore them silly with its explanation.


Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: Utterly non-political post about language and how far back
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: Utterly non-political post about language and how far back
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
Collapse -
Of course "git" is a verb in parts here
by Steven Haninger / November 2, 2008 7:58 PM PST

and seems to have Appalachian origins. I remember being amused by a gas station brand years back called "Gas-and-Go". There was a similar brand I saw in Ripley W.Va. called "Pit-'n-Git". I don't think folks there would buy the Harry Potter definition. Happy

Collapse -
"Now, git." was a phrase I heard in Virginia in my youth.
by Ziks511 / November 3, 2008 7:54 AM PST

That's why I made the point that the noun was quite different in its usage. I've heard it used up here in Canada among my son's friends, who all learned it from Harry Potter, and I'd bet there are Harry Potter addicts in the US who have picked up on the usage. Kids are always on the lookout for put-downs that don't bring down parental wrath for bad language, and enjoy having a private language that only they and their friends understand.

It just blows me away that a word can persist for that incredible length of time.


Collapse -
Right about now you're slapping your head, saying,
by drpruner / November 3, 2008 4:30 PM PST

"How could I have forgotten 'Git 'er done!'?" Happy

Collapse -
A quibble ...
by Bill Osler / November 3, 2008 9:23 AM PST

Why in the world would you want to talk about "7th century ACE"? Even if you insist on an alternative to BC/AD why use the really obscure ACE form? Why not just CE?

FWIW: I confess I have not seen an explanation for "ACE" that makes any sense to me. The one I found (After Christian|Common Era) is obviously absurd since we have not (yet) passed into a time period after the "Common Era". Perhaps sometime after the Apocalypse or whatever world changing event people will look back on today's "Common Era" and refer to their time as "After the Common Era" but that day has not yet come.

Kenneth G. Wilson (1993). "The Columbia Guide to Standard American English". Retrieved on 2007-12-13. "Most conservatives still prefer A.D. and B.C. Best advice: don?t use B.C.E., C.E., or A.C.E. to replace B.C. and A.D. without translating the new terms for the very large number of readers who will not understand them. Note too that if we do end by casting aside the A.D./B.C. convention, almost certainly some will argue that we ought to cast aside as well the conventional numbering system itself, given its Christian basis."

Collapse -
Yep, even those crazies at the Watchtower
by drpruner / November 3, 2008 1:18 PM PST
In reply to: A quibble ...

use C.E. and B.C.E. Happy

Collapse -
Thanks Dr. Bill. CE and ACE have become common
by Ziks511 / November 3, 2008 4:27 PM PST
In reply to: A quibble ...

in professional literature, historical and archaeological, and I used it without thought. You are correct that it is currently obscure, but it is part of my personal common lexicon. Next time I'll spell it out more clearly. Thank you for the correction.


Collapse -
(NT) so BC and AD got PCd
by jonah jones / November 3, 2008 7:42 PM PST
In reply to: A quibble ...
Collapse -
The first time I heard the acronyms BCE and the Common Era
by Ziks511 / November 4, 2008 2:01 PM PST
In reply to: so BC and AD got PCd

was during a series of programs on Israel presented by Abba Eban in the 1970's. I was irritated at the time, but I have though about it and there is no reason A. to abandon a useful if arbitrary divider, and B. there is no reason to impose a reference to Christianity when there are masses of people for whom Christianity is not the primary referent.

It's too easy to label changes as "I guess they're not PC anymore." I don't like PC changes any more than anybody else but the impostition of Christian referents is a consequence of the British Empire, and the religious beliefs of many of the early archaeologists from all European countries and the United States. I can't argue with it because it doesn't make sense to me that Christian referents should be retained in the face of more neutrally phrased ones.


Collapse -
(NT) Aww ... garn!
by drpruner / November 3, 2008 1:19 PM PST
Collapse -
British for "Aw, go on. all rolled together by the polyglot
by Ziks511 / November 4, 2008 2:15 PM PST
In reply to: Aww ... garn!

East End of London, much of it derived from an Anti-comprehensible language among the criminal classes. Some of that argot was Yiddish, some of it was rhyming slang (Yeh, wot you want, I half-inched. it right. Half-inched rhymes with pinched, meaning to steal.)

They still say "Look a' i'. Good schmuttah!!" schmatter (Jonah please correct my spelling) is the Yiddish word for cloth and is still in common usage in the open markets in London.

All of this is from that area that underlies and has preserved Estuarine English, Barking, Seven Dials, Romford, Ilford, Stratford. YOu may pick up Shakespeare and find it hard to read, but go to the East End and try to understand what the people are saying right now. It's very difficult.


Collapse -
Old Brit movie about council flats called
by drpruner / November 4, 2008 4:23 PM PST
Sparrows Can't Sing.
I still remember that it was in English- with subtitles! (In the original print, not just for us Yanks.)
Collapse -
Words aren't always pronounced as written or
by Steven Haninger / November 3, 2008 8:21 PM PST

written as pronounced. This becomes more evident when studying a foreign language or reading older works by foreign authors. I remember struggling to pronounce "Goethe" in school while reading it aloud for the first time. Phonetically, it comes out like the command to "go forth...".

I've used this site




to help when Alex Trebek isn't around. Happy

Collapse -
Don't beat yourself up. Trebek's got people. :-)
by drpruner / November 4, 2008 1:11 PM PST

Thanks for the links.

Collapse -
Watch it, he's Canadian. He used to run the High School
by Ziks511 / November 4, 2008 2:21 PM PST

Reach for the Top in Toronto.


Collapse -
(NT) They're everywhere!!
by drpruner / November 4, 2008 4:21 PM PST
Collapse -
(NT) Gur-tuh is what I heard, and what I knew before.
by drpruner / November 4, 2008 1:14 PM PST
Collapse -
You take the first two letters of the word girl, try to lose
by Ziks511 / November 4, 2008 2:26 PM PST

the r, so it becomes "Guh", then add "tuh" pronounced the same way.

All those annoying German words, Goering, Goebbels have that same 'uh' that is almost an ooh sound but not.


Collapse -
My dad taught me very early not to make fun of anybody's
by Ziks511 / November 4, 2008 2:18 PM PST

pronunciation, because "They probably know more than you do, they just learned it from books."


Popular Forums

Computer Newbies 10,686 discussions
Computer Help 54,365 discussions
Laptops 21,181 discussions
Networking & Wireless 16,313 discussions
Phones 17,137 discussions
Security 31,287 discussions
TVs & Home Theaters 22,101 discussions
Windows 7 8,164 discussions
Windows 10 2,657 discussions


Your favorite shows are back!

Don’t miss your dramas, sitcoms and reality shows. Find out when and where they’re airing!