Something New Every Day: William/Guillaume
So, here’s something I always wondered. If William the Conqueror was French why was he ‘William’ and not ‘Guillaume’? Well, it turns out that the Norman people had much more German in their French than the people of central (Parisian) France. Which might explain why Norman French assimilated so successfully into old English after the invasion of 1066, because both languages owed their origins to Germanic roots so it was a neat fit. And it also helps explain why some French words ‘made it’ into English while other French versions of that word didn’t.
Here… some examples to help explain myself…
The Norman (French) word for a hat was CAP (hard ‘c’) which made it into English, but the central (parisian) French sound for that same letter was a ‘ch’ that even eventually was spelled that way so CHAP(EAU). Similarly Norman CATTLE = French CHATTLE, Norman CAT = French CHAT. All the Norman words on this list made it into English. The others didn’t. Part of the reason for this is that the ‘hard c’ was already and old English sound.
Similarly, the Normans used the ‘w’ sound but the Parisian French used a ‘gu’ sound (which kind of makes sense when you say it with a phelgm filled throat…not too dissimilar to a breathy ‘w’) so the Norman WARD and the French GUARD, the Norman WARDEN and the central French GUARDIAN, Normans were WILEY but the central French had GUILE, Normans went to WAR but the Parisian French went (Nom de) GUERRE.
And because WILLIAME was Norman he was not GUILLAUME.
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