Saturday, 25 June 2016

Eggs, egges and eyren

What do Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1343 - 1400) and William Caxton (1422 - 1491)  have to do with egges, eyren or eggs? 
MedievalMorsels makes 1/12th scale geese eggs for a Tudor dollshouse

One inch scale duck eggs for  Medieval diorama
Well, Caxton introduced the first printing press into England in 1490 and he printed Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, previously available only as bound as manuscript volumes, in the same year. Because of the diverse regional dialects spoken cross England it was difficult for Caxton to choose which Middle English word to use in his printed books, aimed at all readers.  
1:12 miniature food - hen, pheasant, duck and goose eggs
Caxton illustrates this point in his own book, telling of a misunderstanding about eggs...

Travelling merchants from the north of England ask to buy " egges" from a woman from southern England (tending poultry and selling eggs was a female only occupation, as was dairying) but she is unable to understand them. In fact tells them that she speaks no "French". Egges is a word that derives from Old Norse and it is only when they offer the word "eyren" derived from Old English that both parties come to understand each other.
One inch scale dollshouse hen's eggs by MedievalMorsels
Caxton had to decide which dialect words to choose to set in print and, as an article by the British Library tells us, he opted for a London dialect "aimed at a clerke and noble gentylman". 

Effectively he chose Chaucer's mother dialect, the renowned author lived in London, so it is largely owing to Chaucer and Caxton that our present spoken English language, derived from this emerging form of standardised Middle English, sounds as it does.

MedievalMorsels sells a dozen loose 12th scale hens eggs for your dollshouse kitchen as well as duck, goose, pheasant eggs , and also quail eggs - all for the one inch scale period or modern dollhouse. Colours are hand blended and speckles are painstakingly added to some of the eggs (nah - I use tea dust to roll the eggs in!).