Friday, February 29, 2008

Calling all philologists

I'm editing another text, this one a short one that shouldn't take me any time at all, but will net me $200. (Dude, I will have made $1000 this year for editing ME texts. I *knew* that Ph.D. would pay off someday!) [Maybe it's crass to talk about the money, but I really wanted to set up for that last remark! Te-hee!]

Anyway, it *shouldn't* take me any time, except there's this one weird word that keeps popping up all over the text and it's driving me nuts. The word is variably veserne(s) or vesene(s) (although more frequently the former). Other editors of this text have glossed it as "mask(s)," which makes sense in context, and I'm happy to go with that if I must, but I'd really like to find out for myself. I can't find it in either the MED or the OED (this is a text dated precisely 1433, btw, and it's from the North), but maybe I haven't thought of enough alternative spellings. For the record, though, I searched the MED for "v?rs?n*" and "v?s?n*" -- although maybe I should've used asterisks instead of question marks. All I want is some confirmation that it means or could mean "mask."

Any ideas where I should go next? Any other help/suggestions you can offer? Oh, and also, I'm supposed to modernize the spelling of the text -- what would I modernize this word to?


Prof. de Breeze said...

I think the word you're looking for is visern(e). Here's a link to the relevant MED page:

I think "vizard" would be one way to modernize the word, though it's hardly a common word. Maybe "visor," but that could lead to some confusion.

Hope this helps.

Karl Steel said...

Perhaps visor. Just did a search of veserne in google might want to check a historical Norwegian or Danish dictionary? this is also intriguing.

Anonymous said...

Or it might be linked to the medieval French vesanie, with the Latin root vesania, although I agree that neither vizard nor visor conveys the right sense of the word.


Dr. Virago said...

thanks everyone!

Prof. de Breeze - that does sound like the relevant ME word, though I'm not sure why it didn't come in my own searches. Hmph. Maybe I mistyped something.

And to all -- yes, I was wondering if it was related to "visor." That word is also used to mean mask in ME and I thought about that as the 'modernized' version of "veserne," but like you all, I came to the conclusion that that's not quite the right meaning in modern English. It seems better to me to regularize it to "viserne" and gloss it.

And Karl, that Indiana usage you linked to is rather bizarre! Where on earth did that come from? Ah, the wonders of Google books. But I'm thinking, along the suggestions of Prof. de B and Barb, that the word has Latinate/Romance root, not a Germanic one, despite the fact that there are towns named "Vesene" and "Versene" in Germanic language speaking countries.

Karl Steel said...

Wonders of google books indeed. It makes me want to translate it as 'wheel,' and from that to 'halo.'