How is the name for one's own language created?
Supposedly, it is a corruption of
Oddly (and perhaps confusingly), the name the Celtic-speaking residents used to refer to the invaders (and later Normans used for their English-speaking subjects) was "Saxons". Often formally "Anglo-Saxon" was used instead. Also, the modern language found to be closest to English is Frisian. Sadly, the Jutes get no such lasting recognition, except from historians.
This map from Wikipedia shows the supposed original invasion area in Kent, with a proposed tribal makeup.
The speculation is that the language started out as a sort of pidgin between the various German tribal languages. This is the theory for why the the word gender rules that a lot of other Germanic languages require were dropped.
According to Dictionary.com:
And for "Angle" (link above):
Although @drm65 and @T.E.D. have given correct answers to the original question, I thought I would deal with the “not Angles but Angels” reference raised in the comments on the question by @Joe Blow.
The “not Angles but Angels” story has no bearing on the derivation of “English,” but it is a real story related by Bede in The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, book 2, chapter 1, near the end of the chapter. Bede relates a story concerning Pope Gregory the Great encountering some English slaves for sale in the marketplace at Rome (this was before he became Pope himself, though). When told that they were pagans, he said:
Which translates as:
The exact phrase “non angli sed angeli” does not appear in the original Latin as you can see; it is a later distillation of the basic sentiment into a more succinct construction.
The original is much more fun than this translation; it’s basically an opportunity for Gregory — or for Bede — to show off his Latinity by making some amusing puns. I’m not fully familiar with how the story has been received in the centuries since Bede wrote, but as Joe Blow’s reference demonstrates, it retains some limited currency even today.
Lastly, note that it is not certain that the incident occurred, or if it did, that this is an accurate report. Fair and unbiased reporting of history was not a high priority for Bede, who was after all writing an ecclesiastical history connecting England more firmly to the rest of Christendom.
protected by Daniel δ Feb 6 '12 at 1:03
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