Speaking Forsoothly for Newcomers
THL Justinian Clarus, Ealdormere
1. What is Speaking Forsoothly?In the collective participatory fantasy which is the Society for Creative Anachronism there is an expectation to act in a way consistent with having a pre-seventeenth century persona. Part of this is Speaking Forsoothly.
Speaking Forsoothly can be defined as:
Speaking is such a way that 21st Century North American English Speakers would perceive your manner of speech as being from an earlier time, likely before the seventeenth century.Speaking Forsoothly is nothing more and nothing less than speaking in a way that sounds medieval.
2. What Literary Sources Influence our Perceptions.There are two primary influences which influence our perceptions of what we expect Speaking Forsoothly to sound like.
First consider this wee bit of poetry:
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.
And also this:
Hear, all ye people; hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: and let the Lord GOD be witness against you, the LORD from his holy temple.
These are passages from the Authorized, or King James, translation of the Holy Bible. The first is from the opening of the Song of Solomon and the second from the Book of the Prophet Micah.
The King James Bible was published in 1611 and is familiar to many of us. It has had a profound impact on the English language from the time of its publishing to the present day. It is an excellent study resource for anyone wishing to sound more FORSOOTH.
A second literary source has virtually universal exposure to all educated English speakers. Consider this:
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
This very famous speech is from The Life of King Henry V by William Shakespeare.
Here is another famous bit of Shakespear:
To be, or not to be: that is the question:This is from Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.
3. Some Simple Rules to Affect Forsooth Speech.
3.1 Perceive the World through the Eyes of Your PersonaImagine what our modern world would look like to a transplanted 8th Century Saxon or a 12th Century French Equestrian.
BE your persona. Get into the Persona mindset. If you see an automobile wonder why that wagon is moving on its own with no horses or oxen to draw it.
3.2 Describe the World in Terms Suitable for Your PersonaWhen you talk do not use blatantly modern terms. This particularly applies to modern technology. Nothing breaks up the collective fantasy that we are part of the Middle Ages than a rousing discussion of the relative merits of OpenBSD and FreeBSD and the applicability of Kerberous Authentication in small office environments.
Use circumlocation. That means "talking around". You can talk about E-Mail but describe it as "having your scribe send a missive to my scribe. I shall write my address upon this wee slip of paper that you might not forget it when you approach your scribe."
3.3 Never use contractions where you normally would.Data, in Star Trek - Next Generation, did not use contractions. Can't was always cannot. Didn't was always did not. No using contractions always increases the Forsoothness of your speech.
3.4 Always use contractions where you normally would not.There are contractions which are not found in normal modern English:
3.5 Never use 3 syllables where 5 will fit.More sylables in a word makes it instantly more forsooth.
3.6 Use alliteration and other poetic devices.Because Shakespear largely wrote in poetry and also because most texts we have from the Middle Ages are in poetic form talking poetically sounds forsooth.
3.7 Think first, talk later.No one has ever seemed foolish by looking thoughtful in a quiet way. I was way over 30 before I figured this out.
Think about what you say. Compose your forsooth speech in your mind and then speak it with care.
4. Practice Makes Perfect
If you want to sound more forsooth practice. Read Shakespeare and other medieval texts aloud.
Copyright © 2005 Douglas Young. All Rights Reserved
This work may be copied freely within the Society for Creative Anachronism if credit is granted as follows:
(from Speaking Forsoothly by THL Justinian Clarus. www.forsooth.ca)