Saturday, August 18, 2012
Ever wonder why the young of cats and dogs are called kittens and puppies, or why a young swan is a cygnet? After the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the French language of the conquering Normans began to mix with the Germanic language of the conquered Anglo-Saxon population. In the case of animals kept as pets, when there were two words for the same animal, the French word gradually began to take on the exact meaning of the young of the animal, while the Germanic word gradually came to denote the adult animal, making for a more specific method of speaking of the animal at different stages of its life. English became such an exact language because of this differentiation process, as new words entered English from other languages.