From Notes and Queries, Number 191, June 25, 1853


(Vol. vii., p. 423.)

Latin was likewise used for the language or song of birds:

"E cantino gli angelli
Ciascuno in suo _Latino_."
_Dante_, canzone i.

"This faire kinges doughter Canace,
That on hire finger bare the queinte ring,
Thurgh which she understood wel every thing
That any foule may in his _leden_ sain,
And coude answere him in his _leden_ again,
Hath understonden what this faucon seyd."
Chaucer, _The Squieres Tale_, 10746.

Chaucer, it will be observed, uses the Anglo-Saxon form of the word.
_Leden_ was employed by the Anglo-Saxons in the sense of language
generally, as well as to express the Latin tongue.

In the German version of Sir Tristram, Latin is also used for the song of
birds, and is so explained by Ziemann:

"_Latin_, Latein; fuer jede fremde eigenthuemliche Sprache, selbst fuer
den _Vogelgesang_. Tristan und Isolt, 17365."--Ziemann,
_Mittelhochdeutsches Woerterbuch_.

Spenser, who was a great imitator of Chaucer, probably derives the word
_leden_ or _ledden_ from him:

"Thereto he was expert in prophecies,
And could the _ledden_ of the gods unfold."
_The Faerie Queene_, book iv. ch. xi. st. 19.

"And those that do to Cynthia expound
The _ledden_ of straunge languages in charge."
_Colin Clout_, 744.

In the last passage, perhaps, _meaning, knowledge_, best expresses the
sense. _Ledden_ may have been one of the words which led Ben Jonson to
charge Spenser with "affecting the ancients." However, I find it employed
by one of his cotemporaries, Fairfax:

"With party-colour'd plumes and purple bill,
A wond'rous bird among the rest there flew,
That in plain speech sung love-lays loud and shrill,
Her _leden_ was like human language true."
Fairfax's _Tasso_, book xvi. st. 13.

The expression _lede, in lede_, which so often occurs in Sir Tristram, may
also have arisen from the Anglo-Saxon form of the word _Latin_. Sir W.
Scott, in his Glossary, explains it: "_Lede, in lede. In language_, an
expletive, synonymous to _I tell you_." The following are a few of the
passages in which it is found:

"Monestow neuer in _lede_
Nought lain."--Fytte i. st. 60.

"In _lede_ is nought to layn,
He set him by his side."--Fytte i. st. 65.

"Bothe busked that night,
To Beliagog in _lede_."--Fytte iii. st. 59.

It is not necessary to descant on thieves' Latin, dog-Latin, _Latin de
Cuisine_, &c.; but I should be glad to learn when dog-Latin first appeared
in our language.

E. M. B.