Lost in Translation: replenish

August 20, 2017

Lost in Translation: replenish

I like translating old English into what I call “literal today-English” because 15th century England in which “old English” belonged was like another world.  Many words have changed meanings in small or big ways in 500 years!  It is really another language.

Consider this one word in study: replenish.

If you look up “replenish” in any dictionary today, you see “to fill again” – some huge ones may list a 2nd definition meaning as “to fill.”

In dictionaries printed before 1800, you will see only one definition for “replenish” and that will read “to fill.”

Usually, the prefix “re” means to do something again: refill, remarry, rekindle.  Fill again.  Marry again. Kindle again.  But you can’t do that with replenish because there isn’t a plenish.  Plenish again?  The “re” in this word isn’t a prefix at all, it’s like record, remnant, relax.  (I wonder about relax, though.  Could lax have been something like “rest” so relax could be rest again?  Subject for another word research report!)  (And, kindle doesn’t always mean start a fire today, does it?)

So words have changed meanings in 500 years!  Understanding that makes it easier to translate Shakespeare!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart