Sunday October 16, 2005

Norman Who?

The class I'm teaching (a traditional English grammar class) just took their first quiz on Friday.  At the end of the quiz, we wanted to have an extra credit question worth a couple of points.  I suggested, "Name two non-Indo-European languages spoken in Europe," which I'd had show up as an extra-credit question in a CS (!) class once.  The professor vetoed it because we hadn't discussed it in class.  He clearly misunderstood the purpose of an extra credit question, but no matter, because just afterwards I had a brainstorm.  At one point during his discussion of the history of English, he'd mentioned the Norman Conquest in 1066.  Sweet!  That's one of only two dates you need to know in English history.

The question on the quiz read:

What group invaded the British Isles from France about a thousand years ago (one point), and in what year (one point)?

Of the 72 students in my half of the class (there's one other TA), not all of them answered the question, and some of them only answered one part, so the totals are less than 72.  Here are the collated results, with the answers that received credit in bold:

Part 1: Who?#Comment
French 8 The obvious answer, derived from the question.  Bzzzt!
Norman(s) 7 One student actually wrote "Norman".  Close enough.
Norman French 4  
Normandy 2  
Normands 2 Students who were listening, but not reading?
German(s) 2 Nope, that's "about a sixty years ago".
Latin 2 Woke up, heard something about prescriptive grammar, went back to sleep.
Spain 2 Uh...
Vikings 1 This one's sort of arguable, given the background of the Normans.
Rome 1 Nope, that's the other date you need to know: 55 BC.
Nomadic French King 1 Hmm, I think this student was listening but not parsing.
Russian 1 ?
Greek 1 ??
Turks 1 ???
Gauls 1 Not a terrible guess, given "France" and "about a thousand years ago".
Norway 1 Almost correct, like "Vikings".  I wonder if the student's going to try to litigate for points.
Saxons 1  
Anglo-Saxons 1  
British 1 Er...

The answers for the year were all over the place.  Here they are in chronological order:

Part 2: When?#Comment
800 BC 1 Um, "about a thousand years ago"?
100 1 ditto...
866 1 Ah, remembered the last two digits!
907 1  
936 1 Lost in the wilderness...
960 1  
990 1  
1000 3 Everybody loves a round number
1002 1  
1005 4 No, not "exactly a thousand years ago"...
1013 1  
1018 1  
1022 1  
1023 1  
1024 1 A nerd guessing a random number between 1000 and 1100?
1048 1  
1050 1 Getting warmer...
1060 1 Warmer...
1065 1 Red hot!
1066 4 Bingo!
1099 1 Ah, a student who learns visually
1106 1 ...and another one...
1600 1 ...and yet another one
1805 1 Um, "about a thousand years ago"?

Of my students, only one or two—I don't remember exactly, and I'm not about to paw through all the tests again—got both points.  I have to say, I hadn't expected a majority of them to know the answer, but it was mentioned in class, and it is a pretty well-known date.  Insert complaint about the youth of today here.

Finally, I want to mention the most interesting alternate histories encoded as incorrect answers:

  • The Turkish invasion of England, 907 A.D.
  • The Anglo-Saxon invasion of England, 1065 A.D.  (Where did they invade from?)
  • The German invasion of England, 1805 A.D.
  • The Greek invasion of England, 1066 A.D.
  • The Russian invasion of England, 800 B.C.

[Now playing: "Pale Shelter" by Tears for Fears]

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Pop quiz (for extra credit points): "What group invaded the British Isles from France about a thousand years ago (one point), and in what year (one point)?" For the (in)correct and (sad but) true answers, see Tenser, said the Tensor. *** Hilarious, but... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 2, 2005 2:56:41 AM

Comments

Of course the vikings did invade England in 1066 andf were defeated by Harold at the Battle of Stamford Bridge just days before Hastings

Posted by: at Oct 17, 2005 5:19:47 AM

Yup. Specifically Norway, too, under Harald Hardrada. Presumably those two students won't realise it, but they have a pretty strong case.

German(s) 2 Nope, that's "about a sixty years ago".

Are you sure you're not living in an alternate history?

The Anglo-Saxon invasion of England, 1065 A.D. (Where did they invade from?)

Angeln and Saxony, presumably. Around 600 years too late, and not from France, but the Anglo-Saxons are at least a group that invaded the British Isles.

Posted by: Tim May at Oct 17, 2005 6:09:30 AM

Norman who? Why, Norman the Conker, of course! Or was it William? Let me think... Willy, Willy, Harry, Ste, Harry, Dick, John, Harry Three.... No, there doesn't seem to be a Norm in there anywhere....

Posted by: Q. Pheevr at Oct 17, 2005 9:38:30 AM

Ah, I'd forgotten about Harold and the Vikings. But they didn't come from France, so that's not the right answer.

Bloody vikings.

"Are you sure you're not living in an alternate history?"

Well, I consider the Battle of Britain an invasion thwarted in the early stages, but maybe. I'm living in Truman, Eisenhower^2, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon^2, Ford, Carter, Reagan^2, Bush, Clinton^2, Bush^2. You?

"...but the Anglo-Saxons are at least a group that invaded the British Isles."

Well, the Angles and the Saxons were, but isn't the term Anglo-Saxon used to refer to them after they'd already come to England?

Posted by: The Tensor at Oct 17, 2005 9:45:45 AM

I want to know more about that nomadic French king. Saint Louis, maybe?

Posted by: David Moles at Oct 17, 2005 11:06:23 AM

Well, I consider the Battle of Britain an invasion thwarted in the early stages

If they didn't land troops, I don't think they can be said to have "invaded". "Attacked", certainly, but the planned invasion of the British mainland was prevented. That said, when I replied I was misremembering the question - you could could count the Channel Islands as part of the British Isles.

but maybe. I'm living in Truman, Eisenhower^2, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon^2, Ford, Carter, Reagan^2, Bush, Clinton^2, Bush^2.

As long as you're not writing from the Japanese-controlled PSA, I don't think we have anything to worry about.

Well, the Angles and the Saxons were, but isn't the term Anglo-Saxon used to refer to them after they'd already come to England?

Technically yes, but I think it'd be pedantic to make the distinction in this context (if that had been the invasion the question was about). It's conventional enough to refer to e.g. the "Anglo-Saxon Invasion", even though the "Anglo-Saxons" aren't a previously existing group.

Posted by: Tim May at Oct 17, 2005 2:24:04 PM

On another topic: Basque, Finnish(, and Hungarian) -- ?

Posted by: mike at Oct 18, 2005 1:03:29 AM

...Estonian, and Turkish are the obvious examples. Depending on where you draw the eastern boundary for Europe, you might include various Caucasian, Uralic, and Turkic languages spoken in Russia. There's also a bunch of sign languages that aren't Indo-European, if you don't take the word "spoken" too literally.

Posted by: The Tensor at Oct 18, 2005 2:05:29 AM

There's also Karaim and some endangered Finnic languages in the Baltic states and Western Russia.

Just to show off, I'd have answered Karaim and randakeel (Livonian). Extra credit indeed :-)

Posted by: Anonymous at Oct 18, 2005 4:58:16 AM

I was going to try to be cute and say Farsi, since you didn't say languages NATIVE to Europe, but then I realized that Farsi is about the archetype of "Indo-European". D'oh!

Uh, Japanese? I'm sure it's spoken somewhere...

Posted by: Pious Agnostic at Oct 18, 2005 1:19:13 PM

The question really meant "originating in Europe" (or maybe "originating in the geographical area now called Europe"), rather than "spoken in Europe at this moment", because there are a lot of non-IE language with at least one speaker in Europe.

Posted by: The Tensor at Oct 18, 2005 1:40:37 PM

What, am I the only one living in a world where Wintergreen is president?

I'm particularly interested in the Russian invasion of England in 800 B.C.; it pushes Russian history back as dramatically as the decipherment of Linear B did Greek. No wonder there's such affinity between Irish and Russian drinking habits!

Posted by: language hat at Oct 20, 2005 7:48:35 AM

(Here from NHW.)

If someone would ask me the two languages question, I'd answer Sydsamiska and Lulesamiska.

Posted by: Therese Norén at Oct 24, 2005 9:24:18 AM