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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 32

XII.—Herd, Shepherd, Hoard, Hurdle

XII.—Herd, Shepherd, Hoard, Hurdle.

I now come to a number of words familiar to everyone, but between some of which no connection will, at first sight, be suspected, and yet it will be seen that they all include one and the same idea. Herd—in the sense of a herdsman, as in shepherd, swineherd, neatherd, goatherd. The word is also applied to the page 37 cattle or flock, and it is used as a verb. The other words which I shall show to be next of kin, are : hurdle, the moveable pannel of a fence; hording, the boarded fence put round a building in progress; and hoard, a treasure, with its verb, to hoard. What connection (the reader may ask) can there be between a treasure, a hurdle, and a shepherd? I answer, the single idea of safekeeping, as clearly indicated by the Saxon word from which they all spring. Horne Tooke, in his very amusing and instructive book called "The Diversions of Purley" (because it was written for his own diversion at a place called Purley), says :—"Herd is the past-participle of hyrd-an, custodire (i.e., to keep safely), and is applied to that which is guarded, and to him by whom it is guarded or kept. We use it both for grex and pastor" (i.e., the flock and the shepherd). Junius, the Anglo-Saxon scholar, to whom I have already referred, inclines to the same hyrd-an, but thinks that it may owe its origin to hyrdel (crates), i.e., in English, hurdle. I believe the primitive word is hyrde, a guard or keeper, from which comes the verb hyrdan, to guard or keep.* The thing kept, whether the dock, the herd, or the store of money, is heord, hyrd, and hórd—all, probably, pronounced nearly alike. These vowel changes I have already alluded to, and I will here add a few words to show how heord is connected with hyrd-an, and it will be seen that here again we are not without a similar change in English. In Saxon, work or labour is weorc, but the verb to work becomes wyrc-an. Storm or steorm is a tempest, to storm becomes styrm-an. Gold is, in Saxon, the same word; to spread over with gold, is gyld-an; and in English, we preserve this precise letter change, e.g., "to gild refined gold." In fact, the change from eo to y is one of the normal permutations running through the language, and before the letter y came into common use, the letter e, coming before the o, is supposed (and I think on good evidence) to have given it a slightly y sound. Thus, ceórl was probably pronounced nearly as we speak it, churl; and ceápman, a trader, and ceapscip, a trading or a merchant ship, were nearly chapman and chapship, for they acquired the latter spelling about the year 1200, or before. It has been suggested by one Anglo-Saxon scholar that the vulgar pronounciation of ky-art for cart, and kee-ind for kind, and the theatrical parent's pronunciation, "Oh, my chee-ild," have their origin in the same Saxon pronunciation. I think the reader must now be prepared to admit that in all the words which we have just had under consideration, the idea of safe-keeping lies embedded. The safe-keeper, guard, or guardian, is hyrde; in English, herd. The thing safely kept page 38 is heord, hard, hyrd; English, herd and hoard; whilst to keep safely, to guard, is hyrd-an, to herd. The hyrdel, hurdle, hording, all different forms of the same word, is the fence, which aids safe-keeping. Hoard, or treasure, is the thing safely kept. Hord, in Saxon, enters into many compounds. The king's treasurer was the hórd-thegn, the treasury was the hórd-burh, or hórd-hús.

* In the fragment of the fight of Finnesburg, Hengist is designated, folces hyrde, the people's guardian.