Macclesfield Psalter (PA)

The other day I was watching a documentary about the Apollo 8 mission to the moon. It was the first time that Earthlings had ever left the orbit of Earth to journey out into the space beyond and When the command module reached the moon on Christmas Eve the astronauts were asked by NASA to address the people of the Earth with a Christmas greeting from the moon. After having carefully considered what they might say the astronauts decided to read from the Book of Genesis rather than attempt to write their own words… and that got me thinking about what the oldest words ever remembered or uttered by humans might be.

So I did a little research and some Googling and discovered that a British Research team from the University of Cambridge had already embarked upon and completed such a study way back in 2012! Lucky me! All I had to do was research their research and here is what I found:

The research team was able to put together a list of what they called “ultra-conserved words,” or words that they found have remained basically unchanged for 15,000 years.

and that originate from the same ancient mother tongue — a language used toward the end of the last ice age. That language eventually became the basis for seven major language families in human history and the 700 modern languages today descend from those seven original families.

The Researchers scanned them for words that sound and mean the same things in different languages which are called cognates.  words like “father” — padre, pere, pater, pitar, etc. From those, they put together what they call proto-words, or what they believed were the cognates’ ancestral form.

Ultimately, they found 23 words that were shared by at least four of the seven language families, making them the most common and oldest and longest-lasting words in English… and throughout the history of words… and here they are…

1. Thou

Interestingly enough, Thou is the only word that all seven language families share in one form or another. If you’re going to speak then I suppose it’s important to know whom you are talking to. “Hey you!”…excuse me, Thou. Get over here!

2. I

Makes sense. If you’re not you then you must be me, or I. I think therefore I am not you. So in the beginning before Adam and Eve there were Thou and I.

3. Mother

Everyone has a mother and is first birthed, nurtured and loved by a female and when you finish this list you might notice that the word “father” does not appear as one of the earliest or universal words, which is quite interesting since according to our Judeo-Christian culture everything begins with The Father or the Son or His Holy Spirit and they are all men! women are relegated to a subservient class which has persisted into our modern era. Whatever happened to mom?! and why have we decided to give men all of the credit for creation, love and protection!? Imagine a world with men as the chief life givers…God couldn’t…nor could early humans.

4. Give

It’s all about teamwork and cooperation isn’t it? The earliest humans had to help one another in order to survive and thrive and Human survival has always been predicated on our ability to cooperate. Egads! The earliest humans were Socialists?! But thanks to evolution we now say “Build a wall! Build a wall! And make someone else pay for it!” It would be nice if everyone realized that “Give” is one of our oldest words…and it’s a verb!…as in doing something.

5. Bark

Woof?… No, but rather as in tree. Anthropologists believe this was a particularly important element of early civilizations because it was used to make fire, baskets, rope, and just about everything else until fairly recently…and it can even be used as medicine when boiled in water. In fact, aspirin was originally willow bark tea. Today, sadly, it’s all about plastic!

6. Black

Most likely the experts say because in its original form, it helped early humans distinguish the light of day from the black of night. Here in the civilized world of the future and thanks to electricity we don’t have nights like we used to but once upon a time the “black” of night was not someplace you wanted to go…ever! Note: “white” does not make the list…and why would it?

7. Fire

Fire provided light, warmth, security, safety, a way to cook, or to keep the wolves away. For a long time fire was the greatest tool for survival. and It was also the best way (only?) to keep the “black” away. And have you ever sat and watched a fire? Was it the first TV? And how about fire’s flame? What is that anyway? Solid? Gas? Liquid? Pure enchantment? It’s pure entertainment that’s what.

I think I now have the worlds first sentence:

Mother! Black!!! Give I Thou Bark! Fire!

8. Ashes

They made a lot of Fire! Ashes must have been the first plastic?! It was everywhere!!!

9. Spit

This is interesting. But I guess that back in the early days of mankind spit came in handy for almost everything.

10. Man/Male

So the word “Man” makes the First Words list but not “Father” and the word “Mother” is on the list but not “Woman”… Is this a reflection of male dominance throughout modern history? I have always been curious about how most men want to defend their mothers to the death but have little respect for women in general even though all women are someone elses mother, sister, wife or daughter…Go figure!

11. Hand

Our most important body part/tool? Thank you thumbs!

12. Hear

Hearing is important for many things we can’t or don’t see… but did we take our eyes for granted? Do we still?

13. Flow

An interesting word to make the list? Unless that was the word for water or all things wet.

14. Old

Is this about having respect for the elderly because they had knowledge or knew how to survive? Or more about expiration dates and usage? Knowing how long something would last or was still good to eat? Or that time was essential and limited for I and Thou from birth to death?

15. This

As in which one is which?

16. That

No not this one! That one is mine!

17. Pull

Pull but not push? Hmmmmmm pushing may have come along after the invention of the wheel? Plus with pull this, or pull that, you could make a joke!

18. Worm

???????? Any thoughts?

19. Ye

This would now be “your” in modern English. This is mine and that is ye!

20. Not

or the other way around! (see 19)

21. We

Hey pal! Now that Thou and I are We…who are those guys??? Ye????

22. Who

Well, Ye isn’t me… so?

23. What

Because when you don’t know what’s goin’ on it’s the most logical question… Huh?