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The picture I had for my header was of some cave paintings that looked like hieroglyphics but weren’t.  I decided that wasn’t appropriate, first because it didn’t represent English, which this web log is mainly about, and second, because it didn’t represent any language, as far as anybody knows.

Now I’ve put up a picture of the first few lines from an old manuscript of Beowulf, which is in English, though not in Modern English, and therefore represents a language, even though it’s not one anybody speaks anymore.

The first word, Hwæt, means, “Hear!”  I’ve read that J. R. R. Tolkien used to start the first session of his Old English class by reciting the first bit of Beowulf, and that his students always thought he was calling for them to be quiet.  

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