Unknown language: N'Esperdire Ja Mes

The above is the motto on the Coat of Arms of a current English life peer, Baron (Peter) Bowness of Warlingham.

I'm trying to identify the language. I presume it to be close to French; perhaps Provencale or another Languedoc variant.

Can somebody identify it for me, please, and give me a translation?
 
  • L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Do you have an image of this crest and motto?
    If it were French or a dialect of French, I would expect to see the odd accent mark.

    Warlingham appears several times in this pdf.
    https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/36438/Surrey-Coats-of-Arms-A-H.pdf

    There are 783 members of the House of Lords. Some 670 are "life peers" who are members until they die, retire or are expelled. There are 87 hereditary peers and 26 bishops. The Church of England fills 26 seats with senior bishops.
    The other thing that strikes me is that anybody can apply for a life peerage, presumably even those without a coat of arms to their name. Could it be a recent invention his motto? Rather than something inherited from Norman times, I mean.
     
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    Uncle Bob

    Senior Member
    British English
    Give that, according to Wikipedia, his coat of arms includes two dachsunds with daffodils in their mouths one cannot expect it to mean anything more meaningful than "Don't hope to say, James". Perhaps in the same spirit as "Home, James, and don't spare the horses"!
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    I think Reynald is not far off. If the coat of arms is a recent creation (circa 17 January 1996) then it might be Croydon schoolboy french for “Never say never.” Je n’espère pas dire, jamais. (I hope not to say, never.) Dropping the “I” to make it appear more of an Impératif - forme négative in Franglais. Pronouncing jamais as Ja Mes lends gravity in a jocose way. Perhaps it can be seen as poking fun at the hereditary peers with their Middle Age coat of arms. Thinly veiled jealousy?

    The other course of action is to ask the man on twitter what his motto might mean.
     
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    Stoggler

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I suspect that l’Irlandais has hit the nail on the head, but are we able to rule out Norman French (not an unusual language in English heraldry) or Channel Islands French (a variant of Norman French)?
     
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    Stoggler

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Any English life peer’s heraldic cost of arms, including its motto, will have to be approved by the College of Arms (they might even design them in the first place), and I can’t imagine that ancient and august (and very conservative) institution allowing some naff schoolboy French to appear on a coat of arms, jocular or otherwise.
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    I am merely speculating on the translation, & would love to find it was Jèrriais, Dgèrnésiais, Sercquiais or even Aoeur'gnaeux. But that would only make sense if he himself had some relationship with the channel islands.

    Neither are these coat of arms inexpensive* appearantly; which would support your view that schoolboy french was unlikely. Coat of arms | Lords of the Blog
    (Where Lord Norton has this to say of his own coat of arms)
    Garter King of Arms did a superb job. I agree that I got value for money. How much did it cost? Rather a lot, but it was something I decided I would like to have. It is something personal to me, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and as I am not one of life’s heavy spenders I decided I would treat myself. I told Garter what I would like to be incorporated and he got to work on the design, with the result that you see. I approved it as soon as I got the first draft.

    Coats of Arms are personal to the holder. (Beware firms that offer to research ‘your’ family coat of arms!) The fleur de lys represents Lincolnshire, the church spire represents Louth. As for a fashion accessory, my friends will tell you that my name and the word fashion are not usually to be found in the same sentence. I have not had the Coat of Arms incorporated into any of my fashion accessories, but I have put it to practical use in having it reproduced as a colour postcard.
    He doesn’t appear to be on Twitter, but can be contacted here Lord Bowness

    *See here Granting of Arms - College of Arms


    How about this adverb from Old French? ja més (“ever”)
    In 1810, an 8 gun brig named Espervoir was captured with a crew of 98 outside Naples.
    Adds weight to you view, Esperdire might indeed be French.
     
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    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    My limited research on heraldic mottoes tells me
    (1) accent marks are optional; don't make decisions based on their presence or absence;
    (2) some are composed in schoolboy foreign language,
    and thus may be ungrammatical in the language that they are pretending to be;
    (3) the "meaning" of a motto may be cryptic or nonsensical.
    Good luck with your search!
     
    Thank you for your replies; all of them informative.

    Like me, Peter Bowness used to practise as a solicitor in the Croydon area. I got to know him when he was leader of the Council and I was involved in the Chamber of Commerce. We've both moved on since then. I wanted to see if anybody could identify the motto, before I made contact with him again, to ask him. He's an alumnus of Whitgift (a minor public school in South Croydon), so the motto could well be a bit of a schoolboy "jape"; rather like "Caesar adsum jam forti; Brutus aderat. Caesar sic in omnibus; Brutus sic in at".
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    I second that. Kevin Beach, it would be great if you could bite the bullet and ask him directly about the meaning.
    Now that you have gone and awoken our interest in the subject.

    I agree with Stoggler’s point; it seems a great shame the College of Arms doesn’t make its archives available online, as many other institutions have done recently. They do however provide some resources- Crests of Knights of the Garter - College of Arms
    However, I suspect they feel by not doing so, they can protect their income more effectively. That is to say, they do charge for searches of the archives. ~shrug~ If they are not profitable, then they may disappear altogether.
     
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    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    From Wikipedia:

    Coat of arms of Peter Bowness, Baron Bowness
    Coronet
    A Coronet of a Baron
    Crest
    A Demi Bull Argent armed and unguled and holding in the mouth a Sword point downward in Bend Or
    Escutcheon
    Argent four Pallets Sable over all within a Cross Flory nowy round pierced and parted a Roundel Or
    Supporters
    On the dexter a Dachshund reguardant Sable holding in the mouth a Daffodil slipped and leaved Or and on the sinister a Dachshund reguardant Tenné holding in the mouth a Daffodil slipped and leaved Or
    Motto
    N'Esperdire Ja Mes

    Regrettably no translation of the motto - or the above!

    I go for Old or Norman French as ja més = jamais in OF. The puzzling part is the -dire. Is esperdire two words and if so why run together?
     

    Jimbob_Disco

    Senior Member
    British English
    I expect it to be a French dialect (like ‘papa où t’es’ goes to ‘papaoutai’ in one of Belgian artist Stromae’s songs, with dialectical French).

    It could be this:
    N’espère dire jamais

    I’m pretty sure of the negation, verb ‘ésperer’ (to hope) and ‘ja mes’ ➜ ‘jamais’ (never)

    UPDATE: A quick search has shown that ‘ja mes’ probably comes from ‘jamés’, which is old the old French version of ‘jamais’, as I suspected.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think we can safely say that n' = French n' and that ja més = French jamais. That leaves esperdire. If it is one word the nearest Modern French word is expédier meaning to hurry through, issue or send out. If it is two, then dire looks like say. As in present day Spanish esperar means both to wait and to hope, so formerly French espérer meant to wait as well as to hope. Possible meanings are therefore: Never rush things and Never wait to speak.
     

    bearded

    Senior Member
    No, that’s perfectly viable!
    Thanks for approval. In case your (our) interpretation was correct, then words should be separated/united differently than in the motto:
    Motto: N'esperdire ja mes / Interpreted as: N'esper dire james...
    Do you think that the people who coined the motto did not understand the meaning of the words (in some sort of old French) they were using?
     

    Stoggler

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Do you think that the people who coined the motto did not understand the meaning of the words (in some sort of old French) they were using?
    If it were the Royal College of Arms who came up with it, one can be confident that they know how to use the relevant language, especially if it were Anglo-Norman French.
     

    Oranje

    Member
    English - England
    Perhaps, cognate with Old Castilian esperdecir (to hate, to curse, mépriser, despreciar). It's very old and, apparently, even rarer than it is old. I can only find an attestation in a 13th century poem by Gonzalo de Berceo.

    Esperdir, Esperdire, Esperdit don't seem to exist however.

    It would then mean "never despise".
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    Perhaps, cognate with Old Castilian esperdecir (to hate, to curse, mépriser, despreciar). It's very old and, apparently, even rarer than it is old. I can only find an attestation in a 13th century poem by Gonzalo de Berceo.

    Esperdir, Esperdire, Esperdit don't seem to exist however.

    It would then mean "never despise".
    This is the first suggestion in this thread that sounds even vaguely plausible.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    This is the first suggestion in this thread that sounds even vaguely plausible.
    Certainly looks to be getting close since Spanish decir = French dire.

    I found various Old French and Norman French dictionaries online and none has esperdire. I did though find esperdre in the Norman French dictionary with the meaning "to lose heart".
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    In an obscure footnote of this *poème we find the word esperdire
    Cligés

    *Cligès (ou la Fausse Morte) le deuxième roman courtois de Chrétien de Troyes, écrit après Érec et Énide vers 1176.

    As mentioned earlier the word Espervoir also existed in French.
    The Scots Magazine ...

    two hours and ten minutes (during which time the awful scene was witnessed by his Mock-majesty, Murat, and the whole population of the proud city of Naples, we succeeded in capturing the national brig L'Espervoir, (8 guns, 98 men) by our brave fellows gallantly boarding her, in the face of the enemy's whole force, ....
     

    Oranje

    Member
    English - England
    In an obscure footnote of this *poème we find the word esperdire
    Cligés

    *Cligès (ou la Fausse Morte) le deuxième roman courtois de Chrétien de Troyes, écrit après Érec et Énide vers 1176.
    The Scots Magazine ...
    This is interesting. If we retain the meaning of esperdecir, we get this:

    Nes tindrent mie por garçons,
    Por mauvés ne por esperduz.
    N'ont pas lor premiers cos perduz,
    Que .xiii. en ont deschevalez.

    Not as boys to be taken,
    as cowards not to be discounted,
    Their first blows did not miss,
    so that thirteen were dismounted.​

    According to the Electronic Dictionary of Chretien de Troyes, esperduz is merely a variant of esperdu (from whence éperdu) and not the past participle of esperdire. The poem equally makes sense with "as cowards not to be dismayed" and this is consistent with its use elsewhere in the poem. The equivalents in Old Occitan are esperdre and esperdut. The original poem is an octosyllabic couplet. The rhyme in the English is incidental. "Tenir por mauvés" is an idiom.

    This could be cleared up with certainty if we had an etymology for esperdecir.

    Espervoir is a different word. If other resemblances are wanted, I found espardire (c.f. espardre) in Asturian-Leonese and Valencian but the meaning is inapplicable. The shift to the fourth conjugation from another is common and random in dialects of Vulgar Latin. It must have happened in those languages but not in standard French or Catalan.
     
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    Reynald

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    According to the Electronic Dictionary of Chretien de Troyes, esperduz is merely a variant of esperdu (from whence éperdu) and not the past participle of esperdire [...] The equivalents in Old Occitan are esperdre and esperdut.
    Maybe the right track since the verb esperdre (infinitive) also means se désespérer (to despair) in Old French: Page:Godefroy - Lexique (3).djvu/77 - Wikisource
    So, the motto could mean 'Never despair'.
    Just an assumption because there is that i and I have not found the conjugation of that verb in the imperative.
     
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