The curious case of culprit

Amnesia, disguises, and mistaken identities? No, these are not the plot twists of a blockbuster thriller or bestselling page-turner. They are the story of the word culprit. At first glance, the
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Amnesia, disguises, and mistaken identities? No, these are not the plot twists of a blockbuster thriller or bestselling page-turner. They are the story of the word culprit. At first glance, the origin of culprit looks simple enough. Mea culpa, culpable, exculpate, and the more obscure inculpate: these words come from the Latin culpa, “fault” or “blame.” One would suspect that culprit is the same, yet we should never be so presumptuous when it comes to English etymology. Culprit is indeed connected to Latin’s culpa, but it just can’t quite keep its story straight. A criminal history The Norman Conquest in 1066 crowned the French language in England for centuries, forever changing the English tongue as a result, as is particularly evident in vocabulary. As it was the language of the nobility, French became the language of government and administration, including the law courts. Separated from the continent and interacting with English, a variety known as Anglo-Norman French developed,. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Linguistics

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