Gerald of Wales:
A Witty Jew, c. 1185
We set forth thence towards Wenloch through a narrow and steep way which they call
Bad-place [Malam plateam]. Here it happened in our days that a certain Jew
journeying to Shrewsbury with the archdeacon of the, same place whose name was Peche and
the deacon whose name was Dayville. When he heard the archdeacon by chance saying that his
deaconry began at this place which is called Bad-place and lasted till Bad-pass near
Chester, considering and reflecting on the surname of the archdeacon and the name of the
dean he made a rather witty and neat remark. " It will be a wonder," said
he, " if chance bring me back safe from this country whose archdeacon is Sin [Peche],
whose dean is the Devil, which you enter by a Bad-place and go out in a Bad-pass."
[Editors note: Besides the intrinsic interest of this anecdote it is conclusive
evidence that the everyday speech of the English Jews of the time was French, as was the
case with the upper classes in general.]
Source: Gerald of Wales. Itinerarium Cambriae II. c. xiii. (ed. Dimock, vi. 146),
ed. Joseph Jacobs, The Jews of Angevin England: Documents and Records (London,
1893), pp. 86-87)
Scanned by Elka Klein.
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© Paul Halsall, January 1999