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A bēot is Old English for a ritualized boast, vow, threat, or promise. The principle of a bēot is to proclaim one's acceptance of a seemingly impossible challenge in order to gain tremendous glory for actually accomplishing it.
Anglo-Saxon warriors would usually deliver bēots in the mead hall the night before a military engagement or during the battle itself. For example, a typical warrior may boast that he will be the first to strike a blow in a battle, that he would claim a renowned sword from enemy warrior as spoils of battle, that he will slay a particular monster that has been wreaking havoc on a town or village, that and so on. Bēots were usually accompanied by grand stories of one's past glorious deeds. Although other cultures and times might disdain boasting as a sign of arrogance, or sinful pride, the pagan Anglo-Saxons highly regarded such behavior as a positive sign of one's determination, bravery, and character.
The Old English word bēot comes from earlier bíhát meaning ‘promise’. The original noun-form of bēot corresponds to the verb bi-, be-ˈhátan. A shifting of the stress from bíhát to bi-ˈhát, on analogy of the verb, gave the late Old English beˈhát, from which the Middle English word behote derives.
Structure of a bēot
- Pledge - The individual pledges to endeavor a specific challenge
- Speculation of outcomes - The individual predicts two possible outcomes—success or failure—and elaborates the effects of either outcome.
- Commissioning to a higher power - The individual commissions the outcome of the challenge to a higher power (e.g. God, fate).
- http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/lit_terms_b.html "BEOT (Anglo-Saxon: "vow"; becomes Modern English "boast"). Retrieved 06FEB2011.
- Clark Hall, John R. A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. Cambridge University Press, 1960, p. 42.
- http://www2.bakersfieldcollege.edu/gdumler/Older%20Materials/English%205A/Beowulf/background.htm Retrieved 06FEB2011.[dead link]
- http://wyomingcatholiccollege.academia.edu/MarkAdderley/Papers/9367/To_Beot_or_Not_to_Beot_Boasting_in_Beowulf Retrieved 06FEB2011.[dead link]
- http://oed.com/view/Entry/17815?redirectedFrom=beot# Retrieved 06FEB2011.