Earlier this week, The Independent reported that the first line of Beowulf has been incorrectly translated for hundreds of years. According to research by Dr. George Walkden, a University of Manchester lecturer, Â the Old English word hwÃ¦t, which begins the English languageâ€™s oldest epic poem (â€œHwÃ¦t! We Gar-Dena in gear-dagum, Ã¾eod-cyninga,Â Ã¾rym gefrunon, hu Ã°a Ã¦Ã¾elingasÂ ellen fremedon!â€),Â should not be read as an interjection separate from the rest of the first line Â (â€œListen! we have heard of the might of the kingsâ€), Â but rather as part of a complete exclamatory sentenceâ€”something like â€œHow we have heard of the might of the kings.â€
Citing research that â€œthereâ€™s no record of the Anglo-Saxons using exclamation marks, or any other form of punctuation, besides the full stop (or â€˜pointâ€™) and the occasional semicolonâ€ Walkden declares all previous interpretationsâ€”â€â€˜What ho!â€™ (Earle 1892), â€˜Hear me!â€™ (Raffel 1963), â€˜Attend!â€™ (Alexander 1973), â€˜Indeed!â€™ (Jack 1994), and â€˜So!â€™ (Heaney 2000)â€â€”to be wrong.