A character in a professionally-produced video drama (no names, no blames) said deign, but the subtitles had dain. Realistically, I have to call that a mistake, but an online search found The Century Dictionary, which I was previously unaware of but which seems to be a major and authoritative (if slightly outdated) source. It records dain as an archaic spelling of deign, so maybe the subtitler was just being archaic rather than wrong, except the video drama is set in modern times, everyone speaks standard US English and the subtitles are otherwise 99.95% correct (there are a few slips, but no others worth commenting about). It also records dain as a shortened form of disdain, but it doesn’t give an example of either use.
I was surprised to find that deign and disdain share an etymology, despite the different spelling. Anglo-French de(s)deigner became Middle English disdainen, while Old French deignier became Middle English deinen, but at some point people reinserted the ‘g’ to reflect the Latin dignus (worthy) and dignārī (to judge worthy).
Some people decry any change to language as the first step on a slippery slope which will end with us communicating in incoherent grunts. But language has always changed, and always will. We can easily test this in English by looking at written sources across more than a thousand years. My example for this post doesn’t date that far back, merely approximately 750 years.
One of the choirs I sing in is presenting a concert based on the theme of summer. One item is the old songSumer is icumen in, which dates from before 1264, which is when the manuscript it is preserved in was copied. It is recognisable as English, but obviously a lot has changed since then. The original words are:
Svmer iʃ icumen in Lhude ʃing cuccu Groweþ ʃed and bloweþ med and ʃpringþ þe wde nu
Sing cuccu Awe bleteþ after lomb lhouþ after calue cu Bulluc ʃterteþ bucke uerteþ murie ʃing cuccu
Cuccu cuccu Wel ʃingeʃ þu cuccu ne ʃwik þu nauer nu