How Vikings Shaped the English Language

wordviking

For a more indepth look at the influence of Old Norse on the English language take a look at the series: How Vikings Changed the English Language: Intro

The English language has certainly been a heavy influence on many languages around the world – including modern Norwegian. Thanks to ‘internationalisation’ from the Internet, TV and film, Norwegians frequently use words like baby, drink, cool, jeans, web and chips – to name a few.

But once upon a time it was the other way around. Many English words actually come from old Norse language – brought by Vikings to England in medieval times. Here are some words you have probably uttered without realising you are speaking Norwegian!

  • Anger – from angr (“trouble, affliction”)
  • Bag – from baggi. Norwegians use the word bag today but, ironically, with an English pronounciation. The word has actually been re-imported from English!
  • Berserk – from berserkr (“bare shirt”). Fierce warriors who fought without armour (and ate magic mushrooms for courage).
  • Crawl – from krafla (“to claw”).
  • Dirt – from drit (“feces”).
  • Gun – from gunn (“war, battle”)
  • Hell – from Hel, the ruler of the Underworld in Norse mythology.
  • Hit – from hitta (“find”). Another example of a re-imported word.
  • Husband – from husbondi (“master of the house”).
  • Knife – from kniv, kvifr. You may have guessed this one already. In fact, any word starting with kn- is probably from old Norse.
  • Raft – from raptr (“log”). Today we use the (English) word rafting in Norway when talking about the popular sport.
  • Reindeer – from hreindyri. In modern Norwegian: reinsdyr.
  • Scare – from skirra (“to frighten”).
  • Steak – from steik, steikja (“to cook, roast”). Curiously, the word steak house is common in Norway today.
  • Town – from tun, referring to the open space between buildings.
  • Ugly – from uggligr (“dreadful”).

There you have it – no need for a dictionary when travelling in Norway. All you need to do is roll your R’s and you’ll be speaking Norwegian fluently!
:-)

Boats at Noon

boatsatnoon

When the snow is here, even the sea is silent and the boats sleep together, nice and warm, at the marina.

Home-made Julebrød

home-madejulebrod

One thing I have learnt about coming to Norway is that bread and cakes turn out much better when you do as the Norwegians do.  I’ve tried many times to bake my Australian bread recipes and for some reason they never quite turn out the way they should.  I don’t really know the reason why – it could be the weather, the fact that they use sugarbeet instead of sugarcane here, or maybe it’s some kind of magnetic shift with being so close to the North Pole, and all?  Whatever it is, when I bake Norwegian bread with Norwegian recipes, it turns out perfectly.  Go figure?

I baked the traditional Norwegian Julebrød for the first time this Christmas, using the Julebrød recipe from the Christmas pages, and I must admit, I am very pleased with how it turned out.

Christmas Star

christmasstarflower

The Christmas Star flower, more commonly called poinsettia, is found in nearly every Norwegian home during Christmas. Its star-shaped petals and deep red colour make it a popular holiday decoration. It also thrives in low-light conditions, making it ideal for Norwegian winters.

The tradition of using this flower at Christmas actually originated in Mexico in the 16th century. The legend says that a little girl, too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday, picked weeds from the roadside and placed them in front of the church altar. To everyone’s amazement, beautiful crimson blossoms sprouted from the weeds and became poinsettias. Later, Franciscan monks in Mexico started including the flower in their Christmas celebrations.

Just like the Gulf Stream that travels from Mexico to warm up the waters and land in Norway, the Christmas Star is treasured as it brightens up the homes of Norwegians during the dark Winters.

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