The Viking influence on the English language

Originally published at: The Viking influence on the English language | Boing Boing

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In a similar vein my kids used to watch a British educational program called “Horrible Histories” that had a recurring segment about words we got from the Vikings. They’d show a Viking warrior running around screaming things like “SCARE! KILL! BERSERK!” and then suddenly switch tone and say something unexpected like “shy.”

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@garethb2 It’s Old Norse, not Old Viking. There’s no such thing as the Viking language (whatever Jesse Byock is trying to tell you).

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TONs of Norse in the Scots language.

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There is a theory that English is actually directly descended from Old Norse, with loanwords from Old English/Anglo-Saxon, rather than the other way round:

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Quite a lot in the Yorkshire dialect(s) too…

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You mention Horrible Histories and DON’T link to the Viking song???

Incidentally, if you really want to hear lots of Norse words in English, take a trip to Northumberland where many of the local dialects have many loan words from the time when it was a popular holiday destination for high-spirited young Norwegian men with time (and other things) to kill.

My grandmother, who grew up in Byker, always spoke about ‘going yem’ (hjem is home in Norwegian). She went ‘oot’ (ute - out), we were ‘bairns’ (barn - child) and she always spoke of ‘Thorsda’ (torsdag - Thursday).

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The term “fuck you” came I’m pretty sure from the Vikings. Almost positive.

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“Futhark you” maybe…

*runic language pun

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berserk(er)

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I’m also a fan of the Melvyn Bragg series The Adventure Of English where he digs through the entire history of the language - great stuff.

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Can’t be fucked to find the source right now, but there’s a video on Youtube where the inhabitants on a Scottish islands get genetically tested and find out their DNA is almost entirely Scandinavian.
Their collective memory was one of defeating the vikings and winning the island back for the Scots, but it seems that what really happened was that the vikings never left but instead peacefully assimilated. The ‘chasing them off’ narrative must have come to them from the Scottish mainland at a much later stage.

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In Iceland this summer, I our tour guide said that Icelandic is as close to Old Norse as modern languages get. I don’t think it sounds a bit like a Scandinavian language and I can’t pronounce a word of it! Except, “yow!,” which is kind of like “Uh-huh.” That, I can pronounce. :wink:

My pandemic project was (is) brushing up on German with Duolingo, and I see a lot of similarities with English there, too.

English seems to be a hodge-podge of languages spoken by everyone who visited the British Isles - including the Vikings.

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IIRC, the Lordship of the Isles (Isle of Man + Hebrides) was originally founded by Gaelicised Norse.

ETA: here we go —

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Ah, the amazing word ‘Já’ which can convey a multitude of meanings depending on the various stresses and whether it is said on the intake of breath or not. It can do so much more than just mean ‘yes’; and it appears to be possible for two Icelanders to have a meaningful conversation with just three words, that more or less mean ‘yes’ - ‘Já’, ‘Jú’ and ‘Jæja’.

Apparently modern Icelandic is as close to Norse as modern English is to that spoken during Shakespeare’s life. I quite agree it is a very different language - my smattering of Norwegian is of almost no use in Iceland. There’s commonality between individual words - but no further. Norway and the other Scandinavian countries happily absorbed a lot of German, and more recently, English words, whilst the Icelanders sailed on their own merry path to linguistic purity.

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Would that be a greater Futhark you or a lesser Futhark you? (The lesser is probably more insulting.)

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“Little Thorn” is probably a really offensive name.

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I don’t know, I think it’s kinda cute!

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