Welcome to one of my random thoughts.

The other day, Hiromi was studying English when I woke up. She had a question about the CNN English Express article she was studying. The article was about Iceland giving up whaling.

I thought that sounded like an eco-friendly policy. That led me to my random thought.

Norway, Sweden, and Denmark (and later Iceland) were once the homes of the Vikings. The Vikings once raided areas all over Europe and were known as fearsome warriors. In fact, the English word berserk – which means furiously violent or out of control – comes from the Old Norse word for a Viking warrior, berserkr. Vikings struck terror into the hearts of the people who saw their ships coming on the horizon.

Just a quick aside: Vikings were so difficult to defeat in Britain, that the native kings allowed them to have a huge part England. The island was basically divided between the English in the south and the Vikings in the north. The Viking-controlled area was called the Danelaw (see the map).

To this day, it remains an important linguistic dividing line between northern and southern English dialects. Why? Because over the years, the Viking language, Old Norse, greatly influenced the English language. For example, if you look at a map of Britain, there are over 1,400 place names in the north that are of Scandinavian origin. The days of the week Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday take their English names from Norse gods:

  • Tiw → Tuesday
  • Woden → Wednesday
  • Thor → Thursday
  • Frig → Friday

Old Norse gave English words like freckle, leg, skull, rotten, crawl, scream, trust, lift, take, husband, and sky. English can also thank Old Norse for much of its deep reservoir of synonyms. For example, craft and skill; wish and want; raise and rear; no and nay; shriek and screech; ditch and dike. 

Sometimes these pairs gradually came to have slightly different meanings: scatter and shatter; skirt and shirt; whole and hale; bathe and bask; stick and stitch; hack and hatch; wake and watch; break and breach. The Viking language didn’t only give English new vocabulary; it also influenced English grammar. The pronouns they, them, and their are Scandinavian.

Ok, back to my random thought. The difference between these countries’ historical image and their present-day image is fun to think about. Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland were once home to some of the most fearsome warriors in history. Now when we think of these places, we think of stylish furniture, Volvos, the pop group ABBA, Spotify, H&M, Minecraft, and Legos. Think of a Viking brought to our time and enjoying some of the things his descendants created. He sits on stylish furniture tapping his toe to ABBA tunes while making a Viking ship out of Legos.



この間起きた時に裕美が英語を勉強していました。読んでいた記事についての質問がありました。アイスランドが捕鯨をやめることについてのCNN Expressの記事でした。それがエコな方針だなあと思い、そこで僕はあることを思いました。




  • Tiw: Tuesday
  • Woden: Wednesday
  • Thor: Thursday
  • Frig: Friday


時々こういうペアは意味が少しずつ違ってきました。例えばscatterとshatter、 skirt とshirt、 whole とhale、 bathe とbask、 stick とstitch、 hack とhatch、 wake とwatch、 break とbreach。 バイキングは新しい語彙を持ってきただけではなく、古ノルド語が英語の文法にも影響しました。例えばthey, them, and theirという代名詞は元々バイキングの語源からのものです。

本件に戻って、大昔と現在のイメージの違いがあまりにも違いすぎて面白くて仕方がないと思います。昔ノルウェー、デンマーク、スウェーデン、アイスランドは歴史上の最高レベルに怖い戦士の発祥でしたが、今日はスカンディナヴィアを考えるとお洒落な家具ボルボABBASpotify, H&M, マインクラフト, Legoを思い浮かべます。大昔のバイキングは現在に来て子孫が作ったものを想像すれば面白いと思います。お洒落な椅子と机に座り、ABBAを聞きながらLegoで遊びます。(笑)


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