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Friday Morning Latin Lesson, Vol XLIII

October 9, 2009

Felix dies folii filio ericus! Happy Lief Erikson Day! (Or, as a direct translation, 'Happy day of Leaf son of Eric'.) Hinga dinga durgen!

So, what do the Romans, rulers of much of the ancient world, and the Vikings have in common? Not much. The Romans, as you might have guessed, were based in Rome and spread out from there around the Mediterranean. The Vikings, on the other hand, were Norsemen, which essentially means "men from the north". The rise of the Vikings came well after the fall of Rome, so there is no Latin term for Vikings, though the Byzantines had a term, borrowed in from the Russians, who named them the Varangians. Even then, the term was applied to soldiers who pledged their services to various lords from the Baltic down to Constantinople (not Istanbul), and essentially means "sworn man".

Viking, itself, means "one who comes from the fjords" as vik meaning "inlet or creek" and the suffix -ing meaning "coming from". It could, potentially, be related to the Latin word vicus meaning "village or habitation" (remember the word vicambulate?), but that connection is dubious at best and hotly debated at most...or as hotly debated as etymology subjects can be...

So, if the Romans didn't interact with the Norsemen and the Vikings came after the Romans, why even bother mentioning them in the Friday Morning Latin Lesson? Well, the biggest reason should be obvious: you're reading this in English right now (unless you've used a translator or something). Don't forget, that churlish devil Iulius Caesar conquered Britannia, which meant that England would have been a Roman Province, and in the provinces, no matter how distant, they spoke Latin. In fact, even those outside of Rome spoke Latin, if for nothing else other than the need to communicate during trading or begging for mercy from the ruthless Roman legions.

Anyway, when the Roman empire started collapsing in on itself, the armies pulled out of Britannia in 410. This opened the way for the Angles and Saxons to invade Great Britain, and with their swords and spears, they brought their language and customs. The problem was, there was still resistance (see: Arthur, King) from the native peoples and those pesky Celts hanging on in the west, holdovers from pre-Roman occupation. While the Anglo-Saxons (it was a combined effort) finally held sway over most of the island, the peace was less than tenable. This is where the Vikings come in.

Four hundred years after the Anglo-Saxons set up shop, the Vikings arrived. Among them were hordes of Danes who felt the need to settle in Britain. So, they swooped in and began to slowly but surely slaughter the rulers of the English kingdoms (there were at least seven major ones...most of the counties in England find their roots in ancient kingdoms). The good thing for the Danes was that their language, based on the points of origins of the Danes, Saxons and Angles being so close geographically, were also very similar. Once the Danes had power, they set up what was called the Danelaw. This helped to establish the language and sort of help it along. By this time, the last vestiges of classical Latin had been swept away and now English was growing in usage and popularity. By the time the Normans invaded in 1066, English was firmly established, and the Latin spoken by the Normans (which was, by this point--600 years after the fall of Rome--now more French than Latin) was used chiefly by the nobles. The commoners still chose to speak English. In fact, even when words were adopted into English from the Latin, we bent them to our will and forced them into an English/Germanic word order. That's why, in English, one has "a red cat" but in French, one has "un chat rouge" and in Spanish "uno gato rojo". Also, English splits its infinitives into two words, such as "to love", whereas Romance languages follow the Latin example: amare, amore, amar...

Hinga dinga durgen, that's a lot of history and language to get through. Where's the celebration? Well, probably in the upper Great Lakes region, specifically Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the Dakotas, where many people of Nordic ancestry settled in this great land of ours. Damn, it's been a good week to be in Minnesota. First, Purple Voldemort does to his old team what he had done to the Vikings for years, then the Twins finally derail the Tigers' train, and the Wild snatch victory from the jaws of defeat! And now Leif Ericson Day! Well, braid my long, blond tresses and call me Sven, it's time to celebrate in a manner most fitting of the Vikings: by drinking a lot, having some sex, and busting some shit up! Debauchery at it's finest. Leif would be proud.

Ergo bibamus!

Pronounced: "Air-goh bee-bom-oose!"

Apudne te vel me?

Pronounced: "Ah-pood-nay tay vail may?

Deus Meus! Securis in capite meo est!

Pronounced: "Day-oose May-oos! Say-cyoor-ees in cahp-ee-tay may-oh est!"

As always, folks, the hovertext reveals the translations.

A couple of other Viking-related bits, as they pertain to me.

My high school mascot was the Viking. My senior year, our mascot, named Ike the Vike, was played by the oh so delectable Wendy Ham. Best. Ike the Vike. Ever. Part of it was that she was super hot, the other that she was built like a Viking: tall, powerful legs, lean, muscular, chesty, thighs that could crush your skull...

The second bit of information is that, while at my old job, during a six-week period where we couldn't use the labs because of welding going on (open flames + organic solvents = Totally Blowing Shit Up Tuesdays), I did some geneological research from my desk. Turns out, my mom's side of the family, whose name was Ormsby, could trace their lineage back to a single Viking warrior who set up his estate in Northumbria, in the northern part of England. The suffix -by means "place of", so their name literally meant "Orm's place". Orm was the name of the Viking warrior who became a minor lord under the Danelaw. It was almost as cool as finding out my dad's side was related to the last king of Wales.


otherworldlyone said...

Your place or mine? Hahahaha. Nice.

Moooooog35 said...

I would totally pillage and ...well..hats and stuff.

I suck at Viking analogies.

Chemgeek said...

I'm a German (more accurately a Pomeranian) stuck in the middle of Norwegian America. I avoid the lutefisk suppers (of which there are many) but I do enjoy the lefse.

JenJen said...

Vikings are such badasses.
Girls looooove bad ass men.

Word ver:

Cora said...

I feel the urge to break out an A-ha CD. Go figure.

Soda and Candy said...

Excellent lesson as always!

I have no idea if it ends up in Viking territory, but on my dad's side we have Norwegian ancestry, which I always think is a bit cooler than regular Western Euro-lineage (ie the rest of my ancestors)

Nikki said...

I knew there was a reason I was being drawn to the blog world today! I luv ur lessons professor!

btw my wv says undish which I'm pretty sure means strip in some foreign language. How dare!

Carissajaded said...

Sven, That looks like a blast! Oh how I wish I was in Minnesota right now. Except minus the cold. And wow! I'm coming back here everyday! I just learned a hell of a lot more than I ever did in history class... and I actually enjoyed it!

Eric said...

One of these days soon, I want to visit the Norse countries. I will try out some ancient phrases and see if they understand.

Frank said...

Constantinople, not Istanbul?

I think we'd both agree that that's nobody's business but the Turks.

Tennyson ee Hemingway said...

Lady Hem's mother's side of the family is Danish. I married into Viking heritage. Skol!

JennyMac said...

pillage....sounds rowdy. And perhaps a bit toooo intriguing.

Raine said...

You make history and language way more interesting than it was in school

Nej said...

Damn you, now I have that song stuck in my head. :-)

"Why'd they change it, I can't say. People just like it better that way."

I'm Italian and English...but married a fair haired, fair skinned, Nordic-type person.