Saturday, June 08, 2013

June 8: Words from Norse Day

On this date in the year AD 793, the Viking invasions of England began when the Christian monastery at Lindisfarne was sacked.  Viking aggression threatened the extinction of English, replacing it with Norse.  A hero emerged, however, to save English. In 878, Alfred the Great defeated the Danes at Ethandune.  The subsequent treaty established the Danelaw and brought peace to Britain, allowing Norse settlement in the north and preserving the English-speaking Saxons in the south (1).

Although the Viking raids threatened English, in the long run English conducted raids of its own on the Norse language, absorbing hundreds of words -- many so common that we use them everyday.

Pronouns:  both, their, they, them

Verbs:  call, gasp, hit, lift, want

Nouns:  awe, cake, dregs, leg, scrap, sister, window

Adjectives:  happy, odd, rotten, ugly, wrong (2)

Today's Challenge:  On Loan from Norse
Grab a good dictionary and see if you can add to the list above by finding other English words with Norse etymologies.

Today's Quote:  We and our fathers have now lived in this fair land for nearly three hundred and fifty years, and never before has such a terror been seen in Britain as we have now suffered at the hands of a pagan people. Such a voyage was not thought possible. The church of St. Cuthbert is splattered with the blood of the priests of God.  --Alcuin of York on the Viking raid at Lindisfarne.

1- McCrum, Robert, Robert MacNeil, and William Cran.  The Story of English.  New York:  Penguin Books:  1986:  65-6.

2 - Reader's Digest Success with Words: A Guide to the American Language. Pleasantville, New York: The Reader's Digest Association, Inc., 1983:  472-3.

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