Close cousins – the days of the week

Hi all! Today I’m going to show you how certain languages are very closely related using the days of the week.

If you’d guessed that I’ll be talking about Old English (OE) and Old Norse (ON) then you’ve learn what I enjoy, well done, but I’ll also be looking a bit more widely. Because that’s fun too.

First things first. OE and ON are members of a language family called Germanic. This doesn’t mean that they are all descended from German, though!

I’ve read that this language family is called “Germanic” partly because many of its languages fall into the geographic area the Romans called Germania, and partly because most of the 19th century heavyweight thinkers who solidified the idea of languages “relating” to each other, like families or species, were German and regarded those languages as “a central branch” (small mention here).

If the idea that languages can be related seems a stretch to you, then congratulations you were never forced to learn both Spanish and French simultaneously. This theory is the idea that all languages are descended from other languages. To pick a common example, all of the Romance languages, so, French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian and so on, are descended from Latin.

(No really, it goes on. The Romans got everywhere, and so their Latin was subject to countless different regional (and in the case in Ladino, ethno-religous) variations. Look at this list from Wikipedia! I didn’t even know some of these languages existed!

So, the Germanic language family is another load of related languages. Let’s go through a few.

So I’ve already said Old English is in that group. Old English gave rise to English (of course) and Scots (depending on your political views, don’t fight me). There’s also two extinct languages used in Ireland, Yola and Fingallian. And of course thanks to Britain’s invading imperialist colonialism (hello are my politics showing? oh dear) English is the ancestor to absolutely loads of creole languages, including the very widely used Hawaiian, Jamaican Patois and Singlish.

Old Norse too has its fair share of descendants: Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Faroese, Greenlandic, and Icelandic. (Icelandic is particularly cool because it is very much still Old Norse. They can read the Icelandic sagas without much trouble. Delightfully un-evolved language.) There was also Norn, which I’ve mentioned before when talking about Orkney surnames, and Russian and Norse traders did create a pidgin (which is a smushing together of languages together to try and reach a mutual understanding) called Russenorsk.

As you’d expect, modern German is also in this language family, and Dutch (and thus Afrikaans).

Ok, I’m probably the only one finding this language genealogy interesting, so let’s skip to the direct comparisons!

(Full confession, if you want to skip my rambling and just have a look yourself, I am largely using the relevant Wikipedia article.)

The Germanic days of the week are to an extent just pagan-ised versions of the Latin, since Roman gods were replaced by their Germanic “equivalents”. That in itself is very interesting, since it comes from both directions: the Germanic people noticed the similarities and adopted the Romans gods into their systems, and the Romans encouraged this because it meant that they could keep their pantheon across their whole empire, thus creating a symbol of “we are the same people”.

The Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings (to use my fall-back examples)  didn’t have exactly the same gods, but from what we know they had similar gods and you can see this in the names.

The modern Icelandic days of the week don’t fit the same pattern as their relatives so I’ve not used them here; they feel foul of an anti-paganism attempt by this guy.

So. To the similarities!

First, the Latin and the relevant gods:

dies Lunae, dies Martis, dies Mercuri, dies Iovis, dies Veneris, dies Saturni, dies Solis

  • Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Sun

Old English

Monandag, Tiwsdaeg, Wodensdaeg, Thunresdaeg, Frigedaeg, Saeternesdaeg, Sunnandaeg

  • Moon, Tiw, Woden, Thunor, Frige, Saturn, Sun

Old Norse

manadagr, tysdagr, odinsdagr, thorsadgr, frjadagr, laugardar, sunnadagr

  • Mani, Tyr, Odin, Thor, Frigg/Freyja, washing-day, Sun

 

Modern Norwegian (Bokmal)

mandag, tirsdag, onsdag, torsdag, fredag, lordag, sondag

Modern German

Montag, Dienstag, Mittwoch (was Wutenstag), Donnerstag, Freitag, Sonnabend, Sonntag


Hopefully you can see from these that not only did those languages all use pretty much the same gods in the same way, they also still show that they have a common ancestor. Even if you look at their words for “day” you can see it looks similar throughout.

Thanks for reading!

Close cousins – the days of the week

Hunts place-names – The Fens

Happy Easter Monday, everyone! Those of you who had today off work, I hope you made the most of it, and those of you who did not, I hope you were well fuelled by chocolate. Or religion. Or both.

This is part of my little mini series on a sample of Huntingdonshire place-names, where I look at what they were originally named and discuss what this could mean about the area (for example, what was farmed there?) or the people living there (who were they?).

(Catch up with part 1part 2part 3  and part 4 or browse my whole place-names tag)

Today I’m going to be introducing you to several place-names in the area of Huntingdonshire (and other counties) called The Fens which discuss notable landscape and environment features.

An acquaintance of mine has an excellent podcast about the myths and creepy stories around the fens, so you should check it out here, or search Fencast on Twitter!


  • Ramsey – Garlic Island

I discussed Ramsey yesterday in the plants section, so just to remind everyone:

Earliest spelling: Hramesege from roughly the year 1000. It’s made up of two Old English words: hramsa, ‘garlic’, and e.g. for ‘island’.

“Island” as you might have guessed is the word of interest here. This didn’t necessarily mean that everywhere around Ramsey at the time was underwater, since it could also mean an area of land which was higher than everywhere surrounding it. Given that the Fens are incredibly low-lying, both interpretations are possible.

© Copyright  David Deardenand licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

You can see from the little lane just to the right hand side of this picture that the land where Ramsey Abbey sits, which presumably was the first and most central part of the settlement, was raised from the Fens surrounding it.

If anyone does know the inundation state of the lands around Ramsey, do let me know! In the meantime it’s on my list of things to research.

  • Holme – Island

The fancy word for this type of name is simplex

BECAUSE IT’S SIMPLE AHAHAHA

because it only has one element. That element is from Old Norse (finally, it’s not Old English!!) and it’s holmr. It means almost exactly the same as Old English eg for Ramsey, so, island/dry ground in marsh. It probably wasn’t hard to be raised higher than the surrounding lands, since according to a bit of Googling the Holme Fens contains the lowest point in the whole of the UK. Wikipedia says that it is 2.75 metres (9.0 ft) below sea level. I can’t find a decent map of the area which shows land levels, which is really annoying.

  • Fenton – Fen Farm

This tiny settlement near Ramsey  was first recorded in 1236 as Fentun. Pretty simple here, it’s Old English fenn and Old English tun. The interesting thing is that several of my sources query what exactly fenn meant. One just calls it an area specific dialect term for  marshy ground. Given that the entire area for miles around is marshy, and that this settlement is tiny so probably didn’t have huge importance (look at me and my generalising without evidence; I’d be shot for this at uni), why this settlement was actually named fenn is unknown. Mystery!

  • Fenstanton

Another fenn name! This one interesting for a slightly different reason. So, we’ve got the settlement first recorded in 1012 as Stanton and then over 200 years later in 1260 as, Fenstanton. Fenn + stan for stone + tun, which as we’ve seen many times before in this series means farm or enclosure. I think this may actually be the least changed name I’ve ever come across.

It’s not quite the puzzle of Fenton because this place wasn’t named for fenn. We can clearly see in the recorded names that it was called Stanton first and only had the Fen added on much later.

I’m still intrigued though as one of the points from above still basically stands – why would you add a prefix which means marshy to a name in an area which is overwhelmingly marshy? Names are meant to distinguish settlements from each other! What did fenn mean??

Fun fact, the first person I’ve found with the surname or byname (see here for the difference between the two) Fen is “Willielmus de Fenbrig”, who was in a list of fines. Tut, tut. Piqued my interest though – there’s no modern place-name I can find called Fenbridge. Lost place-name?? Does anyone know of a street or field with a name like this?

  • Morborne – Marsh River

This tiny village near Yaxley is first recorded in an almost identical form: Morburne in 1086 (Domesday Book again). This is made from OE mor which means ‘marsh’ combined with OE burna. People of a Scottish persuasion might be able to figure out that second element without being told – yup, I’m pretty sure that word is the direct ancestor of Scots “burn” for stream. In an Old English context, a burna was used for a small waterway which wasn’t big enough to be called ea ‘river’.


In conclusion, every post I come up with new questions! When this daily challenge is over I will have a lot of material for future research, that’s for certain.

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to comment, pass it on to anyone with fabulous local knowledge, or just ‘like’ it on social media. See you tomorrow!

Hunts place-names – The Fens

Hunts place-names – Flora

Happy Easter to everyone! And happy anniversary to me, since apparently I started this blog up exactly 2 years ago.

This is part of my little mini series on a sample of Huntingdonshire place-names, where I look at what they were originally named and discuss what this could mean about the area (for example, what was farmed there?) or the people living there (who were they?).

(Catch up with part 1part 2, and part 3 or browse my whole place-names tag)

Daily challenge update: I am still two blogs behind where I numerically should be, oops! Will do my very best to get two up today! More information on the daily challenge here.

On to plants and crops in place-names! (Pop back here if you missed animals)


  • Brampton – Bramble or Broom Farm

To clear things up, we are of course not talking about wooden sticks for brushing here. The Wildlife Trust gives an excellent definition and picture here of the plant involved. Now, as a thoroughly townie child I have no idea why you would want to cultivate plants that I see growing everywhere, but I suppose brambles are a delicious food source and according to the Wildlife Trust broom may actually have been used for making brooms. Feel free to enlighten me.

The Old English words in contention are brame or brom. the first recorded spelling is unhelpful in curing the confusion: Brantune. Stupid Domesday.

  • Leighton Bromswold – Leek or Garlic Farm On/Above Brun’s High Woodland/Clearing

Isn’t that a mouthful? To take the plant element first: that’s Old English leac.

(Fact which amuses me and probably no-one else; I have typed leah “clearing/woodland” enough that WordPress now accepts it as a word and just tried to auto-correct leac to it)

So this isn’t a question of two possible words; this is one word with two possible meanings. Since leek and garlic are related, this at least makes some sense. Onion is also related, and a quick hunt in the online Old English dictionary shows that the Anglo-Saxons knew that very well:

leac – leek (or sometimes garlic)

garleac – garlic

efeleac/eneleac – onion (also could be cipe)

The “farm” word is just tun, which we’ve come across before.

The Bromswold bit is added a lot later: in 1254 we get Letton super Bruneswald. Clearly written in Latin, because super certainly didn’t mean it was a great place to go to. Then we have the name Brun, a clear genitive es, and wald, which is a regional variant of weald, which we came across yesterday as another one of those irritating words which can mean clearing and can be woodland. Argh.

  • Ramsey – Garlic Island, or Hraefn’s Island

Yes, there is yet another possible word for garlic: hramsa. Different type of garlic? Wild vs farmed? No idea. Second element is Old English eg for island. First spelling is Hramesege in about 1000, and we also get Ramesige in 1034.

I’ll be back for Ramsey in a later post, to talk about why it’s called an island!

  • Bythorn – By Thorn

Simplest name ever. OE bi + OE thyrne.  You can see it settling into basically what it is today even in the earliest spelling: Bitherna in 960. I mean, then Domesday Book comes along again with Bierne but that’s always an issue.

The thing which makes this name interesting is that this place-name has an odd structure. Most place-names that I looked at are made up of a second element which references a place, such as a farm or enclosure, and a first element which tells you what was grown/made/looked after on that farm. This is just … just a direction. Near the thorns. There must have been an awful lot of thorns for that to be memorable enough to make a lasting name!

  • Warboys – Watch Bush, or Wearda’s Bush

This is made up of the Old English word weard, meaning watch or protection (or alternately a man’s name Wearda) and the Old English busc for bush. Earliest form:  Weardebusc  974, and in the Domesday book it’s Wardebusc (see this fantastic website).

However, the cool thing about its modern form, Warboys, is that it indicates that the second bush element got influenced strongly by the Old French bois for wood. I don’t have the data to find out when this started affecting the spelling, but I would have thought somewhere between the 12th and 14th centuries?


Thanks for reading! Enjoy Easter in whichever way suits you! I will be eating my body weight in Easter Eggs and going on a long Pokemon Go walk to hatch and collect more Pokemon Eggs. But hey, that’s just me.

 

Hunts place-names – Flora

Hunts place-names: Fauna

Evening all! Today I’ll show you some Huntingdonshire names which have animal elements. This is part of my little mini series on a sample of Huntingdonshire place-names, where I look at what they were originally named and discuss what this could mean about the area (for example, what was farmed there?) or the people living there (who were they?).

(Catch up with part 1 and part 2, or browse my whole place-names tag)

Tenuous link: Easter makes me think of, spring means lambs and baby animals, animals mean nature in general. So now you’ve had that peek inside my head …


Fauna

I found 5 names in my sample which have something to do with animals. It’s worth remembering – and I will point out – that a few of these may have been named for oddly shaped hills rather than important nearby animal populations or the like. Bearing that in mind:

  • Woolley – “Wolf Wood”

This hamlet has some frankly astonishing recorded spellings. I don’t know how anyone ever figured out what it meant. In the Domesday Book it’s Ciluelai, and in 1158 it is called Wulueleia. My general place-names dictionary even wrote [sic] next to the Domesday Book entry to prove that it wasn’t their typo. Scribes, what were you doing? Where’s the f gone? Is there an extra syllable in the middle – some distant past grammatical marker? Apparently it’s wulf + leah. I’m just going to agree. An information website gives more recorded spellings (sadly no sources though!):

Ulvelai (11th century); Wulueleia, Wolfleg, Wlfleg, Wolle (13th century) Wolley (16th century) and Woolley (Modern).

http://www.barham-and-woolley.cambs.info

You might remember me previously mentioning that leah can mean either wood or clearing. I reckon it’s more likely to be wood here because WOLVES although maybe it could have been a clearing where wolves appeared a lot? Who knows? It’s near another wood place-name, weald, but that one can mean both wooded area and clearing too. Still, I’m claiming wood, because I can.

  • Buckworth – Buck (goat) enclosure

This village is only about 2.5 miles from Woolley. Wild conjecture time – was there a load of wolves nearby because there was a penned up fast food supply of walking meat?? Still doesn’t help with the wood vs clearing thing. This is mind-bogglingly self-explanatory as a place-name: Old English: bucc + worth, though my dictionary does suggest it could be Bucc as a name. Buck as a name, oh dear, I can’t blame the Americans for that any more …

I checked in the online Old English dictionary and bucc might specifically mean male goat. I kind of assumed we were talking deer or sheep, because in my head a male goat is a billy, but, that’s cool. Goat pen!

  • Yaxley – Cuckoo’s Clearing

Yay, it’s another name where you can see the possessive!! (Again, or for those who haven’t read previous posts, I’m talking about what in English we basically just have as the possessive apostrophe, and what if you’ve learnt German, Latin or basically any other language you might know as the genitive case.)

This first appears in 963 as Geaceslea, and is actually remarkably unchanged 120 years later in the Domesday Book: Iacheslei. Note the -es- middle bit!! Genitive!!!

The Anglo-Saxon didn’t always pronounce ‘g’ like we do. In front of certain vowels (I could dig  out my textbook and find out but I am sleepy … maybe I’ll do a brief post on it tomorrow?) it is pronounced like “y”. So you can see that the pronounciation hasn’t changed that much either.

  • Raveley – Raven Clearing

Great and Little Raveley are up near Ramsey in the fens. More on the fens in another post! This is fairly simple name. It was first attested as Raeflea in 1060, and it’s made up of Old English hreafn and good old leah.


Thanks for reading! I really do watch the view counter on WordPress with alarming concentration. I think I might have an F5 addiction.

Tomorrow I’ll do another little post on places named after plants and crops, and then hopefully I’ll do a meatier post about what names can tell us about the shape of the land at the time. See you then!

Hunts place-names: Fauna

Hunts place-names – Language

Welcome back to part 2 of my little series on a sample of the place-names from the historic county of Huntingdonshire. I’ll look at what they were originally named, and whether this can tell us anything about the area.

See part 1, on places originally named after people, here.

(Plug: Ask me your village/town name in the comments or on social media and I’ll look it up and tell you stuff about it! Places all over Britain welcome.)

Today I’ll show you how a few of the village/town names aren’t as English as you might have thought!

I’ll be putting these in roughly chronological order, so let’s discuss those categories first. If you know it all and want to skip to the names, feel free to click here!.

Pre-Celtic

This is thought to have been a language spoken in Britain before the Celts arrived. So we’re talking probably hm, before about 700BC? 800BC? For comparison, this is roughly the period when the Greeks developed their alphabet (and by developed I mean nicked it off the Phoenicians, who got it from the Egyptians, and no-one’s quite sure where Sumerian fits in … ok so I like the history of the alphabet too, sue me). Anyway, the point I was going for is that names which use anything categorised as Pre-Celtic are really, really old. They are generally river names, which is the case in Huntingdonshire.

Celtic

This is the language thought to have been spoken in Britain when the Romans invaded. (Romans were in Britain from 43 to 410.)

Old English/Anglo-Saxon

This was spoken by the Anglo-Saxons. The earliest record of them in Britain (in a position of power) was 441. I don’t think there is any evidence names anywhere in the country from that long ago, though. The question of when Old English ended is thorny but for simplicity’s sake I’ll go with traditional general views and say the twelfth century (1100 – 1199)

Old Norse/Scandinavian

This was spoken by the Vikings! gets shot by every single lecturer ever Ok, this was spoken by the settlers and also the raiders who came to live in Britain between the late 8th and 10th centuries. Fun fact, the settlers on the east coast of England were largely Danish, unlike those in Ireland and the North West (and Scottish Isles) who were largely Norwegians.

Middle English

Again to generalise drastically, this is thought of as what Old English developed into in England after the huge Latin and Romance influence from the Norman invasion of 1066. It’s the phase when, adjusting for spelling, you can generally read it without having to learn it word for word like you do Old English. Assume a rough start date of the twelfth century, and various netbooks are telling me the end date is 1475 – 1500. This basically corresponds with the printing press revolution, which standardised spelling properly.

Latin/French

Some of you might, if you’re paying attention, be scowling right now and asking why Latin is this far forwards in my list when the Romans were here for, like, 400 years. That is a valid concern and the Romans did definitely name places in Britain in Latin. However, the Anglo-Saxons got rid of I think pretty much all of them. There certainly aren’t any in my sampled names in Huntingdonshire! So the Latin in place-names largely comes from the same era as the French – it’s those pesky Normans again!

Most of my sampled names are Old English, but there is at least one example of everything above. Let’s go!

Pre-Celtic.

The name of the village COLNE comes from the name of a nearby stream. It’s so old that we don’t know its meaning, as we don’t with many Pre-Celtic words.

Celtic

The “Hail” in HAIL WESTON is a name meaning “dirty water” and was a previous name for the River Kym. (People started calling the river Kym after nearby Kimbolton.)

Old English

I’ve picked EARITH to represent the Anglo-Saxons, just because the translation makes me giggle. It’s made up of ear, which means muddy, and hyth, which means landing place. Obviously enough poor Anglo-Saxons got covered when they tried to get out of the River Ouse that it got named for it. Does anyone know if Earth is still muddy???

Old Norse

There isn’t a massive amount of evidence for Norse settlement in Huntingonshire. We know it happened, but there’s not a massive amount left for us to see. There are a couple of interesting place-names in that respect, but for now I’ll just talk about COPPINGFORD. The earliest form we’ve got for it is from the Domesday book, which is Copemaneforde. This is the Old Norse word for merchants: kaupmanna, plus of course the recognisable ford. But the reason that this is great is because the -nna ending on that word is a bit of Old Norse grammar which means belonging to (like the possessive apostrophe, or if you know German or Latin it’s the genitive case.)

That means that we can be pretty sure that Coppingford was named by Old Norse speakers. Whether they were the first to settle there, whether they just traded there a lot, or whether the name just replaced another unknown one, we don’t know, but I do think that’s pretty cool.

Concrete evidence of Norse presence in Huntingdonshire!

Middle English

WOODHURST is another favourite of mine. First recorded as Wdeherst in 1209 – no that’s not a typo, or if it is it’s about 800 years old and definitely not my fault. It’s made of two elements: Middle English wode and Old English hyrst. But here comes the daft bit. Wide means wood. Hyrst means wooded hill. So, Wood Wooded Hill. What??

Easy and also interesting explanation: originally this must have been called Hyrst. When people stopped understanding Old English, they just added a distinguishing word onto it. So there you go; a name springing from a misunderstanding!

(Other points raised: was there another Hyrst/Hurst around that Middle English speaking people wanted to distinguish it from? And was that area of woodland particularly important or rare, given that both names mention it?)

Latin

The only Latin lying around in my corpus comes in the form of distinguishing adjectives as happened to LITTLE PAXTON and GREAT PAXTON. Originally this was made up of the Old English name Paecc and that Old English tun suffix. Now, I don’t know why two settlements reasonably far away from each other have the same time, nor which one came first. Or maybe at one point they were the same place ad the middle section has disappeared? I don’t know, does anyone?

Anyway, so, by the 13th century, we see in the records that these two places are Magna Paxton and Parva Paxton. The fact that today they are called Great and Little suggests that all the scribe was doing there was translating those already existing words straight into Latin. He wasn’t even doing a great translation job, since my dad who loves Latin rather a lot assures me that adjectives should come after their nouns.

 

And finally, French!

The only usage of French in my sample (and I think probably the most common usage in Cambridgeshire overall) is in what’s known as “manorial suffixes”, which basically just means that when the French came in and were given stole lots of land, they added their family or land name at the end to identify the land as theirs.

Easy examples: OFFORD DARCY and OFFORD CLUNY. Darcy comes from a French family, and Cluny comes from a well-known French Abbey.

 

Thanks for reading! Please let me know if you’re enjoying this new idea. 🙂

Hunts place-names – Language

Huntingdonshire place-names – People

For this next set of posts, I’m going to pick a selection of names from my county, Huntingdonshire. I’ll then explain to you what the names show about the area!

Technically the county is Cambridge and Huntingdonshire is a district, but given that it only lost that status in 1974, people still view Huntingdonshire as a distinct thing. It was the third smallest county after Middlesex and Rutland.

So, where is Huntingdonshire? Well, first things first:

Screen Shot 2017-04-13 at 21.04.07
This is (modern) Cambridgeshire
Screen Shot 2017-04-13 at 21.11.58
Map showing settlements in Huntingdonshire from the time of the Domesday Book

Now we’re talking my language! (Also, if anyone knows the origin of this map, please do tell me!! My dad brought it home one day some time before 2013 and I have no idea where from.)

Hopefully you can match the names and get a sense of where Huntingdonshire maps onto Cambridgeshire. Now, onwards!!

The names that I looked at are dotted all over the county. The earliest recorded name is Bluntisham, from 907, and there are lots more from the tenth century too. All of the names are also still existing today – so Huntingdonshire pride perhaps makes more sense when you realise that the places are over a thousand years old.

Lots of the names are basically named after someone. This is an exceedingly  common naming practise across history and across the globe – check out the Wikipedia entry! But while places on that list are largely named after royal or famous people, settlements in Anglo-Saxon times are named after … well, certainly I don’t know. Possibly someone’s studied this, but if so I haven’t read it. Important people in the community, leaders, the first man to build a house … I don’t know.

So let’s look at some of these unknown, normal people.

Godmund

A nice easy one to start you off with. This was the man immortalised in the settlement name Godmanchester. Its earliest form makes it even more obvious: Godmundcestre. I’ll address the -chester element properly in another post, but for now just know that this was the word that Anglo-Saxons used to denote a Roman fort, town, road station, anything like that. According to my undergraduate research, Godmanchester was built on the Roman town of Durovigutum.

Blunt

This is the name behind the oldest name in my corpus: Bluntisham. This name is: Blunt (in its possessive form, Bluntes) and the Old English word for “homestead”. Blunt’s homestead.

Catt

He’s in the name Catworth. If you look at its earliest form, you can see that possessive -es again: Catteswyrth. The second element is Old English for “enclosure”.  Catt’s enclosure.

Ealdbeald

Believe it or not, this is the name behind Abbotsley. This is a great example of how you should never, ever trust modern names when you’re looking for older forms. There’s no Abbot here! Its earliest recorded form is Albedesleg, and again, there’s the -es in the middle. The -leg ending is actually the Old English word for clearing, leah.

(Actually if I remember my books correctly, leah is an interesting bit of meaning change: it used to mean woodland, and was applied to areas where there had in memory been woodland. (All British settlers have enjoyed cutting down trees, sadly.) As time went on the word shifted from basically meaning “woodland that used to be there” to “Oh hey look, this is a clearing. Obviously it means clearing!”)

Haedda

There’s another lesson in this next name. This guy had Haddon named after him. I’m going to show you the two earliest forms and you’ll see a massive difference:

[aet] Haddedune – dated 951

Adone – dated 1086

What on earth happened here?? The first form makes it easy to trace the name back to “Haedda’s hill” (Haedda + es + dun) but the second is warped beyond recognition.

What happened in 1066?

Right.

This is a record from the Domesday Book. If you don’t know what that superhuman piece of recording is, please, please check it out online. It’s basically a massive database of everything that the new king, William, had in his country, down to how many pigs a village man owned.

And the accepted wisdom is that the Norman scribes doing the recording couldn’t handle Anglo-Saxon spellings or names and so Norman-ised them. I have a few articles bookmarked to read on unfairly blaming Norman scribes, so don’t accept that as gospel, but it’s certainly what you’ll find in older introductions to the topic.

So, this is why that if you’re looking for the oldest form of a name you really want either something older than 1086, or something from a similar time but a different source, so that you can compare spellings.

And last but certainly not least:

Bucge

Now, as someone who is regularly called an angry feminist at work it would be highly remiss of me not to feature the only woman in my corpus. Whoever she was, she was clearly something special. Her eponymous village is Buckden, and its second element is denu which means valley.

Thanks for reading, and come back tomorrow for the way that we can mirror the invasions of England (and thus Huntingdonshire) through the languages used in its names!

Huntingdonshire place-names – People

Ohthere’s Voyage

The number of Anglo-Saxon themed books on my Amazon wish list is getting daft, it really is. Rather than bore you by complaining about how much I want them all, complete with lists, or even more boringly, talk about the ones I already own, I thought I would focus in and tell you my admittedly largely un-academic reasons for wanting one in particular:

Ohthere’s Voyages: A Late 9th-century Account of Voyages Along the Coasts of Norway and Denmark and Its Cultural Context

I first came across the tale of Ohthere and Wulfstan as a third year undergraduate student at Newcastle University, studying English Language. I had finally started studying the module which was a huge part of the reason I picked Newcastle to begin with: Old English. We were learning from Peter Baker’s excellent book, Introduction to Old English, and eventually we reached the point of trying to translate from Old English the story of these two voyages. (I found a potentially useful map on those journeys on the Norwegian Wikipedia article, fyi). These were told to King Alfred (yes that one, who was also all for increased literacy) and inserted into the Old English translation of a Latin history of the world.

ottars_reise

 

The reason that this was so interesting to me is that it was the first encounter I had read about between Old English (people) and Old Norse (people). Previously I had only really been interested in the Anglo-Saxons, and had actually read more about their interactions with the Franks than their more northerly cousins.

Our teacher, Professor Diana Whaley, threw in an offhand mention that Ohthere was the Old English version of his name, and that in Old Norse it would have been something like Otar. (This is filtered through my 4 year old memories, all errors are mine alone). This was a “WOW!” moment for me. I’ve always loved etymology and cognate words, and suddenly realising how close Old Norse and Old English had been was thrilling.

It got even cooler in my Master’s degree, where I discovered that there had been massive influence on Old English by Old Norse. Cue me getting very overexcited in my Old English in History seminar about the Kirkdale Sundial, which shows Norse influence in Old English words, and waxing lyrical in my World of Vikings seminar about Matthew Townend’s book: Language and History in Viking Age England: Linguistic Relations between Speakers of Norse and English. I do occasionally get sad about the fact that I never did anything in-depth on the two languages. It’s just so cool.

Maybe next time I’ll do a little 101: You Weren’t Crazy Enough To Study This Stuff on words that you might not have known came from Old Norse. Like skirt (which meant “shirt”), sister, or kirk (nope, not originally Scottish!). Or the verb to take!

So yes, I want that book largely for nostalgic reasons, because it promises to go into fantastic contextual detail about something which kickstarted my interest in all things Anglo-Scandinavian. (this has reminded me how much I also still want that Townsend book too: despite reading it from cover to cover at uni it’s not actually joined my civilian pile yet). I’m forever promising myself that one day I will start writing historical fiction in the later Anglo-Saxon era, and Scandinavians would definitely play a huge part in that.

If anyone reading this also has a massive Amazon wishlist I should check out, or a book which likewise changed their interests, please feel free to comment below!

 

 

 

Ohthere’s Voyage