and language

To the left is a slightly modiified map taken from Clark Hall's 1911 prose version of Beowulf. What attracted me were the names of Scedeland, or Scedenig, given to an area I've known for most of my life as Skåne.

I was also interested to see where Clark Hall had located the Danes, East Danes and South Danes.

Geatland was a location also of interest. Weder-Geats are off the map, to the northwest.

An article entitled The Continental Homelands of the Anglo-Saxons appeared in the Contemporary Review of December 2002, Vol 281, No 1643. Its author was a Mr David Burns. Burns noted that "historians appear to dismiss, or not wish to pursue" the connection between Swedish and Anglo-Saxon. Mr Burns concluded his essay by remarking of Beowulf that "the language of the poem itself, even at its late stage of writing, contains words still more recognizable in modern Swedish, than in modern English". Oppenheimer might have taken Burns on board. He also neglects or ignores C.F.C.Hawkes. Nevertheless, see a stimulating article by Stephen Oppenheimer, in Prospect Magazine, here.

The west coast of Skåne
and its place-names

My elder Swedish uncle, Fredrik, was convinced that the name of the ancient Swedish university town of Lund was cognate with London, England, and that one of these two towns derived its name from the other. He also believed that peoples generally followed the sun from East to West, and seldom went in the opposite direction. There is relatively little successful Drang nach Osten.

When I asked an English etymologist friend where the name "London" had come from, he replied that nobody knew. The internet now supplies a variety of unconvincingly speculative answers.

Geoffrey of Monmouth hypothesised that a Welsh King Lud trekked eastwards, and founded the city of London. He named it Caer-Lud (Fort of Lud), which is difficult to conjure London from, or else Lud-deen (valley of Lud). Valley ? Lund seems considerably closer. I can think up a marginally better myth of my own. Lund means grove/glade.

  At left, this marks the site of Löddesborg.

Löddesborg is the modern spelling of what was formerly Lydesborg, meaning Lud's (close enough) fortress. Round this estate are clustered several places with associated names, as indicated. If he ever existed, Lud was somebody.

.For Chipping see Ekwall, English Place-Names, 1936. "Chipping is OE (ugh) ceping, cieping, market, market town; cf Chipping Ongar, and Norton, Camden, etc." Same as, eg Kaupang.

Christopher Hawkes wrote that regular trade, in for instance Baltic amber, Irish gold and possibly flint weapons and tools, took place across the North Sea as long ago as 1500 BC. See The Prehistoric Foundations of Europe, 1940; pp 324-25.and 365-66. Löddeköpinge, or Lud's Chipping, in what is today called Skåne, has been a market and trading centre for at least 3000 years, and the whole area surrounding it is exceedingly rich in artefacts from the Stone and Viking Ages.

I'll agree with Geoffrey of Monmouth that someone (or something) called Lud had something to do with London. There is, after all, a place called Ludgate in the city. In every other respect I disagree with Geoffrey, and so does Richard Verstegan, author of A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in Antiquities, 1634. On page 136 Verstegan writes "it could never of Lud be called Ludgate, because gate is no British word, & had it taken name of Lud it must have bin Ludporth, and not Ludgate". See here. "Gate" is indeed no British word. It is not "Old English", nor "Old Norse", but "Old Scandinavian"; and it means street, or road. The word gata is Swedish for "street", today. It was also Old Skandinavian for street, road, or, putatively, man-made thoroughfare. Compare Micklegate, in York; or Bishopsgate, Aldersgate, Moorgate or Billingsgate, in London. Of course, a distinctive thoroughfare may lead up to, or through, what Modern English calls a "gate" of some sort; but that is not the basic meaning of the word, especially when appearing in these compounds. The English word "gate", suggesting part of a fence swinging on hinges, is in any case inappropriate for what might otherwise be called a portal.

"Billingsgate" is a special case. It does not involve any sort of a gate. An internet discussion notes (from riotgirl) that "Billing may be a corruption of 'Belinus', a mythological King of the Britons". Another says it was named after the god Belenos, along with Billingshurst in Sussex. Yet another remarks "that Belinus is called "Bel" by the Goidelic (Irish, Scottish, Manx, Gaelic-speaking) Celts, in the name of the Beltaine Feast. Shakespeare's 'King Cymbeline' is also related to "Belinus". Its Celtic form was more like "Cuno-Belinus" or "Belinus' Hound". Bel, in my view, was the original god Apollo, who was worshipped at Stonehenge, and who was taken to Delos by two young damsels called Arge and Opis. They were followed by another two damsels, called Hyperoche and Laodice.

Stonehenge was, and is still, a place of immeasurable importance, visited by peoples from all over the European world in the ten centuries BC. Its builders might just as well have been Old Scandinavians as anyone else.

My serious dislike of the terms "Old English" and "Old Norse" derives inter alia from lack of proper recognition of what Jordanes called "the womb of nations": see the map, at right. This is the area ringed in red, whence many peoples issued, over millenia. It is not noticeably "Norse" to any degree. It is, however, distinctly and definitely, "Scandinavian".

My text from the previous page, written several years ago, was "Didn't the Angles come from Scandinavia ?" Here are Oppenheimer's selected chapter headings again. Pending discovery of undigesteded information in his text, I'm offering some ad hoc answers to his questions; now substantially revised, 2017, following wider reading:

7. What languages were spoken in England before the "Anglo-Saxon invasions" ?
7a. What about Old Scandinavian ? Or perhaps Anglish, which is not the same as English.
8. Was the first English nearer Norse or Low Saxon ?
8a. The first English was spoken by Chaucer. The Saxon language is uncertain, because peoples might have been called Saxon, wherever they came from.
9. Were there Saxons in England before the Romans left ?
9a. Probably many mercenaries, from all over, including Anglians, speaking Old Scandinavian.
10. Old English perceptions of ethnicity: Scandinavian or Low Saxon ?
10a There were no Old Englishmen. There were Anglians, as well as people called Saxons, making Anglo-Saxons.

We're talking here about language in Britain pre-410 AD. That's what I want to talk about, anyway. I would suggest beginning with Meredig's translation of Makaev's The Language of the Oldest Runic Inscriptions, 5th edition 1996, and this book is not in Oppenheimer's bibliography. It is subtitled a Linguistic and Historical-Philological Analysis., and its 137 pages surely have to be required reading for anyone embarking on these tricky waters. Has anyone bothered ?

Recent makers of Anglo-Saxon dictionaries, especially The Old English Dictionary, strongly resemble people setting out to fill in crossword puzzles without reading the clues. It can be done, but makes exceedingly little sense.


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© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2015, 2017
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My fellow man I do not care for
I often ask me what he's there for
The only answer I can find
Is reproduction of his kind
Ogden Nash