Language

Category archives for Language

The Lovecraftian Horror of French

I bought a used copy of Maurice Lévy’s Lovecraft ou du fantastique (Paris 1972) at the Fantastika 2016 scifi con, and now I’m picking my way through it with the aid of a dictionary. S.T. Joshi has published an English translation, Lovecraft: A Study in the Fantastic (Detroit 1988). Here’s how little of Lévy’s literary…

An Heraldic Snail

I visited Grödinge church south of Stockholm for the first time Thursday. The occasion was my great aunt Märta’s funeral, an event which, though of course sombre, cannot be called tragic. The old lady was always cheerful and friendly, but by the time she passed away she was 104, severely disabled, and according to her…

We interrupt this transmission for a puerile message from Medieval Bergen. It was found carved with runes on a stick at the Hanseatic docks. ion silkifuþ a mek en guþormr fuþcllæikir ræist mik en : ion fuþkula ræþr m(e)k (N B434) “John Silkencunt owns me and Guttorm Cuntlicker carved me and John Cuntball reads me”…

The Viking Age Is Really A Period

I have a problem with the term Viking Age. And it’s not likely that I will ever get satisfaction. Because I am a Scandy archaeologist, and the term is owned by UK historians and the general English-speaking public. The three-ages system was established by C.J. Thomsen in his 1821 book Ledetraad. It divides Scandinavian Prehistory…

Norse Saga About The Buddha

I found something pretty wild in an essay by J.L. Borges this morning. There’s a 13th century Norse saga about the Buddha. And the story has other fine twists as well. This all revolves around a legendary tale of the Buddha’s early life. In the 6th century BC a son was born to a petty…

Hedge-Wizards and Hedge-Parsons

The Grey Mouser, along with Fafhrd the Northerner hero of Fritz Leiber’s genre-defining sword & sorcery story cycle, is the archetype of the Dungeons & Dragons thief. He began his career however, Leiber informs us, as apprentice to a “hedge-wizard” who taught him some simple magical cantrips. I never understood what a hedge-wizard was, until…

Quaint Local Pronunciation

My boss at the Academy of Letters used to head the National Archives. Here’s a story he told over coffee the other day. Some decades ago a delegation of Swedish archivists was driving across the American Midwest to visit a Mormon microfilming facility. Stopping in a small town for lunch, they noticed that it had…

Easter Cryptogram

In order to find her easter egg, my daughter first had to solve a +1 transposition cryptogram with appended translation table. It gave her the location of a note with a +9 cryptogram where she was given the offset but had to write her own translation table. This led to a +9 cryptogram that resolved…

Dungeon Dudgeon Gudgeon Bludgeon

Dungeon: a massive inner tower in a Medieval castle or a dark usually underground prison or vault. Traceable back to Latin dominus, lord. Dudgeon: a wood used especially for dagger hilts or a fit or state of indignation. Traceable back to Anglo-French digeon. Gudgeon: a pivot or a small European freshwater fish (Gobio gobio, Sw.…

Rue Poirier de Narcay

When I was 16 in 1988 I spent a couple of days in Paris with a language school. I brought the address for a game store, one that advertised in White Dwarf magazine. It was on Rue Poirier de Narcay, which turned out not to be a central location, and so I never went there.…