Language

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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”…

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…

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.…

The Curiosity rover, a science robot the size of a car, is on its way to Mars where it will use a new landing system and hopefully spend several fruitful years trundling about. One of the coolest instruments on it is a laser gun coupled with a spectrometer: Curiosity can zap a rock from a…

Year after year, the Swedish language is spoken by a smaller percentage of the world’s population. And year after year, the geographical area where Swedish is spoken shrinks a little. But year after year, Swedish is spoken by an increasing number of people. How does this work? Although Swedish speakers in Sweden and SW Finland…