Language

Category archives for Language

5th Century Rune Stone Found

Most rune stones are written with the late 16-character futhark and date from the 11th century when the Scandies had largely been Christianised. Their inscriptions tend to be formulaic: “Joe erected the stone after Jim his father who was a very good man”. But by that time, runic writing was already 900 years old. It’s…

Copulation Music

Musical styles can have really weird names. There’s sauce music (salsa), meringue music (merengue), juvenile delinquent music (punk), record collection music (disco), LSD warehouse music (acid house), popular music (pop), you name it. But some of the most intensely loved musical styles have names that mean “copulation music”. “Jazz” was once a verb meaning “to…

Marsh Meringue

Visa större karta Here are two pieces of convoluted Scandy and English etymology that converge in my head. “Marshmallow” was originally the common name of a plant, Althaea officinalis (Sw. läkemalva), from which a thickening agent was made. This agent was added to meringue foam to produce the toastable sweet pillows we all know and…

Current Archaeology 232

Current Archaeology’s July issue offers a lot of good reading, of which I particularly like the stories on human origins (see below) and garden archaeology at Kenilworth Castle. But I have two complaints. First point of criticism. The editors of CA have this weird habit of doing “media tie-ins” without any clear indication of authorship.…

Makin’ A Lastin’ Impression

A lesson in Swedish from the mall at Sickla. Last = noun from the verb lasta, “to load”. In = in Fart = noun from the verb fara, “to travel”, cf. “wayfarer” and “fare thee well”. Load-in-travel. Delivery entrance.

Ancient Power Nodes

Anglophones find it really funny that one of Sweden’s oldest towns is named Sick Tuna — spelled Sigtuna. However, -tuna has nothing to do with fish, being instead a cognate of Eng. town and Ge. Zaun. It has something to do with enclosed areas. As a reply to a question from my friend Per Vikstrand,…

Ola Wikander and Fictional Beings

On Saturday night I attended a talk by bright young philology and religion studies comet Ola Wikander. In 2003, at age 22, he published a Swedish translation of the Baal cycle and other Canaanite mythological matter for the lay reader. In the five years since then, he’s done the Enuma Elish, the Chaldaean oracles, an…

Never Say Please To Mother

My lovely Chinese wife came to Sweden with her family at age seven and grew up here. This has given her an unusual level of bicultural competence. I like to quip, lewdly, that she’s a dual boot machine with two operating systems and the most awesome hardware, man. She’s like this typical bright Swedish middle-class…

Gratuitous “Of” In US English

Listening to podcasts and reading blogs I’ve come across a new dialectal quirk of US English. I don’t like it. It’s ugly. In standard English worldwide, people will tell you how much or little there is of something, how few or many of them. “I can’t get enough of her”. “I put too much of…

Gnome Poop Insane

Conversing with a friend recently, I mused, what could be the background to the expression “batshit insane”? My friend suggested that it might have something to do with having bats in the belfry. I then wondered what the Swedish equivalent of this expression would be. In Swedish, you don’t have bats in the belfry. You…