Document Sample

  The sundial from St. Gregory's Minster, Kirkdale in North Yorkshire. The inscription ostentatiously recalls the
good works of one Viking, written in Latin, on an Anglo-Saxon church. It translates: 'Orm, Gamal's son, bought St.
 Gregory's Mynster when it was all broken down and fallen and he let it be made anew from the ground to Christ
and to St. Gregory in the days of Edward the King and Tostig the Earl. This is the day's sun marking at each hour.
 And Haward me wrought and Brand Priest.' From this we can surmise that the previous structure had probably
 fallen prey to the Danes, and the mention of Tostig dates it to 1066 or a little earlier. It is thought that it is still in
                  it's initial setting. Haward probably carved it with Brand the Priest setting the text.

        When the Saxon invaders came to this country in the fifth and sixth centuries
        they brought with them their own language. Although they did not kill all the
        native Britons they did almost destroy their language and replaced the native
        'Celtic' language with their own 'Germanic' tongue. With the new language, of
        course, came new place names, many of which survive to the present day. The
        existing settlements were not destroyed, but the Saxons found the names difficult
        to pronounce, so they renamed them in their own language.

        Many new settlements were founded too, and these of course had Saxon names.
        The commonest Saxon place names are those ending in -ton or -ham. These two
        words are derived from the Old English (O.E.) words Tun, meaning fenced area
        or enclosure, and Ham, meaning village, estate or home (or sometimes the O.E.
        word Hamm, meaning meadow). Often these were joined with the name of the
        person who founded the settlement, or an important person who lived there, such
        as Ceatta's Ham (Chatham) - the home of 'Ceatta '. Other times the name
        described some feature of the area, such as Brom Tun (Brompton) -'the
        enclosure where broom grew'. These are not the only Saxon place name
        elements to survive today, there are literally hundreds. Some of the other more
        common ones are - wick or - wich from O.E. wic meaning dwelling or village, e.g.
        Sandwich - 'The village on sandy soil'; -worth, the O.E. word for homestead, e.g.
        Mereworth - 'Meara's homestead'; -den from the O.E. denn meaning pasture, e.g.
        Marden - 'the mares pasture'; -hurst from the O.E. word hyrst meaning wooded
        hill, e.g. Staplehurst - 'the wooded hill where posts were got'; -ness from the O.E.
        næss meaning headland, e.g. Sheerness - 'bright headland'; -bridge from the
        O.E. brycg meaning bridge, e.g. Tonbridge - 'Tunna's bridge'; -ford the O.E. word
        for a river ford, e.g. Aylesford - 'the Angles ford'; -stow the O.E. word for an
        inhabited place, e.g. Halstow - 'holy place'; -burton or -bury from the O.E. burh
        meaning fort, e.g. Canterbury - 'the fort of the Kentish people'; Sutton from the
O.E. Suth Tun meaning southern enclosure, e.g. Sutton Valence (the Valence
part is a post conquest addition to the name); -bourne /-burn from the O.E. burna
meaning stream; -cot from the O.E. cot meaning small hut or cottage; -ley from
the O.E. leah meaning clearing; -mere from the O.E mere meaning a pool or
lake; -moor from the O.E. word mor meaning a moor; -stoc /-stock from the O.E.
stoc meaning hamlet or stocc meaning stump; -dene /-dun from the O.E. dun
meaning hill; Wickham from the O.E. wic-ham meaning a Romano-British village;
and many more besides (the Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names lists
almost 400 common place name elements of Anglo-Saxon origin.)

   The Middleton Cross (repaired), celebrating a long forgotten warrior of status. Despite being
 largely illiterate, this cross bore all the information his relatives or companions wanted to relate,
                                      though entirely forgotten now.
Some places were named after the gods and goddesses of the pagan Anglo-
Saxons. The place-name elements Thun, Thunder, Thunor, Thunres, Thur,
Thures and Tus come from the name of Thunor, the thunder god; Tig, Tis, Tyes
and Tys come from the name of Tig, a god of battles; Wednes, Wodnes and
Woodnes come from the name of Woden, a war god; Easter comes from the
name of Eostre, the goddess of fertility; there are probably many other places
that were named after local gods and goddesses whose name we do not even

As can be seen from this small selection of name elements, the Saxon invasion
saw the founding and re-naming of thousands of settlements, especially in
southern Britain.

It was not just place names that changed however, the whole language of
England changed (even the name England comes from the Germanic language
and means 'Land of the Angles'). The Saxons called the native Britons wealas
(which meant foreigner or slave.....) and it is from this word we get the modern
word Welsh.

The names of the days of the week are also Anglo-Saxon in origin: Monandæg
(the day of the moon), Tiwesdæg (the day of the god Tiw or Tig), Wodnesdæg
(the day of the god Woden), Ðunresdæg (the day of the god Ðunor or Thunor),
Frigedæg (the day of the goddess Friga), Sæternesdæg (the day of the Roman
god Saturn), Sunnandæg (the day of the sun). Several of our modern festivals
have an Old English name, for example Easter gets its name from the pagan
Saxon goddess Eostre, whose festival was in April, and Yule, from the pagan
midwinter celebration of Geol (pronounced 'yule').

Of the hundred or so key words which make up about half of our everyday
speech, most are Old English. Some are even spelt the same way such as and,
for, of, in, to, under, on ; others have changed their spelling a little like æfter
(after), beforan (before), behindan (behind), bi (by), eall (all), hwæt (what), hwy
(why), ofer (over), uppan (up), æt (at), æg (egg), socc (sock), scoh (shoe), scyrte
(shirt), hætt (hat), mete (meat), butere (butter), milc (milk), hunig (honey), cese
(cheese) and many more beside. All our words for the close family come from
Old English -faeder, moder, sunu, dohtor, sweoster, brothor as do many of our
swear words!

Below is a prayer written down in later Saxon times. At first glance it looks
difficult to understand:

Thu ure fæther, the eart on heofonum, sy thin nama gehalgod.
Cume thin rice, Sy thin wylla on eorthan swaswa on heofonum.
Syle us todæg urne daeghwamlican hlaf.
And forgyf us ure gyltas swaswa we forgyfath thampe with us agyltath.
And ne lae thu na us on costnunge, ac alys us fram yfele

However, when it is spelt phonetically it becomes instantly recognisable to any
modern person:

Thu our father, thee art on heavenum, say thine nama holyod.
Come thine rich, say thine will on earth swas-wa on heavenum.
Sell us today ourne day-wham-lick hloaf.
And forgive us our guiltas swas-wa we forgiv-ath themp with us a-guilt-ath.
And no lee thu us on costnun-ya, ash all-lees us from evil.

When the Viking invasions started a new language appeared - Old Norse (O.N.).
Since the Vikings came from different parts of Scandinavia they all used their
own dialect of Old Norse although the basic language was the same (much like
modern English, American and Australian). Old English and Old Norse were in
many ways similar since they had both developed out of the same language (like
modern English and German), in fact, the languge spoken in Denmark at this
time was mostly understandable by the Anglo-Saxons and vice-versa. This
meant that there were many words that were similar in both languages. For
example Old English had several words for child ; two of these were cild and
bearn. The commonest Old Norse word for a child was barn. In the southern
parts of Britain, where the Vikings hardly settled child has become the normal
word, however, in the north of Britain, where there was heavy Viking settlement,
the dialect word for a child is bairn. This is because it was a word both peoples
could easily understand. Sometimes this gives us two meanings for the same
word in today. The Old Norse word gata and Old English word geat are both
words originally meaning 'a way through.' In English it came to predominantly
mean a way through a wall or fence, so we get the word gate. Gate is seen in
street names in the north of England, but generally does not refer to an opening.
The Vikings used their word to mean a way through a settlement, so it came to
have the meaning of street e.g. Coppergate - 'The Street of the cup makers'.

Other words were introduced into the language with no similar word in Old
English so we have words in modern English which are Norse in origin, such as;
take, call, die, rugged, flat, tight, kid, steak, anger, awe, bait, boon, crooked, law,
them, wand, wrong, freckle, etc.. Despite these introductions the basic language
of England did remain Old English or a dialect of it.

One area where Old Norse had a heavy influence on the language was in place
names. When the Viking invaders arrived they found some place names hard to
pronounce, so they altered the sound of the name to suit the sounds of their own
language. For example the name of York was changed from Eorforwic (meaning
wild boar settlement) to Jorvik (meaning wild boar creek).
  An illustration from the Regularis Concordia, showing King Edgar, Dunstan and Æthelwold
                    'working' on the book of monastic revisions in about 973AD.
  Amongst many things, the book sets out the working hours of the monks and the number of
                                      meals they had per day.
They also introduced many new names as they founded new settlements. These
can be identified from particular name elements such as -beck from O.N. bekkr
meaning brook, e.g. Birbeck - 'The brook where birch grew'; -by from O.N. byr
meaning farm, or village (where we get our modern word 'bye-law' from) e.g.
Haxby - 'Hakr's farm'; -fell the O.N. for hill or mountain, e.g. Hampsfell - 'Hamr's
hill'; -scale from O.N. skali meaning hut, e.g. Portinscale - 'Prostitute's hut'; -toft
the O.N. for homestead, e.g. Lowestoft - 'Hlothver's homestead'; -thwaite from
O.N. thveit meaning meadow, e.g. Braithwaite - 'Broad meadow' (the Oxford
Dictionary of English Place-Names lists just over 80 common place name
elements of Viking origin).

Personal Names

Although much of our modern language comes from the language of the Anglo-
Saxons and Vikings, very few Christian names do. There are a few, such as
Alfred, Agatha, Agnes, Cuthbert, Edgar, Edmund, Edward, Edith, Edwin,
Godfrey, Harold, Hilda and Matilda from the Anglo-Saxons and a few, such as
Erik, Freda, Harald, Helga, Jon, Karl and Neil from the Vikings, but most Anglo-
Saxon and Viking names sound very strange to modern ears, names such as
Æthelberht, Offa, Wulfstan, Godwin, Beorhtweard, Cyneric, Leofwine, Ælfgifu,
Ealswith, Wulfwyn, Arnbjorn, Guthrum, Halfdan, Grimketil, Snorri, Arnbjorg, Gerd
and Gudrun. However, when you look at Surnames, there is much more
evidence of our Saxon and Viking past. Although the Anglo-Saxons did not have
surnames in the same way that we do today, they distinguished between two
people with the same name by adding either the place they came from or the job
they did to their first name, for example a woman named Edith who lived in the
town of Blackburn would be known as Edith of Blackburn, or just Edith Blackburn:
a man named Edward who was a blacksmith would be known as Edward the
Smith, or just Edward Smith. Many of our modern surnames are actually
'occupational names' - Bowyer, Baxter, Baker, Weaver, Fisher, Fowler, Hunter,
Farmer, etc…

The Vikings had a different way of distinguishing between people of the same
name - they added the name of the person's father or mother, so Harald, the son
of Erik would be known as Harald Erik's son, or as we would say it today, Harald
Erikson. Although names ending in -son are fairly common today, the women's
equivalent, -dottir (daughter) is not, although it would have been at the time.
Often Viking families alternated the name of the eldest so that Arn Gunnarsson
might be the father and son of Gunnar Arnsson, and the grandfather and
grandson of Arn Gunnarson! (Now you know why they didn't have postmen in
Viking times - they'd never know who the letter was actually for!?!)

Many Vikings also had a nickname which was used instead of their family name.
Giving a nickname was like naming a newborn baby; it created a special tie
between the name-giver and name-taker. The newly named person could claim a
gift from the name-giver, either a present or a favour, even if the name was
derogatory, which many of them were.

Nicknames sometimes went by contraries; a man with swarthy skin might be
called 'the fair'; an unusually tall man might be named 'the short' (much like 'little
John' in the Robin Hood stories). Other nick-names included Wise, Fox, Fool,
Grey Cloak, Hairy Britches, Flat Nose, Seal Head, Short, Stout, Forkbeard, Bald,
Blood-axe, Blue Tooth, Fine-hair, Iron Side, Smooth Tongued, Deep Minded,
Boneless and many more.

Few Viking women appear to have had nicknames, and most of those that did
described the woman's wisdom, beauty, wealth or speech habits. (Perhaps the
less complimentary names never made it into the sagas, for fear of litigation of
the physical sort?)