Friday, 17 September 2010

Cool, Code-Like Letters

I am enjoying writing Old Norse words today.  For instance vaðill, meaning 'ford', which has an interesting letter called eth in it which is written like this: ð
You can read more about it here.

It is found in Icelandic and Faroese words and was used in Old English and some Scandanavian languages. I first came across it when helping to catalogue Gunnie Moberg prints last year. Several of the photographs are beautiful Faroese landscapes and some depict the whale hunting that still goes on up there.

There was quite a lot of blood in the whale hunting photographs so I was concentrating quite strenuously on the titles of the photographs in a bid to quell my wussy hand-sweating.

Although Orkney has been part of Scotland since 1468, there are still a lot of Old Norse words scattered across the maps and hidden in everyday language.

'Ness', found at the end of Stromness, Grimness and Lyness is derived from Old Norse, as is 'setter', the suffix of Melsetter and Grimsetter. 'Setter' is derived from setr which, according to Hugh Marwick, means dwelling place or homestead.

In Gregor Lamb's Orkney Wordbook, the derivation of 'flitting' is given as the Old Norse word flyja, to carry, and 'geo' is traced back to gjá, a chasm. (Look! I managed to type an acute accent on the a and everything.)

Information taken from Gregor Lamb's Orkney Wordbook and Hugh Marwick's Orkney Farm Names.

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