Got Viking?

Posted on November 14, 2013. Filed under: History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Dawn Raid

Dawn Raid

Maybe the culture and life-style have changed…   a little…   but, the DNA of the Norse raiders persists to this day.  Yes, they walk among us, and some — my, oh my — walk so much better than others.*

Their group name has changed also.  Instead of the terror-inducing “Viking,” they are now called Scandinavian.  Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland are today’s caretakers of that once-feared genetic pool.

As their culture morphed, so did their method of captivating the world.  Instead of heading out in those wondrous, fabled long ships to terrorize the world into giving up its wealth, the new Vikings have softened that approach — now, they invite the world to stuff its wealth into its wallets, board those modern, sumptuous cruise ships and head for Scandinavia where they can be delighted with the quaint, the modern, and some wonderfully dreamy scenery amid the haunting echoes of history.  (Those in a hurry to hand over the goods can fly via Viking Air…   well…   maybe that’s Scandinavian Airlines).

The Viking heirs still get the world’s money, but, now, in total reversal of methodology, the world hand-delivers it willingly to the Viking homeland without fear of losing a hand…   or any associated body parts.

Responding to this kinder, gentler approach, the world welcomes Viking travelers.  In times past, coastal cities being visited and not pillaged insisted that those ruffians come ashore only in small groups while the rest waited off-shore in their ships.  A small group’s rowdiness could be easily contained, but, there was the fear that a large group might try to paint the town red (a la Freddie…   Jason…   Lizzie Borden.**)  Today, they simply blend in with everyone else on the travel conveyance and are permitted to off load without fanfare…   unless they are celebrity, of course…   or brandishing an Ulfberht. 

I, personally, have much enthusiasm for the blue-eyed, gentler Vikings…   those not named Olaf, Dolph, Karl, Hans or other such.  I favor name types such as Brita, Anne, Annelie, Katarina, et al, complete with appropriate attributes.*  True, in my adolescence, I romanticized those Viking warriors, but, at some point I woke up and appreciated the fact that warrior glory came at a horrific price for those falling to that ethic.  Besides, I was too short to effectively wield a long sword…   hmm!  I had the same problem with golf clubs…   spent a lot more time replacing divots than swinging at the ball.

Through 300 years or more, these seafarers explored, pillaged, and colonized; the New World and the Old have benefitted from their legacy.  Yet, in my little world, the fingers on one hand are far more than needed to tally personal encounters with it…   although…   I did spend about five months with one Dagmar from Denmark.  The most memorable thing about that relationship was, if you failed a test, you kept taking it until you got at least a “D” on it.  She practiced the slogan “No Child Left Behind” long before it became politically chic…   I got out of Latin I with a long string of D’s and a fuzzy recollection of the ablative case.

Ironically, given my adolescent crush on all things Viking, I had no clue she was a DANE possessing the very genetic heritage I then romanticized.  Mrs. Dagmar Root (Latin teacher, Sam Houston Senior High, Houston, Texas a very long time ago), belatedly, I thank you for that close encounter with living history.

Rare and to be treasured are these Norse encounters.  I could use another one.  This is an open invitation to a tall(er) blue-eyed Dane (not named Olaf or such) to share lunch over Viking fare (with emphasis on sea food***) sometime in the near future (a few days…   weeks…   a month?  I’m very patient.)  Since I surmise that the rewards for such an encounter would be heavily weighted in my favor, I will throw in the long ship pictured above to help balance the scales.

Honest!   …the whole ship.

According to the ancient Nordic time wheel (which I just now invented), it is my turn to buy.

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*I’m a guy and still breathing; would you expect less?

**Freddie and Jason are fictional; Lizzie and the Vikings of old were the real deal.

***I am open to other preferences expressed by the lucky lunchee.

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In apology to all things Viking, I include the following unsolicited commercial plugs to help funnel money into Scandinavian banks:

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English: Split Infinitives and Egos

Posted on February 7, 2013. Filed under: English, grammar, Journalism, language | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Your words for the day:

  • infinitive = the word “to” followed by a “verb form” (e.g., to go)
  • split infinitive = an infinitive verb form with an element, usually an adverb, interposed between to and the verb form (e.g., to boldly go)

To improve my smarts before opening my mouth, I went to the web to see what the Great Learned had to say on the subject.  From search results, I clicked on a Yahoo! item which was sponsored by a Yahoo! affiliate Houghton Mifflin.  Since this article defined my subject AND ALSO echoed my rhetoric about the Great Learned‘s LIARS status (LIARS, Feb 24, 2012)…   that’s as far as I researched.  Don’t rock the boat ‘n’ all that.

How luscious.  That article provided two delightful fruits for my cynic’s taste buds:

  • Usage History.  The split infinitive has been around since the 14th century.
  • Ruled out.  The Great Learned gave it a name and condemned its use in the 19th century.

It took 500 years for the Great Learned to get snooty about the argot of the Great Unwashed (i.e., all those ignorant Not Great Learned…   the General Public).  Noting that the claimed impetus for this pre-emptive action was grounded in the Latin usage for the derivative, Mifflin‘s article stated that “English is not Latin” and is premised differently.  The ruling, then, is arbitrary and incorrectly applied.  That appraisal also coincides with my earlier assertions in Why Not Me? Feb 27, 2012.

It is possibly NOT a coincidence that a number of famous writers are cited in the article as being perpetrators of this heinous infarction…   infraction…   heinous infraction of infinitive usage, which really wasn’t an infraction until the Great Learned said that it was…   after considering it for 500 years.

Published writings became widely available and popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, and, authors who, by and large, were NOT university scholars became the Madonnas and Justin Biebers of then pop-icon-ism (stay with me; I make ’em up as I go).  Until then, it was the educated scholars of recognized universities who were the darlings of media offerings, which, if you don’t count the town crier, was pretty much limited to printed stuff. Distressingly for The Learned, about all this new breed needed to become a published somebody was basic understanding of a written language, some knowledge about the selected subject, and a commercial appeal to make it sellable.  Those works were fiction and human interest, and, as such, not subject to being criticized on procedural or technical grounds. 

The famous authors cited in the Mifflin article delighted in the use of the split infinitive and utilized it to turn a neat phrase and make their offerings more picturesque.  The scholarly Great Learned, who had entered at the ground floor of the university and spent their whole lives making their way upward into the musty attic of the academic ivory tower, were no longer the sole beneficiaries of public adoration.  Disgustingly, they had to share that limelight with upstart, under-educated “writers.”

These Great Learned, basically, had an institutionalized mentality and found it difficult to think “outside the box.”  Eventually, one  of them observed that it was the impressive and descriptive use of English that made the new darlings shine.  So, to redirect the spotlight, the Great Learned cornered a popular and long-lived grammatical construction, labeled it a “split infinitive” and summarily declared it “unacceptable.”  The Great Learned’s new mantra:  “Split infinitive bad;  famous writers not so hot.”

…that would be the same motivation as a toddler banging a metal spoon against a metal pot:  “Look at me; look at me!”

The Mifflin article concludes that split infinitives are fine (and colorful) so long as one does not displace the adverbs; too close to the wrong noun, and, the intended meaning of the sentence can be changed.  With that, I gotta split from this article.

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Next up:  Puppet Masters?  Knee Jerks?  Arrogance?  Decisions, decisions…

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