31 December 2009

The Viking In All Of Us

It seems there is still a bit of the old Viking spirit in the residents of the Wirral, who have successfully fought off local government plans to close most of their libraries. This news report on Channel 4 this evening notes that the library at Irby was one of those scheduled to close, and also shows this fine old signpost of the footpath to Thurstaston. Both Irby and Thurstaston are places that can trace their origins to the Viking settlement of Wirral in the tenth century, as you can read, if you are interested, in Paul Cavill et al., Wirral and its Viking Heritage, 2000.
Today's Guardian editorial is 'In praise of ... British cheeses' - hear, hear! I think we can all assent to that... News to me, however, is that a Scottish cheese called crowdie 'traces its origin to the Viking invasion'. I suppose this is part of the general tendency to ascribe all good things to the Vikings, so I can second that. However, the OED claims its derivation is unknown, merely noting that 'Jamieson conjectured some connexion with GROUT, and Icel. groutr [sic] porridge; this suits the sense, but leaves phonetic conditions unsatisfied'. Quite. Thus do scholarly conjectures turn into newspaper fact... The 'porridge' meaning, by the way, is now obsolete according to the OED, but the second meaning it lists is 'in some parts of the north of Scotland, a peculiar preparation of milk' (eh?). The northern distribution may I suppose reflect Viking influence, and here I must recall one of my earlier posts on this blog, just over a year ago, about Crowdie Vikings, so maybe there is something in it.
Happy New Year to one and all, Viking or no Viking!

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