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Git them bairns oot this hoose!

May 2012

Do you know what the title of this post means? Believe it or not, it's English, or rather, it's a dialect of English known as Geordie, which is spoken in the north-east of England, where I come from. It might have been uttered by a despairing mother trying in vain to do her housework. Any guesses? Keep reading to find out more.

This post is coming from Norway, where I'm spending some time travelling and exploring the history, culture and nature of this beautiful Scandinavian country. And so far, I've made a few interesting discoveries.

For example, Norway's historical background is very much intertwined with that of the north-east of England. My home county, Northumberland, was one of the first places in the British Isles where the Vikings landed when they set off on their sailing expeditions to conquer new lands in the eighth century AD. Their port of call was the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, whose abbey was the first of many plundered by this Scandinavian folk.

However, my interest lies primarily in the strong linguistic legacy that the Vikings left behind in the UK, not only in place names (for example, towns ending in -by, -thorpe, -wick and -ford were given their names by the new visitors), but also in the regional dialects in the north of England.

Upon arriving in Norway, I observed that several Norwegian words are quite similar, either orthographically or phonologically, to those of the Geordie dialect. For example, the Norwegian word for child is barn; in Geordie we say bairn, and the English words out, house and home in Norwegian are ut, hus and hyem, identical to the Geordie pronunciation of the same words. So the title of this blog post in standard English is: "Get those children out of this house."

I find the history of languages and language change a fascinating subject. The past can teach us a lot about the present and give indicators for the future. The Vikings spread their language as they settled new lands, but once their strength began to wane, their language began to merge with that of their successors. English has been accused of linguistic imperialism in its spread around the world; it is probable, however, that the current dominance of the English language will share a similar fate to that of the language that the Vikings spread. The question is not if, but when.

John Haywood, The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings (1995: Penguin)

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