Originally uploaded by PhylB

When we were in Largs recently (it’s a nice place to go for an ice cream), we passed the local Viking museum, which is there to celebrate the rôle of the Vikings in Scotland.

However, when I noticed the sign over the front door, I nearly choked on my lovely ice cream.

They had written “Víkíngar!” instead of “Víkingar!”.

Having studied Old Norse in my first term at university, I know a bit about that language.

The word víkingr is a derivation from vík “creek, sea inlet, bay” using the -ingr suffix which is etymologically the same as English -ing. The -ar ending is simply the nominative plural. That is, víkingar can roughly be translated as “creekings”.

Old Norse generally allows the full set of vowels only in the first syllable of a word (excepting compounds), whereas all subsequent syllables are restricted to the three vowels ‘a’ /a/, ‘i’ /?/ and ‘u’ /?/. Even if hadn’t known the origin of this particular word, I would therefore find it odd to encounter an ‘í’ /i?/ in the second syllable (it would only be plausible if this word was a compound: *ví-kíngar).

You might argue that this is fairly specialised knowledge, but surely this museum should employ people who know such things if they’re serious about understanding the Vikings.