Old Norse for Modern Times by Ian Stuart Sharpe, Dr Arngrimur Vidalin and Josh Gillingham

Publisher: Outland Entertainment

Price: £20.99 Hardcover; Digital version available

I make no secret of the fact that I think history is full of humour. Namely, because it is full of human beings who do and say the stupidest things. This book offers the unique perspective of a Norseman and as the preface points out, Vikings were explorers and so used to new and strange experiences on their travels. The UK was just one of the places that they travelled to and left us with words and place names that we still use today. Nearly 400 people kickstarted this project by supporting it at the initial stages so that it could be created. A demand-led book revolution desperately needs to take over the publishing world, but that is for another day.

There are three contributors to the book: Ian is a novelist writing in the Viking era and clearly has a love of the period. Arngrimur is a Professor of Icelandic Literature and specializes in Nordic medieval literature (there is someone I’d like to sit next to at a dinner party!) Josh is also an author and has a love of the Nordic myths and sagas. What is obvious is their sense of humour, their love of the Norse language and their desire to get it into the wider world for people to enjoy. And this is a great way to do it lads.

The introduction points out a helpful website that hosts an audio version of the book so that you can hear the correct pronunciations of the phrases which is a nice touch. I learnt that old Norse uses non-Latin letters that used to be part of old and middle English so our ancestors would likely have known them. Because it’s complicated (at least it is to me): Eth was replaced with dh which then became d. Although it is translated as the sound D, it’s actually also like our sound ‘th’. As I said, complicated. But the aim of the book is to be as ‘authentic as academically possible whilst raising a smile’ and it does the job well.

There are nine chapters in all. My favourite phrases are highlighted.

Chapter One (Make New Friends with Old Norse) covers subjects such as conversation starters, the weather, small talk and pick up lines.

I wouldn’t want to be at the pointy end of that:

If I die in battle today, please delete my browser history:
Efekskyldafallai pessiorrustu, fyrirkompu pa vefsoguminni.

Chapter Two (Old Norse for the Big Picture) covers pub talk, movie lines, myths and saga stories from some famous characters such as Thor and Loki.

I notice you’ve copied my beard:
Ek se, at verhofum nu itsamaskegg.

If it’s all the same to you, I’ll have that drink now:
Efeigi per pat mislikarmuneknu piggjadrykkpann, es adrpubaudsk mer.

Chapter Three (Old Norse for Going Online) covers social media, internet connections, hashtags and acronyms.

I think you just spear butt-dialed me:

Mun geirrpinnvaldasimtalipessu.

It’s a dragonship. You can’t just turn it off and turn it on again:
Sja, dreki es skip petta, es ohogumtjoireigieinfaldliga at loka ok lukauppaptr.

Chapter Four (Old Norse for the Big Occasion) talks about celebrations, gaming, sports and music.

It’s my silver wedding anniversary. Well, technically it is the monk’s silver but we are still celebrating:
Ver eigumsilfurbrullaup. At visu er pat silfrmunksins, enfognumvereigi at sidr.

I don’t think Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is historically accurate:
Eigihyggek, at Launvegandaeidr: Valholl se leikrsannfrodr.

If I hear Ride of the Valkryies one more time, I am going to go berserk:
EfheyriekValkyrjureidinaennaptr, verdektrylldr.

Chapter Five (Old Norse for Old Soldiers) reveals military sayings, historic quotes and weaponry.

Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons:
Sa, es maelti, at penninnvaerisverdinuoflgri, munaldri set hafasjalfvirkvapn.

Chapter Six (Slogans of the High One) covers common brand slogans, economics and holidays.

Warning! For security purposes, please keep all axes with you at all times:
Varud! Fyrirsakaroryggis, vinsamligagaetitaxaykkarollomstundum.

Chapter Seven (Old Norse for Skalds) covers Shakespeare quotes, phrases Vikings should have invented but didn’t and some wise sayings.

There is no bad weather, only bad clothing:

Chapter Eight (Preparing for Ragnarok) covers preparing for the end of the world, quarantine, heroes, beliefs and astrology.

I’m a virgo. I’m not yelling. I’m explaining:
Ekemmeyja ok aepieigi, heldrutskyri.

Leos don’t need anger management; they just need people to stop pissing them off:
Enoorgudyrpurfaeigi at hafahemil a reidisinni. Betrvaeri, at folk haetti at eggja pau tilofridar.

Chapter Nine (Old Norse for Kickstarters) translates phrases put forward by the kickstarters who supported the project.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it:
Lifitridr hart. Efdvelrpueigi ok hyggr at stundum, kannsvafara at pumissirafpvi.

The only thing that would have made this book even better would have been to write the translation phonetically underneath so that I could have had a stab myself at pronouncing it before I headed over to the website to listen to the audio version to see how well I did.

I’d recommend this book as it’s short and makes you smile. It also made me want to find out what words the Vikings gave us that we still use today and I was pleased to see Dave’s favourite thing there: CAKE. Which is kaka in Norse. There you go Dave as if you didn’t love the Vikings already, they gave us cake.

Old Norse for Modern Times by Ian Stuart Sharpe, Dr Arngrimur Vidalin and Josh Gillingham is available by clicking on the links provided, on Amazon or by googling.

Reviewed by Kerrie Fuller of the Lost tapes of history podcast.