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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in language

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 Euphemisms and the Detritus of Life ...

Faith-based is what you say when you don't have the courage (or honesty) to say “religious.”

Plant-based is what you say when you don't have the courage (or honesty) to say “vegan.”

Earth-based is what you say when you don't have the courage (or honesty) to say “pagan.”

Are you seeing the trend here?

Of course, one understands the reasoning. The Bush 2 administration didn't want to admit that they were directly giving taxpayer dollars to religious (in virtually every case, conservative Christian) organizations. Like conservative Christians, vegans have a—let's be honest here—all-too-often well-deserved reputation for entitlement and self-righteousness. And sometimes, as we all know, everything sounds fine until you use the P-word.

(Besides, calling the modern paganisms “Earth-based” is aspirational at best; in most cases it's just plain untrue. I'm sorry, there's nothing “Earth-based” about Something Out of Books from Long Ago and Far Away.)

Welcome to the Wonderful World of Euphemism.

Me, I'm a word-guy. The trajectory of my entire linguistic career has been towards a language of clarity, precision, and honesty. Euphemism strikes me, instead, as the preserve of the dishonest, the craven, and the demagogic.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
A Conversation with my Late Companion

It's been almost a year since my companion Tom died. I know he's around a lot, protecting me, but I hardly ever hear him speak to me through my godphone anymore. At first we communicated a lot, right after he died. Recently instead of actual conversations our communication has been limited to my setting out flowers and drinks for him on the main house shrine which has a permanent area dedicated to Tom. That counts as a form of communication for a noncorporeal being, including both gods and the dead.

The other day I saw some silly pun online and thought of Tom because he loved puns when he was alive. My thoughts connected with him and I found myself in a mental conversation with him. While he was alive, I could always tell when he was feeling good because he was a pun-o-matic throwing puns as fast as I could catch them. This time, he tried to make a pun and it came out a complete hash that did not even register as words to me.

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There are a number of words specific to modern Asatru in the English language which were based on Old Icelandic or Old Norse and which differ from Modern Icelandic. For example, in Asatru a blot is a ritual sacrifice. In Modern Icelandic, a blota is a cussword. In Asatru in the USA, a fulltrui is a patron god, and in Modern Icelandic it's the word for a customer service representative.

There are also words in use in English that were originally based on Icelandic but have undergone Anglicization.
One of those words is the word Asatruar and Asatruars. In its original language, the word Asatruar is plural. Asatru is the religion of all those Asatruars over here in this room with the mead horn. That's how we say it in English. Sometime between when modern English speaking adherents of Asatru started calling themselves Asatruar, and today, we unconsciously regularized the word to the standard English plural S as Asatruars. So instead of the word Asatruar being understood as a plural word like in Icelandic, with -ar being the plural, we treat it like words like baker, trader, farmer, maker, with the -er understood as one who does. Asatru means faith in the gods of Asgard, so in English Asatruar has started to be treated like it means one who does Asatru.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Victoria
    Victoria says #
    No you don't I agree but if you are going to use or post Old Norse terms use them appropriately.
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    You do not have to speak Old Norse to be Asatru. You do not have to speak Aramaic, Ancient Greek, or Latin to be a Christian. You
  • Victoria
    Victoria says #
    blót/a v (acc/dat) (-aði) A. (acc) (dýrka goð) worship pagan gods B. (dat) 1. (bölva) curse, swear 2. (fórna) sacrifice full·trú

Manitoba Moose Survey Results - Manitoba Wildlife Federation


The plural of tooth is teeth,

and the plural of goose is geese.

Would somebody kindly

explain to me, please,

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Good old English. She's taken many lovers, down the long years.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I think we borrowed the word moose from the Algonquin, it's not an English word.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Witches Do Not Bend*

Allow me a moment's irritation that this persistent misinformation continues to get shared. The 'witch' of witch hazel or witch elm is *not* that witch. This is the Proto-IndoEuropean root *weik


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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Flowers in Amber

The ancestors are still speaking.

One of our very greatest inheritances from the forefathers and mothers is language. If we listen closely, we can hear their voices today.

2500 years ago, the ancestors bound their thought together with alliteration, what we may think of as initial rhyme. Many of these phrases—hundreds, if not thousands, of years old—are with us still.


Might and main. “Might” is physical strength; “main” (OE megn) is non-physical (psychic, spiritual) strength—“soul-strength,” one might say. To do something with all one's might and main means to use all one's available resources. Those seeking a word for “energy” that doesn't reek of patchouli may wish to consider “main.”

Kith and kin. It's interesting how frequently these inherited alliterative phrases refer to a totality. “Kith and kin” means “everyone”: both those that you're related to (kin), and those that you know (kith). Preserved like a flower in amber, the ancient word for “know personally” also survives in “uncouth,” originally meaning “unknown.”

Bed and board. Tables take up a lot of room. In the houses and halls of the ancients, where interior space was at a premium, at mealtimes it was customary to set up trestles and boards to eat from. Hence, board, pars pro toto, came to be short for “table.” (“Table” is a French word. The Normans, of course, were the aristos; they could afford to have tables sitting around, uselessly taking up room. Every word's a story.)

Bed and board,” then, means home: where you sleep and eat.

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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Thank you for the House and Home paragraph. I have a house but it is not yet home. I have often caught myself saying "I want to
Asatru FAQ: Shouldn't We Have a Sacred Language?

Every so often, people come up with ideas we've already tried. That's one reason long time heathens are a great resource for newer heathens. We remember. One idea that keeps recurring is the idea of having a liturgical language, like Latin for the Catholics, or an official common language for our religion that is also used as a common secular language, such as the modern revival of Hebrew among Jews as the national language of Israel.

Asatruars actually tried that before. In the 90s, Asatruars in the USA were calling themselves Ulfgar Tyrsson and Freya Freyasdottir and calling quarters with Thorsson's Hammer Rite in Old Norse. And saying "hailsa."


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