Now this might seem some Social Justice rhetoric or reverse racism bullshit, but this is something that has bothered me for some time and since I am above average interested in Norse culture, history and mythology, I wanted to share my thoughts on one of the most misused words in Scandinavian culture.

If you have grown up in Norway or Sweden, you may have heard this phrase when complaining about the cold or the weather, “What? Aren’t you a Viking?” meaning you need to be as tough as the hardest sailors throughout history. The word “Viking” is often used to define an entire people, the ancient Scandinavians who from 700-1100 spread throughout Europe, Iceland, Greenland and North America (Yes, my dear American friends, Columbus was not the first European on that continent.)

My problem with this however is that this was never used to define themselves as a people. At best they defined themselves as Norsemen, but most of the time they defined themselves as the tribe or clan they belonged to, Swedes, Yngling, Normans, Danes and so on. They used the word “Viking”, but that was a word for an occupation, more as a word for sailor, explorer and warrior of the sea, and it makes sense.

The root of the word “vik”, is Norse and Norwegian for bay. “Viking” therefore means “man who leaves the bay”, so it makes no sense using it for an entire group of people. It is like defining every person in Iceland as Fishermen. To go on Viking, meant to leave the home for a chance to discover riches, whether it was through plundering, trade or exploration. It was something you did, not something you was.

I know this is kind of like screaming into the wind, but I just wanted to share this. Let’s just use “Norsemen” or “Norse”. Just an idea, not a command.

JH Lillevik is a writer of sci-fi and fantasy. He writes screenplays, novels and short stories. He also works as a writing consultant for upcoming writers. His specialty is mythology, world building and psychology.

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