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Saturday, November 03, 2007

words, words

Hi Neil,
I was considering your new book Odd and the Frost Giants. Before I started working in my current job I would have thought 'Odd' an amusing name for a character because of its meaning in the English language.

However, I now work for a company that employs a lot of Norwegians and there is many a person named Odd amongst them, including the wonderfully named Odd Erik Stangeland.

What made you choose 'Odd' for your character? (Incidently I did a quick search for Odd and found that its etymological meaning could be from Old Norse {oddr}, meaning 'point of a sword (weapon)' - I wonder how it came to mean what it does in modern english...)
Regards
Cameron
Aberdeen, Scotland

As you say. Actually the book begins,


There was a boy called Odd, and there was nothing strange or unusual about that, not in that time or place. Odd meant the tip of a blade, and it was a lucky name.

He was odd though. At least, the other villagers thought so. But if there was one thing that he wasn't, it was lucky.

His father had been killed during a sea-raid, two years before, when Odd was ten. It was not unknown for people to get killed in sea-raids, but his father wasn't killed by a Scotsman, dying in glory in the heat of battle as a Viking should. He had jumped overboard to rescue one of the stocky little ponies that they took with them on their raids as pack animals.

and how I found it? Before I started writing, I called my favourite Norwegian, Iselin Evensen (last seen on this blog taking me to a tomb in Oslo I think), and she put several lists of old Norse names and nicknames and what they meant and suchlike together for me, and Odd jumped out from the list and started waving.

According to http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=odd points of weapons were triangles, and the three-sided-ness gave us the concept of odd versus even, and from there we probably got odd versus normal...

Squirrel billingsgate? From whence cometh the reference, please an thank you? (I Googled it, and know that Billingsgate is a section of London, and there is or was a fishmarket there. But, I'm not sure what that has to do with Squirrels being 1)so greedy they'll eat anything put anywhere, and 2) Squirrels being unjustly detained in woodchuck traps.)

Regards, Siri

The fish market of Billingsgate was famous for the salty and interesting language of the people who worked there, who all swore like, um, fishwives. According to the 1811 Grose Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue,

billingsgate language

Foul language, or abuse. Billingsgate is the market where the fishwomen assemble to purchase fish; and where, in their dealings and disputes, they are somewhat apt to leave decency and good manners a little on the left hand.


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