ah, getting caught up, but I should have read this one before replying to
Keth ;->

E-Ching wrote:
>About the root of _vargr_ meaning wolf versus outlaw. Am passing on a very
>brief summary of a lecture from my Old English professor, Fred C. Robinson,
>given Wed 24 Jan 2001. The related word in Old English is_wearg_, and it's
>never applied to wolves, only outcasts, thieves, and other criminals. The
>earliest written attestation of the word in the Frankish _Lex Ribuaria_
>(which is in Latin but has Germanic loanwords) has _vargus_ as
>"outlaw". What clinches it for me is that the Proto-Germanic tribes used
>to be neighbours of the Finns, long before they split up to become Saxons
>and Norse and Goths, etc., and the Finns borrowed quite a few words from
>Proto-Germanic at that time. One of them is the stem _vark-_ 'thief'
>(_varas_ in the nominative). So my professor concluded that it was
>criminal before wolf.

fascinating - I've been reading _The Unaccented Vowels of Proto-Norse_ by
Martin Syrett, and so just came across the topic of reconstructing
Proto-Norse from Finnish loans in that as well. The info you give really
makes me wonder if the additional meaning of "wolf" to varg is a direct
result of Volsunga stories and/or belief in shapeshifting, if the
Anglo-Saxon meaning doesn't include "wolf" at all. It would mean that the
additional meaning of "wolf" was added after the Goths and Anglo-Saxons
split from Proto-Norse, and after the Finns borrowed the term.

>By the way, I don't think looking at ON sagas would really answer the
>question. I'm assuming you just dashed off that suggestion without
>thinking too hard about it. For one thing, it would be perfectly possible
>for a saga to use both words for wolf with not much differentiation in
>meaning. The Old English had at least half a dozen words for "horse", and
>at least a dozen for "man". Besides, the ON sagas are not the oldest
>source of information about the root word in this case. But I do agree
>that it would be interesting for the purposes of this course to know which
>meaning of the word was primary at the time of the sagas we're
>studying. Haukur and Oskar have glossed _vargr_ as "wolf", so I guess
>that's what it usually meant in 12th(?) century Old Icelandic. The Old
>Icelandic dictionary that my professor quoted does also give a second
>definition, though - basically "outlaw" with a lot of frills - has that
>ever cropped up in your experience, H & O?

Hm - the OI sagas aren't a particularly old linguistic source, but the
whole oral-formulaic argument can be made that ON eddic poetry is a
significantly old source for linguistic value, and I may be able to check
this weekend on the word used in the eddic poems on which the saga is based.

>being obnoxiously philological :-)

don't worry, that's a plus from my perspective...

>PS That was an awfully truncated version of Fred Robinson's lecture. If
>you want the full-scale summary with quotations and everything, let me know
>- I already typed it up for Oskar and Haukur a couple of months ago, so
>it's no trouble to send it again.

whether or not anyone else wants it, if you have it handy as a file, I'd
love to read it!


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