Friday, August 12, 2022

Viking-raid expressions

  In Cat Jarman’s River Kings, A New History of the Vikings from Scandinavia to the Silk Roads, page 4, is the following sentence.

Repton was no different – the accepted interpretation of the bones that I’d been working on seemed to fit neatly into the traditional Viking Age narrative: that of the Norsemen and Danes who travelled west in the late eighth century, launching a savage attack on unsuspecting monks at Lindisfarne in 793 and kick-starting the Viking Age in the process; and that of the hit-and-run raids of the succeeding decades that eventually, in the ninth century, led to ambitions of political conquest and settlement.

Comment: A couple of expressions caught my attention The first is “kick-starting the Viking Age . . .”  I had two motorcycles that required “kick-starting” as opposed to electrical push-button starting.   In order to start a motorcycle with a kick-starter, one pulled out the pedal of the kick-starter, put one’s boot on it, jump in the air a short distance and put one’s right-legged boot on it; then one raised up and then kicked down with one’s boot one or two times until the motorcycle started.  If one’s motorcycle is in good running order, the motor will then start.

Is there another meaning of “kick-starting”?  Perhaps it is also applied to certain older automobiles or farm equipment, I don’t know.  But in the above passage, in what sense did Jarman mean it?  Perhaps Jarman never gave a thought to motorcycles.  Perhaps it is such a common expression today that she didn’t need to associate it with motorcycles or farm equipment:  The Viking attack upon Lindisfarne in 793 “kick-started” the Viking age.  

But I got the impression that she meant something a little different from the motorcycle original.  She seems to imply a violent as opposed to a peaceful beginning which is appropriate to a Viking as opposed to a motorcycle start.  

The second expression is “hit and run” raids.  “Hit and run” is a baseball expression, and nothing else as far as I know.  It applies especially in the case of moving a runner from second to third base.  The batter hits the ball into the outfield.  The runner waits until the outfielder catches it and then runs to third and gets there, hopefully, before the ball does.  One can appreciate how well “hit and run” fits what the Vikings did: violently raid Lindisfarne and then sail away before an opposition force could be raised to attack them.  

But what expressions were used to fit Jarman’s narrative before motorcycles and baseball, I wonder.  And perhaps the above such expressions are accepted, today, in scholarly writings without comment, except perhaps by the occasional octogenarian with little else to do and therefore without merit.

No comments: