Friday, December 28, 2012

Beleiv* (for Believ*)

Although Wikipedia, as well as most Americans, refer to him as "Leif Ericson," the name of the explorer who discovered the Americas (almost five hundred years before Columbus did) is spelled a number of different ways by our neighbors to the north. In Old Norse, it was Leifr EirĂ­ksson; in Icelandic, Leifur; in Norwegian, it would be Leiv. Let's leave that be for now, however, and talk a bit about the man. Leif Ericson was born circa 970, most probably in Iceland. He was the son of Erik the Red and his wife, Thjodhild. Leif's father, who had been born in (and banned from) Norway, established the first permanent Norse settlement in Greenland. Leif first sighted Vinland (what later Europeans called the "New World"), after being blown off course en route to Greenland, where he intended to bring Christianity to its inhabitants. (He was able to convert his mother, but not his father.) It's believed that Leif and his crew built a small settlement in what is now Newfoundland. The painting shown to the right was commissioned for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, and later given to the National Gallery of Norway in 1900. Beleiv* was discovered 25 times in OhioLINK and 433 times in WorldCat this morning. So remember: it's "I before E except after C"—except for when you happen to be a 10th-century Nordic explorer. Or all of the other times it isn't. Believe it or not.

(Christian Krohg's painting of Leiv Eiriksson discovering North America, 1893, held at the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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