“…VIKINGS… people who lived in or came from the region we call Scandinavia, who lived between 750 and 1066 AD and ranged for various purposes over a much wider terrain, stretching from Newfoundland to western Asia.
“Those who went raiding were called Vikings, and they were usually a small and somewhat suspect minority.
“At some point in the late 19th or early 20th century someone and then everyone decided to apply this word — which derives from the Old Norse for pirate — to the whole Nordic population, as if all Americans were to be called cowboys, or outlaws.
“A thousand years ago there was no one term to describe speakers of the Nordic varieties of the Germanic language family. They were called Northmen or Danes, or Swedes or Gauts, or Ruotsi (Russians), depending on circumstances, not entirely on where they lived.
“They had versions of the same language in common, and the shortened runic alphabet to write it.”
from a piece in NYRB called
Valhalla in Bloomsbury
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