Why is " Hat-lads" insulting?

< Previous | Next >

xiaoyudang

Member
Chinese
It was generally considered as a most unlucky meeting for Olaf's people, as Earl Erling was in a manner sold into their hands, if they had proceeded with common prudence. He was afterwards called Olaf the Unlucky; but others called his people Hat-lads.

According to the context, "hat-lads" is not a compliment.
I thought "hat" means something women wear, and "lad" means guy. Guys wearing women's hat, so it's insulting.
But hat is something both women and men wear. Then I don't know what does the author mean.


From : HEIMSKRINGLA OR THE CHRONICLE OF THE KINGS OF NORWAYBy Snorri Sturlaso
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/598/598-h/598-h.htm
 
  • ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    Just a shot in the dark: perhaps, as the opposite of "proceed[ing] with common prudence", Olaf (and his people) approached the meeting 'with hat(s) in hand(s)', as supplicants?
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    It's a translation of something that was insulting (if it even is insulting) in Old Norse circa 1225 AD. Hat could be a place for all I know.
     

    Silver_Biscuit

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    If you look at the original, it is clear that the two preceding guesses (hat in hand / place name) are not correct. Neither is it anything to do with gender roles. It's not surprising that you're not getting anywhere on this forum, though - all you will get are guesses based on a translation. I suggest you ask this question about the original Old Icelandic text in the Nordic Languages forum. Or even a Norwegian translation - this is more likely to retain the sense intended than an English translation.

    I know I'm not allowed to quote other languages here, but here is a link to the appropriate text in Icelandic (with modernised spellings): http://www.snerpa.is/net/snorri/m-erl.htm. Look under section 33 and you will find the relevant quotation. Ask people who speak Icelandic, or at least another Nordic language, and you have a much better chance at solving this.

    I understand the text, but I don't have sufficient knowledge of Old Norse culture to say precisely what is going on here. I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that it is supposed to be insulting, though, just because Ólafur suffered a defeat.

    Edit: I found the word in question in an Icelandic-English dictionary and it was there translated as 'hood-boys' and said to be 'a nickname'. Another result for a Google search for the Icelandic word suggests that this nickname may have come from Ólafur's foster father, Sigurður Agnhöttur.
    Yet another result (in Danish) suggests that the reason for the nickname was that he wanted to usurp the king. I'm not sure of the logic behind this so I don't know whether that makes sense or not.
    Overall, I think it's pretty clear that it's not an insult, though. It also appears that the real reason for the nickname is not known for sure, even by saga experts. So probably there is no answer.
     
    Last edited:

    xiaoyudang

    Member
    Chinese
    If you look at the original, it is clear that the two preceding guesses (hat in hand / place name) are not correct. Neither is it anything to do with gender roles. It's not surprising that you're not getting anywhere on this forum, though - all you will get are guesses based on a translation. I suggest you ask this question about the original Old Icelandic text in the Nordic Languages forum. Or even a Norwegian translation - this is more likely to retain the sense intended than an English translation.

    I know I'm not allowed to quote other languages here, but here is a link to the appropriate text in Icelandic (with modernised spellings): http://www.snerpa.is/net/snorri/m-erl.htm. Look under section 33 and you will find the relevant quotation. Ask people who speak Icelandic, or at least another Nordic language, and you have a much better chance at solving this.

    I understand the text, but I don't have sufficient knowledge of Old Norse culture to say precisely what is going on here. I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that it is supposed to be insulting, though, just because Ólafur suffered a defeat.

    Edit: I found the word in question in an Icelandic-English dictionary and it was there translated as 'hood-boys' and said to be 'a nickname'. Another result for a Google search for the Icelandic word suggests that this nickname may have come from Ólafur's foster father, Sigurður Agnhöttur.
    Yet another result (in Danish) suggests that the reason for the nickname was that he wanted to usurp the king. I'm not sure of the logic behind this so I don't know whether that makes sense or not.
    Overall, I think it's pretty clear that it's not an insult, though. It also appears that the real reason for the nickname is not known for sure, even by saga experts. So probably there is no answer.
    Thank you so much, silver biscuit! Thank you both for your suggestion and explanation.
    Next time, I will post similar question on other Languages forum. This time, fortunately for me, you solve the question.
    I think the explanation in Danish fits the context here. Why the ones who wear hood are those who usurp the king? I don't know either.
    Thank you for searching these Danish and Icelandic resources. I cannot speak Danish, Icelandic or Norsk, and you help me a lot.:D
     

    AutumnOwl

    Senior Member
    -
    Swedish
    I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that it is supposed to be insulting, though, just because Ólafur suffered a defeat.

    Edit: I found the word in question in an Icelandic-English dictionary and it was there translated as 'hood-boys' and said to be 'a nickname'.
    I checked the Swedish translation of Heimskringla and the word "hood-boys/hood-lads" is the correct translation. I would say that it most likely was an insult, as at that time hoods were something women wore, while men wore hats, so for a man to be called "hood-lad" was to say that they behaved in a cowardly manner, that they were not "real men".
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Thank you so much, silver biscuit! [....]
    Next time, I will post similar question on other Languages forum. This time, fortunately for me, you solve the question. [....]
    Note: Silver Biscuit is suggesting that you post future questions about this text in the Nordic Languages forum. It covers Danish, Norwegian, and Icelandic.
    Probably you realize that, but I am mentioning this just in case you didn't.
     

    xiaoyudang

    Member
    Chinese
    so I have a lucky guess?:D
    It is indeed a great method to find the Norse edition of the book and find what they said. What if I could know so many languages!
    Next time, I will post similar question in the Norse language forum.
     

    Silver_Biscuit

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    I checked the Swedish translation of Heimskringla and the word "hood-boys/hood-lads" is the correct translation. I would say that it most likely was an insult, as at that time hoods were something women wore, while men wore hats, so for a man to be called "hood-lad" was to say that they behaved in a cowardly manner, that they were not "real men".
    What evidence do you have for that? I thought that they were unlucky rather than cowardly. The attack went badly, but it wasn't because of cowardice. Also, Erlingur himself was wearing a hood in section 29 - was he a coward as well?

    I don't believe that men did not wear hoods in this time. I have definitely seen other cases of men wearing hoods (whether you wish to translate it as hood or hat - and yes I would probably choose hood, but remember we're talking about Old Icelandic, not Swedish - the same Icelandic word is used, and it does not necessarily denote headgear attached to the rest of the clothes) in the sagas in contexts where this is clearly everyday wear for men. E.g. Grettir Ásmundarson in chapter 69 of Grettissaga, Freysteinn in chapter 45 of Eyrbyggja saga and Oddur Ófeigsson in chapter 4 of Bandamannasaga. I have to seriously doubt your assertion that this is a comment on cowardice or masculinity.

    P.S. This is quite interesting (to me) as an Icelandic speaker and amateur saga enthusiast - perhaps a mod could move the thread to Nordic Languages, so we could get some more input from people who maybe know more about the sagas? And so we can quote Icelandic?

    Edit: To clarify, I think a 'hood' (for which there are two words generally seen in the sagas) was often not exactly what is meant by the modern English word, and perhaps also the modern Swedish word (I don't speak Swedish), i.e. a piece of cloth that goes over the head attached to another garment, a coat or a jumper for example. Rather it could also mean a sort of separate, hood-like garment, somewhere between a hat and a hood, that goes over the shoulders. I suppose the English word that comes closest to it is 'balaclava'. This piece of clothing was definitely worn by men in the Viking age throughout Scandinavia (and Iceland). This meaning of the word-which-shall-not-be-quoted still exists in modern Icelandic and they are still worn by Icelandic children today (in more modern designs, obviously):
    Untitled.jpg
     
    Last edited:

    AutumnOwl

    Senior Member
    -
    Swedish
    Doesn't the Magnus Erlingsson Saga take place in Norway, and in that case wouldn't it be some of the Norwegians who called them "hood-lads"? As for using the word "hood" to mean females and "hat" to mean males (because hoods were more common among women), there is an old Swedish medieval inheritance law that says "go hat to and hood away", meaning that sons should inherit before daughters. It's not about whether males could wear hoods or not, just an way to differentiate between males and females. (The headgear worn by males and females were different and the hoods women wore were different from those the men wore, with the exception of the coif, from the beginning a male cap that later on became popular among both males and females. In Swedish there are two different words for hoods, one I would use only for the female kind and an other for the male/unisex kind, and the word in "hood-boys" used in the Swedish translation of Heimskringla was the female word, which is why I considered it as an insult.)
     
    Last edited:

    xiaoyudang

    Member
    Chinese
    Doesn't the Magnus Erlingsson Saga take place in Norway, and in that case wouldn't it be some of the Norwegians who called them "hood-lads"? As for using the word "hood" to mean females and "hat" to mean males (because hoods were more common among women), there is an old Swedish medieval inheritance law that says "go hat to and hood away", meaning that sons should inherit before daughters. It's not about whether males could wear hoods or not, just an way to differentiate between males and females. (The headgear worn by males and females were different and the hoods women wore were different from those the men wore, with the exception of the coif, from the beginning a male cap that later on became popular among both males and females. In Swedish there are two different words for hoods, one I would use only for the female kind and an other for the male/unisex kind, and the word in "hood-boys" used in the Swedish translation of Heimskringla was the female word, which is why I considered it as an insult.)
    Thank you so much, Owl, now I know much better about what hat they wore in detail.:D
     

    Silver_Biscuit

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Doesn't the Magnus Erlingsson Saga take place in Norway, and in that case wouldn't it be some of the Norwegians who called them "hood-lads"? As for using the word "hood" to mean females and "hat" to mean males (because hoods were more common among women), there is an old Swedish medieval inheritance law that says "go hat to and hood away", meaning that sons should inherit before daughters. It's not about whether males could wear hoods or not, just an way to differentiate between males and females. (The headgear worn by males and females were different and the hoods women wore were different from those the men wore, with the exception of the coif, from the beginning a male cap that later on became popular among both males and females. In Swedish there are two different words for hoods, one I would use only for the female kind and an other for the male/unisex kind, and the word in "hood-boys" used in the Swedish translation of Heimskringla was the female word, which is why I considered it as an insult.)
    It takes place in Norway, but it was written by an Icelander in Iceland several hundred years after the events were said to have taken place. The Norwegians at the time in which the saga is set would surely have been speaking Old Norse (basically a synonym for Old Icelandic). I'm sure you are aware that language change in Iceland was much, much slower than in mainland Scandinavia (and indeed that modern Icelandic is really not so very different from Old Icelandic, relatively speaking), so we can I think assume the 'original language' of the nickname to be very much comparable to the Icelandic that Snorri spoke.

    Really you have to go on the original text, not the Swedish translation (when does this translation even date from?) - you must surely know that in translations it is very easy for information not present in the original to be added in, as well as taken away. What you say is indeed interesting to know, but in the end the Old Icelandic must trump it. There are two words in Old Icelandic too, but neither denote specifically feminine headgear. In fact there may have been a different word entirely for feminine headgear, I'm not sure - the point is that if there was, it is not the word used by Snorri. The distinction in Swedish must have come later, if the translator even used a cognate of the original word choice at all. Your explanation would make sense if this was originally a Swedish text, but it's just not.
     

    xiaoyudang

    Member
    Chinese
    It takes place in Norway, but it was written by an Icelander in Iceland several hundred years after the events were said to have taken place. The Norwegians at the time in which the saga is set would surely have been speaking Old Norse (basically a synonym for Old Icelandic). I'm sure you are aware that language change in Iceland was much, much slower than in mainland Scandinavia (and indeed that modern Icelandic is really not so very different from Old Icelandic, relatively speaking), so we can I think assume the 'original language' of the nickname to be very much comparable to the Icelandic that Snorri spoke.

    Really you have to go on the original text, not the Swedish translation (when does this translation even date from?) - you must surely know that in translations it is very easy for information not present in the original to be added in, as well as taken away. What you say is indeed interesting to know, but in the end the Old Icelandic must trump it. There are two words in Old Icelandic too, but neither denote specifically feminine headgear. In fact there may have been a different word entirely for feminine headgear, I'm not sure - the point is that if there was, it is not the word used by Snorri. The distinction in Swedish must have come later, if the translator even used a cognate of the original word choice at all. Your explanation would make sense if this was originally a Swedish text, but it's just not.
    thank you, biscuit~~
    I read your word and I know the hat thing is not so reliable.
    You helped me many times~[hug][hug][smile]
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top