Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cranberries, A Black Tooth, Or A Sword?

Regarding the e-mail from Chris Partidge of Rowing for Pleasure, which was posted on HTBS yesterday, it ends “Your reference to Lund reminds me of the time I visited it for the launch of the Bluetooth radio short-range radio system for mobile phones and computers. At the launch, we were told all about Harald Bluetooth, who unified Scandinavia (hence the appropriate use of his name for a common standard for radio communication). According to the PR spiel, he got his nickname from his love of cranberries, which stained his teeth. Later, we were taken to a historical recreation at Malmö Castle [seen above]. I got talking to a real historian, who said “Cranberries? It’s all ballocks. Bluetooth is a corruption of an old Norse name meaning ‘Grey Warrior’ or something similar.”

Many sources claim that the Danish king’s name Blutooth, old Norse ‘Blátönn’, actually means ‘black tooth’, which is also Frans G Bengtsson’s explanation of King Harald’s name in an essay he wrote about how The Long Ships came to be written. In The Long Ships Bengtsson has put in an episode with Harald having a terribly tooth ache. However, modern research declares that ‘Bluetooth’ was probably the name of Harald’s well-made sword with a bluish blade. The word ‘tönn’, ‘tooth’, is to be found in many given names of Viking swords. In The Long Ships, the Vikings’ swords ‘bite’ a lot…

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