Linguistics over breakfast

I am working on edits this morning and found a bit of a research issue I have to go back on. I figured I would walk you through my process.

The line is:

Gudrun eased her grip on the Seidr staff.

My editor wants me to change this to

Gudrun eased her grip on the staff.

However, I think my editor imagined a real staff, a six foot Gandalf staff. This is a problem.

Really its a wand. But “wand” screams Harry Potter and I worry the reader will be pulled from the story with terms like “wand” and “wizard.” So I pulled the etymology on the word “wand” to see if I have other options.

This…THIS…is what I love doing more than anything in the world. *big grin* Etymology.

From Google. Let’s take a look, shall we?


noun: wand; plural noun: wands
  1. a long, thin stick or rod, in particular.
    synonyms: baton, stick, staff, bar, dowel, rod; More

    “the magician’s wand”
    • a stick or rod thought to have magic properties, held by a magician, fairy, or conjuror and used in casting spells or performing tricks.
      “the fairy godmother waves her magic wand and grants the heroine’s wishes”
      synonyms: baton, stick, staff, bar, dowel, rod; More

      “the magician’s wand”
    • a staff or rod held as a symbol of office.
      synonyms: baton, stick, staff, bar, dowel, rod; More

      “the magician’s wand”
    • informal
      a conductor’s baton.
      synonyms: baton, stick, staff, bar, dowel, rod; More

      “the magician’s wand”
    • a handheld electronic device that can be passed over a bar code to read the encoded data.
    • a handheld metal detector, used as a security device.
    • a device emitting a laser beam, used especially to create a pointer on a projected image or text.
    • a small stick with a brush at one end used for the application of mascara.
    • Archery
      a target 6 feet (1.83 meters) high and 2 inches (5.8 cm) wide, set at 100 yards (91.44 meters) for men and 60 yards (54.86 meters) for women.
    • one of the suits in some tarot packs, corresponding to batons in others.
Middle English: from Old Norse vǫndr, probably of Germanic origin and related to wend and wind2.
Now…the origin is what I am interested it. The word is Middle English and almost all words derived from Old Norse. So you know, Norwegian is English’s sister language! The majority of our words come from Old Norse.
Every one of those words is the same in Norwegian.  Also, the “gh” and “au” is Old Norse.
(We have Old Norse to thank for the three way pronunciation of the “gh”)
“laundry” which they pronounced almost like “long-three” Really. It is AMAZING to hear Norwegian/Old Norse spoken.
There is so…so much more, but I digress. Germanic is our cousin and Proto-Germanic is Norwegian, English, and Germanic’s grand father language.
Back to “wand!” The Old Norse word draws my attention. “Vondr” perfect. So now my choices are Vondr, Staff, Seidr Staff, Wand. But at the end of the day the most important factor is you, my dear reader. I’ll quote me again.
The goal of any writer is to go in and suggest at an image so well that the reader doesn’t even know the writer is there.
So, the question is, if I create this world and provide a deeper layer of fantasy using “vondr” or “Seidr Staff” will you know that Gudrun wields a wand? Now I have to go to my friends and ask them. I will start with my editor.
Okay! Email sent to my editor. And then, I go to the Slush Brain and ask them once I hear back from my editor! The Slush Brain is a DM group on Twitter with about seven published authors. We check in daily and exchanged advice. Wonderful group. I will ask them for and weigh in their decision.
This is all part of the editing/writing process. You should see me when I start a book. I am on Wikipedia and tacking their sources back more than writing.
At one point, I just bought John Lindow’s book. John Lindow is a college professor who teaches Norse myth. He literally wrote the book on Norse Myth. Wikipedia simply references all of Dr. Lindow’s references from his book and…Wikipedia is a Cliff Notes for Lindow’s book.
Now, I just go to Lindow’s Book, but it’s funny. Now and then I go back to Wiki and I’ll spend and hour trying to dig deeper into articles on Norse Myth. Then I’ll see a reference to Lindow and I’ll say, “Why am I doing it this way? I have his book!” And I’ll go right to the source. Wiki is awesome this way 🙂 I always look at the books Wiki sources and, in some cases, I buy Wiki’s source. Love Wiki.
Tom Clancy is my hero. He wrote “Hunt For the Red October.” I have to share this with you because his story inspired me.
Mr. Clancy worked as an attorney and wrote Red October on the side while working in his law office. He did his research so well that, before it was published, the government showed up to his office and told him he was not allowed to release Red October to the public because it contained a plethora of government secrets.
Mr. Clancy explained that everything in Red October was pulled off the internet and, to prove it, Mr. Clancy had to show how and where he found each and every “government secret” online with a little bit (I’m lying…It’s a huge amount of work) of work. The officials were satisfied and allowed—yes, allowed—The Hunt For The Red October to be published.
Now THAT is a writer who did his research. I am a huge submarine fan. HUGE sub movie fan! I appreciate what Mr. Clancy did and that got me thinking about people like Lindow. If Lindow sits down to watch History channel’s The Vikings, would he be able to enjoy it? I did…mostly. I was angry about the disblot (when they conducted the human sacrifice) for many reasons, which I won’t get into here.  It also irked me that they called the village Kattegat. What were they thinking!? Research matters. Just because it’s fiction, doesn’t mean a writer is off the hook.
My problem is, I know too much about language, etymology, and historical linguistics, so when I hear a word being used in an era prior to its existence, I know and it throws me out the story.
Alright, back to edits and I will update this with my editor’s answer once I have it 🙂
My editor did get back to me and she imagined a wand about two feet long. She proposed I keep “Seidr staff” and add description, which I will do!

About the Author: Anna Imagination

Biographical Info... What you seek is my Story. Every Soul is a "Blurb" as one would read on the back of the book. But can people be "unwrapped" so easily? Most importantly, why try? I have long since learned to preserve the Savory that comes with Discovery. Learning of another Soul is a Journey. It is an Exploration. And it does not do the Soul Justice to try and condense a Soul Journey into a Bio.