Chronology of the breakup of Common Romance [long]

Brian M. Scott BMScott at
Thu Aug 12 17:58:05 UTC 1999

Rick Mc Callister wrote:

>         I seem to remember that the Vikings used a term translated as
> "Bluemen" to refer to Moors. I think it was something like blaamen,
> blagmen, blahmen.

Cleasby & Vigfusson gloss <blámaðr> (<bla'madhr>) 'a black man, negro,
i.e., an Ethiopian'; it is distinguished from the Saracens and
Arabians.  In romances it apparently refers to a kind of berserker.  The
adjective <blár> (<bla'r>) is 'dark blue, livid', with uses ranging into

> The term was supposedly calqued in Gaelic and later in
> English, hence the use of "Blue men, Blue People" in referring to the
> Melungeons of Appalachia. Dennis King might know a bit more about this.

The Dictionary of the Irish Language does show <fer gorm> used in the
sense 'Negro'.  (<Gorm> is 'blue, esp. deep blue; green (as of
vegetation); dark, swarthy, black'.)  I've no idea whether it was a
calque; <creach na nGall ngorm> 'plunder of the swarthy Northmen' is
also noted.

Brian M. Scott

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