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I’m putting my integrity on the line here but I was once told (by a pretty reliable source) that the term “Zetland†was actually a spelling mistake that happened to stick.

 

I can’t remember the ins and outs of the story but I think it goes that when Shetland passed from Norwegian to Scottish hands something got lost in the translation and the term “Zetland†was written down instead of Hjaltland. Of course, this could all be a load of “bull plopâ€. The jump from Hjaltland to Zetland has never sat comfortably with me. In old Icelandic, which is said to closely resemble the Shetland Norn tongue Hjaltland would have been pronounced “Shaltlandâ€. So it may not be too outlandish to suggest that some ignorant clerk wasn’t sure of how to spell it properly and just put down what he thought he heard. After all, many derivations of common Shetland surnames come from spelling mistakes (Garrick, Garriock springs to mind).

 

Does anyone know anymore about the term “Zetlandâ€.

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Actually it was not oly a simple mistake of some "ignorant clerks" ;-) but a quite "normal" development of handwriting mostly during the 167th/17th century. In this case in particular the so called "secretary" type of writing the Scot's letter yogh (that's the name, not the pronunciation). For examples and detailed info have a look here:

http://www.scottishhandwriting.com/content/default.asp?page=s4_3_15

and other letters, links etc. given there.

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I'm racking my brain but can't remember just now. There was a 'cartoon' book published which had interesting facts in it - a sort of 'believe it or not' style.

 

On the last page there was a drawing of the first map (supposedly) which made the isles look like the hilt of a sword, hence the hjatlant bit, but explained with a drawing of a hand penning the words that as writing changed then the word had been interpreted as Zetland.

 

Sorry I can't remember exact details for you.

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I believe there once was a “Shetland Believe It Or Not†by Fred Irvine, the same author / artist who also published the classic “Pictures From Shetland’s Pastâ€. It was a small blue covered book with lots of interesting facts accompanied by sketches. Now that you mention it I do seem to remember something about a sword in it. Somebody really should do another one of those books!

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I believe there once was a “Shetland Believe It Or Not†by Fred Irvine, the same author / artist who also published the classic “Pictures From Shetland’s Pastâ€. It was a small blue covered book with lots of interesting facts accompanied by sketches. Now that you mention it I do seem to remember something about a sword in it. Somebody really should do another one of those books!

 

Yea yea I hae een o' dem (Believe it or not) tü - dated September 1952 with a beige sugar paper cover, published by T and J Manson from the Shetland News office. It says on the last page that 'The old script for 'Sh' as shown below was mistaken for a 'Z'. Naethin aboot a sword though...

 

Beside it in the bookcase is Rasmie's Smaa Murr published by JJ Haldane Burgess in 1916 and also claiming to have been printed by T and J Manson. The quote for today 21 Janniwary is 'Few believers kens what dey believe' - plus ça change for the AIAMG thread!

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From Wikipedia (so all of it might not be true):

 

The original Norse name for Shetland was Hjaltland. Hjalt in Old Norse meaning the hilt or crossguard of a sword. As the local language evolved the ja became je as with Norse hjalpa which became hjelpa. Then the pronunciation of the combination of the letters hj changed to sh. This is also found in some Norwegian dialects in for instance the word hjå (with) and the place names Hjerkinn and Sjoa (from *Hjó). Lastly the l before the t disappeared.

 

As Norn was gradually replaced by Scots Shetland became Èœetland (the initial letter being the Middle Scots letter, yogh (which can also be found in the forename Menzies, e.g. Menzies Campbell.) This sounded almost identical to the original Norn sound, /hj/). When the letter yogh was discontinued, it was often replaced by the similar-looking letter 'z', hence Zetland, the mispronounced form used to describe the pre-1975 county council.

 

The earliest recorded name for the islands was Inse Catt, "islands of the Cat people": the same people that Caithness is named after.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shetland_Islands#Name

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The earliest recorded name for the islands was Inse Catt, "islands of the Cat people": the same people that Caithness is named after.

Well, but there is no real proof for that. Would be more correct to say that "some linguists suggest" that "inse catt" of the Irish Annals etc. referes to Shetland (see for example W. B. LOCKWOOD: Remarks on Ir. Inse Orc, Inse Catt) ... ;-)

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The earliest recorded name for the islands was Inse Catt, "islands of the Cat people": the same people that Caithness is named after.

Well, but there is no real proof for that. Would be more correct to say that "some linguists suggest" that "inse catt" of the Irish Annals etc. referes to Shetland (see for example W. B. LOCKWOOD: Remarks on Ir. Inse Orc, Inse Catt) ... ;-)

 

Yes, I thought so too. Not everything from wikipedia is fact...even if it is presented as such.

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Blaeu Atlas of Scotland of 1654 was written in Latin

and translations appear at

 

http://www.nls.uk/digitallibrary/map/early/blaeu

(the search for Shetland)

 

One of the descriptions carries the passage:

 

"As for the name Shetland, it is spelled differently by Buchanan: when grouping all these islands together, he now calls them Hethland, now Zeland, now Shetland, even if each island enjoys its own particular nomenclature. These islands have the first name from their height, for in many places they rise quite high into the air; they have the second from their situation, for they are placed in their own, by far the coldest part of the sea; they have the third from the tribute which formerly and still today they pay both to the Kings of Scots and also to the Lords of Norway (this tax they call in their own tongue ‘scat’), as if one were to say tributary land."

 

A footnote in James M Irvine's "Blaue's Orkneys and Schetland"

which contains the maps and translated texts says that

Hethland was derived from "highland", Zeland from "sealand"

and Schetland from "scatland". The Latin names in the

original texts was Schetlandiae and Hetlandicae.

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An interesting little snippet that caught my eye last week, was a story in the "Nooks and Corners" Piloti column in Private Eye Issue 1178, 16 Feb-1 Mar 2007, page 14 .

 

The story deals with Lord Zetland and the Redcar racecourse of all things, but states that Zetland takes his title from the ancient Nordic name for "that part of the North-East Yorkshire coast east of Middlesborough".

 

I was wondering what light the participants of this forum might shed on this information? Of course maybe the answer will published in the letters page of the next issue! :D

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