Ask me a question and I will answer it in around 200 words. EASY!

The concept roughly:

John: I want #AskDrWiles to be a mixture of extremely graphic agony aunt advice and linguistic queries.

Sophie: Punctuated by answering people’s questions about Danish TV programmes

Adding Special Characters to Word (Mac, PC & Linux): ƿǷðÐϸϷ

I’m posting this on behalf of the geniuses and saviours, Sarah Gilbert and @thingwhatwows, to whom credit for this is entirely due. My only contribution was complaining enough to prompt them to work it out. I’m posting it here in the hope it can help as many people as possible. EDIT: And thanks to Thom Gobbitt, instructions for PC and Linux have been added below.

This is a method for creating keyboard shortcuts in Word so you can easily type special characters. This has REVOLUTIONISED my manuscript transcription: thorn, eth and wynn are a key-press away, and I don’t have to resort to an Icelandic keyboard or endless copy&pasting anymore! It’s much, much simpler than it initially looks. Trust me!
Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 13.57.03

Even *I* can do it. I was very excited.


0. Flip your computer keyboard flag (top right corner of the desktop) to British if you don’t like using the American Extended binds. Open a new document in Word. Open the Character Viewer, ‘favourite’ anything you want to bind and then make sure the Character Viewer is set to ‘favourites’.

1. Click into your Word document to make Word your active window.

2. Menu Bar > Tools > Macro > Record New Macro. A dialog box will come up and ask you to name your macro. Call it WynnUpper. Tell Word you want it in “All documents” if it’s giving you a drop-down menu for where to store it. Ignore the description box.

3. Click the “keyboard” button. You will be taken to a new window and asked to “press new keyboard shortcut”. For example ctrl shift / [CONTROL key, SHIFT key, and then the FORWARD SLASH key].

4. Type ctrl shift  / into the box and click “assign”. Then click “ok”. There should be an empty word document as your active window.

5. Go to the Character Viewer and double click the capital wynn to paste it into your document.

6. Menu Bar > Tools > Macro > Stop Recording.

7. You’re done. Test your macro by typing ctrl shift /

8. Repeat as many times as you want.

Notes: Macros can apparently only be preceded by a ctrl modifier – trying to use alt doesn’t work. Macro names need to be free from spaces and interesting punctuation. WynnUpper = good, Wynn Upper = bad. If it asks you anything about saving modifications to the template when you quit, just say yes. Also, this only works in Word. It won’t work on twitter or anywhere else sadly.

The keyboard shortcuts I chose are as follows:

ƿ [ctrl w]
Ƿ [ctrl shift w]
ð [ctrl d]
Ð [ctrl shift d]
ϸ [ctrl t]
Ϸ [ctrl shift d]


1. Open a Word document
2. Open the ‘symbol’ panel (under the ‘Insert’ tab)
3. Click on ‘more symbols’
4. Select the symbol you want, e.g. < Đ >
5. Click on the ‘shortcut key’ at the bottom
6. Make sure the cursor is flashing in the ‘Press New shortcut Key’ text box
7. Enter the key combination you want to use in future. for this example I used ‘Ctrl + Shift + D’
8. Click the ‘assign’ button (It should now appear under the ‘current keys’ heading)
9. Click ‘Close’ or repeat for other graphs and, finally,
9b. Marvel at your brilliance.

Viking Warrior Women

A news story suddenly started doing the rounds this week excitedly declaring that HALF OF VIKING WARRIORS WERE WOMEN! I tweeted a link to it yesterday without following up on the original. I knew that Viking women did come over and that some of them may have fought, and that not all bodies with swords are men, so I just accepted the whole thing. Shame on me. And as people RTd me, I want to correct that.

To break it down. The article is from 2011 by Shane McLeod and can be found here.

Of the 14 burials of Norse individuals that have been found from this period, McLeod notes that 7 were of men, 6 woman, while the one remaining individual’s sex could not be determined. While previous research on the Norse had concluded the Norse who came to England were overwhelmingly male, McLeod concludes that we “should caution against assuming that the great majority of Norse migrants were male, despite the other forms of evidence suggesting the contrary.”

From Medievalists.net

This is a small data set. It doesn’t mean there’s a problem with McLeod’s work, but it DOES mean we can’t look at 14 burials and then say they’re representative of ALL Vikings. And you CERTAINLY can’t extrapolate from this that all Viking women were warriors or that 50% of the warriors were women.

This is a another brilliantly written, clear explanation of McLeod’s work.

To summarise what his article says: The written sources about the earliest Viking raids (AD 865-878) don’t mention women or children (despite DNA, place-name and jewellery evidence strongly suggesting women came over at some point), but the bodies McLeod studied fit in this date range, giving evidence that women were among the first wave of Vikings to come to England. The isotope analysis for his set also confirms that the bodies were Norse originally, rather than being English people who were buried with Norse grave goods.

Grave goods (things found buried with the body like swords, or brooches, etc) are not a clear indicator of sex. When you analyse the bones themselves a much higher proportion of bodies turn out to be female (McLeod notes that he’s talking only about biological sex, not gender). Looking at the bones suggests that there were more Norse women in England at the time of the Viking invasions (he suggests women were maybe a third, possibly half, of the total). BUT, we don’t know what their role was. They could just as easily be migrant settlers. There’s no evidence that they were warriors and constituted half the Viking fighting force. Nice as that idea sounds.

The presence of more Norse women settling (whether they were warriors or not) does have implications for the way we view the intermarriage between the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings though. If they had their own women, perhaps there was less intermarrying and cross-cultural contact than previously thought. And perhaps there were Viking war-widows, so as well as the already-accepted model of Viking men taking Saxon wives, maybe Viking widows (or indeed single Viking women) took Saxon husbands?

#AskDrWiles 1

@WokingWriter asked: why is it called a shipment when taken by land and cargo by boat? 😉

I’m not sure that distinction exists, but there is still a distinction between them.

Shipment comes from the verb to ship which is, unsurprisingly, the same word as a ship (or, ‘boat’). It’s a Germanic word, and came into English with the Anglo-Saxons. Old Norse, the language of the Vikings, has skipa, and, before the Germanic tribes all split up, these would have been the same word.

Use of to ship meaning ‘to export, to send out by ship’ increased from the 1400s as trade with other countries was done by ship. Shakespeare used it a lot: ‘Andronicus would thou were shipt to hell’.

The rise of rail in early 1800s meant an extension of the word’s use to include the sending of things by other means, and shipping can now be used to talk about sending any kind of thing using any method. This is called semantic expansion.

Cargo is a much later word. It came into English in the 1600s from Spanish. It was chiefly used for boat-based transport but is now also used for big lorry stuff and cargo planes. The distinction between shipments and cargo has now become one of size. You can order a book from Amazon and it’s called a shipment, but cargo is just big, freight stuff. I think this is probably due to how common ship is – everyone uses it – whereas cargo is still specialist, more industrial, and used for less everyday things.

This might be because it arrived later and it was still a specialist word mostly used by sailors and people who wrote about boaty things. Ship, on the other hand, was used by everybody, so when normal people needed a word to talk about transporting stuff, they adapted the word that was already in use.