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The Words German And Germanic


Source: Teutonic Mythology

Already at the beginning of the Christian era the name Germans was
applied by the Romans and Gauls to the many clans of people whose main
habitation was the extensive territory east of the Rhine, and north of
the forest-clad Hercynian Mountains. That these clans constituted one
race was evident to the Romans, for they all had a striking similarity
in type of body; moreover, a closer acquaintance revealed that their
numerous dialects were all variations of the same parent language, and
finally, they resembled each other in customs, traditions, and religion.
The characteristic features of the physical type of the Germans were
light hair, blue eyes, light complexion, and tallness of stature as
compared with the Romans.

Even the saga-men, from whom the Roman historian Tacitus gathered the
facts for his Germania--an invaluable work for the history of
civilisation--knew that in the so-called Svevian Sea, north of the
German continent, lay another important part of Germany, inhabited by
Sviones, a people divided into several clans. Their kinsmen on the
continent described them as rich in weapons and fleets, and in warriors
on land and sea (Tac., Germ., 44). This northern sea-girt portion of
Germany is called Scandinavia--Scandeia by other writers of the Roman
Empire; and there can be no doubt that this name referred to the
peninsula which, as far back as historical monuments can be found, has
been inhabited by the ancestors of the Swedes and the Norwegians. I
therefore include in the term Germans the ancestors of both the
Scandinavian and Gothic and German (tyske) peoples. Science needs a
sharply-defined collective noun for all these kindred branches sprung
from one and the same root, and the name by which they make their first
appearance in history would doubtless long since have been selected for
this purpose had not some of the German writers applied the terms
German and Deutsch as synonymous. This is doubtless the reason why
Danish authors have adopted the word "Goths" to describe the Germanic
nation. But there is an important objection to this in the fact that the
name Goths historically is claimed by a particular branch of the
family--that branch, namely, to which the East and West Goths belonged,
and in order to avoid ambiguity, the term should be applied solely to
them. It is therefore necessary to re-adopt the old collective name,
even though it is not of Germanic origin, the more so as there is a
prospect that a more correct use of the words German and Germanic is
about to prevail in Germany itself, for the German scholars also feel
the weight of the demand which science makes on a precise and rational

[Footnote 1: Viktor Rydberg styles his work Researches in Germanic
Mythology, but after consultation with the Publishers, the Translator
decided to use the word Teutonic instead of Germanic both in the
title and in the body of the work. In English, the words German,
Germany, and Germanic are ambiguous. The Scandinavians and Germans have
the words Tyskland, tysk, Deutschland, deutsch, when they wish
to refer to the present Germany, and thus it is easy for them to adopt
the words German and Germanisk to describe the Germanic or Teutonic
peoples collectively. The English language applies the above word
Dutch not to Germany, but to Holland, and it is necessary to use the
words German and Germany in translating deutsch, Deutschland,
tysk, and Tyskland. Teutonic has already been adopted by Max Mueller
and other scholars in England and America as a designation of all the
kindred branches sprung from one and the same root, and speaking
dialects of the same original tongue. The words Teuton, Teutonic, and
Teutondom also have the advantage over German and Germanic that they are
of native growth and not borrowed from a foreign language. In the
following pages, therefore, the word Teutonic will be used to describe
Scandinavians, Germans, Anglo-Saxons, &c., collectively, while German
will be used exclusively in regard to Germany proper.--TRANSLATOR.]

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