(n.) the vast peninsula of northern Europe, chiefly consisting of Norway, Sweden and Finland
The fact that the name Scandinavia began life as a spelling error propagated by Pliny the Elder proved popular over on the HH Instagram page this week:
Scandinavia was originally “Scadinavia”, but Pliny (seemingly mistakenly) added a second N in the first century AD. The popularity and influence of his writing in the centuries that followed only served to make the error more widespread, and eventually the dual-N spelling became the norm.
Two things, then. First of all—the word Scandinavia itself? It comes from Skáney, the Old Norse name for an ancient region of southern Sweden. And secondly—are there any other words that have missteps and mistakes in their histories? Well, yes, there are. Quite a number of them, in fact.
The word expediate, for instance, meaning “to hasten”, is thought to have emerged in the early 1600s when the word expedite was misspelled in an essay by the English statesman Sir Edwin Sandys. The two Ls in syllabus should really be Ts, as the word is actually a misreading of the Ancient Greek sittybos, meaning “table of contents”.
As we’ve found out on HH before, sneeze was originally spelled fnese before that initial F was misinterpreted as a long S, ſ, in the fifteenth century. And a single pea was originally called a pease, but because it sounds like a plural, a misguided singular form, pea, developed in the 1600s and has remained in use ever since.