Með lögum skal land byggja
Með lögum skal land byggja is the motto of Shetland. It is in Old Norse or the Norn Language.
Meaning and pronunciation
Word by word breakdown -
- Með (with) - (cf German "mit")
- lögum (laws) - the dative plural of lög meaning "law". (cf "Lawting")
- skal ([it/we] shall) - from skulu (Cf "Sall")
- land (land) - (Cf "landskyle")
- byggja (built) (Cf "bigg")
As can be seen, only one of these word - "með" - or a close relative, is not still used in Shetlandic speech anymore.
A common translation is "with laws shall land be built". Another less literal translation is "the land will be built by laws", also "with law[s] shall [we] build [the] land".
The letter eth (ð), is pronounced like "th" as in "baTHe" (rather than as in "bath"). The letter "ö" is as in German, or French "oeu", and pronounced a bit like "uh". "J" is pronounced as "y" as in most Germanic languages.
More recently, Stuart Hill and campaigners for Shetland's Udal Law have used the motto as a rallying cry.<ref>S.O.U.L. has the motto as "Med løgum [sic] skal land byggja" at the head of its front page see here</ref>
Með lögum skal land byggja appears to have a common Norse proverb in many regions.
It is still used in Iceland , and is also the motto of the Icelandic police[, and armed/anti-terrorism units (the "Víkingasveitin"). It also appears in Njál's Saga, when the hero Njál is talking to the villain Mörð Valgarðsson:
- "Með lögum skal land byggja en með ólögum eyða"<ref>This is in the original spelling. A more modern Icelandic rendering as seen here or here renders it as -
"Eigi er það sættarrof," segir Njáll, "að hver hafi lög við annan því að með lögum skal land vort byggja en eigi með ólögum eyða."</ref>
- ("with laws shall land be built, and with bad laws destroyed.")<ref>Sir George W. Dasent's 1861 translation (to be found at University of California, Berkeley's "Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #11" here and Northvegr here) renders this as - "That is no breach of settlement," says Njal, "that any man should take the law against another; for with law shall our land be built up and settled, and with lawlessness wasted and spoiled."</ref>
The phrase also occurs in Norway, in the Frostatingsloven (legal code) and also in modern Norwegian:
- "Med Lov skal Landet byggjast og ikkje med U-lov øydast."
In Swedish, the phrase is Med lov skal land bygges and was used as the name of a 1925 article in the socialist paper Mot Dag <ref>Med lov skal land bygges Mot Dag 17. februar 1925.</ref>
In Denmark's Jutlandic Laws, written in 1241, the phrase appears as mæth logh skal land byggiæs <ref>http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jyske_Lov</ref>. The slogan appears in a modernised version on the City Court of Copenhagen as Med lov skal man land bygge <ref>http://www.domstol.dk/KobenhavnsByret/OmK%C3%B8benhavnsByret/PublishingImages/domhuset21.jpg</ref>
Because of the changes in spelling from Norse to Norn, and Icelandic, the motto can be found in several variants.
- Með can frequently be seen as "med", as the letter eth is difficult to find on many computers, or unavailable on typewriters.
- Lögum can also be seen as "logum" (for similar reasons as with "med" above), as "løgum" reflecting the Norwegian use of "ø", and as "lǫgum" which reflects the use of "ǫ" in Old Norse.
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