I’m of an age to have seen the German Ocean on (none-too-out-of-date) maps:
So, when did that bit of water get renamed?
I’m not disparaging ‘North Sea’ as a name. After all, it was that way inclined in Middle and even Early English:
Ys on Bretonelande sum fenn unmætre mycelnysse, þæt onginneð fram Grante ea..and hit mid menigfealdan bignyssum widgille and lang þeneð wunað [perh. read þurhwunað] on norðsæ.
The German Ocean was the more usual term from the Middle Ages:
Beyonde Scotlande, in the Germane Oceane [L. in Oceano Germanico]: are the Ilandes called Orchades, wherof the biggest is called Pomonia.
There is the clue: it was ‘the German Ocean’ as a translation from classical Latin, mare Germānicum, though that was an ambiguous term which seemed equally to include the Baltic. And Claudius Ptolemy’s second-century A.D. Hellenistic Greek has Γερμανικὸς Ὠκεανός. Ptolemy wasn’t fully rendered from Greek to Latin until 1525, but here from the British Library is ‘Oceanus Germanicus’ around 1480:
I’m making the assumption that ‘German Ocean’ died the death some time before George V Saxe-Coburg and Gotha became George V Windsor. ‘Political correctness’ is no recent invention.
Then, this morning, I hit on this headline:
To my mind, that raises a further marine delineation: where does ‘the North Sea’/’the German Ocean’ become ‘the Norwegian Sea’? Trying wikipedia, I get this:
Which is further confusion, with a German source identifying der Nordsee, and the red line showing the Norwegian Sea. A good Shetlander would inform us of the betrothal of Margaret of Denmark to James III Stewart of Scotland.
That was as messy a bit of dynastic business as one might wish. Scotland was seriously in arrears of the rents due for the northern islands. In 1460 a hectic spate of negotiations were necessary. A settlement was mooted, which would involve the marriage of Prince James of Scotland to pre-pubescent Margaret, daughter of Christian I of Denmark. Then the negotiations foundered, and were not revived until 1468. By then the settlement involved abolishing the “Norway annual’ payments, of any arrears, and a dowry of 60,000 Rhenish florins for (by now) 12-year-old Margaret. Christian didn’t have more than a couple of thousand florins in loose cash, so the Shetlands were pawned to Scotland in lieu of the rest.
When oil and gas started to come out of the seas (however named) around Shetland, the Norwegians cheekily offered to cash out the pawn money.