Wednesday, April 12, 2006

and he could not frame to pronounce it right

Jim was playing guitar just a few moments ago, playing some Beatles tunes, and then somehow we got on the topic of Bob Dylan (ah, good old Robert Zimmerman -- happy Pesach to you!). Jim sang the line from The Times They Are A-Changin' wherein Dylan sings "Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen," and then he commented, "Oh, not the word you meant, Bob."

Me: "No, prophesy, he meant."

Jim: "Yeah. They do the same thing in The Matrix."

Me: "It's like a shibboleth."

Jim: "I...forget what that means."

Me: "No worries. I learned it from that episode of West Wing, after all."

But if you go to the Wikipedia entry (linked above) and scroll down to read about some interesting examples of shibboleths in history, you learn that the town outside Den Haag called Scheveningen was, in fact, a shibboleth during World War II. (This makes sense, as I cannot with this keyboard even remotely approximate the phonemes needed to pronounce it correctly.) Scheveningen is at the end of the tram line that runs out from the center of the city in that direction, which I know, because we always stayed in a hotel on the beach there when we attended The Hague International Model U.N..

From the hotel, you could see the memorial to the Dutch who fought the Nazis who tried to invade Holland. We couldn't entirely read the Dutch historical marker, but I think the idea was that, essentially, one army pushed the other back into the sea. Because I am, apparently, a horrendous student of history when traveling abroad with little supervision, I am not sure how that battle turned out, and which army ended up in the cold cold North Sea.

There was also a great little bar across the street. Normally it was a gay bar, but during the week we were all there, it didn't matter much -- it was twenty feet away and we were of legal drinking age in that nation.

Good thing they didn't ask us to pronounce "shibboleth," though. After a few drinks, there was no way we'd have gotten that out correctly.


Anonymous said...

When I was working in Rotterdam a few summers ago, Hans the programmer made it his personal mission to show me around Holland and make me learn some of the language. (His co-worker Franz was less facile with English, and kept to himself. And no, I am not making these names up.) All this to say that Hans required me to learn the proper Dutch pronunciation of Scheveningen, which I was able to emulate with more success than the German man who sat beside me. I'd be glad to demo when I'm in town this weekend or next week.


Leigh said...

I actually learned myself when I was there, and I was quite good at it, but after several years without hearing a native pronunciation, I'll probably mangle it horribly. Still, I was proud that I, possibly alone among my classmates, would have been able to hitch a ride back home without insulting the locals.