Saturday, August 18, 2012

Random town-name musings

Generally speaking, around here if you're saying a town name the way it ought to be pronounced, you're saying it wrong.

Key example: Gruene.  To the educated-but-ignorant, this one is a no-brainer.  Why, that's the German word for "green," you might be thinking, I happen to know that's pronounced "groo-neh".  Only, it isn't.  It's pronounced "Green."  God alone knows why.

However, that's not actually my favorite town name.  True story:  Back around age 16 or so, I was sitting in German class when the teacher, pretty much apropos of nothing, said that Schertz was the German word for joke.  (Much like Gruene, which has been stripped of its umlaut--the e-after-u lets you know it should be there--Schertz has been Anglicized by appending a T so that you pronounce the Z properly.)

I'll confess: I did not believe her at first.  I had to look it up in my dictionary.  But of course, Germans do not have a sense of humor, and I should have known better than to think she was trying to pull a fast one. 

Ever since, Schertz has been my favorite of the local small town names.  Chances are, much like Gruene, Schertz was named for someone, but in my mind's eye I see a young German émigrée, newly arrived from Munich perchance (Bavarians fucking love Texas) looking out over the scrub brush and shimmering heat of what was to be her new home, turning to her husband and saying "Das muß ein Scherz sein."

4 comments:

George said...

" (Bavarians fucking love Texas) "

Richard Dobson, A Texas singer-songwriter currently living in Switzerland and performing in Europe, says in his recent book about living in Europe, "Bavarians are like the Texans of Germany."

Interesting that I run across his line and yours in the same day.

Sabra said...

"Bavarians are like the Texans of Germany."

I have heard that more than once, actually, sometimes from Germans. I strongly suspect it's true, and why they love it here. Both my native-German German teachers were Bavarian, in fact.

BobG said...

It's been my experience that Germans in general tend to have a fascination for the old west. We get huge numbers of them in southern Utah (Moab area). They have whole tours packages over there for coming to Moab (a LOT of John Wayne movies were filmed there). At many places there they keep people around who speak German, though a big percentage of the German people speak English to some degree.
Another reason places like Texas and the southwest are fascinating to them is because of deserts. Other than Italy, the European countries don't really have anything that we would call a desert, so they find it interesting.

Albatross said...

I like how Braun Road is pronounced "brawn". It means the color brown, and the German pronunciation sounds the same -- "brown". But the Anglicized version is, of course, "brawn".

I don't find anything wrong with that. I'm just mildly amused.