Monday, January 4, 2010

GOATH GOETH FORTH

Let me take you back to an earlier day, the day when I, a callow youth, was entering high school. I found that among other classes I was scheduled for one titled “Beginning German.”



Well, that was okay. I didn’t know much about German – I was fifteen; I didn’t know much about anything – but I figured that was what the class was for: I would learn.

One of my first assignments was to prepare a report on a famous German writer, perhaps the greatest of them all, the writer whose name was spelled like thusly: G – O – E – T – H - E.

The day came for my report. No problem; I had done my homework. I was prepared. As I spoke, holding the class spellbound with my confidence and authority, I was nevertheless a bit unsettled to hear titters of amusement as I proceeded because I pronounced the guy’s name as “Goath” (rhymed with “both”).

Undaunted, I went on about Goath’s youth – well, I got “youth” right anyway – and how Goath had originally intended to be a lawyer, etc., etc.


Goath

One of my friends in the class told me later that, while I was orating, he noticed that our teacher, a nice, quite elderly gentleman, who was sort of out of it most of the time, was surreptitiously leafing through the text as the report continued. My friend was convinced that the teacher was a bit worried; after all, he was the scholar, he was supposed to know the key writers and it appeared to him that there was one, some chap named Goath, that he had never heard of. He was trying to learn something about him before the class discussion began.

I finished my report, sitting down to what should have been thunderous applause (though there wasn’t all that much, actually).

By the way, the writer in question, Goethe, went on to a fairly successful career, in spite of his difficult-to-pronounce name – difficult at least for 15-year-old Amerikanischers. :-)

15 comments:

willow said...

Heehee, I remember calling him "Goath", as a young Amerikanischer, too. Spanish class didn't help much. Cute post.

French Fancy said...

I think this is a name we've all mispronounced, John - you can bung Nietzche in there as well! At least Kant is simple.

Berowne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Berowne said...

Thanks.

To get the pronunciation of "Goethe" right means dealing with that infamous "eu" sound that appears in both German and French and which most Englisch-sprechers have trouble with.

By scientific survey -- mine -- I have determined that the number of Americans who can pronounce names like Catherine DenEUve and Gerard DepardiEU correctly can be counted on the fingers of one finger. :-)

Not talking about you, Dedene!

Berowne said...

>> ...you can bung Nietzche in there as well! <<

Very true. Usually you hear something that rhymes with "peachy."

Suzyhayze said...

Brilliant! What I find funny about America society is that many times when we DO pronounce something correctly, there is a modicum of dismay. For example: Appalachian. Should be pronounced with a long A. But when I use it that way for my students, there is always a back row twitter!

Eleonora said...

Ciao Berowne,
thank you for visiting my little kitchen and leaving your comment with La Befana. This was a fun post, I love Goath's poetry. But I've never managed past lesson 1 in German language. You were a brave 15 year-old!

I look forward to reading more posts.
Ciao
Eleonora

Suzyhayze said...

I swear I posted here. Where did it go?

Berowne said...

Suzyhayze: "Brilliant!"

Thanks so much for the kind words -- er -- word. :-)

Berowne said...

Suzyhzyze: "I swear I posted here. Where did it go?"

Sorry. Takes me a while to publish 'em.

Berowne said...

Eleonora: "This was a fun post, I love Goath's poetry. But I've never managed past lesson 1 in German language. You were a brave 15 year-old!"

When it comes to my attempting to learn a new language now, I'm afraid my bravery ended back at that 15-year-old stage. :-)

"I look forward to reading more posts."

Grazie, Eleonora. Ciao!

Tinsie said...

LOL! It's an easy mistake to make, I totally sympathise. I don't like German (the language, not the people).

tattytiara said...

Goath's youth, eh? Bet you can't say that ten times fast without biting the end of your tongue off!

Berowne said...

Tinsie: "LOL! It's an easy mistake to make, I totally sympathise."

Mark Twain did a great piece on the German language, which is as funny today as it was when it was first published, a hundred or so years ago.

Berowne said...

tattytiara: "Goath's youth, eh? Bet you can't say that ten times fast without biting the end of your tongue off!"

You're right. Now here's one for you: "At length, the breadth and width of Goath's youth abideth" 10 times fast. :-)

 
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