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.
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. :-)
1 year ago