Jay finds great joy and humor in the origins of words. We had the chance recently to visit Belgium’s second largest city, Antwerp, and to ponder its name. Was the city, first settled in the 4th century, way ahead of its time linguistically? Did its name refer to some little guy being made fun of and being called “A(n) Twerp”? That doesn’t seem logical, but folklore often isn’t very logical either.
One legend is that commerce on the nearby river Scheldt was controlled by a giant, called Antigoon. That’s pretty funny since it seems he was definitely a goon, not an anti-goon. Anyway, old Antigoon forced boats to pay him a toll and if they refused he would cut off one of their hands and throw it into the river. Now that’s certainly goon-like behavior. But, as the story continues, a young twerp named Silvius Brabo cut off the giant’s own hand and threw it into the river. The town was so happy that they named their village, Antwerpen, from the Dutch Hand Werpen or Hand-Throwing. To Jay, werpen sounds like the English word, weapon. The Dutch word for weapon is wapen but maybe the city founders had marbles in their mouths and were really trying to congratulate this little twerp Silvius for using his own hand as a weapon and thereby ridding themselves of the giant goon, Antigoon.
In any case, the memory of Silvius lives on with his statue strategically placed in the center of the main market square of Antwerp. On the day we visited, some jokesters had decided to dress Silvius in jaunty sailor attire. We thought he looked quite striking.
Aside from Silvius, Antwerp is a beautiful city. Some examples:
And, who can visit Belgium without sampling mussels and, of course, Belgian beer?
Tanya even got to meet a new friend.
Antwerpians have an interesting sense of humor, as exemplified by this photo collection above the urinals in the mens’ room of the Radisson Blu Hotel.
One of our fondest memories of this trip to Antwerp was when we just happened to come across the St. Paul’s Church in the old section of the city. The current structure was built in 1571. As we walked around the grounds we heard music from within. We quietly went inside and a wedding was in progress. Just then, we heard Miles Davis playing “Someday My Prince Will Come” over the church’s sound system as part of the ceremony. Beautiful.