Antwerp: What’s in a name?

IMG_2557Jay 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.IMG_2580

Aside from Silvius, Antwerp is a beautiful city. Some examples: IMG_2558IMG_2562IMG_2573IMG_2579IMG_2586IMG_2587IMG_2590IMG_2595

And, who can visit Belgium without sampling mussels and, of course, Belgian beer? IMG_2575IMG_2560IMG_2584

Tanya even got to meet a new friend.IMG_2559

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. IMG_2598

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. IMG_2563IMG_2565

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8 Responses to Antwerp: What’s in a name?

  1. Michael says:

    I learned in Antwerpen the more prosaic version of how the city got its name. They say it was founded around/on a wharf (werf in Dutch). Hence – “Aan ‘t werf”, or “On the wharf”.


    • jayandtanya says:

      Thanks for your comment, Michael. I had also read the explanation you noted on how Antwerp was named. It just wasn’t quite as fun as the folklore version. Thanks for checking out our blog.


  2. kalin baker says:

    Antwerp looks inviting (and a bit cleaner than Brussles). It must have escaped severe bombing to have so many ornate buildings. Thank you for the wonderful photos as you travel – My #Bucket list is growing!


    • Michael says:

      Sadly, Antwerpen has been heavily damaged by V1 and V2 bombings towards the end of WWII. They’ve rebuilt it quite nicely though. I’ve been there a while ago and happened across an photo exhibition about the city’s history – I wouldn’t know such things on my own.


  3. Antwerp looks inviting and cleaner than Brussels. I adore the ornate buildings + its nice to get a flavor of the food as you travel. Thanks for sharing all these wonderful photos…my #Bucket-list is growing!


  4. Lovely post and Antwerp is really a wonderful city to explore. Surprisingly we stayed at Radiasson as well and I just did a quick post on that bathroom photo that you’ve also clicked and shared. Have a look on my blog. Cheers and a wonderful city information post


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