Friday, January 26, 2007

Redundancy in the Governor's Office

During news meeting this week, I noticed a co-worker's unusual pronunciation of our governor's last name. Whereas I would pronounce "Schwarzenegger" with the emphasis on the first syllable, she tended to divide the name into two units: "schwarze" and "negger," with two minor emphases. It occurred to me that, oddly, schwarz and its variants in Germanic languages is translated into English as "black." Thus, if you took the second word part to be a variant of nigr, an old Latin word part that also means black, then you could postulate that Arnold's last name could be translated as "black black," which I found amusing.

My attempt at an etymological investigation did not lead me to the correct conclusion, however. Apparently other people have also wondered if the actor-turned-governor's name could really be "Arnold Black Black."

This website, however, explains that the name should more correctly be broken down into schwarzen and egger. While the first part does indeed mean "black," the second part is a verbal relative of our word "acre." Thus, "Schwarzenegger" — which, it turns out, is a reasonable antonym to the fairly common Anglo surname "Whitaker," as in Forest Whitaker — translates to "black plot of land," which some interpret as the an area that has dark, rich soil, like you'd find next to a river.

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