Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Funny Amsterdam

The civic authorities in Amsterdam have a side-splitting sense of humor. Look at this Photoshop montage they concocted for their forthcoming festivities for the late queen Juliana's birthday, characterized traditionally by the color orange (I wonder why):

France's queen of morality, Ségolène Royal, has become famous recently (as if she weren't so already) for making apologies to foreign nations and leaders concerning Sarko's faux pas. This time, she should probably apologize to Berlu for his being cast in this role as a drag-queenish duettist. Maybe she should apologize directly to the Dutch people, for their being obliged to see these clownish faces staring down at them from the walls. Or she could create a surprise by apologizing to the citizens of Italy and France for this shocking exploitation of the images of their cherished leaders. Ideally, Ségo could also apologize to readers of Antipodes, since the author is too dumb to do so, for their having to endure such a stupid blog article.

ADDENDUM: I was trying to be mildly ironical when I wondered out loud why Queen Juliana's birthday evokes the color orange. Every schoolchild of my generation in Australia learned that a Dutch prince, William of Orange [1650-1702], became William III of England. As a teenager, I remember my paternal grandmother telling me that we had ancestors in Ireland who were Orangemen, which was the funny term designating bigoted folk in Northern Ireland and Scotland who were members of the so-called Orange Order, inspired by the staunchly Protestant monarch.

The Orange term in the name of the Dutch royal house is derived, of course, from the ancient city of Orange in south-east France, which used to be a principality. For its Roman builders, that city had a Latin name, Arausio (designating vaguely an anatomical part of the head), which was later transliterated into Orange.

As far as the fruit and the color are concerned, the original Arabic term was naranj, which was later transliterated into the French word orange, at a time when the city of Orange had already existed for many centuries. Maybe the transliteration of the name of the fruit, of a crudely approximative nature, was influenced at a purely auditory level by the existing name of the city. The French name of the fruit and its color was then incorporated identically into the English language.

People might imagine that the French city acquired its name because it was connected in some way with oranges. This was not at all the case. So, there is no profound reason whatsoever why the queen's birthday in Holland should be associated with the color orange.

Observers might object that the arms of the city of Orange contain an explicit allusion to the fruit tree. In the relatively serious domain of heraldry, this is a case of a mild joke. The creator of the arms thought it would be amusing to take advantage of the homonymy, so he decided to include an orange tree. Why not? There are so many cases of this phenomenon in heraldry that it received a special name. Arms that exploit coincidental homonymy are described as canting arms (literally, arms that talk; in French, armes parlantes).

Today, it might be said that the Orange joke has come a long way... attaining a zenith in the comical photo-montage of Berlu & Sarko on bus shelters in Amsterdam.


  1. There is a new site you might be interested in.

  2. Thanks for the link, Corina. But I'm disappointed to discover that, with age and isolation, there's no sin in the list for which I might ask forgiveness from the Lady in White. That doesn't mean I've become as pure as the pope. Sinning requires, not only a sinner, but a context of other people with respect to whom one might commit sins. Living outside society, to a large extent, I seem to be surrounded by fewer and fewer potential victims. Maybe I'm committing the same sin as Ségolène: the temptation of thinking I'm lily white.

    Talking of colors, the Dutch might think I've sinned in suggesting that their royal house has no sound reason for exploiting the same color as France's state-owned Internet provider. So, I might ask Sainte Ségo to forgive me for that offense.