Afteryear Leaves

Sep. 3 - It feels like autumn in Denmark these days. It's getting darker earlier (finally), the air is dry and cool, and the temperatures have dropped considerably. It's been beautiful autumn weather for a week, in fact, which is only a shame because it's still summer.

It's also given me a rotten cold.

The Danish word for autumn or fall is efterår, which literally means "afteryear." The Danish word for spring is forår, which (not so surprisingly, I suppose) means "beforeyear."

The Danish word for summer isn't år—that just means year, as you've probably figured. (Summer is just sommer.) So this business of a "beforeyear" and "afteryear" makes no sense at all.

Maybe that shouldn't come as a surprise in a language in which the word for ninety-five is "five and half-fives" (fem og halvfems). On the other hand, these strange twists of logic occur often enough in Danish that I can't help feeling there's a pattern in there somewhere, and that I could speak better Danish if only I could grasp it.

I'm not going to grasp anything more complicated than tissue paper as long as I've got this cold, though, so any speculation will have to be put off to another day.

Today in History, Etc.

On September 3, 1189, Richard Lionheart was crowned King of England. The son of Henry II (no relation to Rocky II) and Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard spent most of his ten-year reign abroad. For two of these years he was imprisoned by the Holy Roman Emperor, who was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an emperor, but a nasty little man just the same.

When Richard finally returned to English soil he discovered there had been Intrigues, some of which involved his brothers. He therefore crossed the channel and defeated France before dying in battle.

He had only produced one son, and the most crushing defeat of Richard's tragic life was his discovery that the child was a little bastard.

On September 3, 301, during an epic game of hide-and-seek, Marinus the Stonemason ran up Mount Titano in Italy to hide from the Roman Emperor Diocletian. It was a good hiding spot and he was never found. He started his own country to pass the time and the Republic of San Marino survives to this day.

On September 3, 1939, Germany continued its invasion of Poland even though Britain had asked it very nicely to stop. This upset the British sensibility. They declared war on Germany, the official launch of World War II in Europe.

On September 3, 1838, Frederick Douglass escaped slavery disguised as a sailor. Later he wrote about his experiences in a book called The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass, the title of which may have diminished the effectiveness of his disguise. (Publishers thought The Narrative Life of a Guy Dressed as a Sailor would have limited appeal outside certain fetishist circles.)

Today is the birthday of Charlie Sheen (1965), Kitty Carlisle-Hart (1914), and Alan Ladd (1913).

It's Independence Day in Qatar and National Flag Day in Australia.

Happy Wednesday.

© 2003, The Moron's Almanac™

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