The word TAND (tooth) dates back to the Middle Ages and is related to Latin ‘dēns’ and Greek ‘odṓn’. In Old Frisian it is ‘tōth’ and in Old English ‘tōþ’. Modern English ‘tooth’ is its direct descendant. The Dutch talk about TANDEN (teeth) and KIEZEN (molars) and with most languages they share the abominal outdated maxim EEN OOG VOOR EEN OOG, EEN TAND VOOR EEN TAND (an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth).
Wednesday 31st July 2013 was DE DAG VAN DE TAND (day of the tooth) for my friend Arno van Berge Henegouwen. Identification of a large tooth was his last official task at work. Arno is met pensioen (Arno retired).
Arno is a biologist of the old school. The kind of biologist who wanders through nature watching everything alive with eagle’s eyes. There is nothing that escapes him. On hearing the call of some bird, he immediately identifies it as the moulting spotted green tit in search of her mate. In the twinkling of an eye he can distinguish a harmless hoverfly from a wasp, eager to sting.
Arno is a nature lover and even more so a fanatical birder (vogelaar), but first and foremost he is a teacher (leraar). There’s nothing he likes more than telling stories about nature to children of all ages, from one to hundred and one. For the last thirty-five years or so he has worked for the educational museum Museon next to the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. And that’s where I met him in 1988 when I interviewed him for a Hague magazine that I co-edited.
His stories put a spell on me and from then on we worked together on numerous projects, articles and books. We devised several exhibitions and even museums: Museonder (Park Hoge Veluwe), the North Sea experience. Birdpark Avifauna, the Your World My World exhibition in the Museon, and much more. The books on the evolution of birds (De Oervogel) and man (De Oermens) may even be reissued later on this year.
Over the last few years Arno has published a blog called ‘De Wilde Wijde Wereld’ (The Wild Wide World) and you can guess what it is about. For students of Dutch interested in nature this blog makes excellent study material because Arno very often illustrates his informative stories with lovely pictures.
Here is an excerpt of what he wrote on the 31st July:
‘Aan het eind van mijn laatste werkdag op het Museon kwam Aaliyah met haar zusje en moeder langs met een tand. Aaliyah had de tand gevonden in een zandhoop op het Malieveld in Den Haag. Het bleek de hoektand van een varken te zijn.’
(Right at the end of my last working day at the museum Aaliyah with her sister and mother dropped by with a tooth. Aaliyah had found the tooth in a heap of sand on the Malieveld in The Hague. It turned out to be the fang of a pig.)
Arno, keep on teaching, talking and writing about ‘wat leeft en groeit en ons altijd weer boeit’ (what lives and grows and captivates us time and again’).
Photo made by Gisèle van Eick (Museon): Aaliyah with the pig’s tooth that she found on the Malieveld in The Hague.