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Word of the day: regenboog (rainbow)

Last Monday morning on my way to the office I jumped on my bicycle, looked up at the church to see what time it was and saw a rainbow. Rainbows are a gift from heaven, given to you to make you feel happy. I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s nonsense to think that there is a treasure buried below one of the two bases of the rainbow. De regenboog zelf is de schat (the rainbow itself is the treasure). To show you the rainbow I was given, I took this photograph.

To my great delight I discovered that the rainbow is a word that is probably as old as Sinterklaas himself and maybe even older. According to Nicoline van der Sijs’ Chronological Dictionary it was first recorded in a Dutch bible in 1285. However, it must be much, much older because the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisians and no doubt the Cananefates (the ancestors of the Scheveningers) used it in their ancient Germanic dialects. They knew the REGENBOOG as ‘renboga’ or as ‘scurboga’ (shower-bow). So if ever you happen to timetravel to the early Middle Ages in the Rhinedeltamarshes, remember the fabulous word ‘renboga’. ‘Hwaet is that? Renboga!’ They’ll welcome you with open arms, sing a song and share a goblet of mead with you.

It was Aristotle who first tried to understand the phenomenon, but it was Newton (nearly 2000 years later) who took the magic out of the rainbow when he showed in his scientific research that white light being refracted in a prism is split up in colours in 1666.

Judy Garland’s well-known song from the Wizard of Oz, ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ (1938) goes beyond what we can see and points to a heavenly land far away from the precarious sublunary world that we live in: Somewhere over the rainbow / Way up high / There’s a land that I heard of / Once in a lullaby. … Birds fly over the rainbow / If happy little bluebirds fly / Beyond the rainbow / Why oh why can’t I?

No, we can’t fly to that imaginary land. We can only dream about it. This year Hague-born Anouk stole the show in the Eurovision Song Festival with her moving anti-rainbow song ‘Birds’: ‘Birds falling down the rooftops / Out of the sky like raindrops / No air, no pride’. I dedicated a posting to this song in May of this year.
Maybe next year the Dutch will be victorious when Ilse de Lange and Waylon will perform together in May in Copenhagen.

Speaking of Eurovision Song Festivals, the funniest parody of Song Festival Songs is Paul de Leeuw’s singalong song ‘Vlieg met me mee’ (Fly along with me) from 1991. Paul de Leeuw (Rotterdam 1962) is a very popular Dutch comedian and television presenter.

You can watch a young Paul de Leeuw performing this pseudo multilingual song here.

The refrain is as simple as most Song Festival Songs are:

Vlieg met me mee naar de regenboog-rainbow,
ik denk alleen aan jou,
Vlieg met me mee naar de regenboog-rainbow,
ik hou alleen van jou.
(Fly along with me to the rainbow-regenboog, I think only of you,
Fly along with me to the rainbow-regenboog, I love only you.)