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December 27, 2005 by AK

Under the black mountain

When Arnold Schwarzenegger campaigned for governorship in California, bloggers inquired into the origin of his name. The most convincing opinion was, I remember, that the name should be parsed “schwarzen+egger” and taken to mean something like “black ploughman” or “black harrower.” (Arnold’s key rival was Lt.Gov. Bustamante — according to a popular etymology, a “breast man.”) Case closed, seemingly.

Oddly, I got back to this after listening to Birgit Nilsson singing Richard Strauss’ simpler-than-expected, touching early songs. The author of Allerseelen (Wie einst im Mai) was a Tyrolese nobleman called Hermann von Gilm zu Rosenegg (or Ritter zu Rosenegg). So there had to be a place called Rosenegg somewhere in Tyrol. Indeed, there is a hotel in St. Johann, Tyrol, called Hotel Schloss Rosenegg (“castle Rosenegg”) — a renovated castle built, the owners claim, in 1187.

Well, if there is a Rosenegg, chances are there is a Schwartzenegg somewhere close. There’s one in Switzerland, not far from Bern. There’s a Schwarzenegg “ski hut” in the Soerenberg area where they serve Salat Mimosa, a name certainly familiar to those who have frequented cheap eateries in Russia. At last, I found a convincing enough explanation from a German-speaking forum contributor:

In this case the colour black refers to “egg” which is an (old) Alpine term for peak, therefore the first Schwarzenegger lived (and probably had a farm) below a (relatively) dark pointed mountain called “Schwarzenegg”.

Easy, huh?


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