Where'd Borges Get Dem Werds?
November 5, 2005 8:56 AM   Subscribe

On behalf of a friend, though it actually sounds like an interesting question and I think I'd like to know too: Could you put up something asking about whether there's a real-world source/derivation for the words "hron" and "hronir" used in Borges' "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"?
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me to Writing & Language (3 answers total)
There's a river in Slovakia called Hron, but I don't know if that makes a difference.

Hron sounds, to me, like the kind of word I would make up if I wanted something that sounded Scandinavian. I say this as someone who doesn't speak any of the languages, and is only a Borges afficionado, not a scholar.

What I can say is that Borges read extremely widely, so if it's an obscure reference, you may have trouble pinning it down. I believe he learned Icelandic at a fairly old age (after he'd gone blind) in order to understand the Sagas, but this was many years after he wrote Tlon... so that's no help either.

Here, for reference, is a page with some Borges resources, including a dictionary. The dictionary is of existing words used in Borges' writing, though, not words he coined.

If someone can track this down and answer it, that would be pretty impressive.
posted by Hildago at 9:25 AM on November 5, 2005

i think I remember derrida writing about the meaning...i've poked around online but cant find anything :(
posted by BigBrownBear at 10:08 AM on November 5, 2005

Another possible fiction--

"Hron" is fairly close to the Arabic "Harun" and the Hebrew "Aharon," which means "exalted" in both languages. This is also how the name "Aaron" was derived, i.e., the brother of Moses.

I think it was fairly common in Borges day for Arabic translations to omit certain vowels, and change a u to an o here and there (perhaps for Hebrew as well--that I don't know.) It's quite possible that he came across a text wherein "Hron" was a common occurrence.

Given the story, in which I thought I detected a certain ironic view of exalted-ness, it's a possibility at least.
posted by halcyon_daze at 8:19 PM on November 5, 2005

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