Posted at 4:39 PM on October 26, 2006
by Euan Kerr
I took in an advance showing of"Babel" last night. It's the new Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu film about how language unites, but more often divides us. Which leads me to a pronunciation issue. "Babel" was always pronounced "BAY-bell" in Scotland, and I always found it amusing to hear folks here say "BABBLE." The second pronouncer is more satisfying in many ways because of the link between babbling and linguistic confusion. But IT'S WRONG. Or at least secondary as you can hear at the Merriam-Webster On-Line Dictionary. Anyway, the movie which opens in a couple of weeks here is very good. More on it later.
More on "Assassination" You can catch Minnesota Film Arts impresario Al Milgrom on KMSP Channel 9 in the Twin Cities tonight talking about "Assassination of a President." Should be interesting.
I must admit I am greatly intrigued by "Crush Collision," an upcoming film and sculpture show at the MIA by artist Chris Larson. The centerpiece of the show is a small two-story house. The house is also at the center of an accompanying film.
To quote the press release: At the center of the exhibition is Larson's film, Crush Collision. Produced by Jason Spafford with sound design by Alex Oana, the twelve-minute film is a complex examination of the dualities of human existence. Set in a house floating on water, the film features musician Grant Hart (formerly of the bands Hüsker Dü and Nova Mob), performance artist Britta Hallin, local percussionist Michael Bland (formerly with Prince and The New Power Generation and Soul Asylum), and Minneapolis gospel quartet, the Knight Family. The film traces two story lines from different times running parallel in the same location. The first story follows Hart and Hallin as they toil on an elaborate, archaic-looking machine that endlessly creates a circle of clay. The other finds Hart on the house's upper level while the Knight family says grace and sings below him.
The film is a meditative study of both dark and light, and of the physical and spiritual.
The show opens November 17th. (The name "Crush Collision" comes from the famous occasion in 1896 when two 36 ton steam engines were run head-on into each other in Crush, Texas. The event was apparently to symbolize the clash of cultures between the North and the South.)
I couldn't help but comment on the Babel pronunciation question. While both BAY-BUL and BAB-EL are considered correct, the origin of the word is apprently the Hebrew word bavel (בָּבֶל), and my long-ago Sunday school knowledge of Hebrew vowel markers shows me that it's BAH-VEH-L. So the soft "a" Babblers are actually closer to the original pronunciation than are the long "a" Baybelers.
Since the movie takes place in three different continents and is based on a the Genesis story which is known in hundreds of different countries, it is downright amusing to hear people pontificating about the "correct" pronunciation.