15 April 2013

To the Hilt

I bought a new umbrella yesterday. It is spanking and it is stonking. Spanking and stonking are both terms used by the English to describe something that is very good.

Here is a picture of it:

Here is a picture of me with it slung over my shoulder:

You will note that my new umbrella has a handle that makes it resemble a sword which is why I find it both spanking and stonking. The handle of a sword is called a hilt and it is also sometimes referred to as a pommel. I think that the word 'hilt' is excellent. It is Norwegian in origin and is derived from the Old Norse word 'hjalt'. I assume that when one says the word "hjalt' some throaty and guttural intonation is required. 

Many Scandinavian and Germanic words are.

The term 'to the hilt' means wholly, fully or completely. It's origins are gruesome but obvious as it refers to someone having the blade of a sword thrust into or through them. Wholly, fully and completely - and right up to the hilt.

I normally carry an umbrella everywhere I go in Singapore. It can rain suddenly and violently and I dislike being caught in a deluge. I also find having an umbrella useful in order to occasionally beat my way through the crowds of this densely populated city. So when I saw this hilted version in a shop yesterday I simply had to have it. I already have several umbrellas and I do not really need another one. 

It was purely an impulse buy.

When I caught the train to work this morning it was - as usual - packed to the hilt. As I barged my way into the carriage there was an audible and collective gasp from the people around me. I could see the alarm in some peoples faces. To witness any semblance of emotion from the normally impassive Singaporeans was excellent and it delighted me. The crowd before me on the train parted like Moses dividing the Red sea. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this biblical reference, the parting of the Red sea is a story that is related in the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament of the Bible.

In the story of the parting of the Red sea Moses was leading the enslaved people of Israel as they were running away from the pursuing Egyptian army. When the Israelites arrived at the Red sea they were trapped and Moses asked God to open a passage for them. According to the Bible, Moses raised a wooden staff that he was carrying and God caused the sea to part. The Israelites then ran across the dry sea bed with walls of water on either side of them and when the Egyptian army pursued them, Moses raised his staff again and God caused the water to collapse. The entire Egyptian army was drowned. 

So much for God being merciful.

The Hebrew term for the place of this crossing is "Yam Suph". I find it interesting that historians have determined that the Red sea may be a misinterpretation. They believe that it may in fact refer to a "Sea of Reeds".  These historians theorize that it might be a small lake in the northern part of Egypt on the edge of the Mediterranean sea and that Moses may well have just parted some reeds rather than a body of water. 

This is a little more believable and makes more sense.

Some ridiculous modern day studies have been undertaken to determine whether the Red sea - or the Sea of Reeds - could actually have been parted. These studies have included computer modeling and a scientific analyses of tidal conditions and the affect of winds. The process used in such a simulation is called 'bathymetry' which is the study of the underwater depth of a lake or ocean. Using bathymetry some scientists have determined that with a hurricane strength wind blowing in the right direction and the correct tidal conditions it was theoretically possible for a shallow reef to have been exposed for Moses and the Israelites to have run across. 

I have my doubts though.

The story of the parting of the Red sea is also told in Islamic scriptures. The Islamic equivalent of the Christian Bible is the Qur'an. The war between the people of Israel and their Arabic neighbors continues to this day although the Israelites are no longer fleeing. They have taken a stand and are fighting for their homeland. The war between Islam and Judaism is ancient and it seems unresolvable. Millions of people have lost their lives in the Middle East.

I think this is as tragic as it is despicable.

Anyway, when I got on the train this morning quite a few people around me were noticeably shocked and I assume that they must have thought that I was carrying a real sword. I also assume that they thought I was some sort of maniac who may use the sword against them so they kept their distance. I had the same experience on the train on the way home.

Like the staff of Moses this new umbrella of mine is a crowd parter and from now on I will carry it everywhere I go. 

It is spanking. 

It is stonking.

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