The Boyfriend and I had been dating for some months, and I, for some reason or other, had made a handful of references to Goethe in our conversations within that span of time. The Boyfriend claimed he had never heard of Goethe in his life and that I was loopy for talking about an imaginary person. In truth, I didn’t know anything about Goethe either–my exposure to his work consisted of one Wikipedia search and a few scattered passages mentioned peripherally in a Victorian literature class I took in college.
Anyway, the Boyfriend and I were driving somewhere, and we came across a radio commercial advertising some sort of Goethe reading at a local bookstore. I got excited and said, “Hey, I told you I wasn’t making this guy up! People read him! In bookstores!”
The Boyfriend shook his head and said something about us all being weirdos.
I persisted. “We can’t all be crazy. Goethe is huge.”
“Goethe is a stupid name.”
“Well, whatever. It’s German. He can’t help it.”
“Those crazy Germans. How do you even spell that?”
“G-o-e-t-h-e. There’s an umlaut somewhere in there.”
“You mean Goe-th?” he burst out in sheer contempt. He pronounced it so that it rhymed with “growth.” “You’ve been talking about Goe-th the entire time?”
I took a deep breath. “God help me. I mean, yes.”
“Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“Who pronounces it Ger-tuh? That’s the most fucked up thing I’ve ever heard.”
Note: Goethe is the American/English transliteration of Gothe (with the umlaut over the “o”).