Linguists on foot #1 – Hendrik Busman

One of the interesting things about languages is how they spread and change.
In the last couple of weeks I have seen two statues of merchants who carried goods, on foot, from one town to the next. They must have been very welcome, in the days when goods were limited to what could be produced locally and news was limited largely to village events. Probably these merchants brought tales of wondrous things in far away towns and inspired youngsters to explore and to meet new people. They must also have been among the first linguists.

The oldest of the three wanderers who have been on my mind this week is Hendrik Busman, a merchant whose statue can be seen in Kevelaer, a few minutes´ drive south of where we live.
It seems that around Christmas time in 1641 he repeatedly had a vision and was told to build a little chapel. He was reluctant at first, being poor and having a wife to support, but he built a simple shrine the following year and died in 1649. Five years later a small but magnificent six-sided chapel was built on the site and to this day thousands of pilgrims walk there and light candles.
A fuller version of the origin of the pilgrimage can be found on which is German, Dutch and English.
Thanks to church records we know a little about the religious aspect of Busman´s life and the religious basis of the story makes it tempting to edit from the photo the ladies´ underwear which appear in the background. But that clothing, or at least the cloth to make the clothes, was probably one of the main items carried by travelling salesmen of the time.


About Fun with languages

Blogging about learning languages, making it fun Hobbies: paragliding, cycling, reading, BBC radio 4.
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