Mike the Mad Biologist

Can we please have one leader in the Middle East who isn’t thoroughly corrupt or nutty bonkers? Iranian President Ahmadinejad has now declared a war against foreign words:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ordered government and cultural bodies to use modified Persian words to replace foreign words that have crept into the language, such as “pizzas” which will now be known as “elastic loaves,” state media reported Saturday.

The presidential decree, issued earlier this week, orders all governmental agencies, newspapers and publications to use words deemed more appropriate by the official language watchdog, the Farhangestan Zaban e Farsi, or Persian Academy, the Irna official news agency reported.

The academy has introduced more than 2,000 words as alternatives for some of the foreign words that have become commonly used in Iran, mostly from Western languages. The government is less sensitive about Arabic words, because the Quran is written in Arabic.

Among other changes, a “chat” will become a “short talk” and a “cabin” will be renamed a “small room,” according to official Web site of the academy.

Doesn’t Ahmadinejad know you’re supposed to label things “freedom?” Pizza should be called “freedom bread.”

Comments

  1. #1 John McKay
    July 31, 2006

    The next step will be to get rid of non-Persian personal names, like Mohammed.

  2. #2 Sean Foley
    July 31, 2006

    Maybe this is a positive sign. Iran’s catching up with Iceland. They’ll have a female president in no time!

  3. #3 James
    July 31, 2006

    The United States are looking like total fools right now. There is the US & Israel on one side – and the rest of the planet on the other. To blindly back Israel is foolish and will result in further terrorist attacked on US soil. If the US was smart, it would distance itself from those Zionist murderes immediately! But then it’s not that smart.

  4. #4 Andrew Dodds
    July 31, 2006

    Two Words:

    Freedom Fries

  5. #5 Janne
    July 31, 2006

    Most language areas seem to play this game on a more or less regular basis. Iceland has a long tradition of coming up with “native” words whenever they can, rather than importing words wholesale, for instance. France and Germany get occasional leanings in this direction too – and US famously joined the club as well a few years ago.

    Other languages, like Swedish and Japanese, have always been very open to new words and expressions on the other hand. And comparing Swedish and Icelandic, both being small languages, it’s hard to say that the Icelandic policy really has any effect. Word imports in Swedish gradually change to conform to the grammar and spelling conventions already in the language, and I think you’d be hard pressed to argue that Icelandic is any “purer” or that Swedish has any less character. On the other hand, the Icelandic policy doesn’t hurt either, and neither will this hurt Farsi.

  6. #6 Corkscrew
    July 31, 2006

    James: to distance yourselves from Israel would involve backstabbing the Middle East’s only functioning democracy. And it would make you look weak. And it would mean that all those Hizb’allah nutjobs, once they’d finally figured out how to take Israel out, would be looking for new targets. That won’t happen soon – Israel’s a tough cookie – but like you say, they’ve got the world against them. They won’t last forever without Big Bro to back them up.

    At the moment, Israel ain’t looking too shiney. But then, neither is anyone else. After Iraq, it’s a bit too late to worry about keeping America’s good name spotless.

  7. #7 Branedy
    July 31, 2006

    The French regularly createnew French words to replace foreign words. There is a government body charged with the integrity of of the French language.

  8. #8 Robster
    July 31, 2006

    I can’t help but ask if this is real… Like the fake story about Iran making Jewish people wear identifying marks. Just skeptical.

  9. #9 Left_Wing_Fox
    July 31, 2006

    I did work a while back on a veternenarian supply CD-ROM brochure that required translation for the foreign market. In general, scientific words required very little translation; the French translation changed most of the terms. I don’t think this is exclusive to Iran or Farsi at all.

    American english tends to bounce between creating new words (“Japananimation”, and “Japanese Horseradish” come to mind) and simply adopting the foreign words (anime, wasabi). But the choice is personal, and not driven by any sort of standards committee.

    That said, I don’t think it’s a healthy practice. I think there’s an inherent level of xenophobia that comes when one protects the culture too zealously from outside influence; France and Japan are two examples that pop into my mind as expressing a certain level of institutional chauvinism within the culture. A big part of this whole “Come to America, Speak English” kerfuffle lately seems tied with the mexican immigration issue. That’s just a personal impression, and not necessarily backed up by expert opinion. I’d be interested to hear from a linguist on this issue.

  10. #10 Janne
    July 31, 2006

    fox, while Japan is relatively closed, culturally, Japanese is very open to foreign words and terminology, and that’s without even considering that half of the “original” vocabulary is Chinese in origin. You have large corpora borrowed from German (a lot of the medical vocabulary is German in origin), Portugese and English, and of course smaller amounts from many other languages. And it’s not just new concepts either as you may believe; Japanese are constantly replacing old words with new, for no other reason than that it sounds new and cool.

    I doubt that there is any kind of straightforward connection between cultural openness or xenophobia on one hand, and linguistic promiscuity or puritanism on the other.

  11. #11 Boubou
    July 31, 2006

    ” The French regularly createnew French words to replace foreign words. There is a government body charged with the integrity of of the French language. ”

    ———-> That’s right, but… nobody cares about that, and French still use the English words.

  12. #12 SLC
    July 31, 2006

    Re James.

    This is an example of the big lie in action. Joseph Goebbels would have been proud. The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center had nothing whatever to do with the support the US provides to the State of Israel. Bin Laden, in his tirades against the US prior to 9/11 never even mentioned Israel. Dumping Israel will no more prevent future terrorist attacks against the US then handing Czechoslovkia over to Hitler satisfied his hunger for plunder.

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