No-one is called Abdul: A Guide to Arab Names

This week’s blogpost will be a little short and somewhat out of the ordinary – it’s on the subject of Arabic names.  During the past two days I’ve encountered three journalistic examples of mutilation or incomprehension of Arab names.  I therefore propose, for your scrutiny, a look at how Arab names are put together, how they are taken apart, and how they are not taken apart. CAVEAT: Before we get any further into this, remember that – for whatever reason – there is still no agreed-on way of transliterating Arabic into English.  This is why we had القذافي written as … Continue reading No-one is called Abdul: A Guide to Arab Names

Lesbian Palm Tree Bondage

Now that I have your attention, here is my translation of a horticultural text concerning how to cure palm trees of their undying infatuation with one another.  It’s quite a famous piece amongst my friends and associates, although this translation is fuller than the one I have previously supplied to them.  This is the second of my intermittent blogging translation series in which I translate bits of rather weird Classical Arabic for the general amusement of the kind of people who read my blog, the first being the bat text. NABATAEAN AGRICULTURE Ibn Wahshiyya, 960 Palm trees are similar to … Continue reading Lesbian Palm Tree Bondage

The Rest of the Birds Oppress and Loathe It

I’m well aware of the popularity that the infamous lesbian palm tree text has among my friends, and I thought it would take the opportunity to provide the world with another example.  This is taken from Shihāb al-Dīn al-Nuwayrī’s book Nihāyat al-arab fī funūn al-adab (The Final Goal of the Branches of Art) which, like so many other pre-modern Arabic texts, is concerned with everything.  This excerpt is from the volume about animals, and besides the amusing religious assertion (basically unsupported, and even unmentioned, by anyone else), it is interesting for what it gets wrong – and right – about … Continue reading The Rest of the Birds Oppress and Loathe It

Today, we’re going to play with Missiles!

And I am back, after a brief hiatus.  Meanwhile, my prediction of the Jamahiriya’s 42nd birthday has been abundantly fulfilled, and I’ve unaccountably managed to get myself quite a lot of freelance work, much of which involved tight deadlines.  It is this which has lamentably taken the edge off my ability to blog.  But I have returned now to present you with a post about MATHS, and in particular the language of maths.  For all that I blog about (and am fiercely obsessed by) politics, I am also fascinated by linguistics, and I can no longer bear that the most … Continue reading Today, we’re going to play with Missiles!