Islamic Shibboleths

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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  1. Avatar Doctor Jay
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    Apparently how one pronounces the word “Muslim” is a new tribal marker.Report

  2. Avatar greginak
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    Different pronunciations???? WTF I have no clue what this about nor why i should care about this trolly bit of partisan crap. And “pet project”??? Please. This is more silliness. If you would tell us more about how Islam is the left’s pet project or how we are trying to change i could tell you in more detail how crazy the idea is. This is just a generic attack piece about how liberals are all sorts of bad. Did it ever occur to the writer that people pronounce words differently due to different accents? ( i went through the piece but my eyes were rolling quite a bit so maybe i missed it.)

    Islam is a religion, it can’t learn or enlighten itself. It isn’t conscious or self aware. People can do those things religions can’t.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to greginak
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      The idea that pronunciation might be… well, a shibboleth… is hardly new.

      http://www.politico.com/story/2009/07/obama-a-stickler-for-pronunciation-024466

      It’s been around for quite some time on both sides of the aisle. I note Republicans still favoring the objectively incorrect forms newk-you-lar (which I believe began with Eisenhower) and “Democrat Party” (which started who even knows where). So both sides in fact do it. They only differ on the methods by which they choose to distinguish themselves.

      As to Islam being a project for the left, I stand by it. It’s imagined that the road to Muslim integration will be managed, and managed well, by them. I’d actually like this to be true, but I don’t imagine that it will be either a smooth transition, or that the left will have a whole lot to do with it when the story is finally told.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        Oh lordy…the BSDI raises its head. Silliness. People have accents, sometimes their useage is objectively wrong and sometimes its just style. I’m not sure how you can massage that into an issue.

        I really have no idea how you are getting this Islam or ( the moozlims i guess) are some pet project of the left. What are we supposed to be doing and to who? Which indoctrination camps have i missed, we have so many?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak
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          What are we supposed to be doing and to who? Which indoctrination camps have i missed, we have so many?

          From what I understand, there are cultural differences when it comes to expectations for and of women.

          I’m not saying that we’re any better, of course. Both Sides Do It.Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jaybird
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            If you think your party is great because it doesn’t signal with the little things, you’re wrong.

            If you think the other party is awful because it signals with the little things, you’re also wrong.

            And both sides also do both of these things, too.

            (And so does my side, for what it’s worth.)Report

          • Avatar Will H. in reply to Jaybird
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            there are cultural differences when it comes to expectations for and of women.

            I, for one, am quite happy with the popularity of the brassiere, though they do, at times, impede my intent in meaningful ways.
            Bikinis are something of a mixed bag (no pun intended) if you’ve ever been to a real beach. (Had to be real careful typing that last word . . . )Report

        • Avatar Will H. in reply to greginak
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          Many nigras ask this same question.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        For Islam being a “project of the left” I think that’s likely though a lot more definition of what it means to be a “project of the left” is required.

        If it means anything towards encouraging Islam to modernize that could run the gamut from intensly lobbying Islamists to seriously consider tolerance and pluralism to simply saying the same while standing on the sidelines as the Islamic extremists kill each other off. I’m more inclined to like this line of liberal thought than the much smaller line of thought that suggests that modern values should be compromised out of sensitivity to Islamic feelins.

        This is all, of course, liberal, intra-liberal and libertarian discussions since conservatives (as they have on so many things) are basically out of the conversation rolling around in a fit and occasionally contributing empty pieces like Oprea does.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North
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          This is all, of course, liberal, intra-liberal and libertarian discussions since conservatives (as they have on so many things) are basically out of the conversation rolling around in a fit and occasionally contributing empty pieces like Oprea does.

          When it comes to Europe at least, I’m pretty sure that the conservatives are beginning to clear their throats in preparation for their coming participation in the conversation.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        As to Islam being a project for the left, I stand by it. It’s imagined that the road to Muslim integration will be managed, and managed well, by them.

        This is one of those claims that needs both semantic clarification (to understand who you’re referring to) as well as some citations to support whatever claim you in fact are making here.

        If we’re talking about integrating Muslims into the wider geopolitical world which it is currently viewed as being at odds with, from where I sit no one has any views on how that should go. One thing members of “the left” probably pretty consistently believe, tho, is that bombing the radicals into submission is neither a morally nor a pragmatically (cuz incoherent!) desirable approach to take. So perhaps in that very limited sense the left views itself as a better guardian of “integration” than the right. But only in that sense, seems to me.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird
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    I remember when we called “Beijing” “Peking”.

    I have encountered old people who called it “Peiping”.

    I’m still somewhat confused by the difference between “Burma” and “Myanmar” (from what I understand, the closest pronunciation of the name of the country is somewhere between those two words).

    I have been told that it is disrespectful to use the one rather than the other, though.

    Back when I watched Sabado Gigante, I regularly heard “Nueva York” rather than “New York”. It never occurred to me that there might be grounds for someone (not me, of course, but someone) to be offended by such a thing.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird
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      That seems to be more about calling people or a country by the name they choose then the one put on them by foreigners.

      Like Boba Fett, i could call him Bob but his name is Boba so i should respect his name not call him what fits my custom.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jaybird
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      “Nueva York” was the LEAST of Sabado Gigante’s offensiveness issues.Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to Jaybird
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      @jaybird

      well you guys also used to call black people n—-rs. Some people still say black but mean n——-r. Pronouncing Muslim as “Moslem” is similar in many ways. It smacks of the whole we-conquered-you-(and thus practically owned you) and-therefore-get-to-call-you-whatever-the-hell-we-damn-want mentality.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Murali
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        It’s exactly like saying “Democrat Party” instead of “Democratic Party” (as well as why people more concerned with politeness than accuracy say “Republican Party” or “GOP” instead of “Batshit Party”.)Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Murali
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        Bad example, I think, since “Moslem” is the older (now disfavored by almost everybody) pronunciation and predates most American involvement in the ME, conquering or no. I’m not clear on how closely the words are related, but I will note that we still call mosques, mosques, with the old “mah” sound.

        The article is really about “muh” vs. “moo”, I think.Report

        • Avatar Guy in reply to Glyph
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          Is that a real thing? I interpreted Jason’s point, at least, to be about “is-LAHM” vs “IZ-lam”, in which case it at least kind of stands, assuming there are people yelling about that (and there almost certainly are). I couldn’t connect it to a pronunciation of “Muslim” that I’ve ever heard anyone use. I think once I might have heard someone say “Moslem” and thought they were kind of weird?Report

          • Avatar Guy in reply to Guy
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            Well, I feel silly now, at least re: looking at the article under discussion.

            (On the other hand: “Ever notice how those on the Left pronounce ‘Muslim’ like ‘Mooss-lim’?” Nope. Guess this piece ain’t aimed at me.)Report

          • Avatar Glyph in reply to Guy
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            I’m old enough that I can remember when “Moslem” was the more commonly-encountered spelling/pronunciation. Granted, I’m from the South, but I was a fairly well-read kid and in my experience, it wasn’t until sometime around 9/11 that even written usages really switched to “Muslim” more or less consistently (since the word was now in the news a lot more than it used to be).

            But even then, I didn’t take the change as any political point as much as (I assumed) a potentially more-accurate English equivalent spelling/pronunciation. Sort of like the “Osama/Usama” (Uma/Oprah) questions, etc.Report

            • Avatar Guy in reply to Glyph
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              “Uma” and “Oprah” are supposed to be the same name? The past was weird…

              Anyway, thanks. All my exposure to the word is post-9/11, so that doesn’t really contradict any of my experiences.

              (This blog is the only place I go where I am consistently Obviously Young. It’s a strange experience.)Report

            • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
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              Riffing on this some more (and I haven’t checked Google Ngram against my recollections), it seems to me that when I was a kid, ME-related issues (which were of course in the news) seemed to be often discussed in terms of political/economic entities (OPEC, Palestine, et al) and ethnicities (Arabic, and for people who wanted to be derisive, that might be “Ay-rab”), but religion was usually not really the focal point of the discussion.

              Pre-9/11, that is.Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph
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              It looks like “Muslim” surpassed “Moslem” sometime in the late 1940s. With the spike you see in the teens and early 20s, the timing of the two changes around two wars that involved a heavy English-speaking presence in the Arabic speaking world (along with the Arab-Israeli conflict becoming a major issue for the English-speaking world), suggests that you’re right, the change in preferred spelling was motivated by increased accuracy.Report

        • Avatar Murali in reply to Glyph
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          But it doesn’t pre-date Western involvement* in the middle east especially the more antagonistic kind. Perhaps its just me, but the first time I encountered the word spelled “Moslem” was as kid in a story about El Cid. It doesn’t help that the people who I tend to see bemoaning the change also tend to be the people who are more inclined to view a 10th (or 11th depending on how you count) crusade as a good thing or who see geopolitics as largely the game of defending and expanding christendom (with a bit of judeo tacked in front so as to distance oneself from the Nazis).

          *Or more accurately, the involvement of christendomReport

          • Avatar Glyph in reply to Murali
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            Could just be where and when and how I grew up (as I said, it was the South – and my encyclopedia set was a very old one I’d inherited from a grandmother – since in the pre-Internet age, how fast could information and usages really change, anyway?), but as I said, no one batted an eye at “Moslem” and I did not get any impression the intent was to denigrate – the “Mo” simply tracked with the ones in “Mohammed” and “mosque”.Report

  4. Avatar Kazzy
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    Comparing the pronunciation of Islam and Muslim to Paris is a false analogy. We also don’t call Rome Roma or Germany Deustchland*. But we should pronounce words as best we can within our own language. This isn’t a political issue. It is a respect issue. If showing respect toward how others wish to be identified is a “liberal” thing than what is the conservative alternative? Being disrespectful? Hey guys… if that is the hat you want to wear, so be it.

    As for whether liberals only offer this respect selectively… well, the author doesn’t seem to substantiate that claim. Again, the comparison to Paris fails. If Oprea can point to a group of liberals — or, hell, ONE liberal — who pronounces Christian or Catholic improperly we can talk. But I doubt she can. Because that doesn’t happen.

    * I’m actually of the mind that we should call countries, cities, and the like in the manner that the locals do (or at least our best approximation given our phonetics). So I think we should call Mexico “Me-he-co” and that Mexicans should call us “the United States”. But that’s just me being crazy.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Kazzy
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      “But we should pronounce words as best we can within our own language.”

      Sure. Now, what’s “best” mean?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        I’ll let individual people decide for themselves if they are doing their best. I can’t roll my R’s so any word that requires such will be one I can’t pronounce perfectly. But I can get reasonably close.

        If someone says, “The emphasis is on the first syllable,” or “It’s a long A not a short A,” and someone pronounces it otherwise, they probably aren’t doing their best.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Kazzy
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          But then… why does Pah-REE seem wrong to you? Apart from the French “r,” which few Americans can master, the rest is easy. You should pronounce it the way the locals do, which does not involve any change at all in spelling, quite unlike “Roma” or “Deutschland.”Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            “Pah-REE” doesn’t seem ‘wrong’ to me. It was my understanding that “Pah-REE”/”Paris” was equivalent to “New York”/”Nueva York”, “Roma”/”Rome”, etc. If it is more akin to how locals pronounce Baltimore versus how the rest of the country does, than I stand corrected and will adjust my pronunciation accordingly.

            To the broader point, Oprea seems to object to the idea of even trying, because pronunciation is not about respect but about signaling.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Kazzy
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              I had the sense that the choice she perceived was somewhat different: We must seemingly choose between submission to Islam (and Islamic, or “proper” pronunciation), and American values (which call for a consciously different form of pronunciation).

              I resent being asked to make that choice, because my first set of choices would be 1) proper pronunciation 2) American values and 3) a polite but firm rejection of Islam as a false religion.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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                So pronouncing a word a certain way is submitting to a religion? By not using the American pronunciation ( The Best Damn Pronunciation the World) we are losing our values?

                Well frak then. When i’ve visited Catholic cathedrals i’ve been respectful to people praying and their rules so therefore , what?, i’m catholic now? Good lord, i’ve visited the Mezquita in Cordoba and been respectful, i must be Mooselimb and Katholick also.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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                So then you don’t agree with her premise? That’s encouraging since I found the article head achingly idiotic. I mean she even implicitly admits, in the final section, that few to no liberals are currently running around screeching about how those words are pronounced so the whole piece is just partisan Mountain-out-of-molehill making.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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                I don’t agree with her apparent premise that the Democratic pronunciation signals loyalty to Islam. That part seemed deeply off to me.

                Her empirical observation seems correct, though. I suspect party differences here only signal party difference, not Islamic tendencies on the part of the enemy party.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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                And to be clear her empirical observation being that the Democratic candidates are making a point of pronouncing these words in a manner closer to how Islamic faithful and Muslims use them when referring to themselves while Republicans use the more common usage? Yes I’d agree.

                I’d also say it’s says either nothing or something very mildly positive about the Democratic candidates that this is true. Full disclosure, I use the common pronunciation and would probably not bother to try and change that unless I had someone in my social circle who gave a fish about it.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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                Long ago i had a boss who called Muslims, Mohammedans, which a very old fashioned name and one, i understand, to be offensive to Muslims. She was old so i guess that is what she learned. Some names can be complex but some seem pretty straightforward regarding how to be respectful.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to greginak
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                I wasn’t aware it was offensive, since on the one hand it seems like an analogue to “Christian”, for followers of Mohammed rather than Christ; OTOH, since Mohammed is only His Prophet and “Islam” means “Submission” to Allah the one true God (whereas to most mainstream Christians, Christ=God) I guess I can see that.

                It IS archaic, though; it’s terminology T. Herman Zwiebel (the ancient Mr. Burns-like founder of The Onion) used to use in his missives, which also contained outdated racist terminology like “blackamoors” (and of course the exploits of the murderous robot, the Villainous Mr. Tin).

                I’m not ashamed to say that I find putting outdated, ancient clueless offensiveness in the mouths of really old, evil characters like that a pretty reliably-funny comedic trope.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Glyph
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                I was taught that “Christian” was originally a derisive term.

                25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: 26 and when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

                Of course, they reclaimed it and made it their own.

                At first, however, it was considered an insult by both parties involved with the name-calling.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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                THen I think we are in much greater agreement than I realized.Report

            • Avatar Maribou in reply to Kazzy
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              Pronunciation is about signaling … respect. Sigh in the direction of Oprea.

              Also, I am dying to know how locals pronounce Baltimore now.Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            How many people say “pah -ree?” Compare that to how many people call Target “tar-jay” in a mock french accent? I’m sure people have done both but if someone thinks liberals are running around saying “pah -ree” all the time then lets start discussing the drugs they are doing or should be doing.Report

          • Avatar Maribou in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            I think English and French, given the Normans, are so complexly intertwined that they constitute a special case. The process of similarization and differentiation goes back centuries.

            Pah-REE doesn’t seem wrong to me, at all (though I am a spotty roller), but if I say it, North American Anglos don’t tend to know what I mean and I have to back up. So I’ve trained myself to not. (Have also had to do this process with a lot of loan words from one language to the other.) Haven’t noticed this problem with Islam or Muslim, where the difference is a shift rather than including or not including a final consonant.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy
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      Mexico is also formally called the United States. Specifically, Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos; it is seemingly easy for us Norteños to forget that it too is organized as a Constitutional Federal republic. And from the Mexican perspective, calling our nation El Norteño is thoroughly accurate, as our nation is located geographically to the north of theirs.

      The nation that I’m aware of that suffers the worst Anglicization of their place names is Italy, although that may be in part from my own personal experiences there. “Rome” instead of “Roma” isn’t so bad, although “Roma” isn’t all that hard for a native English-speaker to say. A little worse is dropping the “o” from the end of “Milano.” But it’s “Firenze,” not “Florence.” It’s “Venezia,” not “Venice.” It’s “Genova” not “Genoa.” It’s “Napoli,” not “Naples.” We don’t have a problem with other cities in Italy like Pisa or Bologna (although we can’t pronounce that word, it’s a hard one) or Ravenna or or Assisi or Parma.

      But I don’t really understand how “Livorno” became “Leghorn.” I mean, that’s just plain lazy of us English speakers.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Kazzy
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      Mexicans should call us “the United States”.

      Actually, “Mexico” is the “United States”– Estados Unidos Mexicanos.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Kazzy
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      * I’m actually of the mind that we should call countries, cities, and the like in the manner that the locals do (or at least our best approximation given our phonetics). So I think we should call Mexico “Me-he-co” and that Mexicans should call us “the United States”. But that’s just me being crazy.

      Yeah, I always have found what we do a bit baffling. Why *do* we have our own set of words to talk about other places, when they already have their own words?

      I mean, yes, different languages teach different sets of pronounceable sounds, so ‘Beijing’ seems reasonable for English speakers (I honestly couldn’t say how close that is to how it actually is pronounced.), and likewise Chinese and other languages that don’t distinguish between l/r are going to pronounce England and Paris slightly off, but whatever.

      Actually, I *sorta* understand why we say ‘Par-iss’ instead of ‘Par-ree’…we’re pronouncing it as if it is an English word, and, really, that’s understandable too. I’m not sure why it’s hard to learn ‘silent s’, it’s not like English doesn’t have all sorts of stupid inconsistent words so we should be able to remember one for another language, but whatever.

      What I *don’t* understand is why we say Germany instead of Deutschland, which is just stupid. It’s not like it’s particularly hard to say, (Even if we don’t normally end syllables with ‘-sch’, we certainly know how to say ‘sch’.), and, hell, the thing ends in -land so it’s not even a *weird* word for English.

      The really odd thing is this only seems to apply to old countries, not new one, so apparently English speakers can’t pronounce Deutschland despite that being obvious, but are expected to pronounce Djibouti. (Which is, for reference, Ja-bok-ee, and I only know that from Animaniacs.)Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DavidTC
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        What I *don’t* understand is why we say Germany instead of Deutschland, which is just stupid. It’s not like it’s particularly hard to say, (Even if we don’t normally end syllables with ‘-sch’, we certainly know how to say ‘sch’.), and, hell, the thing ends in -land so it’s not even a *weird* word for English.

        Doesn’t this go back to Rome?

        But why don’t we refer to French people as Gauls?

        Crap, now I have to look this up…

        Edit: It goes all the way back to Tacitus.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germania

        He says: For the rest, they affirm Germania to be a recent word, lately bestowed. For those who first passed the Rhine and expulsed the Gauls, and are now named Tungrians, were then called Germani. And thus by degrees the name of a tribe prevailed, not that of the nation; so that by an appellation at first occasioned by fear and conquest, they afterwards chose to be distinguished, and assuming a name lately invented were universally called Germani.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to DavidTC
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        Djibouti. (Which is, for reference, Ja-bok-e

        Heh…Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy
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      * I’m actually of the mind that we should call countries, cities, and the like in the manner that the locals do (or at least our best approximation given our phonetics). So I think we should call Mexico “Me-he-co” and that Mexicans should call us “the United States”. But that’s just me being crazy.

      I can think of some situations where pronouncing it “Me-he-co” might seem offensive to Mexicans, as if I were mocking them while saying it.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        And the name Mexico was a medievalish Spanish approximation of one of the Aztec names for the place, at a time when Spanish was in flux by he largest amount it had been since breaking off from Latin. (It was literally becoming unmoored)Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        I have never heard a native speaker use the Spanish pronunciation of Mexico while speaking in English, except maybe as a deliberate exaggeration. I’ve also never heard a Spanish speaker use “Los Estados Unidos” or “Nueva York” while speaking in English (though you might hear either in Spanglish). The English pronunciations are the English pronunciations, the Spanish the Spanish.

        Similarly, if I were speaking Italian, I’d say “Napoli,” but I’ve never heard anyone from Italy call it that in English unless they were talking about the football team.

        People’s names, as I said below, or above, wherever, are different, though. My friend Marisol definitely appreciates it when native English speakers pronounce her name with the Spanish pronunciation (can be hard to get the r right), because it is her name, not an English word. I wonder if some people see the name of their religion as more like a person’s name than the name of a country or city.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris
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          I guess it is just weird to me that we have “English words” (or Mexican words or whatever language it is) for foreign places. I see place names as names. But I’m obviously in the minority on that.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Kazzy
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            In Europe or Asia or even Latin America, there may be 2 or 3 or even more languages spoken by the people of a small area, and each may have a different name for where they are. Which one do we use, particularly knowing that there are politics involved (think Danzig or Königsberg or pretty much every Native American place name)?Report

          • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy
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            I think one reason why “we”* have English words for foreign names is that the English pronunciations seem to fit better with the way sounds work in English. It’s not impossibly difficult for an English speaker to say “Pah-ree,” but it probably fits more easily in the English sound system to say “PAIR-iss.” Similarly, it’s not impossible to say “MEH-hee-koh,” but it’s probably easier for English speakers to say “MEX-ick-oh.”

            I also think if the “English” pronunciation were “MEH-hee-koh,” the pronunciation would within a matter of decades evolve into something like “MAY-koh” because the “h” sound would get weaker and weaker. (And the “h” sound in the standard Spanish pronunciation isn’t really an English “h” but closer to one form of the German “ch.”)

            You seem to acknowledge as much when you say above, “or at least our best approximation given our phonetics.” Part of what I’m saying is that “our phonetics” might play a bigger role in the different place names than it might seem at first glance.

            And to be clear, my “fits easily with English sounds” argument doesn’t explain everything. Other factors can be at play, and I’m not trying to say that just because things are that way it’s how they should be in all cases.

            *I use scare quotes for “we” because I think most languages do this. In French, London is Londres, in Korean, America is Mi-Guk.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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              Part of what I’m saying is that “our phonetics” might play a bigger role in the different place names than it might seem at first glance.

              Yeah, but it still doesn’t explain Germany.

              In French, London is Londres, in Korean, America is Mi-Guk.

              ‘Mi-Guk’? Are you saying that is phonically derived from America? I can see dropping the first and last A, and vowels are always random, but I’m a bit baffled as to how R becomes G, especially at the start of a syllable. I mean, I don’t know anything about Korean, but those two sounds aren’t anything close to the same.

              …come to think of it, isn’t Rae a Korean name? How can they have a problem with the R in ‘ri’ in Ame-ri-ca?Report

              • Avatar El Muneco in reply to DavidTC
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                I’d be more worried if it was “Mi-Go”. But at least that would mean that they thought we were fun guys.Report

              • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to DavidTC
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                Yeah, but it still doesn’t explain Germany.

                Well, to be clear, my “fits easily with English sounds” argument doesn’t explain everything. Other factors can be at play.

                As for “Mi-guk,” I don’t speak Korean other than knowing a few words. My understanding is that “guk” means something like “country” or “nation” (“Han-guk”=”Korea,” e.g.). I’m not sure if the “Mi” is “phonetic” or not, or some kind of analogy with the way other East Asian languages call “America” (I understand in Mandarin it’s something like “Mei-guo.”). If there are real speakers here of any of those languages, they can probably just tell me where/how I’m wrong and talking out of my….Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to DavidTC
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                says:

                Here is an explanation of the Korean name for the U.S.

                The reasons we use “Germany” to refer to the country called “Deutschland” by its residents are more complicated and go back a couple millennia (to Julius Caesar even), but can be summed up like this: Germany has been an important region in European affairs for a couple thousand years, but for most of that time it was made up of more or less related, at times unified tribes, states, and statelets, with different names. The various names for Germany used in the various languages throughout Europe (and the rest of the world) come largely from those tribes/states, and predate the fully unified and independent German state by centuries/millennia, already firmly entrenched in those languages before the Prussians defeated Austria and then laid siege to Paris.

                There is no shortage of lengthy explanations of this on the web.

                Also, we already call the people from another country the D(e)ut(s)ch.Report

          • Avatar Murali in reply to Kazzy
            Ignored
            says:

            Singapore is Singapore in English, Singapoor in Tamil, Singapura in Malay, and X?nji?p? in Mandarin.Report

        • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Chris
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          says:

          Good point about personal names, Chris. My experience seems to bear that out, too.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Chris
          Ignored
          says:

          The only place I hear it in my head is from the beginning of the cartoons, when they introduce Speedy Gonzales as “the fastest mouse in all Me-hee-co”.Report

  5. Avatar Maribou
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    says:

    I can’t speak for “the left”, but I started pronouncing the words grumped about more in the direction grumped about, and less in the other direction, once I started working and hanging out with a few folks who are Muslims. Who pronounce them that way. In English. Whether or not they have an accent, and regardless of what accent they have. Otherwise I’d pronounce them some other way.

    Agreed, there is nothing like a good shibboleth to stir up one’s thinking.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Maribou
      Ignored
      says:

      I, for one, would rather call the collection of Syrian and Iraqi thugs making manifest the policy preferences of Immortan Joe “Daesh” than “ISIS” or “ISIL” or the “Islamic State.” That’s after I learned what “Daesh” means in Arabic and the coincidence that “Daesh” is an acronym in Arabic for the formal name of the governmental entity that said thugs propose to establish.Report

  6. Avatar Chris
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    says:

    Given how often I’ve heard Americans, likely the same sorts who complain about “the left” wanting us to pronounce “Muslim” “correctly,” complain about or mock the pronunciation of English words by native Spanish speakers, I suspect that to the extent that this involves shibboleths, it involves them in every direction.Report

  7. Avatar Kolohe
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    says:

    There’s a similar thing with Hawaiian words (or should I say Hah-vie-glottal stop-anne words), and less often, Spanish words. Personally, I think it’s a terrible affectation, while speaking English, to pronounce certain words* of Hawaiian origin with a overly ‘Hawaiian’ accent, ditto for Spanish ones, but there is one newscaster in the DC area who pronounces her last name (but not her first, nor any of the other words she says, generally) with a Mexican accent

    *it’s kind of random which ‘standard’ pronunciation sticks. Hawaii, most famously, is usually with a ‘dubya’ (and of course, without the glottal stop), but Ewa and Haleiwa are usually ‘eh-va’ and ‘Hah-lay-ee-va’Report

  8. Avatar Tod Kelly
    Ignored
    says:

    It appears I live in a very, very universe than everyone else.

    Everyone I know — Muslims included — pronounces it muhslims. They only person I have ever heard say mooslims is Trevor Noah, and I’m pretty sure that’s more to do with his South African accent.

    Is it possible that this is an East Coast/NE pronunciation that you and the Federalist are confusing with a liberal accent?Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Tod Kelly
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      says:

      You very well may. I’ve never heard a native Arabic speaker pronunce it “muhslim,” though the difference in the pronunciation is much more subtle than the “Mooslim” pronunciation I’ve herad from some Americans apparently attempting to use the Arabic pronunciation. Really, the biggest difference between the Arabic and American pronunciation that I hear is in the accent, which tends to be on the first syllable in the American pronunciation and on the second in the Arabic.

      So it’s not MUH-slim, or MOOS-lim, but Muss-SLIM (muss=puss, so like “What’s new Mussycat?”). Honestly, if someone has a heavy accent, the difference is almost impossible to notice anyway.Report

  9. Avatar Kolohe
    Ignored
    says:

    Then there is the case of Iraq, which was Eye-Rack prior to 1991, then Ee-Rock during the Gulf War, and now seems to have migrated back to rhyming with rack. (President Obama’s pronunciation of Paki-STAHN has not been similarly transformational)Report

  10. Avatar Kim
    Ignored
    says:

    Can we make this point about Mumbai and the terrorist bombings there? It’s far more relevant to that, methinks, than someone’s odd point about pronouncing a religion’s name.

    Of course. who’s afraid of Indians?
    We don’t stereotype them as thugs afterall.Report

  11. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    Islam isn’t so much the pet project of the Left because no liberal or anybody further left is really encouraging or doing much to get Islam modernized. Rather, Muslims are the current victim group to the very anti-Western faction of the Left, the part deeply influenced by Fanon, Said, and other mid-20th century anti-colonialist intellectuals.Report

  12. Avatar Maribou
    Ignored
    says:

    In related and equally hard to stop thinking about non-news, I was fascinated to learn over the past year that
    1) US Military folks tend to say “Cutter”
    2) US broadcasters, etc, almost always say kuh-TAHR.
    3) the expats on Qatari radio invariably seem to say CAT-ahr (2nd syllable quick even though the r is rolled) (regardless of what accent they otherwise hold), if they are speaking in English
    4) and it turns out that people living in Qatar, more generally, say it at least a half dozen different ways (cf. for example, this video from Northwestern’s Doha campus)

    Turns out that people are getting in ALL kinds of stupid fights about it on the internet too. “Cutter” is the most attacked pronunciation, being accused of signalling both ignorant redneckery AND elitist snobbery (by different parties).

    Jeez louise.Report

  13. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    I wouldn’t go as far as “project”, but it’s true that if the Right is going to go all in on hating and fearing Islam [1], the Left is going to include Muslims within its big tent of the marginalized (people of color, women, gays, and the poor. Not Jews so much, since the Right has recently become our besties. [2]).

    1. The ur-enemy of Christianity and Western civilization, they want to turn us all into dhimmis, the Crusades were self-defense, all Muslims including Keith Ellison and Barak Obama want to impose sharia, you know the drill.

    2, As Martin Luther did for a while too. It never lasts.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Mike Schilling
      Ignored
      says:

      Based on my reading of the Further Left or even the Center Left, it goes further than including the Muslims in the big tent of the marginalized. Many people on the Further Left see the Muslims as the current holders of the Wretched of the Earth status and all problems in the Muslim world as being a result of Western imperialism. They really seem to believe that but for Western interference in Muslim-majority countries, Muslim-majority countries would be Leftist utopias of some sort like the Nordic countries or something even more radical. Its why Judith Butler and company can call Hamas and Hizbollah objectively progressive with a straight face and complete sincerity. These people on the Further Left don’t realize that they are again being used as useful idiots in the same way that the Soviet Union used Western intellectuals.

      As for the Jews being in the big tent of the Left, the best you could say is that the Left always had a tricky relationship with the Jews and no clear idea where they fit in the Leftist cosmology.Report

  14. Avatar Heisenberg
    Ignored
    says:

    So it happens that I live in Kansas, and recently went to services at the local mosque. (I’m not Muslim – I was an invited guest.)

    Funny thing – most folks there in the congregation used the “Americanized” pronunciations that Opera mentions (probably because most of them are U.S.-born citizens) rather than the other pronunciations that show liberals are bad people for submitting to Islam.

    So…. Should I go back and tell my fellow Muslim citizens they’re wrong, or something?Report

  15. Avatar Damon
    Ignored
    says:

    While I think the article has “some” merit, and as was said above, BSDI, I think a lot of it is just regional quirks as well.

    Hell, I’ve been away from the West for 30 years and I still call a tour a “ter”. Of course I’ve been living in the belly of the best of liberal/socialist hivemind think for 30 years too…..Report

  16. Avatar trizzlor
    Ignored
    says:

    Whatever value there is to an article about how liberals drive like *this* and conservatives drive like *THIS* that values goes out the window when the conclusion is and it’s because liberals are submissive cowards and perfectly matches the authors priors. I mean, there *are* rigorous ways to assess latent differences between tribes, why start that conversation with clickbait?Report

  17. Avatar clawback
    Ignored
    says:

    Please tell me more about this project of the left. Seems like I should have been invited to the kickoff meeting, or at least gotten the memo. Who’s keeping the gantt chart?Report

  18. Avatar j r
    Ignored
    says:

    The first question that comes to mind when reading the Federalist piece is, “Is it true?” Is there any empirical proof that how people pronounce certain foreign words is an indicator of their political feelings or cultural sympathies? Maybe, but it is also possible that this article is a great example of the right fully embracing the identity politics that they so often decry.

    Also, I was tempted to completely dismiss the idea of Islam as the left’s pet project, but after a bit of thought it is better to offer an alternative. Anti-racism (I really hate that term, but cannot think of a better one right now) is the left’s pet project. And anti-racism often involves adopting the most sympathetic view of the victims of racism. And anti-racism often involves placing more of an emphasis on fighting the racists than on doing things that would most efficiently benefit the victims of racism.

    Are we in one of those situations right now? I don’t know. In Europe it may be different, but I do not see how the left in America or the non-Islamophobic right holds an unjustifiably rosy view of Islam, radical or otherwise. There may have been a point when many on the left reflexively felt that any group of radicals with AKs and a suitably anti-imperialist mindset were allies in the global fight against capitalism and fascism, but I don’t see anything remotely similar happening right now with respect to radical Islam. Is there are large and visible contingent of U.S. leftists who say sympathetic things about IS or Al Queda or the Taliban or the government of Saudi Arabia or Al Shabab?

    I say all of this a constant critic of the U.S. left on issues of race and sex. I just do not see it when it comes to Islam. What am I missing?Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to j r
      Ignored
      says:

      This is all true JR. I’ll add that for a few years there were quite few on the feminist left who wanted us to stay involved in Afghanistan due to the terrible way women are treated there. They were plenty critical of harshly paternalistic societies, sadly they thought our continuing military involvement was a good way to deal with that. Simply plenty of libs are critical of aspects of Islamic societies.Report

    • Avatar Guy in reply to j r
      Ignored
      says:

      …IS or Al Queda or the Taliban or the government of Saudi Arabia or Al Shabab…

      I do think there are a lot of people who typically assume Saudi Arabia is just fine and dandy because it is a recognized nation-state, unlike the other groups you list here. You point, of course, still stands. (it just covers a group slightly further to the left than I think you may have meant to with the inclusion of Saudi Arabia, and even then, the reason people think well of Saudi Arabia is not that they believe Saudis to be oppressed.)Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to j r
      Ignored
      says:

      I think that the “pet project” has more to do with the tension that exists between some theories of multiculturalism and some (most) theories of feminism.

      The arguments about how many refugees should be accepted by The West and whether there is a notable percentage of the immigrants from similar cultures to the ones the refugees come from that would benefit from a set of classes similar to the ones we make college freshmen take about sexual harassment.

      (There was recently some unpleasantness in the last month or so in Europe and the interesting part isn’t the unpleasantness (after all, I’m sure that there was unpleasantness in NYC as well and since both sides do it we can’t criticize anybody) but the interesting part was the response of the authorities to the unpleasantness and the response of the media to the unpleasantness.)Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        I hold out hope that the feminist side should win out. It has the numbers after all and the multiculturalism extremists are a relatively fringe faction.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North
          Ignored
          says:

          Which makes the response of the authorities and the response of the media somewhat confusing. What is the end goal? Do they think their responses are going to help get them from where they are to the end goal?

          Are they *TRYING* to get Donald Trump elected?Report

          • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            I expect that the German fiasco will have pretty limited impact on Trump. Europe and America are kindof different.
            In Europe it’s obvious there’s that multiculturalism stream which is understandable because the European pre-multiculturalism thought is problematic in modern terms (especially in Germany) and the costs have been mostly papered over or denied. When/if the two sides actually clash I’d expect the multiculturalism side to back down, not exactly be abandoned but watered down.Report

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