Little Green Footballs

Monday, May 01, 2006

Chukles gets an ass-whooping!

This is a great post by General Cucumber at Action is Eloquence. Read it all. It's a classic.

4 comments:

moonbat monitor said...

you left out the "c" in Chuckles. just givin' you a heads up.

phleabo said...

That's not such a great post.

First, it's quite clear that not a single person involved in the entire discussion a native speaker of any particular local dialect of Arabic, let alone fluent in the literary dialect. This is acknowledged by General Cucumber, who seems to have the best understanding of the language itself of anyone involved. But basically, it's a bunch of people that don't really know what they're talking about arguing about a complicated subject.

Second, the post isn't perfect. The word Muslim does not, in fact, derive from the word for peace. The two words do share a root - /slm/ - which means something like "to surrender, to obey, to resign (oneself)". In Arabic, as with all Semitic languages, the lexical core of the word is the consonants, with various vowels giving individual words - so Islam is an abstract noun meaning "submission" and Muslim means "one who submits (to God's will)". The words for peace (salaam) and safety (salaamah) have the share the same consonantal root, too. Such single roots providing the basis for a variety of words which are of various (i.e., not always obvious) degrees of relation to one another is pervasive throughout the language.

My point is, etymology questions regarding a language one does not speak are always complicated, and there's particular oddities about how words are formed in Arabic which makes etymological analysis more involved.

And, finally, etymology isn't meaning. Use is meaning. We no longer think of the word hysteria as having anything to do with a woman's uterus; yet the origin of the term refers to the early belief that the disorder (which naturally only ever appears in women) was caused by a woman's uterus wandering around her body.

Cucumber does touch on topics related to use, but not convincingly or sufficiently. Check out this page on the various uses of the word Jihad. It's a complicated term, the meaning of which is generally collapsed to "holy war" in the western media, but which had significant depth.

Joe the Working Schlub said...

First, it's quite clear that not a single person involved in the entire discussion a native speaker of any particular local dialect of Arabic, let alone fluent in the literary dialect. This is acknowledged by General Cucumber, who seems to have the best understanding of the language itself of anyone involved. But basically, it's a bunch of people that don't really know what they're talking about arguing about a complicated subject.

Exactly right. I made no claims to be a classical linguist or scholar in the field. I haven't studied Modern Standard or Colloquial but have at least tried to learn Classical Arabic to get a better understanding of the Quran as it is written in classical Arabic and not English. The vocabulary is archaic and based on the primitive roots of the old Semitic languages like Aramaic, Syretic, etc. - which is my only base of reference. As incomplete and imperfect as it was, I still think it was a notch above what Chucky would ever attempt.

The two words do share a root - /slm/ - which means something like "to surrender, to obey, to resign (oneself)". In Arabic, as with all Semitic languages, the lexical core of the word is the consonants, with various vowels giving individual words - so Islam is an abstract noun meaning "submission" and Muslim means "one who submits (to God's will)".

Right again. The roots are in fact Seen, Laam, Meem (Like Shin, Lamed, Mem in hebrew) and not from salaamah. I should have picked up on that. This page has a much more thorough explanation from a professor of Islamic Studies than I could ever provide:


The term “Islam” is derived from the root “SLM”.

I - Form one of the verb, (Salima), inf. n. (Salaamah) and (Salaam) and (Salam) and (Salm) and (Silm), means: He was or became safe or secure; or he escaped; or he was or became free from evils of any kind.

(Salaam) is syn. with (Salaamah), as is (Salaam); it means: Safety, security, or freedom from faults, defects, imperfections, blemishes, or vices, and from evils of any kind; or simply safety, security, immunity, or freedom.

(Salaam ‘alaikum) is an announcement

II – Form two, (Sallama), inf. n. (Taslim), means: He (God) made him to be safe, secure, or free; saved, secured, or freed him from evils of any kind.

(Taslim) is syn. with (Salaam), as meaning: the saluting or greeting one with a prayer for his safety, or security, or freedom from evils of any kind in his religion and in his person.

III – Form three, (Saalama), inf. n. (Musaalamah): he made peace, or became at peace or reconciled with him; or he reconciled himself with him: implying mutual concession, or a compromise.

IV – Form four, (Aslama): He resigned or submitted, (Aslama Nafsahu): he submitted himself, he was or became resigned or submissive.

Therefore, (Aslama li-l-Lah): He resigned or submitted himself, or he was or became resigned or submissive to God. Or he was or became sincere in his religion, or without hypocrisy toward God. Hence, (Aslama): he became a Muslim.

Joe the Working Schlub said...

Sorry, I meant Syriac and not Syretic.