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    And Hold the Ancho... I Mean, The Fish Whose Stench Offends Allah

    elastic_loaf.jpgQuote:  “President Ahmadinejad has issued a decree banning the use of foreign words and urging us to find substitutes for those words.” Spokesman for Iran’s Academy of Persian Language and Literature.

    Figure of SpeechAtticism (ATT-i-cism), the native language ploy.

    From now on, you must call an Iranian pizza an “elastic loaf.”  A helicopter is not a helicopter but “rotating wings.” And a mobile phone now has the sexy name of “companion phone,” allowing randy young Iranians to set their companion phones to vibrate.

    Why would a democratically elected religious fanatic care about foreign words?  Because speaking pure Persian makes modern Persians feel more Persian, raising them over pizza-spewing foreigners and boosting loyalty to their plain-spoken leader.  Atticism, the use of “pure” language, dates back to ancient Greece, when Athenians insisted on speaking good old Attic Greek (free of Persian words, coincidentally).

    Fundamentalists and “official language” boosters are often the same people, because values and thenative tongue serve the same purpose:  to make the tribe feel purer than thou.  Thank God they don’t live in America.

    Snappy Answer:  “But Persian is foreign.”

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    Reader Comments (10)

    So, what are those, Abdullah? Freedom Fries?
    July 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge T Beuselinck
    There is a strong movement for this in Japan, too. Nationalists of all breeds get annoyed to see the "menace" of foreign words creeping into everyday life.
    July 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterShii
    I was intrigued by this particular article - it's not your usual style. As an Australian, I am not alone amongst millions of Australians who feel like President Ahmadinejad about the intrusion of American words into our language. It seems that the world is becoming far too homegenised as the USA spreads its culture around the globe - we wear what we see you wear in your movies on in your TV shows, we speak like you do - adopting your expressions and even your attitudes. And is there anywhere half civilized that doesn't have a Macdonalds these days. Perhaps your reaction is so strong and dismissive because you don't understand what it's like to be over-run by these things. The Australian language has [or had] its own rich, colorful vernacular, which it's fast losing - and we see that as a symptom of every iconic thing we held dear being sold to American companies. Sad but true. Perhaps if you had a look at it from the other person's point of view, as silly as it might look to you at first glance, you may understand why the rest of the world is more reactive than responsive when it comes to things USA.
    But don't stop sending your daily figaros - I love them. There's much to love about you lot - just don't take yourselves so seriously. Or that guy either! The French have done what he's done with babies names - apparently you can't name your baby anything that doesn't appear on their official register. It's just people striving to retain their own identity. Whatever it may be.
    July 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterChrissie
    As one who inserts Australianisms into daily speech as much as possible ("No worries, sheila!"), Figaro loves the hybrid vigor of mongrelized language. And government language prohibitions of any sort make him snort with derisive laughter like a Frenchman.

    Nonetheless, he is no hegemonist either. An aborigine had good reason to resent all those arrogant white people when they showed up Down Under. (What's "There goes the neighborhood" in aboriginese?) And you have a right to resent Americans when we get all Wal-Mart on you.

    But when Figaro wrote, "Thank God they don't live in America," he was being ironical. Christinianist Americans want to declare English as the official language. Besides being a cynical rhetorical ploy, the movement betrays a lack of confidence. Since when did we Americans start PRESERVING cultures?

    As we say in America, "I mean, jeez."
    July 31, 2006 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    I agree with Figaro on this one. Part of the beauty of language is that it can evolve.

    Even if it means the Real Academia EspaƱola in Spain now accept "bacon" as an official Spanish word... (we don't use it in Mexico, by the way - we still say "chorizo" - but it seems English influence is strong in Spain, too).
    July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterFia
    Figaro thought "chorizo" meant "sausage," which may explain why he often gets surprised in Mexican restaurants.

    We Americans got our bacon from the Brits, who got it from the French, who, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, got it from those piggy Teutons, for whom the word meant "backside."

    Which brings us around to saving our bacon. Thanks, Fia.
    July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    I have a question.

    What does one call it when a group purposefully manipulates the language into in-group and out-group forms? Atticism implies the language is returning to a real or imagined past form. And it's not quite the development of slang or jargon, which is spontaneous.

    An example might help. According to Stephen Pinker, the reason that we should not split infinitives dates back to the 1800s. During that time, elites wanted to distinguish their English. The best way to come off as high class was to speak with style. Style manuals began to flourish. In the spirit of capitalism, they began to compete. The manuals became longer and more arcane to make the user feel more erudite. (Arcane = erudite? The birth of pomo?) Hence, English-speaking elites chose to adopt new rules in order to sound more sophisticated than the plebs around them.

    What is that process called?
    August 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDoc L
    You'll find the answer on "Ask Figaro": http://www.inpraiseofargument.squarespace.com/ask-figaro/.
    August 5, 2006 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    be truthful i your religious path and you sure will succeed as this is teh right way of doing things.
    August 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbeco gemini
    Anyone who tries to control language of any kind is a hypocrite. Language is a free flowing thing, and all languages have always borrowed words from others. By the way, if you are not American no one is forcing you to go to McDonald's or dress like people in our movies. I am American and I do not go to McDonald's, and I do not follow the trends of movies. You have to think for yourself and not blame others because you want to go with the flow.
    December 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBearie

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