What Are Words For?

Andrew McCarthy sneers:

Watch Your Language [Andy McCarthy]

… at least if you find yourself in Iran or Russia.

AP reports (h/t Iran Focus) that “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.”

I could quote someone’s recounting of a neoconservative meeting where someone said that it was ominous that the Soviets didn’t have a word for “detente“. Or I could mention how Ronald Reagan righteously condemned Russian culture on the basis that it “didn’t have a word for ‘freedom'” (it does, of course. I think it’s swoboda, but I might be wrong). But instead I think I’ll confine my response to two words, two delicious words of potato-y goodness: Freedom Fries.

Nope, no Orwell or Confucius references. Not on this post. I’m too hungry now, and it’s dinner time.


Comments: 24


Sweet Jesus. First they hate our freedoms. Now they hate our foodstuffs. It’s only a matter of time before these monsters denouce our window treatments, and I’ll be DAMNED if I let some lunatic smack-talk my venetians.


You should be more sensitive to Andrew McCarthy’s disability.

Can you imagine what it’s like to be born with absolutely no sense of irony whatsoever? What an enormous handicap that is – even before heartless people like you mock him for it?

It’s cruel, Retardo. Just plain cruel.


I wonder if Iranians have a word or phrase for “preemptive strike?” They might wanna learn that one…



Man, demonizing a false enemy has fallen on hard times. Used to be there was over-the-top rhetoric, with allusions to satan and evil and hitler and all the terrible things in history. What happened to the “Axis of Evil” or “Smoking gun as Mushroom Cloud”? Now, the best we can do to demonize the Iranian people is make the official announcement that they won’t use the word “Pizza” any more? Ah, this is sad. It’s like we let second-graders take charge of our foreign policy…



Damn, that’s funny! English doesn’t have a word for détente, either. I guess all we understand is force.

What’s the Farsi word for “smacktard”?


Poor Andrew McCarthy–he just can’t live down “Weekend at Bernie’s II,” so he resorts to right-wing nonsense.


Oh man. is the weekend at bernie’s guy a wingnut??? That’s too bad, I really liked those movies when I was a kid.


I’m sure the Iranian effort to purify their language will meet with the same spectacular success that the French had in de-corrupting French, removing evil English words like “sandwich.” I’m surprised that the “English as the official language”-types haven’t jumped on this bandwagon and *demanded* that American English be scoured of such words as “voila” and “tsunami.” Personally, I’ve found the rampant cannibalism inherent in American English to be one of its greatest strengths; it adapts far more rapidly by assimilating useful foreign words than most other languages coin new ones. Of course, it’s no slouch when it comes to word coinage either.

Herr Doktor Bimler

mikey said,
Man, demonizing a false enemy has fallen on hard times.

All part of the slide into mediocrity and banality…
I mean, it wouldn’t be quite so bad if the people suborning your democracy and usurping your government were evil geniuses (genii?). You know, soft-spoken sinister mafiosi from the Godfather mold. Or a middle-European cabal of machiavellian schemers with exotic accents, even more exotic vices, and names like Blofeld, gathering regularly for meetings in their volcano bases where they report progress on how they have managed to undermine the bastions of freedom. Or Professor Moriarty types, veritable Napoleans of crime, dressed in full-length red-lined Victorian cloaks which trail behind them as they stride back and forth on the podium, addressing the meeting in the volcano base.

But no. What you have is a bunch of kleptocrats, for whom the only significance of any branch of government is its possible use as a source of spoils, and of jobs to be farmed out to one’s cronies. Kleptocrats who have not advanced one inch in terms of sophistication from that Borgia Pope, whose name I cannot be arsed looking up… You know, the one of “Now We have the Papacy, let Us enjoy it” fame.

What depresses me is the missed opportunity. If they’re going to be criminals, why can’t they be classy criminals?

All off-thread, I know.

Herr Doktor Bimler

The fact is that victory in the Middle East is certain, because English has no words for debâcle, or fiasco, or imbroglio.

The fact is that Coalition forces are unbeatable because of their superior élan and their esprit de corps.


Herr Doktor: Nope, we just have the good old fashioned ‘donnybrook’ and ‘clusterfuck’…


Retardo Рi never thought freedom fries could be so d̩licieux.


The Académie Française tried to do the same a few years ago when le weekend was used a bit to much for their liking.

BTW, I always thought that the word ordinateur (computer to you hamburger-eating, turn-up-for-wars-late monkeys) was an invention of the Académie Française, but it turns out we have to blame IBM for that.

What I can never understand about the Académie Française’s attitude is that about fifty percent of the words in the English language are of French origin.


So, they want to make official Persian the official language of Iran?

That is different than making English the official language of the US? Soon to be followed by “official English”?


And I think its the icelanders who determined they would have their own word for “television” derived from their own root words. This is pretty common.



Watch Your Language … at least if you find yourself in Iran or Russia.

Hey, at least you can go there. I can’t even go to Thailand. There’s a non-trivial chance that I’ll be confused with a rape-murder suspect and be thrown in a Southeast Asian prison.


I could sure go for some “Elastic Loaves.” Mmmmmmm….

Smiling Mortician

English would have to give up a lot more than “voila” and “tsunami” in order to purify itself, given that only about a quarter of our vocabulary is actually English (i.e. Anglo Saxon). Just over half of our words come from Latin, either directly or through French (imbroglio, hell — we can’t even have a disaster), another chunk from Greek, and of course spatterings from all sorts of other languages, including Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Arabic, Yiddish . . .

The Icelanders’ conscious decision to reject foreign terminology makes sense in such an isolated and homogeneous society. China is similar, although its linguistic decisions have much to do with the need to make all vocabulary fit within its character system. Japan, more open socially and more flexible phonetically with its three writing systems, adopts foreign words where China does not — the Japanese use the word “computer” (spelled in katakana, of course) while the Chinese use the word “dian nao,” which means electric brain.


I’m just a bit baffled by the choice of phrase “elastic loaves” for pizza. Pizza is basically flatbread with cheese and seasonings on it. Doesn’t Persian cooking already have such a creation that’s close enough to use the term for it? I just ate something like this in a Lebanese restaurant yesterday, and it was damn good.

And where does the elastic part come in?

Methinks someone’s translation bot is malfunctioning.


Just to tempt your tastebuds:

“Alcazar is a garlic-powered vision of a seaside Lebanese café, a terrace perfumed with apple tobacco puffing from a dozen bright hookahs, the sharp scent of fried fish with garlic and tahini, the sweet aroma of chicken kebabs grilling over charcoal. Late on weekend evenings, when the patio fills with live Armenian music and the restaurant becomes a nightclub lubricated with Almaza beer and the tasty arak imported from Beirut, a cook fires up a special cooking device in a corner of the courtyard, a sort of vast, inverted wok fixed over a powerful flame, and bakes ultrathin sajj bread, smoky and pliant and as broad as a sailboat sail, to wrap around grilled meat or make into the thin, crisp, thyme-scented Arab quesadillas called k’llej.”



I think that Reagan made a mistake, as Russian did not have a word for privacy. Understandable, as Republicans do not understand that concept.


What are freedom fries? Are they like fried long-rectangle-tatos?


Doesn’t Persian cooking already have such a creation that’s close enough to use the term for it?

Sorta. ‘Nan’ is ‘bread’, hence ‘nan e-lavash’ (crisp flatbread) and ‘nan e-barbari’ (soft flatbread) and apparently ‘nan e-[elastic]’ for pizza, though I doubt it’ll stick.


Did you know:
Arabic doesn’t have a word for enterprise?
Neither does Swedish?
And the Irish have no word for sex?
The Japanese have a million words for rain?
And don’t forget those Eskimo words for snow!

Here’s some advice. Whenever you hear someone starting to say something that begins with “The X have no word for Y”, or “The X have N different words for Y”, never listen to them, and always check your wallet to make sure it’s still there.


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