March 12, 2005

Ever Wonder

Why the State Department and the U.S. press insist on referring to Iraq and Iran as "eye-rack" and "eye-ran?"

I'm fairly certain that the people who live in these countries pronounce the words something closer to "EE-rock" and "EE-rawn."

Seems to me like that's just plain rude. I don't even bother pretending that I'm educated enough to have any useful opinion on foreign affairs in the middle east. Certainly there are very complicated power struggles and cultural crap to take into consideration as well as the world economony, oil and general political stability. I'm really unqualified to comment on most of that stuff, and even if I was qualified, I don't currently have access to much of the information that I'd need to form an opinion. But I do know a little bit about manners.

I'm of the opinion that much of society functions because people agree to be polite to one another. It's not against the law to cuss at and be rude to everyone you see on the street, but most people don't do it because it's rude, it would make for a bad society, we'd probably have much more violence, and it's stupid. Seems like some of the same basic logic would apply in our relations with other countries as well. Honey catches more flies than vinegar and all that.

As a possible historical explanation, it may have started with the Brits when they carved up the middle east back in the day. They have a bad habit of bastardizing all languages--I have one British acquaintance who claims to enjoy Pro-squeet-o ("prosciutto"), and he's not trying to be funny. As far as I can tell, food often takes the brunt (perhaps because it's one area where the British Imperialists were in no way superior...). I heard quite a bit of it in Australia, in particular when referencing Italian sauces that have come to resemble mayonaise in spelling and pronunciation, ("I'd love some spaghetti with bolognaise."). And, of course, there's my personal favorite "claret," ("Can I offer you a nice glass of cla-rette?").

But, we Americans have actually overcome this problem, we have Bolognese and cla-ray. Why not ee-rock and ee-rawn too?

[/off soap box]

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