Monday, September 15, 2014

Francophonic footnote to "What to call the ISIL"

[An update to our essay on How to talk about the ISIL, in particular the final section on how to badmouth it.]

In his entertainingly satirical French-language commentary,

Fouad Laroui (our favorite Franco-Morocco-Dutch radio feuilletoniste) comes up with a hit-parade (pronounced EET-pah-RAHD) of dysphemisms:  for the ISIL,  the “IS-no-good” (pronounced EEZ-no-GOOOD); for Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi (the Caliph Ibrahim, to those who acknowledge him as such), “EEZ-no-GOOOD sa-barbe-à-poux”; for the faux-caliphate, the “califarfelu”, for which the adjective is “califarfelutique”.
Additionally, he makes the same allusion to the HRE epigram that I did;  les beaux esprits se rencontrent.

Si cela vous parle,
savourez la série noire
en argot authentique d’Amérique :


[Update 18 September 2014]  And now this:

Les autorités françaises, fer de lance dans la guerre contre l'organisation de l'État islamique, ont officiellement adopté l’acronyme "Daech" pour désigner l’EI dans leurs discours officiels. Une décision qui n'a rien d'anodin.

Travaillant au noir,
le détective  se trouve aux prises
avec le Saint-Esprit

[Update 23 Sept]

I just heard le président Hollande refer to the ISIL.  He used the term that the French have officially decided on in order to irritate that group, namely Daech (we discuss all that here).  Only, oddly, he pronounced it as though it were spelled dache (monosyllabic, roughly like English dash).  It really should be disyllabic -- dâ`ish  (داعش )  -- mais soit, soit.  A la limite, cela sonne un peu comme “O la vache !”, “on crache”, la cravache, et cetera.  

Pour d’autres friandises
de la confiserie 
du docteur Justice,

[Update 26 September 2014]  
Bonjour les gars.   I do pay attention to the searchstrings which Blogspot stats kindly provides, indicating how people find this site, and what are their particular interests.  This just in:

how do the french pronounce isil

Alas, our googler must have been disappointed, since the French don’t use the term ISIL (nor ISIS) at all.   The only acronym they use is EI, which stands for état islamique, ‘Islamic state’.
Now, you will notice a little wedgie-thingie atop that “é”.  It is called an acute accent, or accent aigu,  and it causes the bare letter “e” -- which, in French, by itself is often no more than a low groan, or even (as e muet) quite silent --  to sharpen boldly, to something like the English long-a as in able or acatalectic or acategorematic or … or… well, no doubt you can come up with other examples yourselves.  So by rights, the French should pronounce EI as something close to English “aye-ee”.  But instead, what they say -- callously ignoring that acute accent -- is a sort of barely articulated “euh ee”, as though the term referred, not to a berserker band of heads-choppers-offers, but to some senior-citizen auxiliary to the Icelandic Stamp-Collector’s Pacifist Society. 
The other acronym used at present is what is etymologically acronymic in Arabic, but which is not perceived as such in French, and which is transcribed Daech -- which, if these cheese-eaters had any sense at all of the language whose European study was so nobly pioneered by the great Silvestre De Sacy in the 18th century, would be pronounced disyllabically as   da-èche,  but which, in the mealy-mouth of President François Hollande, comes out as a mere monosyllable,  dache.

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[Update 2 October 2014]  Another problem, more troubling for French than for English, is what to call the new Algerian group which, in response to a call from Da`ish to kill “les sales français”, kidnapped Hervé Gourdel, and beheaded him.

We'll miss ya, buddy ...

The Arabic name is جند الخلافة;  in full phonetic transcription, Jund al-Khilafah fi Ard al-Jazaïr, or Jund al-Khilafah for short -- French name Soldats du califat.  The problem is, some French sources change this to Jund al-Khalifa -- “Army of the Caliph” vice “Army of the Caliphate”.   In this case, the practical difference is minimal;  but be aware of the difference.  Khilafah -- caliphate;  khalifah -- caliph.  (Note:  Both words are feminine in form, but the latter is masculine both grammatically and in reference.)

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