Saturday, March 4, 2017

The I’s have it (or, ISIS it is)

A couple of years back, when the media was confused about the labels ISIL versus ISIS, I posted a politico-linguistic explanation:


(1)  The expert bodies that had been following the group from the start (State Department, IC) used ISIL, where the “L” stands for “Levant”, which is the closest equivalent to the term in the Arabic name for the group,  al-Shâm, which includes Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine.
(2)  Since that is what he’d been hearing from his briefers, that is what President Obama said.
(3)  Possibly by confusion with the name of the goddess Isis, along with the unfamiliarity of the term Levant among the laity, the popular media took to using ISIS, despite the fact that this term singles out only Syria.   (As a sideshow to this, certain conspiracy-minded lo-info voters tried to read some nefarious significance into President Obama’s continued use of the term ISIL, that he and his discussion-mates had been using all along.)

But now we have a new POTUS -- one who, for most (or actually, still all) of his life, has paid more attention to the pop media, than to academia or the State Department.  And he says “ISIS” -- just like they do on TV.

Accordingly -- and gracefully -- government entities have bowed and followed suit:  where previously their briefing-papers used ISIL, now they use ISIS.
The IC thus arrives, by a circuitous route, at exactly the position advocated by The New Yorker a year ago:  to speak “ISIS” with the vulgar, but to maintain an academical-casuistical mental reservation, to the effect that the final “S” stands not for “Syria”, but for… al-Shâm.
 And thus does language evolve.

Wes Brot ich ess’,  des Lied ich sing’.”

Given recognition at last

[Footnote:  An alternate explanation, that you’ll hear around town,
is that the use of ISIL was nixed because people couldn’t figure out how to pronounce it.  Some IC miscreants were even pronouncing the word to rhyme with pizzle.  (Look it up.)  And this, despite our wise guidance here:



Actually -- there's a bright side to the switchover to “ISIS”:
(1)  That “Levant” business was always a stretch on ISIL’s part.  They never did get a real foothold outside Syria.
(2)  As for any association with the goddess Isis, that’s great:  any depiction of that goddess, ISIL would destroy on principle, so quasi-“naming them” after her  can only annoy them.   (For similar reasons, some people say Da’esh, since ISIL doesn’t like it.)

A propos of nothing at all;  added merely to annoy ISIS

1 comment:

  1. The IC memo making the change was one of the least-reasoned documents I've ever seen. And to completely con-volute the English acronym, let's throw in an ambiguous Arabic loan-word at the end: "the Sham." Now all Americans will know exactly who the enemy is.