Monday 15 February 2010

Taliban Taleban

Taleban in The Times, Taliban on the BBC. The first casualty of war is not innocence but regularised spelling.

The high command meet to work out how they're spelled

P.S. The only proper rhyme I can think of for Taliban is Caliban from The Tempest. This makes me suspicious.


  1. Forgivable. There are two basic transliteration systems for Persianate languages. One renders all Arabic-script features according to their pronunciation Arabic. This system gives "Taliban." The other attempts to reproduce the pronunciation in Persian (or Dari or whatever). This system gives "Taleban."

  2. My interest in Middle Eastern languages has never passed beyond amateur level, but because most of my friends have no interest in it whatsoever they act like i am supposed to be an expert. A guy i used to know once asked me why "jinn" (like a genie) was sometimes spelt "Djinn". It took me a while to come up with my best guess for him: 'i think the "D" is there to keep the French from pronouncing it "zhinn," the Germans from pronouncing it "yinn" and the Spanish from pronouncing it "hinn."' (i have very little knowledge of any of those languages, and i don't know if he did either.)
    He also asked me what was the difference between "bin" and "ben" and "ebn" and "ibn." i told him there wasn't any. He asked me more than once. My answer never changed.
    (i have since done a bit more reading, and now realise that the correct spelling for those words are jim-nun-nun and ba-nun. Respectively. These days i tell all my friends that their lives would be a lot happier if they just ignored all the vowels in foreign words.)