May 25, 2005

Can we please spell it "Koran?"

The Koran-flushing brouhaha has brought to light the multiple spellings of the Islamic holy book used by American journalists. Newsweek seems to spell it "Qur'an" and uses "Quran" -- and they are both owned by the Washington Post. To ease Google searches, could everyone please just spell it the way most Americans have spelled it for decades: Koran. It's also the easiest to pronounce and remember.

Of course, the point of changing the spelling in English is to confuse the non-elite, in order to make the elite feel superior. As I wrote three years ago in "The Name Game: Inuit or Eskimo?"

Considering how hard it is for English-speakers to correctly pronounce words even from other European languages that share our basic alphabet, asking Americans to accurately transliterate words from radically different phonetic structures would appear close to hopeless.

It's become common, for instance, for Western journalists to refer to the "Qu'ran" instead of the traditional spelling of "Koran," but virtually no American understands what sound the apostrophe in "Qu'ran" stands for. Nor could many even produce that sound properly...

Millions of people permanently lose the thread. Unlike academic specialists, they have other, more personally important things to think about than the changing names of distant ethnic groups. Thus, they never make the mental connection that the mysterious new Inuit their children are studying in school are actually those Eskimos that they liked reading about when they were the same age, or that these new-fangled Roma aren't Romans or Romanians, but are actually the Gypsies who play that wonderful violin music.

In breaking news:

As many as 25 people died and dozens more were injured during riots in Afghanistan today which erupted over what one Muslim cleric called "the U.S. media's desecration-by-misspelling" of the name of Islam's most holy book.

Indeed, American editors have failed to reach consensus on how to render the holy book's name. Some spell it with a 'K' others with a 'Q' and -- perhaps most offensive to Muslim sensibilities -- some insert a meaningless apostrophe in the middle of the word...

The cleric, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, denied that the latest uprising on the Arab street was simply part of the 'regularly-scheduled annual riot season'.

"Our previously-scheduled generic riots have been preempted by these special, issue-oriented violent mobs," he said. "Americans have nobody to blame but themselves for inflaming the passions of these peaceful religious people." -- Scrappleface.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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